Henry prepares for war with France but receives cautious counsel from the powerful Cardinal Wolsey, who urges a peace treaty; the king learns that his queen's lady-in-waiting Elizabeth Blount is pregnant with his child.
Henry and the court go to the summit to sign the treaty with France. Tensions are understandably high, and tempers of both kings flare up more than once. Meanwhile, Henry takes on a new mistress named Mary Boleyn. He soon tires of her and her father summons her sister Anne to court and tells her to find a way to keep the king's interest.
The King asks Charles to escort his sister, Margaret, to her betrothed and promotes him to Duke of Suffolk. The envoys from the Holy Roman-Emperor meet with Cardinal Wolsey and determine how to cement the treaty between the two nations. Anne catches the King's notice in a play. The Emperor is invited to the King's court. It is learned that the King of France knows of the treaty talks- and the Cardinal is quick to find a scapegoat. We learn more of why Anne's father and uncle want her to seduce the King.
As a reward for his denunciation of Martin Luther, the Pope christens Henry “Defender of the Faith,” but a brush with death causes the king to seek a solution to his lack of an heir. Princess Margaret marries the decrepit King of Portugal reluctantly, but the union is short-lived; Henry's desire for Anne Boleyn intensifies when Anne goes home to her family estate.
Henry is shocked when he learns that his ally, Emperor Charles V of Spain, has released France's King Francis I from prison. He's equally surprised when Anne Boleyn turns him down after offering to make her his sole mistress.
As King Henry gains in confidence, his displeasure with the way the Catholic church handles his request for an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon grows. As a result, Cardinal Wolsey's position is weakening, leaving him vulnerable to his enemies.
England's population is suffering, both from a lack of food and from a lethal plague called 'The Sweats'. As a result, King Henry feels depressed and not his usual, confident self. He starts having doubts about the future and his ability to rule the country. Fortunately for him, a change is coming up.
A papal envoy has come to discuss the annulment of the King's marriage to Katherine of Aragon, as requested by the King. The outcome of these discussions will determine Cardinal Wolsey's future career as well as the King's romance with Anne Boleyn. These discussions will also influence the nature of the relationship between England and Rome.
Cardinal Wolsey's fall is quick and pitiless. Stripped of office and authority, he is banished from the court and sent far from his much-beloved King. His unlikely successor is Sir Thomas More, a man unlike the overbearing Wolsey in every way but one...his loyalty to Henry.
Cardinal Wolsey is down but not yet out. Although exiled, he tries to gather last-minute support from his old enemy, Queen Katherine. She hesitantly agrees to his plan, as she finds herself in a situation similar to that of the fallen Cardinal. But their plot is intercepted by the King's new advisors and Wolsey must pay the ultimate price.