Crowned King of England, Henry VIII is too busy enjoying the company of his friends to pay much attention to running the country. Only the promised glory of victory in war against France can tempt him away from days spent hunting and jousting.
Meanwhile, after years of marriage, the King realises that his good and pious wife, Catherine of Aragon, will not be able to give him the male heir he craves. His attention is caught by the mysterious and bewitching Anne Boleyn. Determined to make her his wife and have another chance at producing a son, Henry’s most trusted advisers must battle to free the King from his marriage so he can marry once more.
Wedded bliss with the argumentative Anne is short-lived, and she too fails to give him a boy. Henry suspects she has tricked him into marriage and she pays with her head. The King’s world finally brightens when he discovers Jane Seymour, the true love of his life. Jane provides Henry with the son he always wanted, but fate is cruel and she dies soon after, leaving the King heartbroken and alone.
Enemies in Europe are ganging up on Henry and he must find a new ally to defend himself from the Pope, France and Spain. His chief adviser, Thomas Cromwell, suggests forging a union with the Duke of Cleves by marrying Henry to the Duke’s sister, Anna. But when Henry meets her for the first time, her hideous appearance leads him to believe he was misled by his advisers. However, scared of bringing about war with her brother, the King has no choice but to marry her.
A loophole is eventually found to free the King from his unfortunate marriage, and his fancy has already fallen on an attractive sixteen-year-old girl called Catherine Howard. Her youthful naivety leads her astray, and an ill-advised whirlwind romance with one of Henry’s closest friends seals her fate by the aggrieved King. Now an old man, the ailing Henry needs a carer, not a lover, and Katherine Parr steps up to the mantle. In Henry’s last days, she is a much-needed comfort, as he is plagued by nightmares of his former wives.