The Mirror and the Light: plot, cast and all we know about the Wolf Hall sequel

Mark Rylance The Mirror and the Light
Mark Rylance won a BAFTA for his portrayal of Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall. (Image credit: BBC)

Work is continuing on the BBC's upcoming adaptation of The Mirror and the Light, which follows the final four years of Thomas Cromwell's life at the court of Henry VIII.

The literary world was shocked by the death of Hilary Mantel, the award-winning author who penned the novel upon which the series will be based, yet the BBC hope the six-part adaptation will be a fitting memorial to one of her greatest works. 

Following the critical success of 2015 series Wolf Hall, which was adapted from her first two Tudor novels 'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring Up the Bodies', Mantel had been acting as a consultant on this new series based on the final part of her Tudor trilogy. 

Yet the BBC's adaptation of The Mirror and the Light was still in the planning stage when the two-time Booker Prize winner died at the age of 70 in September 2022.

Award-winning director and friend of Mantel, Peter Kosminsky, hopes the new series will be a fitting tribute to the late, great author. Here's everything we know about the Wolf Hall sequel so far... 

The Mirror and the Light release date

With scripts for all six episodes written, filming was due to begin in 2023, although that date could be pushed back in light of Mantel's death in September 2022. A 2024 release date looks likely, but we'll be sure to let you know as soon as we hear more from the BBC. 

The Mirror and the Light

Damian Lewis is expected to reprise his role as Henry VIII. (Image credit: BBC)

The Mirror and the Light plot

Wolf Hall, which was based on the first two novels of Mantel's Tudor trilogy, painted a vivid picture of court life during the 16th century and followed lawyer Thomas Cromwell as he rose to become one of Henry VIII's most trusted advisors. 

A former protege to Cardinal Wolsey, Cromwell earned favor with the King by helping him divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon and arranging his marriage to Anne Boleyn, yet made plenty of enemies on the way. 

The six-part series also covered England's split from the Roman Catholic Church and Anne's downfall following her failure to provide the King with an heir. 

The Mirror and the Light will cover the period following the death of Anne Boleyn in 1536, Henry's marriage to Jane Seymour and the birth of a long-anticipated son, Prince Edward. 

This was an era in which Cromwell ascended to the pinnacle of his riches and power, yet the death of Jane Seymour days after the birth of Edward proved a crucial moment. 

Cromwell was tasked with finding a new wife for the King, but his choice of German princess Anne of Cleeves proved a crucial misstep and soured his relationship with Henry. Following his fall from royal favour, he was executed at Tower Hill in 1540.

The Mirror and the Light

Will Kate Phillips play Henry's third wife Jane Seymour once again?  (Image credit: BBC)

The Mirror and the Light cast

Mark Rylance won a BAFTA Award for his portrayal of Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall and has confirmed he will be returning to play the central character in this follow-up.

In a BBC Radio 2 interview with Dermot O'Leary earlier this year the Oscar-winning actor said he hoped production will begin in 2023.

“They are working on it. They have got the drafts of the six scripts," he said. "I haven’t seen them yet but they are all in draft form and the wonderful Peter Kosminsky is developing it with the producers. They are just in the stage of starting to share it with me. So that is hopefully something next year we will make.”

With Anne Boleyn very much dead at the end of Wolf Hall, we're not expecting Claire Foy to make a return, but Damian Lewis (Homeland) is expected to reprise his role as Henry VIII and many other big names from the original series could be back.

Peter Kosminsky on The Mirror and the Light

Peter Kosminsky had known Hilary Mantel for “many, many years,” and had been collaborating on the BBC's adaptation of The Mirror and the Light when she passed away in September 2022.

“Quite apart from my personal sadness, I’ve also lost my main collaborator," hold told Variety. "So now we will have to continue this as a memorial to [Mantel], but also without the advantage of her guidance and advice."

Kosminsky worked closely with Mantel on the adaptation of the writer’s two books, “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies,” which were combined for the single 2015 BBC series “Wolf Hall.”

“As we were putting that show together, I was constantly in touch with her and met her on a number of occasions asking her for advice. She was encyclopedic on the sources, and spent five years researching the subject before putting pen to paper,” he explained. 

“So if I needed any detail about a character or an event, or even about details like how they ate or removed their caps with a bow, she was the person to go to. A strong case can be made to say she was the greatest living writer in the English language.”

“The script is largely written but now is exactly the moment we would have gone to Hilary to ask her input and thoughts, and from my POV as a director, I would have sought her advice on certain specifics which would have allowed me to realize her vision."

"Yet this TV adaptation is a secondary concern," he added. "A great light has gone out. The word ‘great’ is used very easily these days but nobody could dispute that it’s an appropriate epithet for Dame Hilary Mantel. If you look at the scale of her achievements, the impact she’s had, the breadth of her knowledge and reading… She’s someone whom people went to for thoughts and opinions on a variety of different novels ad non-fiction works. People recognized her for the massive intellect as she was. It’s hard to imagine a world without her.”

The Mirror and the Light trailer

There's no trailer for this one yet, but as soon as one lands we'll be sure to post it here. 

Sean Marland
Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV, TV & Satellite Week and

Sean has been writing about all things telly for over 10 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are The Great British Bake-Off, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.