Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light — plot, cast, images and more about BBC1 sequel

Mark Rylance plays Oliver Cromwell in Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light
Mark Rylance returns as Oliver Cromwell (Image credit: BBC)

Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light, which is based on the final novel in Hilary Mantel’s multi award-winning historical trilogy, has begun filming. 

The creative team behind 2015's BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning first series will be reunited for the six-part tale, which tells the story of the final four years of Thomas Cromwell's life at the court of Henry VIII. 

The Mirror and the Light had been in the planning stage when Mantel - who'd been a consultant in the series - passed away at the age of 70, in September 2022. 

Yet screenwriter Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Frank) and director Peter Kosminsky (The Undeclared War, The State) both hope the sequel will be a fitting tribute to the two-time Booker Prize winning author's memory.

Kate Phillips plays Jane Seymour

Kate Phillips plays Jane Seymour (Image credit: BBC)

The Mirror and the Light picks up exactly where Wolf Hall ended, with the execution of Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn," says Kosminsky in an official statement. 

"I'm overjoyed to be able to reunite the extraordinary cast we were lucky enough to assemble for Wolf Hall, led by the brilliant Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis, with the original creative team of Gavin Finney (DOP), Pat Campbell (Designer) and Joanna Eatwell (Costume Designer). We are all determined to complete what we started – and to honour the final novel written by one of the greatest literary figures of our age, Hilary Mantel.”

Here's everything we know about Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light...

Damian Lewis plays King Henry VIII

Damian Lewis plays King Henry VIII (Image credit: BBC)

Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light release date

Filming "across the UK" began in late 2023, with an expected release date of 2025. 

The series will be available on BBC1 and the BBC iPlayer in the UK. It will be broadcast on PBS Masterpiece in the US.

Wolf Hall series one is available to watch on BBC iPlayer in the UK and on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in the US

Lilit Lesser as Princess Mary

Lilit Lesser as Princess Mary (Image credit: BBC)

Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light plot

Wolf Hall, which was based on the first two novels of Mantel's Tudor trilogy, 'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring Up the Bodies', 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. 

Jonathan Pryce plays Cardinal Wolsey

Jonathan Pryce plays Cardinal Wolsey (Image credit: BBC)

An official BBC synopsis of the new series reads as follows..

"May, 1536. Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, is dead. As the axe drops, Thomas Cromwell emerges from the bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, Jane Seymour. "Cromwell, a man with only his wits to rely on, has no great family to back him, and no private army. Navigating the moral complexities that accompany the exercise of power in this brutal and bloody time, Cromwell is caught between his desire to do what is right and his instinct to survive. But in the wake of Henry VIII having executed his queen, no one is safe.

"Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. All of England lies at his feet, ripe for innovation and religious reform. But as fortune’s wheel turns, Cromwell’s enemies are gathering in the shadows.

"The inevitable question remains: how long can anyone survive under Henry’s cruel and capricious gaze? "Eagerly awaited and years in the making, Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light will trace the final four years of Cromwell’s life, completing his journey from self-made man to the most feared, influential figure of his time. Cromwell is as complex as he is unforgettable: a politician and a fixer, a diplomat and a father, a man who both defied and defined his age."

Harriet Walter as Lady Margaret Pole

Harriet Walter as Lady Margaret Pole (Image credit: BBC)

Wolf Hall: 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.

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) will reprise his role as Henry VIII.

Meanwhile Jonathan Pryce (The Crown) will be back as Cardinal Wolsey, Kate Phillips (Peaky Blinders) will return as Henry VIII’s third wife Jane Seymour and Lilit Lesser will once again play Princess Mary, the daughter of Henry and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. 

Timothy Spall as the Duke of Norfolk and Alex Jennings as Stephen Gardiner

Timothy Spall as the Duke of Norfolk and Alex Jennings as Stephen Gardiner (Image credit: BBC)

There are also some big names joining the show, with Harriet Walter (Killing Eve, Succession) playing Lady Margaret Pole and Timothy Spall (Mr Turner, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) taking the role of the Duke of Norfolk.

Stars reprising their roles from the first series include... 

  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster (The Maze Runner, Love Actually) as Rafe Sadler 
  • Joss Porter (The Undeclared War, Humans) as Richard Cromwell
  • James Larkin (Black MirrorMcMafia) as Master Treasurer Fitzwilliam 
  • Richard Dillane (Argo, Pennyworth) as the Duke of Suffolk 
  • Will Keen (Operation MincemeatHis Dark Materials) as Archbishop Cranmer
  • Hannah Steele (The Night Manager, Black Mirror) as Mary Shelton.

Harry Melling as Thomas Wriothesley

Harry Melling as Thomas Wriothesley (Image credit: BBC)

Mark Gatiss, Jessica Raine and Tom Hollander - who played Stephen Gardiner, Lady Rochford and Gregory Cromwell respectively - won't be returning and have been replaced by other actors. 

Other new cast members include...

  • Alex Jennings (The Crown, This Is Going to Hurt) as Stephen Gardiner 
  • Maisie Richardson-Sellers (The Undeclared War) as Bess Oughtred 
  • Lydia Leonard (Gentleman Jack, The Fifth Estate) as Lady Jane Rochford 
  • Charlie Rowe (Rocketman, Vanity Fair) as Gregory Cromwell 
  • Harry Melling (Harry Potter, The Queen’s Gambit) as Thomas Wriothesley 
  • Corentin Fila (Being 17, Notre-Dame) as Christophe 
  • Tom Mothersdale (BodiesCulprits) as Richard Riche
  • Karim Kadjar, (Leave to Remain, Mike) as Eustache Chapuys
  • Lucy Russell (A Spy Among FriendsAtlantic Crossing) as Lady Anne Shelton
  • Will Tudor (Industry, The Ipcress File) as Edward Seymour
  • Viola Prettejohn (The CrownThe Witcher) as Mary Fitzroy
  • Thomas Arnold (A Spy Among FriendsWar & Peace) as Hans Holbein
  • Jordan Kouamé (MalpracticeDope Girls) as Martin The Gaoler
  • Agnes O’Casey (Lies We Tell, Ridley Road) as Lady Margaret Douglas
  • Cecilia Appiah (Hijack, The Chelsea Detective) as Nan Seymour
  • Ellie de Lange (The Serpent, Arcadia) as Jenneke
  • Hubert Burton (LivingJekyll and Hyde) as Thomas Howard the Lesser
  • Pip Carter (Spectre,1917) as Sir Geoffrey Pole
  • Josef Altin (Top Boy, Game of Thrones) as Thomas Avery
  • Sarah Priddy (DegeneratesSix Years Gone) as Lady Margery Seymour
  • Hannah Khalique-Brown (Barbie, The Undeclared War) as Dorothea
  • Amir El-Masry (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker) as Thomas Wyatt
  • German Segal (The Undeclared WarThe Red Ghost) as Olisleger
  • Summer Richards (Wild Bill, When She Was Good) as Catherine Howard
  • Dana Herfurth (Love Addicts, One Trillion Dollars) as Anne of Cleves.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Rafe Sadler in Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light

Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Rafe Sadler (Image credit: BBC)

Peter Kosminsky on Wolf Hall: 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. 

Charlie Rowe as Gregory Cromwell

Charlie Rowe as Gregory Cromwell (Image credit: BBC)

“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.”

Wolf Hall: 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

Sean is a Senior Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week, who also writes for whattowatch.com. He's been covering the world of TV for over 15 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 I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.