King Henry VIII is giving audience to his courtiers, surrounded by his chief advisers, including Cardinal Wolsey. Among the guests who attend this impressive reception is Anne Boleyn, one of the young ladies-in-waiting to the queen. King Henry sees her for the first time and immediately he sets his heart upon making her queen, displacing the estimable and admirable Catherine. He confides his desire to one of his sycophants, who makes it possible for him to get a glimpse of Anne at her toilette in the seclusion of her boudoir. He appeals to Cardinal Wolsey to set aside the tenets of the Church and consent to his divorce from the queen. The cardinal absolutely refuses to do anything so inimical to his office, as representative of the Holy See. This angers King Henry, who induces the Archbishop of Canterbury to call a special council, by order of the king, through which he divorces himself from Queen Catherine. In punishment for his refusal to accede to the king's wishes, the cardinal is exiled to Leicester Abbey. He is a sick man when he enters the monastery, and he dies three days afterward, conscious that he had sustained the sacredness of his office, a martyr to his faith and of service to his king.
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