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Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry inspired Damian Lewis’s Henry VIII

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, actor Damian Lewis has revealed that he took inspiration from The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry for his new role as Henry VIII in the BBC’s new period drama, Wolf Hall.

Lewis spoke of how it was the two princes sense of ‘normality’ which he wanted to draw upon when playing the Tudor monarch.

The actor, educated at Eton College like William and Harry, recently received an OBE from The Duke of Cambridge in an investiture at Buckingham Palace. It is known that The Duke and his wife, Catherine, are fans of the award-winning US television series Homeland, in which Lewis plays Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody.

“I have actually on occasion found myself thinking about Wills and Harry; wanting to normalise your life as much as possible”, Lewis told The Telegraph. The actor added that non-fiction works by various historians had also made up part of his research for the role.

Damian Lewis OBE, bringing the Tudor Monarch Henry VIII to life in the BBC's new period drama, Wolf Hall.

Damian Lewis OBE, bringing the Tudor Monarch Henry VIII to life in the BBC’s new period drama, Wolf Hall.

Lewis spoke of how he wanted to bring that sentiment to the part, describing Henry VIII as having a “desire for normality.”

He sympathised with the Tudor icon and called him “an extraordinarily impressive man. With a tendancy to murder.” He continued by saying that Henry was “a man who was surprisingly tender, loving, generous, personable and extraordinarily talented in many different areas.”

Henry VIII was the second monarch of the Tudor dynasty, succeeding his father Henry VII, and was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death on 28 January 1547. He is widely known for his radical changes to the English constitution, including asserting his supremacy over the Church of England and the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The BBC series is an adaptation of the novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, by Booker Prize-winning author Hilary Mantel. The first episode, Three Card Trick, sees RADA-alumni Mark Rylance fulfil the role of Thomas Cromwell, one of Henry VIII’s closest advisor’s. Alongside Rylance, Mark Gatiss (of Sherlock fame) plays Cardinal Thomas Wolsey’s secretary, Stephen Gardiner.

The series consists of six episodes and will be broadcast on BBC Two. At the time of commissioning, channel controller Janice Hadlow hailed Mantel’s Wolf Hall as a “great contemporary novel.”

The first episode of Wolf Hall is now available to watch in the UK on BBC iPlayer. Royal Central’s Desk Editor, Jessica Hope, has written a preview of the episode.

Image Credit: BBC / Company Productions Ltd / Giles Keyte

About author

James is Royal Central's Director of Broadcasting and Communications. He's a recognised royal commentator and correspondent and has experience with numerous TV and radio networks including the BBC, ITV, Sky, CNN and MSNBC among others.