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Full Synopsis

The year is 1183 – an era known more for its barbarism than the sanctity of familial bonds and matrimonial loyalty. King Henry II (Patrick Stewart) finds himself surrounded by cunning and ambitious relatives, all bent on seeking personal gain and political rewards at his expense. He is a formidable monarch who has ruled England for many years, but he has begun to question his own mortality in the waning years of his life. With the arrival of the Christmas holiday, Henry wants to use the occasion to announce his chosen heir to the throne.

He invites his estranged wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (Glenn Close), to attend the celebrations that are to take place at Chinon Castle in France. Eleanor is a royal pariah and has been imprisoned by Henry for conspiring against him during a political coup over a decade ago. Still, their love and admiration for each other boils just below the surface of their bickering. Eleanor remains shrewd and calculating, and craves the power that she feels Henry has denied her. Using her beguiling charms, she is determined to prevent Henry’s plans from coming to fruition. To complicate matters, Henry’s mistress Alais (Julia Vysotsky) and her conniving brother, King Philip II of France (Jonathon Rhys-Meyers), are also attending the festivities.

Beleaguered Henry must choose his successor from among his three plotting sons: the fearless and prodigal Richard the Lionhearted (Andrew Howard), the shallow and opportunistic Geoffrey (John Light) or the luckless and bumbling John (Rafe Spall). When Eleanor discovers that Henry wants John to become the heir, she schemes to attain the honour for her chosen son, Richard, and even promises to yield her own territory of Aquitaine in a desperate attempt to sway the King. This leaves Geoffrey plotting against both his brothers as he tries to secure his own uncertain future.

As the three siblings each engage in their own brand of deception, this unique celebration gets under way, and degenerates into an emotional gauntlet for everyone in attendance. King Philip begins to plot against Henry by pursuing his own agenda and conspiring with the brothers against their father. As Geoffrey and John contemplate the prospect of going to war against Richard, they are unaware that Philip is secretly blackmailing Richard to prevent him from ascending to the throne. Trapped in the middle of the confrontations is the concubine Alais, who desperately seeks to keep Henry’s affections while trying to avoid the vengeful wrath of Eleanor.

As the backstabbing and betrayals heighten, Henry comes to the realisation that his children will stop at nothing to undermine his wishes, and yearns for a future with Alais so she can bear him sons who are deserving of his kingdom. Before the holiday is over, not only will a marriage, a love affair, a family and an empire be in jeopardy, but lives as well.

Programme Information

Aspect Ratio:
120 Mins
Year of Production:
Mini Series
Historical & Period Drama

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