Our collective fascination with the Tudors refuses to wane. In lieu of another Anne Boleyn biopic, director Karim Aïnouz will make his English-language debut chronicling the life of Katherine Parr—Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife, who outlived the trigger-happy monarch. Killing Eve screenwriters Henrietta and Jessica Ashworth have penned the Firebrand script, with Alicia Vikander appearing as Katherine and Jude Law as Henry. Rather than following the usual period drama template, Firebrand is described as a psychological horror capturing the reality of being married to a tyrant.
The tactful, well-educated daughter of a member of the royal household, the twice-widowed Parr married Henry in 1543 at the age of 31, a year after he had beheaded his fifth wife, Katherine Howard, for adultery. By that point, Henry’s temperament had become mercurial and irascible—thanks in no small part to chronically painful ulcers on his legs—and Parr functioned as a nurse throughout their marriage.
For her part, Parr had fallen in love with Thomas Seymour while at Hampton Court Palace, but as a devout Protestant, she felt it was her duty to marry Henry and steer him away from Catholic sympathizers. Her devotion to the Reformation endangered her life at several points—with Catholic-leaning conservatives attempting to persuade Henry she represented a danger to the crown and should be imprisoned.
On one occasion, she narrowly managed to avoid being sent to the Tower of London by throwing herself at Henry’s mercy, pleading feminine ignorance about matters of church and state. Decidedly less lucky? Parr’s closest friend, the poet Anne Askew—played by The Crown’s Erin Doherty in Firebrand—whom Henry had burned at the stake for heresy and treason. Still—despite her husband’s tyranny—Parr exercised a considerable degree of power in her years as queen.
Among her notable accomplishments? Reuniting Henry’s children: Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon; Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn; and Edward, son of Jane Seymour. Elizabeth I, particularly, is said to have been inspired by her stepmother throughout her 45-year reign. Parr also published a number of volumes that helped to drum up support for Henry’s various political causes, and served as regent during his final military campaign in France in 1544. With Firebrand set to premiere in competition at Cannes, expect to see Vikander and Law mounting their own campaigns on French soil in the near future.