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Did Cromwell have a conscience?
August 9, 2011
6:02 am
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ipaud
Ireland
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In a conversation with a dear friend today, the subject arose of Cromwell and his part in not only the downfall of Queen Anne Boleyn but more on the purge of everything Boleyn related afterwards. Was this for the good of dear Henry or was it his own conscience that bothered him?

If it was not this, then it would be something else?

August 9, 2011
1:59 pm
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Wendy
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I do believe that Cromwell had a conscience, but one that could easily be overridden when expedient.  Looking after his position and his own head was far more important to him than 'doing the right thing'.  As for the purge of all things Boleyn, I suspect it was for Henry. He had murdered his Queen, so the least said about Anne the better.

August 9, 2011
3:11 pm
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Anyanka
La Belle Province
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I think any-one who goes into that kind of politics must have a very flexible conscience.

 

Cromwell had been a first-hand witness of what happened to Wolsey. He knew the depths H8 would go to to get rid of an unwanted minister and an unwanted queen.

 

The purge  of the Boleyn faction meant he was safe for the time being. Removal of monograms and other visual references to Anne  were to make Henry's new life more pleasent.

It's always bunnies.

August 10, 2011
4:35 am
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ipaud
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I do think to take up a post with Henry was in some respects selling ones soul, if I can put it that way. I look at More and how he resigned from his post.

If it was not this, then it would be something else?

August 11, 2011
12:29 am
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Sophie1536
Lincolnshire UK
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In all honesty I think conscience never came into it more like doing everything Henry wanted and everything to keep one's head!

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August 11, 2011
10:46 am
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MarkM
Minneapolis, MN
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Ditto…. You can't compare to current world. I don't have to worry that if my boss is PO'd at me, that I'll have my head cut off. That kind of constant stress has to take it's toll. As bad as this sounds, the night after Anne lost her head, was probably the first night he had slept in a while.

August 11, 2011
10:54 am
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Sharon
Binghamton, NY
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Hi Ipaud. 

Cromwell was all about loyalty to Henry. Whatever was necessary to serve his king well, Cromwell did it.  He gave his best legal advice to his client.  I doubt if his conscience would have played into his job.  I think the purge of everything related to the Boleyn family was done to keep Bluff King Hal smiling!

August 11, 2011
4:46 pm
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Catalina
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I just think Cromwell had the sense to try and go whatever way the wind was blowing. Sure it might have gone against his conscience but he was doing what he could to survive.

'If honour were profitable, everybody would be honourable'  Thomas More

October 18, 2011
10:07 am
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Hannah Again
Belfast, Northern Ireland
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ipaud said:

In a conversation with a dear friend today, the subject arose of Cromwell and his part in not only the downfall of Queen Anne Boleyn but more on the purge of everything Boleyn related afterwards. Was this for the good of dear Henry or was it his own conscience that bothered him?

First of all, Cromwell worked for Henry. He did his job. However, as Cromwell's recent biographer discussed, just what was his role in Anne Boleyn's downfall? No one really knows, and in all likelihood, he is nothing more than a scapegoat, taking all of the flack for the decisions of others.

In answer to the actual question, did he have a conscience? I would say yes. He drafted a lot of legislation to ease the suffering of the poor (an aspect of his career conveniently washed out of history by his sensationalist detractors), he fed up to 200 impoverished people from his own kitchens on a daily basis, and he made a huge contribution to the betterment of the Country as a whole (from road building, to job creation). He went way above and beyond anyone else of his time to create a “welfare state”, and sadly no one attempted to do so again for a long time afterwards.

When we move on to the subject of Church Reforms, the man honestly believed that he was doing the right thing. He saw the endemic corruption with the Church, and actually did something about it. There had been a lot of hot air and noise from the likes of Thomas More, about reforming corrupt practices. Cromwell simply acted, instead endlessly talking. Sends him up a notch further in my books!

However, due to him being such a convenient scapegoat and easy to blame for everything by populist historians, the view of Cromwell is not likely to change any time soon. Pity, really.

October 19, 2011
4:08 pm
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Neil Kemp
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Some good points, Hannah. You will struggle to find mention anywhere of his relief for the poor bill, which he drafted (after much research) and put before parliament in 1535. Given the fact that this bill was thrown out would also go against popular belief that parliament was in his pocket, and that nobody would dare go against anything he proposed. Cromwell never forgot his roots, and tried to act with integrity and honour in most matters. That however was not always possible, given that his role was to obey the king, and we must also bear in mind the different standards that applied as normal in that age, which we may think harsh or dubious now.

In short I believe Cromwell did the best he could in difficult, cruel and dangerous times. When he had to do things (on the king's orders) that he knew to be wrong, he had little choice, given his position, but to do them anyway. Did he feel bad about doing so? I believe he would have. His efforts to help the poor with education and money do not show a greedy man only interested in his own self-interest, rather a man who did his best in often difficult circumstances. So did he have a conscience? Yes, I believe he did.

October 20, 2011
10:06 am
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Sharon
Binghamton, NY
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Hannah and Neil,

I agree with both of your comments.  I said previously that I don't think his conscience entered into his duty to Henry.  I still think he had to leave it at the castle door.  However, I believe he had a conscience.  His private deeds speak for themselves.  I have recently read parts of the bill he proposed to Parliament.  To me it shows a man way ahead of his time.   

 It is not easy trying to figure out what these people were actually like. It is easy to take a few lines from one chronicle or another and jump to the conclusion that this person must have been really bad. Today modern historians, have more complete records to work with than ever before. Hopefully, they will continue delving through these pages and will help clean up the misconceptions of the past.

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