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BBC Two Wolf Hall
February 17, 2014
9:31 pm
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Sharon
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I read an article the other day in The Historical Novel’s Review magazine where the author said that it was okay for Mantel to write “revisionist history” if she wanted to. Wink He said there is a demand for such conspiracy theory novels ever since The Da Vinci Code. That’s all well and good, but Mantel would disagree I think that her book is “revisionist history.” If I’m not mistaken, she said her book stuck to historical fact.

Avarice, I think very highly of Thomas Cromwell. He is a fascinating character to get to know.

August 28, 2014
3:38 pm
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Hannele
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Louise said The Anne of Mantel’s imagination is so devoid of charm and charisma that Henry would have ditched her in the first 5 minutes.

But Mantel’s Henry also lack of charm or any ability. He is a big child who cannot understand that he cannot get what he wants. He has no ideas of his own and whom the brilliant Cromwell can persuaded to anything while being certain that it is his own will. And over 40 years he is still a boy who blushes when speaking about “pretty dukkys”.

August 28, 2014
3:49 pm
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Hannele
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Steve Callaghan said

It’s understandable that Mantel’s Cromwell – a working class, self-made man – would view the likes of George as a ‘fop’ regardless of Boleyn’s actual abilities. Cromwell might well see George as merely a dabbler and dilettante rather than the multi-talented person he may have been.

Yes, and Henry’s court was full of lazy and ignorant nonentities who believed that they were better than other people simply because of their birth and king’s favor. Whereas Cromwell worked day and night, they spent their time in hunting, gambling, dancing, flirting, gossiping – besides endlessly changing bedfellows with one other so that because they were in spirit an incestuous gang, it was no wonder that some were that in flesh.

August 28, 2014
3:53 pm
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Steve Callaghan
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I love Wolf Hall & Mantel’s writing but it troubles me that in WH of the two people most maligned by history & historians, Cromwell is reimagined as an enlightened and reasonable person whereas Anne is just portrayed as the same old cold & calculating seduction machine whose intelligence (she is much sharper, intellectually, than most of the men around her) is very nearly deemed to be some kind of fluke. It’s difficult to doubt that she was effectively outmanoeuvred by Cromwell but his curiously tender & avuncular thoughts about her on the brink of her downfall read as patronising at best, sexism at worst. Once again, few writers – no matter how gifted – get to the ‘heart’ of Anne Boleyn or appear as if they actually want to.

August 28, 2014
4:02 pm
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Hannele
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Louise said

I don’t actually think any of Mantel’s characters were rounded or nuanced individuals, however closely I read her books. Cromwell was the only person who was allowed to have more than one dimension to his character, but as much as I admire Cromwell, I loathed him in this. Though Mantel tries to create situations which portray him in a good light, she fails to do so. She allowed him to become a petty and vindictive individual in his choice of the men who fell with Anne due to an incident which didn’t actually happen in the first place. George and the others acting in the play about dragging Wolsey to hell is a purely fictional device. In fact I loathed all of the characters, and I’m not suggesting ‘hero’ Cromwell was any different. I think her inability to create a character that you have empathy for is a major fault in her writing.

I know many people who liked Mantel’s Cromwell but I think they took at the face value the image he presents about himself as a man who does what the king orders. If Henry says “I want divorce”, Cromwell organizes it. If Henry says that he can’t any more live thus (i.e. with Anne), Cromwell organizes it.
Yet, just before, Cromwell had already decided that Anne had to go before she would get rid of him (and Mary, and would do no more harm to the English interest which Cromwell of course knew best).

And in the end, Mantel’s Cromwell showed not one bit of remorse, on the contrary, unlike Cromwell in “The Tudors” who Henry gave direct orders and who prayed evidently realizing what he had done, unlike jubilant Henry who in self-deception believed he would “begin anew” although he had become a tyrant.

August 28, 2014
6:54 pm
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Boleyn
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Hilariously Mental certainly does have some strange ideas. I think when it come to writting historical fiction it is good to perhaps have fun with the facts.
Sharon of late has been treated to perhaps some of the more bizarre ideas of what can be prodced with an active imagination, as she will probably agree some of the things that I have treated her to are mostly factual but with little twists thrown in here and there. As she hasn’t really as yet had a chance to read the whole thing I am working on at the moment she may find that what I have written is a perhaps at times a bit peppery. But then having said that there may be bits in it that she has really enjoyed reading and other bits she might want to strangle me for. (I’m still working on Scotland at the moment Sharon, my holiday threw up a whole new bag of ideas to play with concerning the Scottish end of things.) But then when and if I ever manage to get to finish what I am writing about right now and sharon after taking plenty of Paracetamol and booking a doctor’s appointment has read the entire thing she may either love it or hate it, and again her opinion will differ very much from reader to reader.
The old saying I believe is a good book takes time to write. i believe that Louise’s recent book with Claire’s help has taken her 7 years to write. But if you are prepared to do the research and put in the time and paitence to type your fingers into little stubs the results will be worth it, it also gives you a great deal of pride as well to know that others have taken the time to read what you have written and appreicate all the hard work you have put into it, even if their opinion of what you have written isn’t a favourable one. In any case a good writer take the critisum not as a negative, but as a positive and works all that little bit harder next time. One should never view a negative critisum as a reason to give up, just keep plugging away the more you write and read it back the more you will see how you can improve on a story line. Claire once gave me a bit of advice and she’s very right (thanks Claire ;)) everyone one has at least one good book in them. To anyone who is like me having a bash or thinking about having a bash go for it, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain…Claire also told me that when she started this site she started it as a sort of help for her to vent steam when her brain went into Anne Boleyn research melt down. I think that over the years she has been totally amazed by just how many people there are from all walks of life who feel as she does about Anne and many other charathers from our very checkered and often bloody historical past and present. I also feel that she is often amazed by the opinions expressed by us all. I guess we could just say that on this forum we are all historical (and perhaps in my case hysterical too) fruitloops.
I have said it before writing any kind of historical fiction is not easy, but if you research the facts and background into the charathers and the people they knew and places they visited you can develop a very good story out of it.
Hilariously Mental is just such a person, her interpretation of Cromwell of Cromwell may not be everyone’s cup of rosie, and it’s easy to forget that she is just writing an opinion on what she has researched. She obviously sees Cromwell as a twisted sort of a creature who didn’t give a fig about Henry or anyone else just as long as he got money and plenty of it, and saw to it that people who stood in his way were eliminated, and maybe even invented things about them to make sure Henry chopped them up.
I think that Cromwell in real life was an extremely gifted lawyer who had a good head for money (he had a slot in it) who simply got a little to big for his boots, and annoyed far too many people with his methods and ways of doing business for Henry to ignore any longer. His reasons for marrying Henry to Anne of Cleves were perhaps the final straw that broke Henry’s back, and Henry reputation was perhaps suffering because of his alledged acceptance of what Cromwell was doing. Whatever else Henry was or wasn’t one thing he couldn’t stand was having his reputation called into question. It didn’t matter that his reputation was already well blackened but he had perhaps hoped that he was started to regain some resemblence of prestige in the great game called life. I think after the marriage that Cromwell had arranged with Anne of Cleves he relised that he was seen just as he always had been as a wife murdering fat useless sad sack of crap, and felt the only way to stop the rot so to speak was to get rid of the very person who he felt was holding him back (loosely worded)
The letter Cromwell wrote to Henry which said at the end “I cry for mercy mercy mercy” were the words of a desperate man who was afraid to die. He had brought Henry a lot of wealth and he knew that, I think he also knew that despite Henry’s personal feelings at that time towards him that he was simply the best man in the whole of the court to handle Henry’s business matters. Although Henry was a clever man I don’t think personally he had a very good business brain, and perhaps wouldn’t be able to make the country run on such an even keel without him. If I remember rightly in the 1972 film of Henry 8th, there is a scene where Henry (Played by the brilliant Keith Michell) he says something like “I knew one man who could prod parliament, and what right did I have to cut off his head” to be honest those words ring true. Cromwell did know how to make money and run the monetary system of the the realm, and whatever tactics he used worked, the country was pretty well off, once Henry had chopped him up the whole monetary system that ran so well under Cromwell went to pot, and it was only pure luck in my opinion that the country didn’t find itself in financial ruin. Cromwell I believe was a good man it’s just unfortuate that he worked for a total bastard who abused him, and chopped him up when he ran out of things to abuse him about, but he also deeply regretted chopping him up as well.

Semper Fidelis, quod sum quod

August 29, 2014
12:12 am
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Boleyn
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I would just like to add, that maybe why I get so airated by SWMNBN at times is because to me at least when she writes her historical and some hysterical fiction books, she seems to cross the line a little when when she writes a storyline I.E in her book the White Princess she seemed to imply that H7 would only marry her if she got preganant before they were married and consequently all but raped her night after night until she became preganant. I found that story line a little hard to stomach, although having said that I did enjoy the book, as I have stated in a previous post.
She also seems to believe that what she writes in her books is actually what happened in real life. Granted we can never really actually know what happened for sure in any historical period without the aid of a time machine, and in H8’s case I’d like to take back a few things to whack him one with very HARD. A sledgehammer, a good sized industrial grade strength shovel, half a dozen steel girders etc, anything really hard that’s likely to knock some bloody sence into his thick head.
Her interview of many years ago proved that she really does have a problem at times to me at least with separating fact from fiction.
There is no doubt she has all the bells and whistles to call herself a bona fide historian, but sometimes I just find her historical theories that she seems to state as fact are just a little to hysterical to be believed, especially when she doesn’t appear again, to me at least to have anything to back it up.
I suppose the same could be said of us, but unlike SWMNBN we do state our theories in terms of I believe or I think. We also state other sourses of information concerning our I believe and I think ideas.
David Starkey is “I think” perhaps the leading historian on Henry and Elizabeth. But that doesn’t mean he’s right 100% and as I said it might well be if Time travel was possible we could all go back and find that he/we and especially me have got the fat git all wrong.
I do rather bash Henry about a bit (Well I’d like to really bash him about, quite a lot actually) but with hindsight he was only doing what he felt was best for his country and his people at the time. (It was mostly what was best for him really) and he did perhaps have his uses, compost and weed killer come to mind at the moment..
Right time for me to go and put the old straight jacket on, the little men in white coats will be wanting me to strap me to the bed just now. and then they will have to de flea and de louse the dinosaur it’s time for his annual bath in sheep dip, and it’s not a pleasent job….

Semper Fidelis, quod sum quod

August 29, 2014
5:03 pm
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Sharon
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Boleyn.
Wink

August 29, 2014
7:44 pm
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Hannele
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Boleyn said

I would just like to add, that maybe why I get so airated by SWMNBN at times is because to me at least when she writes her historical and some hysterical fiction books, she seems to cross the line a little when when she writes a storyline I.E in her book the White Princess she seemed to imply that H7 would only marry her if she got preganant before they were married and consequently all but raped her night after night until she became preganant.

I find this complete nonsense. To proof beforehand that a future wife is fertile, was a custom among peasants in some countries, certainly not in royal circles.

In addition,Gregory’s Henry knew that she had been a mistress of Richard III, but still wanted to marry her in order to unite Lancaster and York, although she had younger sisters who were single.

I doubt if Richard wanted to marry her for (besides incest) it would have made nonsense of his claim that she and her siblings were illegitimate. But if he had wanted, he wouldn’t have slept with her for he certainly did not want illegitimate children by her.

However, the story of Perkin Warbeck is good, even if I don’t believe that Edward V’s brother Richard Duke of York survived in history. But because there were no bodies at that time (if there would have, Henry certainly would have shown them to public in order to prevent any impostors’ claims), he would have suspected it.

August 29, 2014
11:26 pm
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Boleyn
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I agree about Richard and EOY relationship, (loosely worded) I don’t think he would have married her even if he had wanted to. I believe Richard was extremely clever in his behaviour towards EOY. In my opinion keeping her by his side and flirting with her or appearing to be romancing her, would raise a few eyebrows concerning her reputation, which would certainly not make her a good marriage prospect, if people believed she was Richard’s whore. And secondly as the Eldest daughter (despite the titus regulus) she would have been considered the heir to the throne, if and as we know Richard was to die, without an heir. In short as strange as this sounds he was keeping her under courtly arrest (loosely worded). Richard had named the Earl of Lincoln as his heir after the death of his son, and perhaps Richard may have though about marrying EOY to the Earl, if he had beaten Henry at Bosworth but the Earls claim would have been pushed back, again if Richard had defeated Henry at Bosworth. Richard would have remarried as in all likelyhood he would have made a foriegn match and produced a few children. Richard wasn’t an old man and he was in relatively good health so he could have continued to rule for many years. If there were no children of Richard’s marriage or they died young, The earl would have succeeded and given the EOY would have been his wife his accession to the throne may have gone fairly smoothy. This is purely my opinion of course.
However I will point marriage between Uncle and Niece and Aunt and Nephew did sometimes happen there are many cases of it thoughout history. I believe the term for the marriages is Avunculate marriages.
Here are some cases where Avunculate married were allowed.

Leonidas, King of Sparta and his half-niece, Gorgo
Roman Emperor Claudius and his fourth wife and niece, Agrippina the Younger
Vietnamese Prince Tran Hung Dao and his consort and paternal aunt, Princess Thien Thanh
Joanna of Naples and her nephew, King Ferdinand II of Naples (1496)
Philip II of Spain and his niece, Anna of Austria (fourth wife) (1570)
Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria, and his niece, Anne Juliana Gonzaga (1582)
Chiefess Kapohauola and her nephew, Chief Kakaʻe
Philip IV of Spain and his niece, Mariana of Austria (second wife) (1646)
Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet), lived in concubinage with his niece, Marie Louise Mignot Denis.
Prince Augustus Ferdinand of Prussia and his niece Margravine Elisabeth Louise of Brandenburg-Schwedt (1755)
Pedro III of Portugal and his niece Maria I of Portugal (1760)
Infanta Benedita and her nephew, José, Prince of Brazil (1777)
King Kamehameha the Great of Hawaiʻi and his niece, Queen Keōpūolani (c.1796)
Sir John Acton, 6th Baronet, Prime Minister of Naples and his niece Marianna Acton (1799)
Francis IV, Duke of Modena, and his niece, Maria Beatrice of Savoy (titular queen of England and Scotland according to the Jacobite succession) (1812)
Infante Carlos, Count of Molina, and his niece, Infanta Maria Francisca of Portugal (1816), and later his niece, Maria Teresa of Portugal (1838)
Kamehameha II and his half-niece Kalani Pauahi
Ferdinand VII of Spain and his niece Maria Isabel of Portugal (1816), and later his niece Maria Christina of the Two Sicilies (1829)
Infante Francisco de Paula of Spain and his niece Princess Luisa Carlotta of Naples and Sicily (1819)
James Mayer de Rothschild, founder of the French branch of the Rothschild banking family, and his niece Betty Salomon von Rothschild (c.1825).
Richard von Metternich (son of the famous Austrian Chancellor) and his niece, Pauline von Metternich (1856).
Amadeo I of Spain and his niece, Maria Letizia Bonaparte (second wife) (1888)
Porfirio Díaz, president of Mexico (1876–80, 1884–1911), and his niece Delfina Ortega Diaz[citation needed]
Henryk Sienkiewicz, Polish novelist, and his niece, Maria Babska. (1904)
Klara Hitler, daughter of Johann Pölzl and Johanna Hiedler and Adolf Hitler’s mother. Either her grandfather Johann Nepomuk Hiedler or his brother was likely her husband Alois Hitler’s biological father. Moreover, Johann was her future husband’s step-uncle. Even after they were married, Klara still called her husband “uncle”.

And lets not forget that the Hapsburg bloodline of Kings died out because of so much interfamily breeding, which resulted in all sorts of genetic problems, from mental instability to deformed or severely handicapped children. I believe at one point that the whole line consisted from the offspring of just 8 sets of grandparents instead of the usual 16 or more sets, or something along those lines.

William the Conqueror ran foul of the Popes wrath when he married Matilda of Flanders as they were related somewhere along the line, and it took a fair few years for the Pope to forgive them for their marriage and issue the dispensation to say “Ok it’s legal” however it was only done on certain conditions and 2 of them were that both Matilda and William were to build a Convent and a Monastery at their own expence.
King John used the old Consangunity clause to get out of his marriage with Isabella or Hawise as she was known of Glouscester. Something to do with their grandparents relationship I think.

Even Henry may have been able to use the consangunity clause if he could as he was related to all of his wives in one shape or form. (In Henry’s case he was in good shape, well 10 foot round is a perfectly good shape) I can only remember how he’s related to K.O.A though and that is through their common ancestor John of Gaunt.
He was also toying with the idea at one point of marrying Mary to Henry Fitzroy her half brother. Of course to give the old lard arse some merit here (Yeah I’ve taken my pills) just a quickly as he thought about it he rejected knowing that it blow the kingdom of England sky high quite apart from the moral and ethical implications, that such a marriage would bring about. In that sence I suppose it’s good to think that the English people back then did have or had evolved enough, to have the good sence to know what was exceptable when it came to marriages. In short the people of England would have never entertained or stomached the thought of their Mary (Princess Marigold as she was affectionly known by the common people when she was younger alledgely) marrying 1 a bastard born royal brat, no matter who his father was and 2 her own accepted bastard born royal half brother.

We often forget that, what we percieve today as abborant and unethical was perfectly exceptable back then and that the Pope would be more than happy to allow these marriages to take place if the price was right. Equally so the Pope was happy to annul marriage if again the price was right.
It’s not always easy to use 15/16 century logic in a 21st century world, and at times you get to wonder just how we managed to get this far given the bloody and often turbulant history of our past.

As you can see consangunity marriages were quite common at one point, and we mustn’t forget, that the ancient Egyptians, went even further at times to preserve their so called royal blood line.
Tutukamun was married to his half sister, and they alledgely produced 2 children, who were still born, alledgely those children were recently found in the back room of the Cairo Museum, although tiny some attempt at mummification was made and they were remarkably well preserved. When Tutukamun died/murdered (still open to much speculation here) his half sister/widow married Tutukamun’s successor who happened to be her and her Brother’s uncle called Ay, she disappeared from history shortly after and it’s believed (again open to speculation) she either died in childbirth or was murdered shortly after her marriage to Ay. I don’t know if her body has been discovered or had yet to be discovered, but I think Ay’s has been.
Cleopatra was married to her brother Ptomemy, he met a sticky end when I think either Ceaser or Mark Anthony did away with him at her bidding, or she may have done the deed herself.
Claudius was married 4 times in all 2 of which he was related to. He married his cousin Messalina who was either executed by Claudius or was murdered by one of his henchman along with most of her freinds for basically being a whore. He then married his niece Agrippina who allegdely murdered him with poison.
She herself met with the grim reaper via Nero, Claudius’s successor.
I also believe that Cheops or Khufu as he is more commonly known (Great Pyramid builder) was married to I think 3 of of his own daughters. Certainly one of his daughters was married to her half brother.

I agree that SWMNBN did do a good job in the book in her portrayal of the Warbeck story, but i did find it became a little tedious towards the end.

Semper Fidelis, quod sum quod

June 6, 2015
12:53 am
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luanni
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I actually like Wolf Hall well enough…minus the Anne Boleyn parts. When I watch/read Wolf Hall, I have to pretend Anne is someone else. I have BUTB, but haven’t read it yet, so from what I’m seeing in this thread, I’m in for a real treat…/sarcasm

One of my main complaints with Wolf Hall is that, regardless of Mantel’s reasoning, it’s hard for me to understand the point of going though so much trouble to reimagine Thomas Cromwell without taking the effort to “reimagine” Anne as well. I even tried to remind myself that the book is meant to be how Thomas Cromwell sees the world, not necessarily how the world is, but that still doesn’t explain why she makes Anne so brittle and shrill. It’s a cop out that, in an effort to make Cromwell look good, she has to make Anne look bad. Neither of them were candidates for sainthood, and they both had agendas, and you can’t fault them for that, because they had to survive in that world. Of course, the point is that there was more to both of them than their attempts to navigate those waters, which we see with Cromwell, but no one else. It’s as if Cromwell is the only three-dimensional character in the whole book and everyone else is a one-note caricature. As for Anne and Cromwell, it would have been more interesting, and probably closer to hitting the truth, if they were both a combination of good and bad (novel idea, I know). We already know the bad parts of their relationship, so it feels like Mantel missed a grand opportunity to explore the positives in their interactions. Possibly the downfall of their friendship is more interesting than the downfalls of the individuals.

Steve Callaghan said

It’s understandable that Mantel’s Cromwell – a working class, self-made man – would view the likes of George as a ‘fop’ regardless of Boleyn’s actual abilities. Cromwell might well see George as merely a dabbler and dilettante rather than the multi-talented person he may have been. In fact, Cromwell’s inverse snobbery showed me that his celebrated insight wasn’t the flawless attribute of repute – he can, and did, get things badly wrong on occasion; his propensity for self-indulgent misjudgement cost him his life in the end…although, in fairness, Mantel always claimed that the man was a gambler…

Mantel’s work in Wolf Hall & Bring Up The Bodies is far more nuanced than appears evident at first glance; for all Cromwell’s gifts, and for all his rivals’ follies & vanities, the ‘hero’ Cromwell grows more shabby, self-satisfied and out of his depth by the chapter, if one reads closely enough.

I agree with all of this. And I also notice that he begins slowly to fall apart by the end of Wolf Hall – there are mentions of his appearance before and after he falls ill. I also think Mantel leaves other clues about his lack of focus and impending downfall. He seems to spend a considerable amount of time daydreaming about his wealth and status, and how he is going to outlive members of the court.

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