The masque scene from BBC2's Wolf Hall
The masque scene from BBC2’s Wolf Hall
If you haven’t read Hilary Mantel’s novels, don’t know the history surrounding the farce “Cardinal Wolsely going down to Hell” and haven’t watched episode 2 of Wolf Hall, then you might not want to read this article – SPOILERS!

Last week’s episode of “Wolf Hall” closed with Cardinal Wolsey’s death and Cromwell watching a performance of a court masque in which an actor playing Wolsey is mocked for his low birth and chased off to Beelzebub in Hell by demons. The King and Anne Boleyn laugh and applaud, while it is clear to viewers that Cromwell finds the whole thing shocking and distasteful. He watches as the demons leave the stage and take off their masks: George Boleyn, Henry Norris, Francis Weston and William Brereton.

When a weeping George Cavendish (Wolsey’s gentleman usher) recounts Wolsey’s last days and death and tells Cromwell of how he has “prayed to God to send vengeance upon them all”, Cromwell quietly assures him “No need to trouble God, George, I’ll take it in hand.”1 It is clear that Cromwell is going to take revenge on all those he holds responsible for Wolsey’s downfall and all those who mocked his former master. It is a moving scene.
In Bring Up the Bodies, after the executions of the men in May 1536, Thomas Wriothesley says to Cromwell: “All the players are gone […] All four who carried the cardinal to Hell; and also the poor fool Mark who made a ballad of their exploits.” Cromwell replies: “All four […] All five.””2

The masque scene is a dramatic one, particularly as the TV adaptation flicks between the masque, Cromwell being sworn in to the Privy Council and Cavendish’s account of Wolsey’s death, and the reader/viewer can understand how Cromwell feels. Cromwell has a real motive for bringing down Anne Boleyn, her brother George, Henry Norris, William Brereton and Francis Weston. Wolsey’s downfall and this farce explain how those men got caught up in Anne’s fall in May 1536 and why they had to die.

But is it true?

Well, yes and no, but mostly no.

Hilary Mantel has taken a real event from 1531 and used it to provide her protagonist with a motive for what she has him plotting a few years years later. The farce “Cardinal Wolsey going down to Hell” really did take place, but not as Mantel presents it in her novel or how it is seen on TV.

In reality, the farce was performed at Thomas Boleyn’s London home at a private dinner for Claude la Guische, the French ambassador, in January 1531. The aim of the farce was, as historian Greg Walker points out, to stress “the King’s new, more hostile attitude towards the Roman Church and all its agents”, while “also tacitly reminding the French of their own supposedly ‘special relationship’ with Wolsey, and their alleged involvement in his plotting immediately prior to his fall”.”3 It was an opportunity for Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire, and his brother-in-law, Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, to show the French ambassador their importance and status now that Wolsey was gone. Wolsey’s time in power was over and now France should deal with Wiltshire and Norfolk, was the message. However, according to Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, their plan backfired and la Guische was offended by the play and by Norfolk’s idea of having it published:

“Some time ago the earl of Vulchier (Wiltshire) invited to supper Monsieur de la Guiche, for whose amusement he caused a farce to be acted of the Cardinal (Wolsey) going down to Hell; for which La Guiche much blamed the Earl, and still more the Duke for his ordering the said farce to be printed. They have been ever since [Jocquin’s departure] entertaining the said gentleman most splendidly, and making the most of him on every occasion, and yet I am told that however well treated by them he still says very openly what he thinks of them, and laughs at their eccentricities in matters of government and administration.”4

Although historian Robert Hutchinson writes that the masque was commissioned by George Boleyn and performed at court at Greenwich Palace, there is no evidence of this.5 Anne Boleyn’s father and uncle were the ones behind the masque and although it is likely that George was present, there is no evidence that he, or any of the men caught up in Anne’s fall in 1536, played any parts in it. As Clare Cherry and I said in a previous article on Bring Up the Bodies, “the notion of an aspiring courtier, diplomat and politician demeaning himself by performing in a farce is… farcical!” and there is no mention of Norris, Brereton, Weston and Smeaton even attending the performance.6 While the scene provides Cromwell with a motive and builds empathy and sympathy, it does not tell the real story.

Who was ultimately responsible for Anne Boleyn’s fall and why these men were caught up in it are questions that are still being debated today. Did Cromwell plot against Anne Boleyn of his own accord or was he simply following orders from the King? Why did Norris, Weston, Brereton, Smeaton and George Boleyn have to fall? Were they in Cromwell’s way? Were they just innocent scapegoats? The answers to these questions are not clear, but Norris, Weston, Brereton and Smeaton had nothing whatsoever to do with Wolsey’s fall and Cromwell had no need to seek revenge on them.

Mantel’s Cromwell, and his motivations, may make for good fiction and TV but her story is a fictional one and her Cromwell is far removed from the one of the historical sources.

Derek Wilson and Olga Hughes have written excellent articles on Walter Cromwell, the father we see beating the boy Cromwell in Wolf Hall:

Notes and Sources

  1. Wolf Hall, BBC2 adaptation, Episode 2: Entirely Beloved, aired 28 January 2015
  2. Mantel, Hilary (2012) Bring Up the Bodies, Fourth Estate, London, p400
  3. Walker, Greg (2008) Plays of Persuasion: Drama and Politics at the Court of Henry VIII, p20
  4. , Cambridge University Press, p20

  5. CSP, Spain IV.ii.615
  6. Hutchinson, Robert (2009) House of Treason: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Dynasty, Orion
  7. Bring Up the Bodies: Fact versus Fiction –

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147 thoughts on “Wolf Hall and Cardinal Wolsey going down to Hell”
  1. When I first read the title, I thought you were going to talk about the million viewers the series lost in the 2nd week. I read an article about that and wondered how things were going–if the show was as awful as the article implied. I will be anxious to see it when it comes to the States–April 3, I think. Interesting motivation, but not even really believable in fiction….to plot to murder those folks for participating in an offensive farce years later?? Seems a stretch to me. Cheers!

    1. How offensive it was perceived to be we shall never know; but we do know that it was not a farce. That is something completely different and would have been anathema in Tudor times. It was a masque that was performed, a highly elaborate and skilfully produced entertainment that included acting, singing, and dancing with the performers wearing masks. They were well regarded and integral to life at Court.

  2. Hi. Love Wolf Hall now that it has picked up pace but some criticism has to be given, namely portraying Thomas More as old, dour and sour. He may have been 50 but he was a fit robust young 50, had a great deal of charm and love for music, fun and laughter. I understand the show and book is from the point of view of Cromwell, but this is a terrible discredit to the real person. The drama of course needs to be liberal in certain things, it is after all fiction, and Hillary Mattel is mostly faithful to history. Mostly the drama is well done, intriguing and well acted, sets and costumes beautiful and believable. This is not an Anne Boleyn I would like to meet on a dark night or cross and we have been introduced to the real man in the sense that Cromwell shows us his life beyond the court, the inner self, the heart of the man.

    I have only vaguely seen the masque seen, need to watch again, but it is a famous and dramatic seen, played a number of times in drama, a popular one to show. In the Tudors it played out in the background against twin scenes of Henry and Anne in the woods and the Cardinals death. In Henry Viii and the Six Wives the scene is set at court in 1535/6 with a pregnant Anne and her brother, plus Smeaton taking place. Clearly writers and producers are keen to show both the distasteful nature of the masque and the lack of respect for Wolsey by his enemies.

    1. Yes, the novel was from the POV of Cromwell. Because he was an upstart, he saw all courtiers in negative light and they were presented as almost stereotypes. That was OK because Mantel has so brilliant style,

      But when the style is left out, what is left to the TV series?

      Cromwell would be much more interesting if his opponents were not so shallow.

    2. How do you know what More was like? I loved the portrayal of him in A Man for All Seasons and everything subsequently. But we only have an image of him through writers and portraitists who were both his contemporaries and later commentators. Yes, he was a Humanist, but he was also deeply religious and reflected upon issues through the eyes of his Church. It is a fact that he did believe that heretics should be burned. As for his being 50, and a young 50 at that, for the most part 50 in Tudor times was considered ‘old’. Furthermore, at the time of his execution he was 57 and a few years previously he had requested of the King that he be relieved of his duties due to ill-health and pains in his chest. Either he really was seriously ailing or he was lying. Your call.

      1. He was known for having a good sense of humour, being fond of music and dance and for his home being full of laughter. He was also well known for his entertainment, not for being dour and boring. So if you are religious you cannot have fun, is that your point? The portrayal of More is not historically correct, I have studied More for years, the portrayal is coloured by Cromwell’s later encounters with More, his own hatred for everything he stands for and the fact that the drama is seen through Cromwell’s eyes. We have also been allowed into the mind of Cromwell, whose life we see shaped by a series of profound and hurtful experiences. His father we are told was cruel and violent, their relationship not a good one, in fact he spent time in and out of jail, he has lost his daughters, in the drama he also lost his wife, and his master has fallen from grace. Cromwell was a cynical man, he made his own way and used his talents as a corrupt but excellent lawyer to free the King from his wife, succeeding were others failed. Henry was not keen on him at first, but he came to see his value and to rely upon him as a fixer.

        1. I know he had a good sense of humour; I know he encouraged fun and laughter in his home; I also know, which you do not mention, that he truly believed that girls had as much right to be educated as boys – a fact I deem far more important than any of the others. I did not dispute any of these facts. All I said was that at the time of the setting of Wolf Hall he was getting on in years (in Tudor terms) and had told the King he was too ailing to continue in his office. I find your inference that I think that ‘if you are religious you cannot have fun’ highly offensive. How do you know I do not believe? I was merely being objective as to his age and state of health. Cromwell’s portrayal of More is totally irrelevant.

  3. I watched the first episode of Wolf Hall with my husband and we both found it to be as slow and stultifyingly boring as the book which we both read when it was published. I know a fair amount about the history of the period and knowing what I do I find it impossible to like Cromwell as a character. Whatever his true motives for bringing down Anne Boleyn it is possible that he included some of his enemies among the accused in order to get them out of his way.

    1. What were you expecting the pace and content to be in a novel about the machinations at the Tudor Court in the time of Henry? To get a sense of the sycophancy, the discreet deceptions, the carefully calculated back-stabbing, then it needs to be portrayed in terms of darkness and stealth. You say that you know a fair amount about the period and that causes you to find it impossible to like Cromwell as a character. Cromwell is not a character but was a real human being, both good and bad, which can be gleaned from reading not just novels and basic histories of the period but by reading first-hand accounts and histories with a sound bibliographical basis.

    2. To Diane:

      You wrote: “I find it impossible to like Cromwell as character.”

      Do you like Richard III of Shakespeare? Or Tony Soprano?

      However, to me it is not liking or not liking Cromwell but understanding him. He was an upstart who had risen high entirely because his own abilities. He was surrounded by aristocrats who despised him although he was probably wore intelligent than they and certainly more hard-working. Having seen how Wolsey fell he knew that he had to do what the king wanted or else. In the court all competed of the king’s favor and everyone was ready to stick others’ back.

      No nice person was able to survive in such a jungle. Cromwell had to be tough as nails in order to succeed. (And according to Mantel, Anne was also such.)

      Besides, he did not only want power for power’s sake but he had some objectives that he wanted achieve. And the only way to achieve them at that time was to have and retain the king’s favor.

    3. I agree, Diane, the first episode was painfully slow, but it has developed well since. It is a drama after all and needs to bring the characters to us, sometimes through years of history being poured into an hour before you get to the heart of the story. However I don’t believe it was boring, more intriguing and intricate in the portrayal of Cromwell’s married life as against the plots surrounding the Cardinal and his fall. People forget that Thomas Cromwell was a devoted husband and father, that he came from an ordinary background. We so often see him merely in the midst of the court that we forget how he got there are his life before, but now his life and home and struggles are explored in full.

  4. Already when I read Bring up the bodies, I found Cromwell’s “motive” rather odd, even silly. If some people had made fun in the expense of Cardinal Wolsey after his death, which was of course tasteless and heartless but did not hurt Wolsey a bit as he never even knew about it, how an earth could Cromwell think that it justified killing them?

    Now, a real motive could be if Cromwell had power struggle with Anne – especially if he felt that if Anne’s threat cutting his head off would become true in case Anne succeeded win again Henry’s favor.

    In BBC History Mantel says again that Anne was not a victim but she gambled and first won and then lost.

    In a way that it is true – Cromwell also gambled and first won and then lost.

    But there is one big difference and that it is that Anne was dependent on biology which she could not influence on and Cromwell was not.

    1. In a sense, Anne did gamble, as she convinced Henry she could give him a son and every pregnancy had odds of 50/50 – or more, if you take into account the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.

      I can see why Hilary Mantel used the masque as a focus for Cromwell’s distaste for Anne, George and their friends’ attitude towards Wolsey, as it would have been rather boring to have him roaming round the Court overhearing derogatory comments! It is a work of fiction and a dramatisation thereof, not a documentary. Nor it is Cromwell’s only motivation for presenting these men as Anne’s lovers, as in ‘Bring Up the Bodies’, he is prepared to use any means to bring Anne down before she can do the same to him. When Mark Smeaton falls into his hands and foolishly boasts of his friendship with the Queen, he twists this to achieve his aim.

      I am enjoying the dramatisation, as I enjoyed the books. I particularly like Damian Lewis as the King and as the series progresses, both he and Cromwell will become more ruthless. And the costumes and sets are excellent.

  5. Well I have to say fiction or not I am enjoying the series and will continue to watch it 🙂 I love the costumes, the settings etc 🙂

  6. I have read both of Ms. Mantel’s books. I enjoyed them but I have read better books on this period of time with regard to Cromwell. I do not believe Ms. Mantel’s reason that the deaths were Cromwell’s revenge regarding Wolsey. Just doesn’t make sense to me!
    The series has not aired in Canada as yet, I believe it comes in April. I will be watching it and hopefully it’s a little better than some of the reviews I have seen so far. Sometimes there is a bit of dragging at the beginning, I shall look forward to seeing how it is done though. By the way Claire you are truly amazing and I just love the articles you write.

  7. I have thoroughly enjoyed Wolf Hall, at the same time, I am reading a wonderful book by James Monti The Life and Writings of St Thomas Moore – which throws a different light on all character’s and indeed the dreadful times in which peaceful good men went to dreadful deaths or mocked for ‘putting God first…Cardinal Woolsey along with so many at the time became a hindrance and a bore to Henry they had outlived his purpose he used them for, and were dealt with in the most undignified and human manner. It is worth reading Moore’s beautiful letters and dialogue to get a much bigger picture as to how petty and cruel Henry was.

    1. It is a truism to say everyone writes from their own point of view and everyone reads from their own point of view. The real need is to bridge the gap. They were dreadful times – being burned to death as a heretic or being hanged, drawn, and quartered as a traitor cannot be envisaged in terms of the horrific pain. But heretics were put to death by all religions, just as they are in parts of our world today. Henry himself was devout and was awarded the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ from the Pope at the time he wrote his religious treatise. He was also dubbed the finest Prince in Christendom, and was a fine athlete and musician in his younger years. What turned him into a tyrant and cruel megalomaniac in later years will probably remain a mystery for all time. I don’t have to condone what he did but I shall try to read the histories with more than a little circumspection.

  8. I have not yet seen the TV production (won’t be shown in the US until April), but I have read both books — and enjoyed them. I didn’t think Mantel was using the masque as a motive for Cromwell’s taking down Anne Boleyn; I thought she was using it to explain why certain specific men were taken down with her. (Also, I think many of the defects are due to the fact that the books are from Cromwell’s viewpoint … so, for example, Thomas More is the fanatically Catholic persecutor-of-heretics, not the writer of “Utopia”.

  9. We must remember that Wolf Hall is a novel…But I suppose to some extent all Historical writings are in some respects “novels” as they are all opinions. ,..culled from other… opinions…..Which writings are closer to the truth….Those written at the time or just after the period OR HUNDREDS OF YEARS After the events???? But I suppose the opinions of today are taken from the older opinions…as they used to say DISCUSS AND COMMENT….Politely please.

    1. Totally agree. Reading the history of England from the pen of Macauley, Trevelyan, Churchill, Schama, who were/are well respected in their time, often seems as if you are reading about entirely different countries. Reading historical novels can be like playing a whispering game: ‘send reinforcements we’re going to advance’ at the beginning of the line becomes ‘send three-and-four pence we’re going to a dance’ by the end. Opinions will always be just that. As tenuous as it may be, we can only (almost) rely on writings like Pepys’s diary written in code because it wasn’t meant to be read, or Anne Frank’s diary because she was a young girl who wrote what she saw and felt. As for Court documents, Assize records, Parish records, and the like, we can probably glean more about the prevailing ideologies and moral perceptions by noting the subtext than from the facts themselves.

  10. I have heard that we will not see this in the US until April. Pity; I hate to wait that long.

    Can someone tell me if it is true that a lot of viewers were disappointed because there were no actual wolves in Wolf Hall? This has to be a joke, right? I cannot imagine anyone not realizing it was a place name, and not referring to real live wolves. How absurd is that?

  11. I commented on ‘farce’ v ‘masque’ in response to an early post. Having read the main article more closely I see that ‘farce’ was used there and so I question the semantics again. The word was used by Chapuys but in C16 he would have used it to mean something very different from our present interpretation. In Old French it meant ‘stuffing’ (as it does today in ‘forcemeat’) and in Latin it meant to ‘pad out’, in liturgical terms referring to impromptu additions to religious plays. It wasn’t until C18 that this latter meaning made its transition to our present meaning.
    Also, Claire states that courtiers, etc would not have performed masques at Court. In the Tudor court it was precisely the Courtiers who would have put on these lavish extravaganzas. Furthermore, ladies of the court took the opportunity to perform in them, obscured as they were by the masks that were an integral part. It has been recorded that Anne Boleyn was the first lady to ‘perform’ at court but I have not yet found any verification for this.

    1. The “farce” as a comic dramatic work had actually been around since Ancient Greek and Roman times, e.g. the Atellan Farce, so it was a recognised device and Chapuys would have been familiar with it. Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” are defined as farces and as is stated in “The Cambridge Guide to Theatre”, “the word ‘farce’ is of medieval origin, the performance of raucous comedy is as old and as widespread as theatre.” It goes on to say that European farce had its “provenance in elements of Greek and Roman theatre” and that the use of the word “farce” in English did derive from the French culinary word and that “the genre may have its origin in the medieval theatre custom of ‘stuffing’ the programme with several plays of various kinds or of stuffing the liturgy with comic scenes.”
      John Heywood’s plays, which were comedies performed at the Tudor court, were influenced by the French farce which was popular in France in the late 15th century. Nicholas Udall wrote a famous farce “Ralph Roister Doister” and William Rastell published his farce “Johan Johan” (which is seen as “an Anglicized version of a French farce” – Drama in Early Tudor Britain, 1485-1558, by Howard B. Norland) in 1533. In 1534 the Pope and cardinals were ridiculed in a farce at court, and comedy “pantomine” style masques were popular. Obviously later in the Tudor period William Shakespeare wrote farces too, e.g. Comedy of Errors, although it is not seen as a “pure farce”.
      What I find interesting is what Martha Fletcher Bellinger points out in “Moralities, Interludes and Farces of the Middle Ages”, the fact that at times like Shrovetide the same audience would be entertained by a religious piece of theatre, “the sacred play”, followed by a farce and that you could also have religious farces.

      It may well be that Thomas Boleyn made use of the “farce” dramatic genre for his meal with the French ambassador because of the French influence on drama at this time. It would have been something that the ambassador was familiar with.

      Re courtiers not performing in masques at court, I apologise for not being clear on this and I have written on many occasions of court masques like the Chateau Vert pageant which involved courtiers. Clare and I were referring to this particular masque which was a private event and a farce. We believe that it is highly unlikely that George Boleyn, who had been on a four month embassy to France in 1530, would have performed as a demon in a farce in front of the French ambassador and that any courtier would have played a part in it. It was not a court masque so the likes of Norris, Brereton, Weston and Smeaton wuld not have been involved. Chapuys would also have mentioned if any of the Boleyns or courtiers close to the King had been involved in acting in it.

      Re the use of the word “farce”, it was used in English in the 16th century in a dramatic sense. From at least the 1520s on it defined a “ludicrous satire; low comedy” and was from Middle French farce – “comic interlude in a mystery play” (Online Etymology Dictionary).

      1. Thank you for your lengthy explanation about the farce in previous times. I do believe that, as a promulgator of facts to a wide audience who will not always understand the finer nuances of what is being stated, it is vital that these distinctions are made clear. I’m not sure whether your reply was aimed solely at myself as, if it was, I thought it could have been gleaned that I have more than a passing interest in English etymology. Having read the first comment (Anne, 2 Feb) about ‘ … an offensive farce … seems a stretch to me’ I felt that the reader had been done a disservice by not having the terminology explained. It wasn’t helped by your comment: ‘ … by performing in a farce is … farcical!’ which served to conflate the two perceived meanings.

  12. The citation for the Chapuys quote is CSP IV ii 615. I have searched for this online but cannot find any reference to CSP apart from Chartered Physiotherapists. What do the letters stand for please?

      1. Had you referred to these papers before? I did scan around – but that’s not to say it wasn’t there.

  13. There is really no evidence that Cromwell played a part in Anne’s fall.Although,I have not seen Wolf Hall I think it’s a really good thing to bring attention to the Tudors.Unfortunately,though the majority of the public tend to watch these fictionalized versions of history and take it for truth which is a discredit to history in general but particularly English history.I really hope to one day see a portrayal of Anne’s story that is a close to the known truth as we can possibly get.

    1. My own personal view is that Henry VIII told Cromwell to get rid of Anne but that it was up to Cromwell to find a way of doing so. However, some believe that it was all down to Cromwell and that Henry was an innocent party who believed the charges against Anne. Either side can be argued and Cromwell himself took responsibility for Anne’s fall when talking to Chapuys in June 1536 when he said he “had planned and brought about the whole affair”.

      1. Yes, but we all know the biased rather unreliable opinions of Chupuys.Perhaps he might have stated this to throw suspensions off his self.But yes I also think Cromwell was definitely involved in some manner.

      2. Yes I believe that Cromwell thought that had Anne the chance she would have had him executed on some trumped up charge so he was just saving his own skin really but then why did he want her dead? Had she just had her marriage annulled/ divorced and banished to a nunnery she couldn’t have harmed him anyway, I think in the end he grew to hate her and saw her as someone so ruthless she had to be killed, he could well have thought of Wolsley as well and believed it was justice for him, I did see the opera Anna Bolena on sky some months ago and enjoyed it very much, the actress who played Anne was wonderful and Henry v111 he looked just as you would imagine him to look, Damien Lewis is too skinny to make a plausible Henry, I wonder if hel get fatter as the series progresses?

        1. Wolf Hall depicts events around the year 1531. At this time Henry WAS still handsome, athletic, tall and slender for the age. Recently a historian has claimed that: the year 1536 changed Henry VIII from a handsome, popular and athletic king to a corpulent tyrant who thought little of dispatching his many wives. So, at the time of the WH setting Damien Lewis is an excellent choice of actor made especially so by his natural colouring. Henry wasn’t always a dead ringer for Charles Laughton and it would be perfectly justifiable to regard Elizabeth I as a better indicator as to his appearance.

        2. People who believe Henry Viii was always fat should look at the many descriptions of him and his portraits during the first 30 years of his reign. Holbein painted Henry after 1536 or even later when he was in his mid to late forties. It’s only after the jousting accident in 1536, leaving him less active that he begins to put on rapid weight. He did not balloon in weight until the last few years of his life, and never looked like Charles Lawson anyway. He was over six foot two, he had great legs and was a fit all round sportsman. There are plenty of sources and portraits that sho him still good looking and fairly well proportioned even at this point. The huge man mountain is a myth that only reflects his declining years.

        3. Having had many visits to The Tower of London, and especially The Armoury in The White Tower, I have seen at close hand the full armour of Henry from a suit made for him as a child to the final suit for his later years. The latter one was very, very large – quite imposing, whereas the one made for him in his 20s was for a slim athletic physique. Towards the end of his life he needed to be carried in something akin to a sedan chair and had the first known ‘stair lift’ to be made for his residences. As to his ‘great legs’, it was said that he wore padding in his hose to make it appear that he had better calves than he did. His father was of slight build, his brother was of slight build, and he, in his youth, was of slight build. Why would his calves grow with his general corpulence? Not being medically trained I do not have an explanation. Until he was around 45 he was still looking good but he died some 11 years later a grotesque parody of his youthful self. Medical research indicates that he suffered certain afflictions that affected his body and mind. It is all well and good to love and respect the essential Henry but it must be accepted that he changed dramatically in later years through no fault of his own.

      3. I think Greg Walker has truly explained it the most intelligent and rational way and that Cromwell had nothing to do with making anything up to get rid of her. Her friend accused her, a musician CONFESSED and named others, and lastly, she had a notorious habit of talking dirty (as did her brother apparently) and had done so just at the time the accusation of infidelity was brought to Henry. In the tower she just kept talking and making it worse and worse.

        In my words: she was caught in a tsunami, Henry believed it all, she kept talking, and she was done.

        Walker is a great writer and I am about to read his book about writing under tyrants.

        1. As a lawyer, Cromwell surely knew what a “confession” of the man like Mark Smeaton was worth – if he had not pressured Mark to do it in the first place.

          No other men confessed and Smeaton’s tales about them were nothing but gossip and hearsay – as was all else. In fact, there was no proof.

          Before all, there has been other queens who had been guilty of adultery or even making revolt against the king, but none of them had been killed.

  14. i was hoping for something more creative to understand Cromwell and his motives than just a retelling of a historical event to name all the men who died with Anne Boleyn. Just my opinion but it seems kind of lazy on the part of the author.

    1. I think that Hilary Mantel could be accused of being too creative in her portrayal of events – she only took the bones of an historical event ie the masque, then fleshed it out to suit her plot. From what Claire has written, those men were not involved in the masque as shown in Wolf Hall. It took creative manipulation of the truth to ‘explain’ Cromwell’s motives in the kind of portmanteau style required by novelists to keep pace and interest. Lazy? Having written about historical events based purely on personal research for a dissertation, and written historical fiction for children, the latter was much more difficult as it involved considerable research that then had to be rejigged and honed to appeal to a targeted audience.

      1. Marilyn, do you realize you are accusing a novelist of being too creative? She did not change facts, she interpreted them.

        I like your posts, by the way. Intelligent and feisty without being patronizing and pompous. A valuable addition here which made me want to take part in the exchanges.

        1. Thanks for that Judith! I’m guessing you suspected I was playing devil’s advocate. I have to admit I was so incensed by the comment I replied to that I decided to fight fire with fire as it were. I’d prefer to use a word other than ‘fire’ but it might not get through moderation.

  15. If we are still wondering why Cromwell picked his five victims, he told Chapuys, who told Charles V on 6 June 1536, that, “ of the things which had aroused his suspicions and made him enquire into the matter was a prognostic made in Flanders threatening the king with a conspiracy of those nearest his person”> He says, “Cromwell set himself to arrange the plot based on his suspicions.” Who is more intimately near Henry’s person than Anne and Henry Norris: who closer to Anne than George? What value do you place on Cromwell’s ‘confession’ so close to the event? Seems pretty dramatic to me. ALTHOUGH, Hilary’s revenge ploy serves to create terrific empathy with Cromwell. It works.

    1. To Globerose:

      You wrote: “Hilary’s revenge ploy serves to create terrific empathy with Cromwell, It works.”

      It does not work with me. As a motive to get people killed in revenge it is so silly that no sane person would act on it.

      Instead, I could understand if Cromwell felt that
      1. Henry ordered him to get rid of Anne and if he failed to please him, he would lose his position and also probably his head
      2. Anne and Cromwell had disagreement on policy and he wanted her out
      3. Anne threatened to have his head cut off and it was either her or him
      4. Anne was the real culprit of Wolsey’s fall and death in disgrace

      These would be real motives in power struggle, not a silly farce that, however heartless, caused no harm to Wolsey who was dead and did not know anything about it.

      Ultimately, it was Henry who decided on Wolsey’s fate. So if Cromwell wanted revenge, he should have revenged him. Instead, he served him faithfully.

      However, I find interesting that you feel empathy towards Cromwell because of the farce because that it shows how an author or director works with the audiences feelings.

      Mantel is quite skillful with it: she leaves something out and adds something.

      Of course, as a novelist, she has a right to do it.

    2. To Globerose:

      You wrote: “Hilary’s revenge ploy serves to create terrific empathy with Cromwell, It works.”

      It does not work with me. As a motive to get people killed in revenge the farce is so silly that no sane person would act on it.

      However, the farce is a good example how Mantel knows to play with the audience’s feelings.

      Of course, as a novelist, she has a right to do it.

      1. LOL. How kind of you to allow a novelist the right to write.

        And you may be the only person alive who would not understand why a man would feel angry etc when his friend and father -figure, after being hounded to death, then has his “corpse” mocked in public by a group of sleazy frat boys (albeit some kind of old for the part).

        It is a brilliant and believable plot for who doesn’t want to fight to avenge a wronged father? I mean, other than you.

        1. To JudithRex:

          If anyone was guilty of Wolsey’s fate, it was Henry – besides Wolsey himself who, after having failed to achieve the what the king wanted, was so in love with power that he could not accept a life way from it.

          If Cromwell really really wanted a revenge, he was only a mafioso, not a statesman ruled by reason.

  16. I hope that this series will soon be available in the U.S. I’ve read the books and they’re absolutely fantastic! Would love to see the film version!

  17. What Hilary is exploring with this is the depth of, the unusual depth of, Cromwell’s loyalty to Wolsey. Loyalty now, and in Henry’s Court, is rare as hen’s teeth. It is a quality that turns Cromwell from Henry’s henchman into something else. Into what? We are on a journey. Keep watching. We’ll find out. Oh, and I for one am glad to see that man of singular virtue, Sir Thomas More, not as a saint but a real man, ambitious of his talents but again, torn by loyalty to The Pope.

  18. To Globerose;

    The kind of loyalty that leads to revenge, is not at all rare, either then or now. In fact, it is unfortunately common.

    Cromwell turning from Henry’s henchman to something else? In fact Cromwell faithfully followed Henry’s order: get me off from this. Cf. King indirect order to Beckett’s murderer.

    I think that the crux of the matter is the discussion between Cromwell and his son in Wolf Hall: when Gregory doubted whether following King’s orders was right, Cromwell claimed that Henry was no tyrant and he would not give evil orders.

    But now we have seen that Henry can do just such that – he and his needs and his conscience are always the most important and anybody who stands aside must be crushed. And more evil orders is to come, perhaps the worst is the execution of Countess of Salisbury who is nearly 70 years, evidently simply because she is Cardinal Pole’s mother and Henry can reach him.

    So we have the next question in the end of Bring Up the Bodies where Cromwell claims that Anne would have made any sin and crime? No doubt she did many sins, but there is no proof that that she actually committed any crimes.

    And “would have done”? Is this rather a question whether Cromwell would make any sin and crime in order to stay in power?

    In history according to Schonfield’s biography, there was something that Cromwell refused to do – and because of it, he fell. He could at last make a choice.

  19. i will give this series a look-see when it comes to the states.

    As far as the books the show is derived from, for me there was much to like about BUTB but I was sorely disappointed with Wolf Hall. Historical Fiction can be interesting but, well…let the reader beware!
    HM has said she wrote entirely through the eyes of Cromwell; that gave her much license because he is an enigmatic figure.That is fine, but there were many descriptions of real characters and events that were presented as objectively factual rather than from the subjective point of view of the narrator, so it seemed she was not always sticking with her stated treatment of the story. Confusing! And these descriptions often were negatively biased – most glaringly in the case of Sir Thomas More – the harangues against him going on practically throughout the book. I began to feel the writer was personally offended by him in some way.

    I must say, though, she does have a great prose style. I am eager to see how her vision of those long ago events translates to the small screen…

    1. she was offended that he was someone who burned people at the stake and yet everyone today thinks of him as a total sweetie. She is trying to right the imbalance.
      Went too far? Maybe. But quite a few people didn’t know about the burnings and how he turned off his good friend Erasmus by being brutal.

      1. I hear you. I think it’s pretty certain, though, that HM, being a lawyer and someone who has seriously cracked her history books, knows that heresy was deemed by the laws of the state to be a grievous crime against the body politic in those days. It was held to be on the same level as treason – or worse – so, although foreign to our modern sensibilities, such punishment was considered fitting.
        More didn’t make up the rules, and who living today can say he was gleeful over it? That would be an awfully subjective judgment…

        That is what I meant about the two edged sword of the historical fiction genre. And once again, the lady can write!

        1. But he hunted them down and sought them out quite specifically and then burned them if they didn’t recant. That was unnecessary and certainly not “humanism” as practiced by his good friend Erasmus.

          I love the play and I have read the bios of More that are not fluff pieces, and he is a man of his brutal times for sure. Sincere yes, but brutal – yes a well.

      2. First of all Thomas More did not burn anyone at the stake, he handed over repeated offenders to be tried as heretics, and as this was a second or third offense of the most stubborn heretical beliefs, under the law they were condemned to burning. I would recommend Peter Ackroyd and John Guy, whose more recent books deal with the attitude of More to heretics and to the facts from the sources of his involvement in them. Of 127 people between 1522 and 1532, arrested for heresy, most on local charges not the orders of More, 28 were tried. Most were released or recanted. Of the 28 tried 6 were condemned. All six were repeat offenders. Other punishments were normally used, and these six are well documented. Two were burnt but not on the direct order of More, one died of typhoid, the other three were interrogated, not tortured and condemned by the law after a trial. More also organised raids on illegal books. He was ordered to do so by the King who refused to patronize heretics. 47 people were executed for heresy in the reign of Henry Viii, most after the death of Thomas More.

        Maybe instead of repeating the same gossip and rumours that have been placed at the door of More by his enemies, which most historians deny as propaganda and which novels and drama loves to exaggerate, or instead of repeating the same rubbish about Anne Boleyn, for which there is no evidence, you should study the sources and read some true history.

        Thomas More was no different than his contemporaries when it comes to dealing with heresy and is unfairly condemned by people who don’t understand the time he lived or the man himself. He was a pioneer in the education of women, a great writer and thinker, he was forward thinking about politics, he had a great sense of humour and fun, he joked about heresy, he wrote about the passion and an ideal society, he brought fairness and justice to many ordinary people, he was respected by all classes, he never took a bribe, he took on cases no one else would touch, he was a devoted family man, the first patron of Holbein, friend to Erasmus, he was a great statesmen and his death shocked the world. He stood up to the King who had been his friend and was a victim of Cromwell’s determination to destroy the Catholic Church in order to make Henry rich. He defended the rights of the Pope because Henry had no right to replace him as head of the church. He believed that the rights of the church were ancient. He accepted the succession as the King’s business and would have accepted the marriage had he been left alone. He may have had serious determinations about heresy, but he died for a principle of conscience, which is more than can be said about Cromwell.

        1. I don’t think anyone is suggested that More actually lit the taper – but as you accept that he did hand over ‘repeat offenders’ to be tried as heretics knowing they would be burned if found guilty, it could be argued that he did play quite a significant part in their deaths. What is definable as ‘the most stubborn heretical beliefs’ anyway? You also accept that More ‘organised raids on illegal books’. As a Humanist and a champion of education who was capable of standing up to the King on matters concerning the Church’s Supremacy even to the point of death, why didn’t he stand up to the King and refuse to sanction these ‘raids’ on people whose crime was to be reading / possessing religious texts written in their own language? As for Cromwell destroying the Catholic Church to make Henry rich, then it would follow that if the Church hadn’t been so extraordinarily wealthy there would have been little point in destroying it. The problem was that the Church was so extraordinarily powerful and that fact had been being aired for centuries (quite a few of Chaucer’s Canterbury Pilgrims were held up for ridicule because of their use of the Church for their own ends: Friar, Monk, Pardoner, Summoner, even the Prioress).
          Yes, Peter Ackroyd is brilliant as a writer and as a presenter of excellent TV documentaries. But he is a writer, not an historian, and does not specialise in any one period. That is not to lessen the quality of his work, but it does mean he has a more general view of English history. John Guy is an academic historian who specialises in the Tudor period so I shall be putting him my shortlist.

        2. Marylin, it is called obfuscating the content of the original comment. Of course he sought out heretics and had them burned if they didn’t confess. and change. Of course it was legal to do so. The actually point is that isn’t very humanist and that fact was not readily known by many.

        3. To JudithRex. If you think More was brutal, then you have little knowledge of Thomas Cromwell and Henry Viii. The number of holy friars hung drawn and quartered while still alive through the legislation Cromwell forced through Parliament on the King’s behalf was at least four times as many as the six people executed on More’s watch. The majority of heretics killed, from the 47 who died in the reign of Henry Viii, did so after the martyrdom of Saint Thomas More. The only reason the monasteries were ransacked was for their imagined wealth.

        4. Bandit, here is an idea for you. Both things can be true at one time! I can think More was brutal and think lots of other people were, too!

    2. Also, “Wolf Hall”, like “A Man for All Seasons” are modern works, written for modern audiences … who do not accept people who burn heretics as the “good guy”, but does expect the “good guy” to help the poor. When Thomas More is the “good guy” and Cromwell the “bad guy”, (as in “A Man for All Seasons”), More’s role in fighting heresy is limited to refusing to allow his daughter to marry one … and Cromwell’s feeding two hundred poor people a day, twice a day, is not mentioned. When More and Cromwell reverse roles, More’s persecution of heretics is emphasized, as is Cromwell’s charitable work. In the 1930s, when More was canonized, people were more willing to accept the idea that some of his ideas (“Utopia” and the idea of obeying G-d first, and then the king) would outlast the evil of his time (burning heretics), but many members of the modern audience (with the constant exposure in the media to people in the Middle East claiming that religion justifies acts of barbarism) react differently.

      1. Esther, great comment. I would go just a bit further and say that for people like myself who are comfortable with grey areas and complex people and situations, we can see that More does not have to be perfect in order to respect his strength of character. I think today we could take that amazing play by Bolt and add just the elements you mentioned, the feeding of the poor AND the burnings, and still pay great respect to More’s deep and sincere faith in the Church and the Papacy being created directly by Jesus Christ. He can be a martyr AND flawed. Cromwell can be a great advocate of social change and justice, deplore burnings, and still execute the law as it stood at the time in regard to swearing full allegiance to the king or die.

        Neither man is perfect. No man is.

        1. I think it would make a really great play if you had it between two real (and therefore imperfect) people, each having good and bad qualities, instead of the traditional “good guy”/”bad guy”. One of the greatest tragedies of Tudor England is that these two men could not work together on common goals.

        2. Hi JR,
          Wanted to respond to your post 5 Feb 3.07 but didn’t have ‘reply’ link so am doing it here. So,

          Ouch! In over 60 years on this planet and many years teaching, and many more studying I have never been accused of ‘darkening issues’!! I apologise. I guess I am way too entrenched in the style of debate that totally avoids dissing someone’s comments/style/intelligence and so goes more for the syllogistic argument and leaving the reader to put 2 and 2 together. I have never (except through two forums on Facebook) communicated within an international site and so value your reactions to the way I put my ideas across. I know I can appear obtuse but it is only my way of trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings by saying what I really mean! Thanks JudithRex.

      2. Yes, Mantel has said that all historical fiction is contemporary fiction. There is a truth in this: otherwise it would not interest the modern audience.

        More in “A man in all seasons” is clearly aimed to the audience who remembered that in Hitler’s time, there would have needed people who had put their conscience and their sense of right ahead of their loyalty towards the ruler of their own state and who were doing just that during the Vietnam war.

        Instead, Mantel’s Cromwell is clearly aimed to the the audience who abhor religious fanatics, believe in reason, oppose privileges based on birth and regard reforms that created an unified national state (even suppressing lesser languages and people like the Welsh) as good.

        In both cases, the matters that are not consistent with the picture the author/screenwriter wants to give of their chief character are left out.

        In Cromwell’s case, Schonfield says that he was a Lutheran which at that time was a great risk, but although Mantel’s Cromwell is favor of the English Bible, his religiosity is otherwise almost totally left out and instead his rationality is stressed on, in order to make him more modern than the actually was – and thus more appealing to the modern audience.

  20. Hilary Mantel is a fantastic author, she brings “her” characters so much to life-I only hope “Wolf Hall”, televised version, does her series of books justice. So far? Damien Lewis brings Henry into your living room and Thomas Cromwell? Mark Rylance conveys his “subservient”, quick witted, dedicated nature to life. Whether the series does justice to Ms Mantel’s trilogy remains to be seen but, aye or nay, it sure as hell beats the Tudors!

  21. I think it is ridiculous that the root of Thomas Cromwell’s desire to prosecute the five men, George Boleyn, Brereton, Weston, Henry Norris, and Mark Smeaton has anything to do with them being part of a masque that insulted Wolsey. The fall of Wolsey meant the rise of Cromwell because of his talents. He was the type of man who knew how to recover his own fortunes and to promote himself, to become a self made man in the best place for him, the court. Cromwell was not a fool. He may have been upset to see Wolsey treated in this way, but he was not going to hold a grudge against Anne or her supporters. These men were also close to the King, he would do better to flatter them and to promote Anne. Cromwell worked to ensure Anne and the King had everything they wanted, that their marriage was not challenged. He fell out with Anne and when it all went south, he was involved in her fall after the death of her son and Henry made it clear he wanted to end the marriage. However, it is nonsense to say or imply that Cromwell took revenge on these men five years later because they appeared to rejoice in the disgrace of Cardinal Wolsey. Cromwell may have had other reasons for destroying Anne in 1536, but the inclusion of these men in her fall appears to have been incidental, after they were implicated by Smeaton as the Queens lovers.

    1. it;’s a novel. if you don’t like it, don’t read it. but quite a few people found it brilliant story telling by a brilliant woman.

      1. My comment is about the masque, which is what the article is about. Nobody is saying they don’t like the novel or that it is not good drama, we are discussing the reality of Cromwell, his involvement or not in Anne’s fall and whether or not the suggestion that he took revenge for the death of Wolsey or insults to Wolsey is realistic five years later.

        1. I understood your comment, thanks, it wasn’t all that hard to follow.

          Your comment is that her idea was ridiculous and my response is it is A NOVEL. if you don’t like the premise of the book don’t bother with it – plenty of intelligent and educated people do.

  22. To Kelpiemare:

    Yes, Hilary Mantel is a fantastic author, but the only characters she brings to life are Cromwell, his family members and close associates.

    Instead, all courtiers, both female and male, are only caricatures. This is OK in a novel when other people are seen through Cromwell’s eyes and many happenings are even told to him by other persons with their own motives (Mary Boleyn, Jane Rochfort and Anne’s other ladies are carrying him tales and we never know if they are true not not), and he and his close associates even play some scenes, i.e. they simply imagine them.

    As for The Tudors, it is of course a historical soap-opera, but many characters are surprisingly many-sided and, most of all, one can choose whether one sides with Henry, Katherine, Anne, Wolsey, Thomas More or even Cromwell.

    There are also very good scenes who tell how a person has changed, f.ex. Henry eating the swan after Anne’s execution.

    Although Cromwell in The Tudors is much worse than in Mantel’s novels, there is one scene (he goes to the church to pray after Anne’s fall looking aghast as if he at last understands what he has done), that makes me like him more than Mantel’s Cromwell who smugly rejoices after his “revenge”.

    1. I think Mantel managed something bold and quite amazing by making Cromwell the only character swimming in a sea of characters who were equally well described; she gave us his thoughts as she conceived them but she never communicated the thoughts of another character. As you alluded to, she came close in her portrayals of the king, Queen Anne, and his intimate family members, but even here something subtle was always held back.

      1. Yes. But again, those characters are seen through Cromwell’s eyes so it would be weird to suddenly get into someone els’ s head. There is also reason to doubt his judgment at times. The scene in the tower after Westin says he had hoped to confess his evils when he ws old (Cromwell’s age) and Cromwell’s need to rush form the room to get himself together is quite revealing that not even Cromwell always believes his own story.

        I love your posts, Joseja.

        1. thank you very much, JR.

          oh, and does anyone know when the last in HM’s series is coming out? I heard it was due this year…

  23. I rather think you are all missing the point re Thomas Cromwell’s character, as portrayed in the books (and in the series) “Wolf Hall”, and that is his loyalty to Wolsley, and his devotion to his family (and it is for them he builds his own property portfolio). He stands by him and tries to get Wolsley seen as a true friend of Henry. That surely is obviously the root of his “vengeful” attitude to the 4 masqueraders and, as it transpired, Wolsey’s arch Nemises, Anne herself. A woman who could hold, and act on, a grudge.

    The Cromwell of the “Tudors” showed his capable side, his loyalty to Henry and hinted at his devotion to friends and family. But, in “Wolf Hall”, we are getting to see a more rounded, developed Thomas Cromwell. We are getting to see the man whom, after his execution, Henry accused his councillors of killing his most reliable man.

    As to Henry’s change of character/temperament? It has been suggested that, after his jousting fall, in 1536, when his horse landed on him and he was severely concussed, it was the resulting brain injury which caused his change of personality.

    To Thomas More? A family man? Undoubtedly. A religious man? Yes. But his depth of believe sent folk to the pyres, so a tad tunnel-visioned as so many were then, and so many are even now. Not Utopia at all.

    1. To Kelpiemare

      Well, I see Mantel’s novels in other way than you.

      In Wolf Hall Cromwell is presented simply too good and I doubt that the reason is that Mantel fell in love with him.

      More burnt heretics but Cromwell sent him to block on the basis of Richard Rich’s testimony which probably was perjury. This did not seemed to trouble Cromwell nor Mantel at all.

      In Bring Up the Bodies Cromwell is that sort of lawyer who is only interested in winning his case,and not at all interested in the truth and justice.

      It seems fitting that that his own methods were used against him in the end. Richard Rich testified against him, too.

      1. I don’t think that Ms. Mantel portrays Cromwell as a ‘good’ character, but as a man who has both good and bad qualities.

        She does not shy away from showing his ruthlessness, his bullying behaviour or his willingness to use any means to obtain his ends. He wants power and wealth for himself, but he also believes that he can guide the King to become a more effective ruler. Cromwell also has a genuine commitment to the Protestant faith and a belief that most of the monasteries are wasteful and corrupt, and he uses Henry’s desire for a new wife to push his religious agenda. Nor does he wish to see More executed, but he knows that his plans will only succeed if Henry is accepted as head of the church, and More refuses to take the oath.

  24. Ms Mantel? Fell “in love with Cromwell”?! She is an award winning author. She researches her subject and that subject develops with each letter she types, otherwise she would not have won so much acclaim, written so many enthralling, gripping novels. Keyword:NOVELS. It is us, all on our own, with our own particular ideas and idiosyncrasies that read between the lines in any book.

    I also, in my teens, saw a “Man for all Seasons” and left the cinema in tears; after all, how could such an honourable and consistent man be treated thus? It has been as I have read, studied and listened diverse media re the Tudor age, that I have come round to thinking Thomas More was not acting out of faith but for reasons of his own. He handed the chain of Chancellor back with scarce a backward thought, but wouldn’t swear to Henry being Supreme Head of the Church. Was he that enamoured of the pope? Or did he think that, by resigning the chancellery he would be allowed to hide in the country, in anonymity? Did he fail to see how important, to Henry, that the oath was taken, even by an old friend?

    People then had different ideals, viewpoints, understanding and values compared to us today. Richard Rich may very well transport to today’s greed filled societies and feel totally at home. I do not believe Thomas Cromwell would find the change to his taste.

    1. “I do not believe Thomas Cromwell would find the change to his taste.”

      As an American, he would love our laws over here and our rejection of class based meritocracy. He would love our unemployment insurance, social security, jobs programs,
      separation of star and church, freedom of the press and of speech. Of course, his descendants helped build our country along with the Dutch so I think he would totally get it. And he would fit right in.

      I think an awesome lunch would be Ben Franklin, Thomas Cromwell and Voltaire and me there just soaking in the wit, laughter, and true decency.

      1. To JudithRex

        I think, just on the contrary, that the people Cromwell would have fitted best, are Molotov and other Stalin’s henchmen. They served a tyrant, Cromwell helped to make Henry a tyrant.

        For what else were his laws that made even thoughts a crime? Also, combining temporal and spiritual power was to lead dangerous results.

        Mantel’s greatest credit is to capture the climate of Henry/Stalin’s court where even the closest betrayed in order to stay in life. As Cromwell was betrayed in his turn.

      2. JudithRex, lunch sounds like fun; wit, charm and food, with such great company too-who could ask for-ah-more?!

        Have to disagree with your religion and state not being mixed, your Republican Party and GOPpers, seem to think they have a direct line to the Creator!

    2. To Kelpiemare

      Then why do you think Mantel uses sources so, leaving pieces out and add something to them, that Cromwell is seen in a more positive light and other characters on a more negative light?

    3. To Kielpiemare

      How can you know that More did not act out of his faith?

      The question was not only about the Pope but whether there was one Catholic Church or many national churches.

      One must not be a Catholic to admit that Reformation had many negative results. When people was allowed to read the Bible themselves, everybody thought that his interpretation was right and this led violence. Just in 1520ies there was a great revolt in Germany.

      Also, Christianity and Nationalism were united in such a way that the latter was most important.

      1. You are disappointed that people can read the bible all by themselves? Do I understand that you blame this for the strife done in the name of religion? The Crusades happened long before the reformation and, perhaps, had more folk the access to the bible, the Crusades might never have occurred, the “ruling class” may not have found the plebs quite so easy to get marching to their drums.

        But, to turn your question re Thomas Cromwell’s goodness, why are you so convinced he was the baddie and the others, goodies?

        You cannot make a King a tyrant, Henry did that all on his own, particularly after his last joust where he passed out for two hours, his horse plus the horse’s armour landing on him. Research has suggested that, as a result of this, Henry’s brain had been bashed about in his skull causing a brain injury which, in turn, resulted in a change of character/temperament/personality.

        Anne May have, ever so subtlety, set a change in motion when she handed Henry a book containing the suggestion that a prince has no-one above him. Now, Henry must have loved that idea, for more reasons than just to get his marriage to Anne!

        1. I a, not disappointed that people can read the Bible all by themselves. I am only saying that one can understand also Thomas More’s POV, considering the results.

          Actually, I quite like many baddies in literature. What I don’t like in Mantel’s Cromwell is that he lies to himself about his motives.

          In Mantel’s novels the main question is: can we really trust that Cromwell can interpret other people’s feelings and motives? There are so much that is only told to him, there are even scenes that he and his associates are playing.

  25. Having said the above, Mantel has made it quite clear that her novel is simply one way of looking at what have been the case , and she does not twist the historical facts in making her offering. She has been very clear on her sounce material.

    The Tudors, on the other hand, was really bad history, but who cares as it was meant to be what it was – soft p*rn for the history class drop- outs. If you didn’t have a clue about who the people were and were never going to crack a book to find out, you could find it entertaining.

    Y’all know these are just stories and not actually textbooks, right? I mean, judge them for what they actually are and for what their authors clearly intend them to be.

    1. I know it’s not to do with the main discussion points but as The Tudors has been mentioned a couple of times I have to agree with you. It was a Tudor Romp, no more no less. Thoroughly enjoyable for all that and great escapism value.

  26. In previous dramatized presentations of Cromwell as a character the emphasis has been on his service to Wolsey, his public career as a statement, his service to the crown and his talents as an administrator. Hillary Mattel is taking the audience into the inner world of the real Thomas Cromwell, the man, sorts and all. She reveals a good servant, a man who lost his position when Wolsey fell from grace, a man who lost his wife and two children, a man struggling to find a place in the world, to sort out his own beliefs, and to cope with some hurtful and bitter moments. For the first time we are seeing the Cromwell before he became a crown servant, his journey, and we are potentially seeing that he has a dark outlook on life. Hillary Mattel also plays with the way in which Cromwell comes across and the book is reflecting things as he sees them. That has led to some uncomfortable portraits of other people. But now we have a sympathetic awareness of Cromwell as a human being, the statesman cannot hide his flaws, but we can begin to see and understand the man.

  27. Clare
    Very good article as always. However I am interested in the source that has been mentioned on other pages about the Boleyns paying hired actors to perform in this farce. Where would I find this please ? Trying to keep a level head around all the Mantel bashing as I enjoyed her books and I loved the plays and TV series. I have already had a lovely discussion with Clare Cherry on Susan Bordo’s page and now I am genuinely gripped lol!!!!
    Thank you

      1. Sorry JudithRex perhaps my message wasn’t very clear. I’m not really interested to be honest when it all gets personal. What I am interested in is the ‘historical accuracy’ that Mantel is talking about and the furore it has caused on Susan Bordo’s page. Clare Cherry who co wrote a book with Claire Ridgeway took the time to explain her concerns to me and it’s purely for my own interest that I am asking Claire Ridgeway (whose page I love) if she could point me in the direction of the original source. I’m of the opinion that history both fact and fiction is open to interpretation and no one historian/novelist has got it completely right. But if there is proper evidence out there that she has ignored then she is being a bit naughty. Wont stop me loving her books though!!

        1. “Trying to keep a level head around all the Mantel bashing as I enjoyed her books

          Please excuse MY lack of clarity – I was responding to this and saying that the Mantell bashing was pure jealousy and you were right to ignore it. Not sure how you got “personal” out of that as it was a general assessment of the source of what you called “Bashing”. Certainly one can dislike Mantel’s work without “bashing” as one can dislike any creation. But when it gets to “bashing” the very world implies emotionalism, and I translate that emotionalism to be, at core, jealousy. It is a novel and does not pretend to be anything else.

          Read more:

    1. I think that some people can’t help but confuse primary/secondary/tertiary historical sources and historical novels. Some even seem to be affronted when their ‘image’ of a real figure is portrayed as something different. Mantel’s work is brilliant – entertaining and erudite – but I take it in the same vein that I take Stephen King, Steinbeck, Carol Shields, Charlotte Bronte, and the like. An enthralling read that makes you think. Keep right on being gripped. BTW where will I find Susan Bordo, please?

      1. She has written a very good book called the Creation of Anne Boleyn and has a facebook page named after the book’s title. It’s a very good page but she has recently being ruffling a few feathers over the accuracy of Wolf Hall. Compelling read except when people feel the need to get personal…great shame.

        1. I enjoyed Bordo’s book, but she stretched her theme a tad too thin, In any case, it is clear that she is looking for attention in trying to trash “Wolf Hall”, . That train has left the station.

        2. Donna, now I understand you. You didn’t mean here. I don’t read Bordo beyond her book, which was fun. Ignore my response above please, which was my struggling to understand.

      2. Completely agree, Marilyn. i don’t at all buy Mantel’s story as I noted above that I find Greg Walker andI will add here, John Schofield, the most credible historians re the downfall of Anne Bolelyn and the 5 men executed with her. Mantel herself said Schofield was a great source for her, amongst her own direct research, but she took the facts and played with them to create a compelling story. It’s fun!

        1. “but she took the facts and played with them”

          Just to clarify my own words, I don’t mean she changed the facts – I mean she built upon wheat we do know factually and then added interpretation around them…as seen through Cromwell’s eyes.

  28. To JudithRex:

    She did change some facts, though subtly, leaving something out, adding something to them.

    Of course that is what authors do.

    1. I beg to differ that she changed anything of import to the history books. But if you want to nitpick some nonsense I am not your girl. 🙂

      Sorry, but this is when the chat gets silly and I depart.

      1. Judith – This was an unexpected response from someone purporting not to care for the pompous and patronising (February 5th, 2015 at 3:03 pm).

    2. I agree, HM has distorted the truth and departed from some important facts, but as you say it was for the purposes of creating a Cromwell who she sees as the hero and who plotted the fall of Anne Boleyn. The Cromwell here is clearly turned into a man who struggled to find a place in life, an alternative man to the one we are used to. Looking through his eyes we see a distorted world, darker characteristics in others such as More than history brings us and even darker personality traits in Anne. We see a more positive version of Cromwell, as husband and father, good servant, human being, man of passions and lover of life, but we have been made to see his journey and value to king and Anne. Dramatic changes will be found in every historical fiction, the author is telling a story. Like it or not, departure from the truth is part of that she fiction moves from the book to the screen. Whether those changes and bending of fact is important as you state or inconsequential, depends to what extent errors are made and if they are part of the authors brief or not. Small deliberate changes made to challenge our perception of a historical character can be an excellent dramatic tool. I have been shocked by some of the distortions of history but at the same time Mantel is clever in the way she plays with the audiences emotions and weaves intrigue that goes to the heart of Cromwell, the inner man is revealed and we see him in a new light. The drama is fiction, but unfortunately some cannot tell the difference and insist on every piece of action, every word, every flaw, every incorrect portrait of someone, every dramatic tool, every departure from the historical sources, as being accepted as fact, even when the evidence belies that claim.

  29. To Judith Rex
    Hope I didn’t offend….the ‘Mantel bashing’ was very much tongue in cheek.

    To Claire
    No need to respond. I think Clare Cherry may have the info.

    Have a great weekend everyone

    1. Hi Donna,
      I have one part of Thomas Boleyn’s accounts but it’s from a different year. Clare’s going to try and go through her notes and find the reference. Have a wonderful Friday and weekend!

  30. I have been enjoying sunshine here and been ‘offline’. What’s been happening? It’s like an awful lot has hit the fan.

  31. I recorded the 1st and 2nd episode to watch together, I often find the 1st episode in any drama can be bitty or flat because of trying to introduce all the main characters, so watching both together gives me a better perspective of the people and the ‘plot’, and not dismiss it too early.

    Personally I like it a lot, not as something that is historically correct, I never had an illusions of it being so, it comes across more as theatre, and perhaps quite ‘arty’

    It is concentrating on the portrayal of the main character through the eyes of the Novelist, whom she has taken from the realms of history and changed how he is usually perceived.
    I have enjoyed seeing him as a man first, as someone who is loyal to his masters, and then someone who is developing his career through hard work and the ability to use the greed and wants of others to get there.

    I like the slow deliberation of Cromwell, I think it underlines how his astute mind worked, thinking and accessing about what he will say and the response it will get. The swearing, shouting and stomping of all the other main characters, whether they did this in reality or not, emphasizes even more Cromwell’s calculated thinking and moves.

    So far I can see that the other main players are not going to be far removed from the usual myths and legends that have built up around them through the centuries, Lady Rochford, dark and vindictive, Mary Boleyn a wanton strumpet etc, I found the ‘flirting’ with Cromwell amusing actually, not to mention him imagining running his finger around Anne’s neck area in a sensitive way…witty in parts too.

    I think it is clever and I can certainly see it won’t be to everyone’s taste as it seems the ratings have dropped already perhaps because it is not the usual glitzy, glamour, bodice ripping yarns we experienced with the Tudors and perhaps the majority of viewers now-a-days want and expect ‘Hollywood’ style entertainment, you have only to see how many Reality programmes there are now…. I have seen the third episode, and I am still enjoying the development of Cromwell, the other characters so far seem to be in the back ground in comparison.
    I liken it to the play by Howard Brenton’s Anne Boleyn, not what I expected at all when I went to see it, hardly touching the ‘real’ story, but never the less very humorous and entertaining. A modern twist to an age old tale.

    I have to mention the costumes, I think they are quite understated but remarkable all the same. But the settings within the Manor Houses such as Barrington Court, Great Chalfield Manor and Lacock Abbey to mention a few are spectacular, and if there was nothing else to redeem the series, it’s worth watching to see these beautiful places.

    Like I have mentioned above this is only my views on the series and are not aimed to disagree or contradict any other posters who’s view differ.

    I have to say though, with it being spoken in modern language, if you place these actors into modern clothes also it wouldn’t seem too out of place, the gist of the story is not that far removed from people today who will do anything to succeed or have power.
    To finish because of this series I have started to read Robert Hutchinson’s Thomas Cromwell; The Rise and fall of Henry VIII Most Notorious Minister, this one of course Historically correct..opposite sides of the coin.

    1. Great review, Dawn. I recently described Wolf Hall as “marmite”, you either love it or you hate it, as there aren’t many people who think it’s “just ok”. I’m not enjoying it and both my husband and eldest son hate it, but then there are those who are hooked on it. I’m only watching it because I feel I have to. I just don’t like the characterization at all, I think they’re all just caricatures apart from Cromwell, but each to their own. I loved “Middlemarch” but most of my English class hated it!

      Have you read John Schofield’s bio of Cromwell, Dawn? That’s another excellent one.

      1. I think you are right Claire in saying those around Cromwell are caricatures, with exaggerated behaviour/actions, look how Percy was shown in the Inn. It makes Cromwell seem as he is the only one who is calm among the chaos…

        Mark Rylance who plays Cromwell is a predominant Theatre actor, and that really comes through. He won a scholar ship with the RADA, worked with RSC, became the 1st artistic director of Shakespeare Globe and much more, won many awards in his theatre career and has played other historical ‘villains’ too, Macbeth and Richard III. ….and I didn’t realize, or should I say remembered that he played Thomas Boleyn in TOBG, not one of his best movies perhaps 🙂
        The way it is filmed too is very unusual, by candle light!! very difficult, but very clever also, it gives a realistic dullness, which there would have been then, I can’t imagine even in Henry’s court that it was filled with 24/7 dazzle and splendor.

        It’s good we all like different things, I can not see the ‘art’ in Picasso or Damien Hurst, but give me the Pre-Raphaelite style, Monet, medieval/Tudor paintings and I will stand all day gazing, lol. We all perceive things in different ways, and thats how we learn and get a wider view on a subject.

        I personally think the style in which Mantel has written and interpreted these people makes it more suitable for stage than TV and perhaps even as books too, it is like a play,where characters are exaggerated and distorted. And it’s because of the ‘Theatre’ of it that I am enjoying it.

        No I haven’t read Schofield’s Cromwell Claire, is it better, different, similar to Hutchinson’s?

        1. Re-phase; ‘makes it more suitable for stage rather than TV or novels’…sorry!! tired, lol.

      2. Not all characters besides Cromwell are caricatures or “flat”, only the courtiers. Cromwell’s family and associates are “rounded”.

        Of course that is depended on Cromwell’s POV. He is an upstart who has risen solely because of his abilities, dislikes those who have got their position as a birthright or have risen because of King’s favor.

        The good example is the passage in Wolf Hall where Cromwell thinks that his own daughter has greater abilities than Princess Mary. That may be true, though Cromwell hardly knows Mary that well, but before all, it tells a lot of his sense, be it justice or envy, that some have got their position for free and whatever Cromwell would do, he cannot change it. (On the other hand, if his daughter had lived, she would probably had a happier life than Mary who as King’s daughter had also grave responsibilities.)

        1. Perhaps so, but in the books I didn’t like anyone, I couldn’t empathise with even Cromwell. I just didn’t take to the style of writing and the characterisation. It just didn’t work for me.

        2. Cromwell could well have been jealous, his true feelings will be forever unknown to us, but I would be more inclined to say that it was the high born Nobles that would have perhaps had more of a problem with Cromwell’s start in life than the other way round.

          The accumulation of titles and wealth that were heaped on Cromwell were more usually given to men of noble birth than a blacksmith son, or a butcher’s son in Wolsey’s case. And personally I think these Nobles played more than their fair part in the downfall of these men because of their offended egos.
          Henry seemed to like raising ‘ordinary’ people to dizzy heights, perhaps Henry had a mistrust for his Nobles, some of them were pretty close to his throne by blood, and powerful enough.

          I think we have to take the words put into the mouth of Cromwell, and the rest of them with a ‘pinch of salt’, it’s Theatrical fiction.

  32. Hi Dawn – that’s as fair a review as I’ve read anywhere. What do you think of the portrayal of Anne Boleyn?

    1. Hiya Globerose, I’m not quite sure really to me she hasn’t really ‘stood’out as yet.
      She kind of just appeared with no real introduction other than in passing conversation, hasn’t been as ‘nasty’ as I thought she was going to be, and a part from the coronation she has just been fleeting, even Henry is low key as yet, both noticeable by their absence don’t you think, a build up for thing to come no doubt….so far its been ‘all about Cromwell’ which was the idea, and I am finding it really interesting.

      I can see Anne her keeping her historical reputation as per, like I said above, as with her sister and sister-in-law, and George is not going to fair any better so I have read.
      But to be honest I think she is doing better than in TOBG…so far anyway!!! what about you?

      1. In the first episode, Anne Boleyn came over as arrogant and pretentious, but you also had a sense that she was attempting to cover up her insecurities. In episode three, Cromwell said that she was likely to ‘soften’ after she had her child, so you get the sense that she will become, if not likeable, at least less unlikeable. We also saw the kinder and more humorous side of Thomas More.

        I think that Wolsey has been a ’rounded’ character, probably because he had a lot of screen time, and other characters such as Henry may well become more so as they have more scenes.

        1. You are right, arrogant, pretentious, haughty, over confident etc., but nothing out of the ordinary, she has been portrayed like that through history. I thought Mantel was going to introduce us to a ‘newer’ image as with Cromwell, but there is still room to grow no doubt.

          To me Wolsey came across as a tired, frighten old man who had been tossed a side like a used rag, I felt sorry for him. It was good to see that vulnerability, you could say a realistic side, he must have been petrified.
          I agree, as each person steps forward they are going to become more developed, but in what way, that is going to be interesting thing.

  33. Mantel had said that her novels are only a suggestion how the matters could be seen from the POV of Cromwell.

    However, Mantel’s own articles show that they are her own views also. And as such, they can be criticized on the basis of historical research.

    Take an example the sentence that Anne took her virginity to the market and sold it to the the highest bidder.

    There is a great scorn in the sentence that could be explained in Cromwell’s case that a woman could have an asset to get near to King’s person that he lacked, but in Mantel’s own case it probably is caused by it that she is born in 1952 and as she grew up to an adult of a p-pill, did not have to fear of unwanted pregnancy and also otherwise had all career opportunities open also to women.

    Instead, Antonia Fraser who is a generation older, understands in Six wives that to a woman, staying a virgin was a method to control her reproduction abilities and ensure that her children were born legitimate and could therefore inherit their father. Also, though having a career herself, Fraser is near enough to the age when a woman could have influence only through her husband and therefore, choosing him, if there was a possibility to choose, was also choosing her position in life.

    1. Mantel stuck her head above the parapet when she spoke of the ‘historical correctness, and that these people she is writing about are owed the truth through research. Comments such as these certainly do deserve the strong criticism they generate from the true researchers of history in the light that her books are mainly fiction made up from her literary imagination and opinions like you say.

      If she had not tried to lift her novels from the sphere of fiction then she would possibly have gathered more respect, and the books would not have been seen as any differently than any other fictional writing, except by the twist of using modern language perhaps, and critiqued on that alone by readers and experts alike.

      In the long run I personally think she has done herself a disservice within the groups of intellects that study this period, it will be very difficult for them to take her seriously in anything historical.

      But she hasn’t done badly out of the ‘job’ has she, winning prizes and the likes, has she not just been made a Dame….we live in a strange world…

  34. There is a difference of method in a novel and research which is well seen in Mantel and Fraser.

    Fraser makes her conclusion that Anne was not guilty of adultery and treason, besides on hard facts (no actual proof) on Anne’s character (as a intelligent and ambitious woman, what would she have gained?) and earlier behavior (she was known not giving freely her sexual favors but instead withholding them for the latter gives an appeal).

    Instead, Mantel says that it does not matter whether the days were impossible because the men could be “in two places at the same time” (but could the Queen?) and lovers always find a way (but in Queen’s case they need a helpmate). Most important, however, is that Anne had changed since marriage. Formerly she was a sexual tease to many men but after Henry left her bed after trying to beget a son, her chastity snapped and so she said to others “yes yes yes yes yes” instead of earlier “yes yes yes yes no”.

    To put it all together, Mantel thinks that whatever is possible in life.

    Well, no doubt it is. But so it is also in gossip.

    Luckily in today’s courts one must have proof.

    1. Are you saying that Hilary Mantel thinks that Anne was guilty of adultery? That isn’t what I understood from ‘Bring Up the Bodies’.

      In the book, Cromwell pressurises Mark Smeaton into confessing to adultery with the Queen. We never find out whether he thinks that there is any truth in his accusations because it really doesn’t matter to him – he needs to bring Anne down to protect his own life and to free the King from the wife he no longer wants. Because the story is told entirely from Cromwell’s point of view, the author’s own belief, or otherwise, in Anne’s guilt is effectively absent.

      1. To Jillian

        Mantel’s own articles show that Cromwell’s opinions about Anne are also her own.

        You are right that Cromwell is to the end unsure about Anne’s guilt and that he is only interested that there is a case for the court. However, Mantel has arranged certain things and created new scenes so that Anne’s guilt becomes possible and even likely – at least to the readers who do not know the sources.

        One example about using the facts: Cromwell reminds the boasting of one of Anne’s alleged lovers that he can be at the two places at the same time. In her article Mantel dismissed the fact that the dates were impossible by saying lovers can always find a way.

        However, the crux of the matter is that the queen is almost never unchaperoned (unless in bed with the king), so some of her ladies must help her and if someone did, she would surely have known the right dates. Indeed, according to Chapuys, the only man Anne was alone – and even then only once – was her brother George.

        Second example about the invented scene: Cromwell almost believes in Anne’s innocence until he notices that, as Jane Boleyn has told him, she acts the part of Esther. Instead, Mantel leaves out Anne’s vow of innocence on Eucharist.

        In other words, Mantel has made calculated choices that strongly influence on most readers’ opinions and empathy.

        BTV, Mantel shows that Henry early gave Cromwell a veiled command just like his ancestor gave about Becket, but nowhere is said that Cromwell acted in order to regain his position and life (though a reader can of course assume on on the basis of Wolsey’s fate) but on the contrary Cromwell’s personal motives – revenge – is stressed.

        1. The fact that the question of Anne’s guilt is left ambiguous is one of the things I liked about ‘Bring Up the Bodies’, and it is certainly historically accurate. No-one then or now can know for sure whether the accusations were true or not, although we may suspect, that they were not. I also find it difficult to believe that a woman of Anne’s intelligence could not have contrived to be alone with a man had she wanted to be, as you seem to suggest.

          I don’t agree that Cromwell’s motive is revenge, as shortly before Anne’s arrest, he says that he is indifferent to her and even to Weston. And he is genuinely concerned fo0r his life and position: Chapuys warns him that ‘Anne is desperate and dangerous. Strike first, before she strikes you’. Anne also has her chaplain preach a sermon against him shortly before her fall. Cromwell therefore has good reasons to be concerned and, of course, he wants to please the king.

  35. Anne seems almost right in the drama, but only after watching it twice, the first time around I thought she was too stuck up. What we have to remember of course is that we often just see a snapshot of the real person; there are also a number of gaps that no amount of original documents can fill; so drama, novels, imagination, theatre and historians have to attempt to fill those gaps in order to present the real person. Anne, Wolsey, Cromwell and More are all controversial figures, they are bound to invoke strong feelings and debate; that is the beauty of study and drama. The conflict between More and Cromwell is very clear in Wolf Hall, but they are not myths or figures from novels or characters on the stage of drama or television; they are not perfect images of saintly goodness or statesmen who made the modern world; nor are they the equivilant of good and evil; they are far more complex than that; they are more important than any of the above; they are human beings, warts and all.

    We see Anne either portrayed in history in several different guises, champion of the Reformation, the other woman, the defenceless woman who was victamized by Henry VIII after he had turned the world upside down to set her on the throne, and wrongly executed for treason and adultery, Anne the lover of a married monarch, Anne mother of queen Elizabeth and Anne the second wife of Henry VIII. We see her in many mythical and sigular guises in drama and literature, wh*re, witch, the mean girl, victim, martyr, champion, the bossy mistress and wife, the shrew, the woman who replaced the real Queen and bosed the heir to the throne, the clever, dancing, merry, dancing, temptress, the sophisticated woman who matched whits with a king, the flirt and the woman that turned England from its natural obediance to Rome because she promised Henry a son. These do not give us a glimpse of the true Anne. She is either many of these things or none of them; the extremes have been shown in almost all plays or films. But, like the others she is far more complex than that and reality is most likely somewhere in between. Then there are the lies written by her enemies many years after her death that do her a great disservice. Anne was not a witch or a wh*re, nor was she a Protestant martyr, but she did play a significant role in advancing the reformation and her family had reforming principals. She took a hand in bringing the works of Tyndale and others to the attention of the King, which helped to sort out the divorce from Katherine,

    Anne has often been described as a Protestant or a Lutheran, but I do not believe that she went this far. George Boleyn was a fan and study of the French reformers and translated works for his sister who also sponsored and admired their works. She, like many other educated people wanted to promote the translation of the Bible into English and it is believed that she owned a translation of Tyndale or at least a New Testament. She may have had a part in encouraging Cromwell to induce Henry to authorize the Coverdale Bible in 1535. But there is also evidence that Anne was also orthordox, in her acceptance of the Mass and the sacraments for example; we do know that like Henry she was pius, she had a personal Book of Hours, she had prayer books, and there is also evidence that she showed reformed interest by persuading Henry to appoint Anglican bishops. Anne was also generous, she did not want the monastic establishments to be destroyed; she wanted the nuns and friars to reform, she wanted the wealth of any of the dissolved monastaries to be used for schools and good works; not to line the pockets of the nobles or the crown. On this point she argued with Cromwell and was disappointed in the determination to close these buildings down. We see none of these qualities in the drama of Wolf Hall, and it has been overlooked by many other films as well.

    Anne up to now has been shown as having a temper, being spoilt, demanding, stuck up, bossy, looking down her nose even at her own sister, insisting on her own way at every point and being in charge rather than the king. Although Anne did have a tendency to be demanding and difficult and could be pompus and have a bad temper; it is unlikely that she was like this all of the time. I do not for example see her breaking things and throwing a strump when she has just had a tiff with the King over the moves by Mary Talbot, Countess of Northumberland, wife of Harry Percy; to annul their marriage claiming that he and Anne had consumated their previous relationship back in 1521/2. Percy, Earl of Northumberland denied that he had slept with Anne or that they were contracted and Anne also denied it. Yes, naturally Henry and Anne were angry and this threatened their future. But I do not see Anne breaking glass or acting as a spoilt child, no matter how annoyed she was or outraged; I do see her being dignified and demanding that something was done about it, which is what happens. Anne, in my mind was a sophisticated woman and dignified. Henry could easily sort out the mess and turn to Cromwell as the fixer. In the drama we see Cromwell go to a tavern and demand that Percy say that he and Anne had nothing more than a chaste relationship which was broken off by mutural consent long ago. He will destroy his credit and good name if he does not. In reality, Percy was summoned and forced to swear before the council and two bishops that he and Anne had not consumated their relationship or contracted together. Therefore his marriage to Mary Talbot could not be annulled on this basis. It also meant that legally Anne was free to marry.

    We see Anne in Wolf Hall in a position from the start that she did not occupy for at least another year. She is also a gossip and there is some truth in that as well; in many ways she is as I imagine her to be; but there is so much more to her and we are not getting the overall picture of her rise during 1531, 1532, or her early queenship. In fact we have at times only fleeting scenes with Anne in and not until the third episode is she starting to emerge as a main character. There is much more of a complex story to explore, but we are not likely to get that fuller picture here. It is a side of Anne that shows us that Cromwell does not have a high regard or opinion of her and we are seeing all of the people from his point of view. And as for Cromwell, well as Hilary Martel put in in the documentary: the Last Days of Anne Boleyn, he is as clever as a bag of snakes. In Wolf Hall we see a man who cleverily bides his time and then strikes at his enemies one by one. Anne, More, the five men, the monks, all one by one fall victim to his determination to rise to the highest positions in Henry’s favour, to make him the rishest king in Europe, to make Henry the most powerful king in history, and in doing his will as Cromwell sees it. Cromwell has a mission, but he moves into that role, slowly, cunningly, making personal sacrifices and allowing us to appreciate the inner man.

  36. Switch off the telly, leave your prejudices at the door, pick up Hilary Mantel’s “Cromwell” trilogy-and read them!!

    Her prose flows, she knows how to keep you reading-she makes it a joyous past-time.

    To be honest, I wonder who has actually read the books, skimmed the books and who is relying on TV adaptation, of said books, to judge them. And there is a tad green tinge to a few comments.

    1. I just couldn’t get into them, KelpieMare, I didn’t take to the present tense combined with the third person narrative, it just didn’t work for me and, as I’ve said before, I found many of the characters very 2 dimensional and like caricatures. I think the TV series has gone even further with the caricature of the Duke of Norfolk. For me, her prose didn’t flow and it was not a joyous pastime, I forced myself to read them because I felt I had to so I knew what others were talking about. I like to be transported into the world I’m reading about and I like to connect with the characters, but I just couldn’t with these books. That’s just me though. I have some friends who absolutely love Mantel’s work and others who feel the same as I do, or who have different reasons for not enjoying them, it makes for a great debate.

      People are allowed to not like them, we all have our own tastes and it would be a boring world if we all loved the same books, music etc.

    2. I have read both books, I have the right as a historian to criticize the distortion of facts in any novel or drama, and to still enjoy both as works of fiction. As an intelligent and discerning human being I have the right to state if something does not come over as a true representation of historical people. Just as you or anyone else has the right to love everything in the drama or books, anyone can say if they don’t like something, and should not be called jealous or haters, just because they don’t agree with you or anyone else. You have the right to gush, we have the right to criticize or comment. Personally I like much of how HM makes us look deeper into the thinking and career of Cromwell, how she tries to see things and people through his eyes, I merely believe her ideas about some other people are less rounded than they could have been. Her prose is good, she is an interesting writer, but it is still fiction, not fact.

      1. I agree.

        One can enjoy reading Mantel’s novels and yet criticize her interpretation.

        She certainly is good describing the power game and how it changes human beings as well as how difficult, perhaps impossible, is to get to the “truth” among hearsay and gossip.

        However, I am puzzled is why her opinion of ambition is so different in a man and in a woman.

  37. Another thing that puzzles me is how much Cromwell’s thoughts can be trusted, i.e. whether he deceives even himself.

    One example: in George Boleyn’s trial Cromwell thinks that George’s condemnation was decided by his arrogance when he let himself be carried away to read aloud the paper, instead of only answering whether he knew the matter with “yes” or “now”.

    But despite the onlookers made bets in favor of George Boleyn, they did not decide his fate but the jury who of course knew what was on the paper. As the members of the jury were hand-picked by Cromwell and were either enemies of Boleyns and/or dependent on Henry’s favor, Cromwell really cannot have been unsure what they would decide (as also in the trial of Thomas More, unlike Mantel chooses us to think).

    Also, It seems as if Cromwell has completely unaware arranged the order of the trials so that after the four commoners were condemned, Anne was going to be condemned too (as one can not be guilty of adultery alone), and after she was condemned, George was going to be condemned too (as one can not be guilty of incest alone).

    No doubt George Boleyn also realized this and knowing his sister’s fate and being sure of his own, he probably read the paper aloud to show contempt to Cromwell (as Chapuys interpreted) and perhaps even revenge on Henry for Anne’s fate.

    Of course, by choosing to use Henry’s impotence in George’s trial and being sure that George Boleyn would make it public, it could be also be Cromwell’s revenge on Henry, however much he tries to belittle the matter, thinking that it would be no more harmful as gossips in the taverns. But of course it is much more serious for it is official and casts doubt also if Henry can have other children.

  38. I’m really surprised and particularly on this website that no one is fed up with the portrayal of Anne Boleyn. She is shown as cold, humourless and evil and yet contemporary accounts speak of her pleasant demeanor, her intelligence and her work for the poor. We see none of this and she is even shown as a disinterested mother yet there are accounts of her keeping her baby on a cushion beside her at court and rowing with Henry when she insisted on feeding Elizabeth herself. I think this is a truly awful, inaccurate and one dimensional portrayal. As for Cromwell, wake up everyone! He wasn’t nice kind Cromwell, he would have had people wracked for information and condemned to death too!

    1. To Dianne

      Of course Anne is one-dimensional as she is shown from Cromwell’s POV and from tales of other people when he was not present.

      However, I do not think Anne was exactly a “nice” person. She was intelligent and witty, could be charming and cared deeply for her family (though perhaps not for sister). But she was also haughty and spoke before she thought. Instead of gaining more allies as Queen, she lost many of those she earlier had had. It seems also that she enjoyed men’s admiration so much that she alienated other women.

      As for insisting to feed Elizabeth herself, I do not think it is true. Whatever maternal feelings she had for Elizabeth, she was not stupid but knew that she had to conceive soon and breastfeeding could prevent it.

      1. I think you are right, Hannele. Cromwell regards Anne as hard and calculating, determined to climb to the top whatever the cost. He can identify this because he has many of the same traits. And because we see Anne in public rather than private settings, we do not see her ‘softer’ side, as we do with Cromwell.

        It is also true that this is how many people saw Anne at the time. She was very unpopular, resented for the ill-treatment of her popular predecessor and the religious upheavals of the break with Rome. Her sharp tongue also alienated those at Court, and ultimately even the King.

        1. I was particularly amazed when Wolf Hall drama had Anne standing behind the King literally giving Cromwell orders on who should be tried for treason with the Holy Maid and who should not, then ordering him to include More, then to force More to talk, all with a silent Henry. I had to watch the fourth part three times to realise I had not imagined it.

          But then I thought, HM is not saying here that Anne literally is giving the orders; she is being very clever here with a dramatic device; she is saying that Cromwell does not see Henry directly being responsible for these orders, but that he is going them to please Anne, that Anne had infuence Henry’s choices in these matters. Thomas More was included on the list of those to be indited but he was struck off after pleadings in his favour and Henry changed his mind. From what I have read in Chambers and Renolds and Derek Wilson, all on More at this time; Henry seemed all too willing to place him on the list, out of revenge for his lack of support, not because he believed he was guilty of anything to do with the Maid. However, Cromwell is looking at the King and the Queen in such a way as to suggest that HM has him believe that Anne is the real power behind the throne now and Henry will do anything for her and their children. Thus we see an Anne who gives orders she is not entitled to give and not an Anne that was actually far more able to reason and balance her decisions and unlikely to have been allowed such a role. She may have given orders at times; but not directly on matters of policy; that was the Kings decision alone.

          I still think that much of the way Anne is portrayed is feasable, but her poorer qualities are shown with exaggeration while her better ones are almost being ignored. However, we must remember this is through the eyes of Cromwell as depicted by HM, and he clearly does not have a very high opinion of her,either as Queen or as a woman.

    2. We will see nothing of the execution of the four monks witnessed by More and his daughter being dragged to their deaths in chains to be butchered, 17or so will also be executed on Cromwell orders, 12 Anabaptist burnt in May 1535, not by More but Cromwell, nor the heretics who will die under the six articles, death warrants prepared by Cromwell, or 30 further Anabaptist burnt by Cromwell. Margaret Pole imprisoned by Cromwell, her son, son in law and grandson imprisoned on trumpet up charges of Cromwell imagination. Her son and son in law were killed, her grandson vanished, feared poisoned, several others executed without trial, and even though the elderly Margaret Pole did not die under Cromwell, she remained in the Tower, being taken to the block in May 1541, without trial or warning. Even if Cromwell was not directly responsible, all of these people died because of his laws.

    3. Yes, so glad someone else thinks this. What an awful woman! How would she ever have attracted Henry in the first place?

    4. I’m surprised too, Dianne, especially on a site like this, and I don’t think the portrayal can be explained away as how she seemed to Cromwell. Is Wolf Hall’s Cromwell supposed to be a poor judge of character or an unreliable observer whose perceptions are distorted? Is he supposed to be someone who sees people as one-dimensional when they’re not? I don’t think he’s meant to be any of those things, and I don’t think viewers (or readers) see him as having those flaws either.

      1. I think, having watched the whole thing and read the books we are meant to believe that Cromwell has been watching, observing and waiting for the opportunity to take revenge for the humiliation and death of Wolsey. It may sound weird but we keep seeing the scene with the masquerade, Wolsey being taken to Hell, the five men unmasking, and Anne applauding. It’s meant to say Cromwell is now the instrument of justice on behalf of his master. Totally nonsense of course, but the dramatic device the author has chosen to reflect his purpose and thinking. Anne may be poorly represented here, as are others but I think, Hilary Mantel has submerged her own prejudices with those of Cromwell in the hope that we see things through his eyes and get a glimpse into his mind and soul.

  39. I just saw the whole series prior to its release here in the USA. It was brilliant and devastating. I have already said my opinion rests with Greg Walker on what happened and that neither Henry nor Cromwell started the divorce investigation with a desire to kill her, nor did Henry believe her innocent but want her dead. But this version is also supportable and those who believe Anne innocent and Henry evil will be comfortable with the way it is handled, though no doubt annoyed with how self-serving and, well, murderous the not really very religious Anne is portrayed.

    Something for everyone who has a taste for the topic. Mine is now pretty well satisfied and I bid you all farewell.

  40. I got the DVD and watched all six parts today I have to admit that, on the whole, it is splendid. Especially Marc Ryland’s performance as Cromwell’s was something extraordinary.

    Because it, I guess I must forgive that Anne was quite a bitch (except when she was heavy with her first child and feeling valued for the first time in her life). After all, this is Cromwell’s story and if Anne had been more “positive”, he must have been more negative. Yet, in the end Cromwell, embraced by the jubilant Henry, looks like a man who knows what price he has paid for power and survival – and perhaps he has even an inkling that one day when he no longed pleases the king he would meet the same fate than Anne.

    BTV, in the novel Cromwell says that Anne has brought her virginity to the market and sold it to the highest bidder but he is not interested in what she has to offer, but in the series he is – in a scene when he imagines to touch her. Remembering his scenes with Mary Boleyn and Jane Seymour, Cromwell seems really to have same kind of taste with women than Henry. But unlike him, he is never a slave to his emotions nor sexual urges which is beneficial to him because the rivalry with the king about Jane would have been fateful.

    Cromwell says to Henry that a wise man acts inside the restrictions, but Anne cannot accept this principle. In this story, it is because this she ultimately falls: she acts carelessly and makes too many enemies.

  41. Anne did not stay in her place-she did not do as she was told-even Henry said she had great courage. And smarts. At least some of the opprobrium comes from these facts-she was a “nasty woman”. She failed to produce a son. She was likely near the end of her reproductive years-about 35 when she was executed-Katherine had ended her cycles by about 1525, when she was forty. Henry by his time was 45, at an older age for the time. Given life expectancy at the time, he must have known his chances of living long enough to see an unquestionably legitimate son reach his majority were running out fast. Katherine was now dead, but Anne came with the same issue as Katherine. He had slept with the sister. She was not wise in her timing of the quarrel with Cromwell. We do not know what was going on with young Fitzroy at this time. If he was ill with the disease that killed him, there is no indication that has come down to us. If he was, Cromwell would have known.
    This would have meant that Henry was shortly to have no son at all, no fall back position, just two daughters whose competing claims could well mean civil war. Henry’s virility may also have been an issue at the time. If Henry was going to try again, this was the moment. A new wife would gain acceptance by all, as would her children. Cromwell may have looked at all of this and decided to act. I can’t quite believe Henry would have volunteered for a cuckold’s horns. That was a risk on Cromwell’s part, but it would insure Anne was out of the way. Anne, who was not born to royalty, had a way of bantering with courtiers she had never dropped as Queen. She probably never did anything wrong, except talk when it would have been better to be quiet. Discretion would never have made her Queen, but it might have helped her keep her head. The recklessness that was part of her charm killed her in the end.

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