Sunday, 10 August 2014

Writing - Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's fixer

Hilary Mantel won the Man Booker Prize with her novel 'Wolf Hall' which is centred on the life of Thomas Cromwell who became Henry VIII's fixer. An interesting genre, writing a story from historical fact. It seems to me that it would take great imagination and the ability to empathise to create such a work. It is also a subjectively educational piece of work that can take the reader into history from the author's interpretation of the facts.


When we create characters there must be a degree of vulnerability about them alongside methods to overcome their weaknesses. Henry VIII could be seen as a weak man who surrounded himself with powerful characters, one of whom was Thomas Cromwell. Thanks to author Mantel's books, the influence and nature of this man has been elevated to the consciousness of people who read her.
When Cardinal Wolsey fell from grace because of failing to obtain an annulment from Catherine of Aragon, Cromwell engineered his position to replace Wolsey who'd been his boss. It is believed that Cromwell organised the split from Rome in 1533 and then when Anne Boleyn proved to be a disappointment to Henry, Cromwell engineered her beheading along with her supposed suitors with whom she allegedly had affairs. The evidence provided by Cromwell was at best flimsy.
Eventually Cromwell attained the position of Lord Privy Seal, Baron Cromwell of Wimbledon but there must have been some doubts in the king's mind about the value of the reforms that Cromwell had been behind because when the nobles rebelled against Cromwell the king lost confidence in his counsellor. In 1540 Cromwell was arrested and imprisoned within the Tower of London and beheaded in July of that year.

Hans Holbein's painting of Cromwell after his arrest.

All-in-all an excellent story but for the fact that it was true. Hilary Mantel's rendition is good once you understand the style that she adopts. For those of us who enjoy this genre there will be other compelling characters out there that may deserve some re-working for the 21st century reader.

God Bless