That’s it, I finished the final book of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy by Hilary Mantel. It was a bit of a marathon with 875 pages and it covered his final few years when he was the right hand man for Henry VIII. His power and influence were astonishing for a man who was the son of a blacksmith. Social mobility wasn’t really a thing in the 16th century, in fact his promotion was frowned upon. Needless to say, he also acquired a wide range of enemies and they eventually turned Henry against him. So although I knew the ending, he was executed, it was pretty frightening once he was seized and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
The book covers the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace‘ which was the popular uprising in the North of England against the religious reforms that Henry and by association, Cromwell implemented. He was also instrumental in organising the long and tortuous negotiations with the German Prince of Cleves for the hand of his sister, Anne. Despite a regal passage across Germany and France to England, the meeting of Anne and Henry is not a success and although the royal marriage goes ahead, the divorce soon follows. Henry already has his eye on the young Catherine Howard, then in her teens. This doesn’t end well either. Despite the short marriage, Anne had a good relationship with Henry and stayed in England for the rest of her life.
Cromwell himself has a son, Gregory and a nephew Richard who were both part of his extensive organisation. Both of them profited from lands confiscated as part of the dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1540. His son Gregory died young but Richard prospered and continued to serve Henry. He died in 1545. His great grandson was Oliver Cromwell who was a signatory to the death warrant of Charles I and subsequently led the republican armies in the English civil war.
The books are amazing and I will try and find the tv adaptations with Mark Rylance as Cromwell. Having said all that, I’m quite pleased to be whizzing through some less worthy books – for another day.