By Charles Matthews

Thursday, April 8, 2010

12. "Wolf Hall," by Hilary Mantel, pp. 202-222

Part III, II, "Entirely Beloved Cromwell," Spring-December 1530, concluded, from "When Cranmer comes to the house, he feeds him..."
Cranmer visits Cromwell and they spend some time getting to know each other, although Cromwell thinks, "at some level of his being this man will always believe I am a heathen." Cranmer has been visiting universities, talking to theologians, most of whom, he says, believe "the king is right." But as Cromwell notes, the pope "isn't open to persuasion now. Only to pressure. And I don't mean moral pressure." Cranmer replies that the king must also persuade "all of Europe. All Christian men." To which Cromwell replies, "I'm afraid the Christian women may be harder still." Cranmer and Cromwell do see eye to eye on the difficulty of clerical celibacy -- Cranmer having to resign from the priesthood when he got a woman, whom he married, pregnant. He returned to the priesthood after she died in childbirth. Cromwell: "There are some strange cold people in this world. It is priests, I think. Saving your presence. Training themselves out of natural feeling." Cromwell "has Alice, and Johane and the child Jo, and in the corner of his eye, at the periphery of his vision, the little pale girl who spies on the Boleyns. He has hawks in his mews who move toward the sound of his voice. What has this man?"

He goes to see the king, who is restless because he can't hunt, so he talks with him while shooting arrows into a target. "He says, Nan threatens to leave me. She says that there are other men and she is wasting her youth."

Norfolk is obsessing on the problem of succession: "The old king bred, and by the help of Heaven he bred sons. But when Arthur died, there were swords sharpened in France, and they were sharpened to carve up the kingdom. Henry that is now, he was a child, nine years old. If the old king had not staggered on a few more years, the wars would have been to fight all over again. A child cannot hold England." When Cromwell mentions that there is Mary, Norfolk scoffs at the idea of a woman ruling England. Stephen Gardiner asks if Cromwell thinks she can rule, and he replies, "It depends who advises her. It depends who she marries." Norfolk and Suffolk both treat Cromwell as an outsider, a man of low birth.

Meanwhile, at Austin Friars, he discovers that Jo and Alice are having theological arguments about Purgatory. "Dear God, what is going on under this roof? These children believe the Pope can go down to the underworld with a bunch of keys." He reflects, "The Austin Friars is like the world in little."

In November, Wolsey is arrested by Harry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and on the 29th he dies. "What was England before Wolsey? A little offshore island, poor and cold." From Cavendish, Cromwell learns that people "'asked God to send vengeance on Harry Percy.' God need not trouble, he thinks: I shall take it in hand." Cavendish also reports that Wolsey had not eaten for a week, and "he cried your name, God forgive me, I said you were on the road. He said, the ways are treacherous. I said, you know Cromwell, the devil does not delay him -- if he says he is on the road he will be here." Cavendish vows that he will tell no one at court about what Wolsey said in his last days.

At Hampton Court, Cromwell witnesses a vicious lampoon of Wolsey being dragged off to hell by devils. When Norfolk mocks the cardinal, "Someone calls, 'Shame on you, Thomas Howard, you'd have sold your own soul to see Wolsey down.'" No one knows who said this, but Cromwell thinks it was Thomas Wyatt. Backstage, he discovers that the devils were played by George Boleyn, Henry Norris, Francis Weston, and William Brereton, and that the cardinal was Sexton, who used to be the cardinal's fool.

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