By Charles Matthews

Friday, April 16, 2010

20. "Wolf Hall," by Hilary Mantel, pp. 326-340

Part IV, II, "'Alas, What Shall I Do for Love?'" Spring 1532, concluded, from "The nun has plunged the king into gloom...."
Part IV, III, "Early Mass," November 1532
Henry's nerves are rattled by Elizabeth Barton's prophecies, and neither Norfolk nor Brandon is able to settle him down until Cromwell suggests, "I think perhaps she can't tell what she sees in the outside world from what is inside her head. Some people are like that. She is to be pitied, perhaps. Though not too much."

On deck of the ship as they cross the Channel to Calais, Cromwell talks to the Duke of Richmond, Henry's illegitimate 13-year-old son, who says to him, somewhat tactlessly, "I am glad you prosper. Because it is said in the book The Courtier that in men of base degree we often see high gifts of nature." Henry joins them on deck, feeling better, and they discuss the book by Castiglione.

In Calais, the king and Anne are given adjoining rooms. "Mary told him, before they left dry land, 'Till not she wouldn't, but now she would, but he won't. He tells her he must be sure that if she gets a child it's born in wedlock.'" Cromwell sneaks off for a secret meeting with three old men in a sleazy pub, but Mantel is coy about its purpose. The old men, who "look like alchemists," represent a Maître Camillo who is apparently creating something he wants to give the king. Cromwell is irritated because the old men don't bring drawings and are evasive about anything to do with the item. Cromwell extends an invitation to Maître Camillo to come to England, but one of the old men says, "The magister believes he would dislike the English climate. The fogs. And also, the whole island is covered with witches."

In Boulogne, Francis I asks to see him. "Henry deliberates before giving him permission; face-to-face, monarchs should deal only with fellow monarchs, and lords and churchmen of high rank." Cromwell finds the French king repellent: "Choose your prince: You wouldn't want to look at this one every day. Henry is so wholesome, in his fleshy, scrubbed pink-and-whiteness." At the end of their meeting, one of the courtiers gives him a "gift from His Highness," a pair of gloves. Cromwell finds a ruby in one of the fingers, which he gives to the king.

The two kings go together to Calais, where Anne dances with Francis. Henry is nervous about the French king's attentions to her, so Cromwell goes to Norfolk: "My lord, fetch your niece away. She has done enough diplomacy. Our king is jealous." Norfolk does so rather roughly. Later, he hears that Anne has sent for a Bible.

Cromwell plays chess with Edward Seymour, and asks about his sister Jane, and whether her father has made a match for her.

Mary Boleyn comes to see him and tells him that the king and Anne unbolted the door between their room. "She is in his arms, naked as she was born. She can't change her mind now." The Bible had been for them to swear on: "They are married in God's sight. And he swears he will marry her again in England and crown her queen when spring comes." Mary is putting the moves on Cromwell and he almost succumbs before they are interrupted by a man Cromwell doesn't know, William Stafford, with whom she leaves. Cromwell thinks about getting away from the court: "East of the Boleyns. East of everybody."

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