By Charles Matthews

Monday, April 5, 2010

9. "Wolf Hall," by Hilary Mantel, pp. 133-162

Part III, I, "Three-Card Trick," Winter 1529-Spring 1530
Cromwell has been given a seat in Parliament, courtesy of Thomas Howard: "'The Duke of Norfolk,' Rafe says, 'believes my lord cardinal has buried treasure, and he thinks you know where it is.'" The duke, "approaching sixty," is "Flint-faced and keen-eyed," "lean as a gnawed bone and as cold as an ax head." "He thinks the Bibile a book unnecessary for laypeople, though he understands priests make some use of it. He thinks book-reading an affectation altogether, and wishes there were less of it at court. His niece is always reading, Anne Boleyn, which is perhaps why she is unmarried at the age of twenty-eight."

Meanwhile, the cardinal is still at Esher, where Cromwell finds him listening to a boy named Mark who plays the lute. "I think I shouldn't keep him here," he tells Cromwell, "but send him to the king. Or to the Lady Anne, perhaps, as he is such a pretty young thing. Would she like him?" We don't find out here, but it's fairly obvious that this pretty young lute player is Mark Smeaton. Later, Cromwell overhears the lute player talking to someone about "the lawyer," i.e. Cromwell: "They say he has killed men with his own hands and never told it in confession. But those hard kinds of men, they always weep when they see the hangman." Mark also says that "Tom Wyatt has had her," meaning Anne Boleyn. The conversation is in Flemish, "language of Mark's birthplace," and Cromwell can't see the person he's talking to.

We learn that Cromwell's sister Kat and her husband, Morgan Williams, have also died, so at Austin Friars "they omit this year their usual songs and Christmas plays. No year has brought such devastation." Wolsey has been charged on numerous counts but it seems that "the king will allow the cardinal his life, and a measure of liberty; but whatever money is left him will be a fraction of his former income." Cromwell is now acting as father to Kat and Morgan's sons, Richard and Walter. Richard volunteers to change his name from Williams to Cromwell. He tells Richard that Henry VII "had an uncle, Jasper Tudor. Jasper had two bastard daughters, Joan and Helen. Helen was Gardiner's mother. Joan lmarried William ap Evan -- she was your grandmother." Richard is unimpressed. "'But if I am the king's cousin,' Richard pauses, 'and Stephen Gardiner's cousin ... what good can it do me? We're not at court and not likely to be.'" After Richard leaves, Cromwell "touches his throat, where the medal would have been, the holy medal that kat gave him; his fingers are surprised not to find it there. For the first time he understands why he took it off and slid it into the sea. It was so that no living hand could take it."

More, as Lord Chancellor, has signed off on all the accusations against Wolsey, including one of his own, that the cardinal breathed in the king's face and "since the cardinal has the French pox, he intended to infect our monarch." Cromwell thinks, "imagine living in the Lord Chancellor's head."

Cromwell goes to see the king just as he and his courtiers are going out to hunt. Henry asks him,
"You are not of Thomas More's opinion, are you?"

He waits. He cannot imagine what the king is going to say.

"La chasse. He thinks it barbaric."

"Oh, I see. No, Your Majesty, I favor any sport that's cheaper than battle...."
"You said, in the Parliament, some six years ago, that I could not afford a war.... You want a king who doesn't fight? You want me to huddle indoors like a sick girl!"

"That would be ideal, for fiscal purposes." 
Henry and Cromwell argue over the cost of war, but it's clear that although the king doesn't like Cromwell very much, he is impressed by him. And when Charles Brandon rides up and asks Cromwell, "'How's your fat priest?' The king flushes with displeasure. Brandon doesn't notice."

In the spring of 1530 Cromwell is invited to supper at the house of an Italian merchant, Antonio Bonvisi, and is surprised to find More there along with "Humphrey Monmouth, whom More once locked up, ... seated well away from the great man." When he sees Cromwell enter, More "falls silent halfway through a sentence; he casts his eyes down, and an opaque and stony look grows on his face." And the table conversation turns into a battle of wits between Cromwell and More. Bonvisi chides him afterward: "Thomas More is my old friend. You should not come here and bait him." But Cromwell is more interested in Bonvisi's confirming what he overheard about Thomas Wyatt's affair with Anne Boleyn. Finally, Richard (now) Cromwell and Rafe Sadler come to accompany Cromwell home, but not before Bonvisi gives him some parting advice: "Wherever you dine next, pray do not ... sit down with the Boleyns."

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