Wolf Hall, episode 2

Rose Woodhouse

Elizabeth Picciuto was born and reared on Long Island, and, as was the custom for the time and place, got a PhD in philosophy. She freelances, mainly about disability, but once in a while about yeti. Mother to three children, one of whom is disabled, two of whom have brown eyes, three of whom are reasonable cute, you do not want to get her started talking about gardening.

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19 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    Cromwell sleeping with his sister-in-law was probably done to add a little romance or sex for the main character after his wife died. This would be a big no-no as you imply. In fact, it was against the law to marry your dead spouse’s sibling. Yet, there was apparently such a desire to do so that the United Kingdom passed legislation to legalize such marriages during the early 20th century.

    I like the character drama of Wolf Hall but reading it as a historical document is not a good idea. Hillary Mantel apparently has some sort of hard feelings towards the Roman Catholic Church as an institution so she spins the pro-Catholic faction of English society as the bad guys. There really isn’t much evidence that Cromwell was a good family man towards his wife and daughters. We do have a lot of evidence that Thomas Moore was a good family man by something close to our standards. Educating his daughters was very unusual at the time but Moore did it.Report

    • Rose Woodhouse in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Thomas More was not good to his wives. You’re right about no evidence of Cromwell’s home life, except the wards he took in were very loyal to him.

      Yes, I gathered from an interview she has a pro-C of E, anti-Catholic axe to grind. She’s right to point out that More burned heretics and may not be so saintly, and Cromwell was ahead of his time in terms of understanding statesmanship and finance.

      There is nothing historically inaccurate per se about the novel in the movie, in that she doesn’t contradict any known facts. She fills in spaces imaginatively, and, as I suggested in OP, in those spaces puts the best possible reading on Cromwell’s behavior. A defense lawyer’s case. I think it’s a useful historical argument that needed to be made. I did read one bio of Cromwell that made that case, and it was even more insistent on seeing only the good in him.Report

      • Chris in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

        I always thought it was interesting that in Utopia, More preached the virtues of religious tolerance, while in real life…Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

        Cromwell’s wards were all boys though. By all accounts Cromwell did do well for his family and made sure they received a lot of wealth from the dissolution of the monasteries. Its how Richard Cromwell, his nephew, rose to gentry levels and eventually gave the world Oliver Cromwell as a great grandson.

        Thomas Moore was a typical 16th century husband but he was a lot better with his daughters than other men at the time or even in the present. As to whether a person who burned heretic was saintly, it was a time of intense religious passion. The Protestants have a lot of blood on their hands to. Not only from people who wanted to stay Catholic and loyal to the Pope but dissenting Protestant and women accused of witchcraft; which people forget was a Protestant thing. The Catholic Church was more likely to go against the person accusing a woman of witchcraft.Report

        • Rose Woodhouse in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Yes, More educated his daughters, which was amazingly uncommon, and treated his wives like s**t, which is a lot more common.

          FTR, I didn’t mean to imply that Protestants had no blood on their hands. Just that Cromwell the man didn’t burn heretics (although was a fan of censorship), whereas More the man did. Not everybody back then endorsed burning religious opposition at the stake (e.g., Wolsey didn’t, as I recall, and I believe Elizabeth I burned less than 10 in her years as queen).

          Cromwell did, however, have a way of making sure his enemies got their heads chopped off, which doesn’t quite fit in Mantel’s pretty picture of him. Hence the (somewhat implausible) it’s-all-revenge-for-Cardinal-Wolsey explanation.Report

  2. Chris says:

    Oh, this has me dying to watch it. I really enjoyed Episode 1.Report

  3. Maribou says:

    Loved this week’s episode, especially the interaction between Cromwell and Mary Boleyn….Report

  4. KatherineMW says:

    Both the book and the show felt deliberately revisionist to me. It feels as much like an argument as a story: my first impression of it was as a systematic counterargument against A Man for All Seasons.

    And I’m not convinced by the arguments they put in Cromwell’s mouth that the monasteries were solely a burden and provided nothing in the way of education, literacy, learning, and scholasticism. At that point in history – and until centuries later – I believe the Church provided more in the way of education than the State.

    And while this is a much more upper-class argument than I typically make, the dissolution of the monasteries in England was a crime against art, even if it left the country with many picturesque ruins. They must have been amazing places in their day. It wasn’t about the monasteries being wasteful; it was a giant royal land grab.Report

  5. bigFan says:

    For Rose, I believe that you overlook the power of personality in that era. Wolsey appears to be the only person that Cromwell thought was his equal in terms of intellect and conversation (in England). In the days before mass media and indeed even books, human interaction dominated life. I see no reason why Cromwell would not be capable of such loyalty.
    Remember also that Cromwell had extreme patience. Heads were cut but only when the offenders were shown to be guilty. Not guilty perhaps in our modern sense but guilty in the sense of offending the king.
    Is there any question that More would have had Cromwell burned if he had slipped even slightly in the King’s regard?Report