A Revolutionary Life
The long-awaited biography of the genius who masterminded Henry VIII's bloody revolution in the English government, which reveals at last Cromwell's role in the downfall of Anne Boleyn
"This a book that - and it's not often you can say this - we have been awaiting for four hundred years." --Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall
Since the sixteenth century we have been fascinated by Henry VIII and the man who stood beside him, guiding him, enriching him, and enduring the king's insatiable appetites and violent outbursts until Henry ordered his beheading in July 1540. After a decade of sleuthing in the royal archives, Diarmaid MacCulloch has emerged with a tantalizing new understanding of Henry's mercurial chief minister, the inscrutable and utterly compelling Thomas Cromwell.
History has not been kind to the son of a Putney brewer who became the architect of England's split with Rome. Where past biographies portrayed him as a scheming operator with blood on his hands, Hilary Mantel reimagined him as a far more sympathetic figure buffered by the whims of his master. So which was he--the villain of history or the victim of her creation? MacCulloch sifted through letters and court records for answers and found Cromwell's fingerprints on some of the most transformative decisions of Henry's turbulent reign. But he also found Cromwell the man, an administrative genius, rescuing him from myth and slander.
The real Cromwell was a deeply loving father who took his biggest risks to secure the future of his son, Gregory. He was also a man of faith and a quiet revolutionary. In the end, he could not appease or control the man whose humors were so violent and unpredictable. But he made his mark on England, setting her on the path to religious awakening and indelibly transforming the system of government of the English-speaking world.
This meticulously researched biography of Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to King Henry VIII of England, from professor and historian MacCulloch (Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years) highlights Cromwell's legal abilities and the complicated and often fatal relationship between Tudor advisers and king. These advisers toiled away as Henry gained notoriety for his numerous wives, removing legal and societal obstacles from Henry's path to a legitimate male heir. An astute prot g of his predecessor Thomas Wolsey, Cromwell earned royal trust by contributing to the redefinition of his monarch's religious role ushering in the English Reformation and helping Anne Boleyn become Henry's second wife. MacCulloch's densely packed narrative argues for a more sympathetic view of Cromwell; in his portrayal, Cromwell's personal religious views dovetail sincerely with the Reformation, and crafting legal arguments around the mercurial Henry's whims was difficult. But this characterization is undercut by Cromwell's central role in the dissolution of monasteries, the execution of dissenters, and the destruction of Anne Boleyn despite their shared theological views. Cromwell's personal thoughts are largely lost to history due to a shortage of surviving letters, but MacCulloch threads Cromwell's notes and other contemporary sources along with modern historians' work to recreate his motivations. This comprehensive biography is ideal for passionate devotees of Hilary Mantel's historical novels, which also paint Cromwell in a forgiving light, and Tudor history buffs.