Wolf Hall

Mike’s Marginalia for Part III

As I’ve mentioned, my original copy of Wolf Hall, given to me by Zach who little understood what he had created in doing so, is filled with scribbles, underlines, footnotes, and margin notes. Here are some that I think you’ll find useful.

Three-Card Trick: That’s the opening chapter of Part 3. Cromwell learned the three-card trick in Dover as a youth to make money. The three-card trick has been around since at least the early 1400s, and is a pure scam. There is no possible way for a person to win it.

The con works best when the conman has a couple of partners to act as “shills” — fake players who pretend to not know the conman. This will lure a “mark” into the game. The mark will watch the shills, who are sometimes “winning” and sometimes “losing” in ways that look very obvious to the mark. The idea is to build up the mark’s confidence in his ability to beat the dealer. But he (almost) literally will never, ever be able to do this. (“In a world where carpenters get resurrected, everything is possible.”)

What makes this an interesting choice for a chapter title is to consider: Who is the mark? Who is the con? Who are the shills?

The day is foggy, St Hubert’s Day: Almost every day of the Catholic calendar is some saints day or other. There are generally masses and prayers. There might actually be a feast that day; but just as likely, there isn’t. St Hubert — Hubertus — is the patron saint of hunters, mathematicians, opticians, and metalworkers. Mantel isn’t manipulating the calendar; but I do find it interesting that she calls out a saint who is a patron of hunters (like Henry VIII) and metal workers (like Cromwell’s dad). A non-book-related aside: Hubertus is one of the lucky saints who wasn’t martyred. He died peacefully, in his bed. His feast day is 3 November.

for his clothes conceal relics: Wolsey told Cromwell “to find out what people wear under their clothes.” And I think, if you want to spend time thinking about Norfolk as a character, this is an interesting note about him. What does he expect the relics to do? Does he feel his unpleasantness is protected by the relics? Also, remember what Cromwell thinks about relics, which is that they are a scam.

I’d also like to re-thank Marian for her observation about how there are “words under words,” which adds an incredible layer to all of this.

“why are you such a…person.”: We talked a little bit about this in the discussion, that Cromwell’s being a “person” is an insult, suggesting that he is not nobility, aristocracy, or part of the monarchy. Shona shared this in the chat that I thought was very interesting: “To add some modern colour, in the current day House of Commons, you are either a member, an officer or a stranger.”

‘The king is preparing to quarrel with you, master. Oh yes. He will favour you with an interview because he wishes to understand the cardinal’s affairs, but he has, you will learn, a very long and exact memory, and what he remembers, master, is when you were a burgess of the Parliament before this, and how you spoke against his war.’: This is Norfolk (who is Anne Boleyn’s uncle). And we learned earlier in the book that Cromwell did speak against Henry’s war. Not for moral reasons; not because he is against war; but because, as Cromwell will explain later (spoiler alert), “Wars are not affordable things.” Cromwell is a money man (‘Do you know,’ he says, ‘if the cardinal could say, as he used to say to me, Thomas, what would you like for a New Year’s gift, I would say, I would like sight of the nation’s accounts’), and England is not a wealthy nation under Henry VIII.
When his father, Henry VII, died, he left his son (and the nation) the equivalent of almost $500 million U.S. Henry spent money on a variety of unnecessary things. For instance, Henry bought 2000 tapestries. (Interesting tapestry fact: They were more expensive than paintings. Like, even the famous paintings you may know about from the 16th century that today are worth millions, back then, they could be had for a song. But tapestries “were so expensive that those not wealthy enough to own a tapestry would be lucky to even get a glimpse of one, says Elizabeth Cleland, a curator in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s European Sculpture and Decorative Arts department.” (How Many Cows Was a 16th-Century Tapestry Worth? Ask the Met)) Henry also kept wanting to go to war, and he kept not really winning the wars. Cromwell is flirting with treason here, by siding against the king and the king’s ability to win a war.

“But those hard kinds of men, they always weep when they see the hangman”: This is Mark Smeaton, gossipping about Cromwell. Just some foreshadowing — and a complicated, multi-layered foreshadowing, too. We’ll talk more about Mark Smeaton when we get to Bring Up the Bodies (by the way, my plan is to take as many of you as want to join me through the entire trilogy), but Mantel is unique in her portrayal of Smeaton. She’s not as kind as others have been.

Tom Wyatt: I won’t say a lot more about him yet; he’s more important in Bring Up the Bodies. But Wyatt is one of my favorite 16th century poets, along with Sir Philip Sidney. I’ll share my favorite Sidney now; later, when it’s appropriate, I’ll share a Wyatt.

Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show,
That she, dear she, might take some pleasure of my pain,—
Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain,—
I sought fit words to paint the blackest face of woe;
Studying inventions fine her wits to entertain,
Oft turning others’ leaves, to see if thence would flow
Some fresh and fruitful showers upon my sunburn’d brain.
But words came halting forth, wanting invention’s stay;
Invention, Nature’s child, fled step-dame Study’s blows;
And others’ feet still seem’d but strangers in my way.
Thus great with child to speak and helpless in my throes,
Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite,
“Fool,” said my Muse to me, “look in thy heart, and write.
— Sir Philip Sidney

He touches them. His finger comes away dusty. He shifts his candle out of danger, then lifts them from the peg and gently shakes them. They make a soft sound of hissing, and a faint amber perfume washes into the air. He hangs them back on the peg; passes over them the palm of his hand, to soothe them and still their shiver. He picks up his candle. He backs out and closes the door.: Just gorgeous, gorgeous writing. And heartbreaking in context.

Marlinspike: This is the name of a giant at a Christmas pageant, and also the name Cromwell gives to a black cat. I had hoped that Marlinspike was an actual giant, but it doesn’t appear to be. However, a marlinspike is an actual thing: a tool used in rope-making. (Can we allow ourselves to include this in the “weaving” category of symbol/metaphor that runs through the novel? Go where your pilgrim spirit takes you, my loves.)

maypole: We talked about Evil May Day in my last set of marginalia notes. But I thought it might be interesting to talk about maypoles in general.

When Tess (of the D’Urbevilles fame) first meets Angel Clare, it is at a May Day celebration and she, dressed in virginal white, dances around the maypole with other girls. I mention Tess because I think books can talk to each other, and it’s why being widely read will always be a strength. Maypole dances occur on 1 May, or Midsommer, and are connected to fertility traditions, with the pole itself a phallus and the young women dancing around it, wrapping and binding it, in some sense can be seen as controlling both the phallus and fertility.
We talked a little in our discussion about what the consciousness of a Tudor-era person would be. Some felt Cromwell is presented, in Mantel’s novel, as modern; and that, in reality, it probably wouldn’t be likely that the Cromwell of the trilogy could exist in the 16th century. I mentioned the book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes, and how consciousness, as we understand it, might be a fairly recent development. All of this to say that magic, and ritual — both Catholic and pagan — were very much a part of a 16th century citizens’ day-to-day life. Another book I’d recommend: Keith Thomas’s Religion and the Decline of Magic.

The Cardinal mocked: We see Wolsey mocked publicly twice in this section: once at Epiphany, and later at Hampton Court. How you think about the relationship between Cromwell and Wolsey will have an effect on how you imagine Cromwell’s reaction. My argument is that these are incredibly painful moments for Cromwell, and play into a lot of the action in Bring Up the Bodies. Part 2 of Wolf Hall ends with the story of Simonides, and how he is rescued from destruction because two young men ask for him, so Simonides is not present when the house he was dining at collapses. “[Cicero] tells us that on that day, Simonides invented memory.” Simonides was able to identify the dead, who had been destroyed beyond recognition, because he remembered where everyone was sitting.
Cromwell remembers where everyone was, too.

the wicked Borgia Pope, Alexander: Some things are true because they’re true, and some things are true because they’ve been repeated. Washington’s wooden teeth (even though they were actually constructed from the teeth of his slaves); that lady who sued McDonald’s because she didn’t know that coffee was hot (when, in actuality, it wasn’t about that at all). It’s tough to know what, exactly, is true about the Borgias; and what is propaganda. Cromwell says, “[I]t was the wicked Borgia Pope, Alexander, who kept forty women. And none of them were virgins, I can tell you.”

Pope Alexander VI did have many illegitimate children with mistresses. He also was a patron of the arts. According to one black legend (a created story for the purpose of discrediting its protagonist), Alexander was a marrano — that is, a secret Jew. But this was lodged against him because of his allowance of Jews persecuted in Spain (by Ferdinand and Isabella, who were too good at Inquisitions; Alexander actually wrote to them to say, “Guys? What if you took it down a notch?” and Ferd and Bella said, “We got this, thanks.”) to reside in Rome.

There are also a lot of stories about the Borgias and poisoning, and they’re all great, who doesn’t love a good potion, but most of these accounts were taken from servants of the Borgias, under torture. That doesn’t mean they aren’t true; but it doesn’t mean they are, either.

‘Even so, you have the Tudor name in your descent. By some accounts.’: This is Cromwell, repeating a story about his nephew, Richard’s, lineage, and how Richard is, subsequently, related to Stephen Gardiner. Is it true? Probably not. Richard Williams — the son of Cromwell’s sister Kat, whom we met at the beginning of the novel, and her Welsh husband Morgan Williams — is the grandson of Joan ap Evan (or, Joan ap Yevan), but it’s not likely that Joan herself was a bastard of Jasper Tudor — and that’s what all this inter-relating rests on.

It’s important to remember that Mantel doesn’t have to get the history right — whatever history is. She just has to get the stories told right.

He 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. The waves took it, and the waves have it still.: One of the things that Mantel subtly reminds us often is how little actual history of Cromwell we have. Things that could tie themselves to Cromwell are better kept secret, in the ocean.

Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor, has put his signature first on all the articles against Wolsey. They say one strange allegation has been added at his behest. The cardinal is accused of whispering in the king’s ear and breathing into his face; since the cardinal has the French pox, he intended to infect our monarch.

When he hears this he thinks, imagine living inside the Lord Chancellor’s head. Imagine writing down such a charge and taking it to the printer, and circulating it through the court and through the realm, putting it out there to where people will believe anything; putting it out there, to the shepherds on the hills, to Tyndale’s ploughboy, to the beggar on the roads and the patient beast in its byre or stall; out there to the bitter winter winds, and to the weak early sun, and the snowdrops in the London gardens.: This, here, to me, is the key to the whole trilogy.

In the movie Fargo, it takes a high school acquaintance lying to Marge to get her to realize that people will lie about anything. And it’s not that Marge is unaware of lying; but in this case, it hits her personally. The scene with Mike Yanagita is what changes the entire direction of Marge’s investigation, and the course of the movie.

Here, we see Cromwell baffled that someone could manufacture such a blatant lie — and that it could then be believed. He imagines all the steps it takes to get that lie into circulation. Cromwell is outraged that this can be successful.

Cromwell will find himself, in Bring Up the Bodies, in a similar situation: realizing how useful a pedaled lie can be.

The king glances out of the window. ‘So,’ he says, ‘how is …?’ He seems reluctant to name the cardinal.

‘He cannot be well till he has Your Majesty’s favour.’

‘Forty-four charges,’ the king says. ‘Forty-four, master.’

‘Saving Your Majesty, there is an answer to each one, and given a hearing we would make them.’

‘Could you make them here and now?’

‘If Your Majesty would care to sit.’

‘I heard you were a ready man.’

‘Would I come here unprepared?’
: George Cavendish, Wolsey’s usher and later biographer, writes of Cromwell, “There was no matter alleged against [Wolsey] but that [Cromwell] was ever ready furnished with a sufficient answer.”

He says, ‘No ruler in the history of the world has ever been able to afford a war. They’re not affordable things. No prince ever says, “This is my budget; so this is the kind of war I can have.” You enter into one and it uses up all the money you’ve got, and then it breaks you and bankrupts you.’: Cromwell on war.

‘You advocate prudence. Prudence is a virtue. But there are other virtues that belong to princes.’

‘Fortitude.’

‘Yes. Cost that out.’

‘It doesn’t mean courage in battle.’

‘Do you read me a lesson?’

‘It means fixity of purpose. It means endurance. It means having the strength to live with what constrains you.’
: Several things in this passage.

For one, we get a lovely call back to “cost me out!” that Wolsey asks of Cromwell when he puts on a new outfit.

But we also see Cromwell testing himself on very dangerous ground: not only is he giving the King a lesson, that lesson is: stick with Katherine.

This is a position worth spending some time thinking about. We know that Cromwell is interested in religious reform; it’s what makes Cromwell and Anne uneasy allies. But we also know that Wolsey’s fall came about because Henry didn’t have the fortitude to stick it out with Katherine.

St Agnes: Two fun facts about Agnes: (1) She is the patron saint of chastity; and (2) She refused to marry, so her father led her naked through the city streets, only her hair would grow and grow and grow so that she could wrap it ’round her, like something from Eileen Fisher — room, comfortable, elegant.

Antonia Bonvisi: He’s a close friend of Thomas More, but he’s also a friend of Cromwell, too. This makes him somewhat interesting to me. What is the moral world of someone who can befriend such opposites?

‘Yes, but friendship should be less exhausting … it should be restorative. Not like …’ More turns to him, for the first time, as if inviting comment. ‘I sometimes feel it is like … like Jacob wrestling with the angel.’: Jacob wrestles with an angel — or does he? Some scholars look at the Wrestling story and come to the conclusion that the “angel” Jacob wrestles is actually his brother, in disguise; his brother, whom he had tricked out of his birthright. And that at the end, when this “angel” blesses Jacob, it’s actually Esau blessing Jacob. I don’t know why I felt the need to tell you this story but I did.

What we agree with and what we allow: I have no idea why this is in the margin, but it’s in the margin towards the end of the dinner party with Cromwell and Thomas More. It seems profound, so I include it.

There was a man called Hawkwood, a knight of Essex, used to rape and burn and murder in Italy.: This is John Hawkwood. I think a phrase to pay attention to — in Wolf Hall; in history books; in news accounts — is “used to.” This is a marker that a story is being shared, and whether or not it’s true doesn’t really matter. Did Hawkwood rape and burn and murder in Italy? Probably; but not probably more than other soldiers. (Please understand I am not about to come out as pro Rape, Burn, Murder, which I understand was the working title of Camille Paglia’s book on poetry. This is a very funny joke for people with a Camille Paglia Google alert.) But some stories are helpful, even if they’re not true, and Hawkwood would have benefitted from a savage reputation.

Two interesting things about Hawkwood: One of the stories told about him is that his mother, maybe hearing the call of the Green Man, insisted on giving birth to John in the forest. Another is that he was knighted by the Black Prince — a name for Edward, eldest son of Edward II, who died before his father, so that Edward’s brother became King Edward III. “The Black Prince” as a title for Edward was just coming into vogue at the time our novel is set. (Was Hawkwood knighted? The record isn’t clear, there’s no real proof, so we’ll say yes, because we’re trying to say YES! to more things, like staying in more! and being too busy right now to take your call.)

He looks around the room. That’s where the Lord Chancellor sat. On his left, the hungry merchants. On his right, the new ambassador.: A wonderful echo of the Simonides story, all the way down to “Two young gentlemen are outside, master, asking for you by name.” In the Simonides story, it’s two young men who save Simonides by drawing away from a house that’s about to collapse. In this story, it’s Rafe Sadler and Richard Cromwell. He understands that the whole purpose of the evening has been to warn him: to warn him off. He will remember it, the fatal placement: if it proves fatal. you may never think of us, Mark, but we think of you.: I think one place you do not want to be, ever, is in Cromwell’s memory the way Mark Smeaton is in Cromwell’s memory. And it’s a hint that some of the violent stories told about Cromwell are probably true. Just like Hawkwood, Cromwell, too, was a mercenary. And like Hawkwood, we are spoiled for choice with apocryphal stories.

But when I spoke to the cardinal of killing, when I saw a shadow on the wall, there was no one to hear; so if Mark reckons I’m a murderer, that’s only because he thinks I look like one.: This idea of Cromwell looking like a murderer comes up a few times and it’s one of my favorite “funny” bits in the novel. But this time it’s not funny. And I think it’s an interesting look into Cromwell’s psychology. I’d ask you to think back to the opening of the novel: Who was the person on the other end of Cromwell’s knife, and did he survive? 

In our first discussion, I mentioned that there’s very little “reliable” about the historical record. That people lie in letters and diaries all the time for personal reasons. And sometimes people don’t even know the full extent of themselves. And that tension — Cromwell reading others so well and possibly not seeing his own motivations or even his own past clearly — is one of the reasons this novel continues to fascinate me.

and her hands dip back into her trailing sleeves: The story goes that Anne Boleyn had an extra finger, full-formed, that marked her as a witch.

Some sources cite a Catholic polemicist named Nicholas Sanders for starting the rumor. He was 6 years old when Anne was executed, so he did not have first-hand (forgive the pun) experience of her. He did have reason not to like Anne: she was the mother of Queen Elizabeth, and she was a Protestant queen.

In actuality, the myth started with Wolsey’s biograher, George Cavendish, who only allowed that Boleyn had an extra fingernail (not that that makes it better), rather than a full finger. And then, as way leads on to way, the extra fingernail blossomed into a full finger. And it’s a useful fiction; rather than murdering a woman, Henry was ridding England of a witch bent on his death.

That story.

Back in the shadows there is another girl: This is Jane Seymour. Henry has his wife in one castle, his mistress in another, and his third wife, whom he doesn’t know about yet, is his mistress’s lady.

Show me where it says in the Bible, a man shall not eat beef olives in March.: So, this grossed me out a lot because I thought beef olives were olives stuffed with beef of some kind and it was very upsetting. And then I looked up recipes for beef olives, and they’re still upsetting, but they’re more like…what. They’re not olives stuffed with beef, but beef and seasoning shaped into olives. Maybe they’re like kebab. Please never invite me over for beef olives.

Alice, his little niece: ‘What was she wearing?’ Ah, I can tell you that; he prices and sources her, hood to hem, foot to fingertip.: Just a lovely echo of Cromwell’s eye for fabrics and cost.

‘Your cousin sends greetings.’ Gardiner stares at him. His eyebrows bristle, like a dog’s hackles. He thinks that Cromwell presumes – ‘Not the king,’ he says soothingly. ‘Not His Majesty. I mean your cousin Richard Williams.’ Aghast, Gardiner says, ‘That old tale!’: Another example of, “It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not.” It only matters if it sticks, and it hurts.

The Duke of Buckingham, keen gardener, had his head cut off for treason: The Duke of Buckingham here is Edward Stafford. The alleged treason — listening to prophecies of Henry VIII’s death — doesn’t sit on firm ground the way the fact that Stafford was a Plantagenet, who had some legitimate claims to the throne Henry occupied, does.

(Scandal Time: Edward suspected his sister, Anne, of having an affair, and even caught her in a room, alone with supposed lover. The man had to take the sacrament to prove that he was not lying when he said nothing had ever happened between them. And Edward had his sister sent to a convent 60 miles away.)

What’s up with Thom and Johane?: When Mantel described assembling the psychology of the Cromwell she wanted to explore, she noted that Cromwell, an incredibly wealthy man with incredible prospects (up until he didn’t), never married again. For her, this seemed something worth noting and investigating. It speaks to a Cromwell who truly loved his wife (in comparison to Thomas More), but then we also see this developing relationship between Cromwell and Johane. She reminds him of Liz.

In Italy he learned a memory system and furnished it with pictures: Hold on to this for a second.

‘I wouldn’t be his tax collector.’ He thinks, are the most remarkable moments of my life to be spent under the scrutiny of Henry Norris? ‘He killed his father’s best men. Empson, Dudley. Didn’t the cardinal get one of their houses?’ A spider scuttles from under a stool and presents him with a fact. ‘Empson’s house on Fleet Street. Granted the ninth of October, the first year of this reign.’: First, we learn that Cromwell’s memory system is furnished with pictures. And in this passage, it’s a spider that clicks the memory of Wolsey’s house, its name, and when it happened. Sit with that.

The other thing is let’s talk about Empson and Dudley. They were financial administrators for Henry VII. Henry liked to tax the people. A lot. And, as today, the people weren’t super keen on being taxed all the time. Since it was treason to speak out against the king, a lot of rancor was directed at Empson and Dudley.

And it’s not like Empson and Dudley didn’t profit from their association with Henry VII and his tax dollars. Dudley may have even engaged in light embezzlement. 

Henry wants them dead, because they personify the people’s ill will with the crown. But he can’t execute them for doing the job his father asked them to do. So he gets the men on something called “constructive treason” — in this case, the fact that, as Henry VII was ailing, the men had posted armed friends in case the king died. And it’s treason to imagine the king dying, to discuss the king dying, or to prophecy the king’s death.

It’s not just wives that Henry executes.

Thomas Wriothesley: In many ways, Wriothesley is an interesting mirror of Cromwell. Both men are incredibly intelligent and opportunistic. One just lives longer than the other, and dies a natural enough death. He was an integral part of dismantling the monasteries; however, he also quickly pivoted to persecuting Protestants when the winds changed and Bloody Mary took the throne.

In Wolsey’s household he worked under your direction: Another curious pronoun interruption. Is this Cromwell thinking to himself? Is this Mantel remind Cromwell? I love these instances, but they also unsettle me.

‘Is your son-in-law Roper with us today?’ Gardiner asks. ‘A pity. I hoped to see him change his religion again. I wanted to witness it.’: No one loves a bitchy queen more than I do, and this is a solid burn on Gardiner’s part.

William Roper, Thomas More’s son-in-law (he is married to More’s daughter Margaret), dabbles in Lutheranism. It’s not likely he was a full convert, but he was very interested in Lutheranism’s Justification by Faith (rather than by works, which could be attending masses, going to confession, ritualized behavior). In fact, he got a little too interested and had to Have a Talk with Cardinal Wolsey.

We have this, from More to his daughter, about Roper: “Meg, I have borne a long time with thy husband; I have reasoned and argued with him in these points of religion, and still given to him my poor fatherly counsel, but I perceive none of all this able to call him home; and therefore, Meg, I will no longer dispute with him, but will clean give him over and get me to God and pray for him.”

Roper claimed that this plea, from More, convinced him to return again fully to the Catholic faith.

The entire dinner scene at Thomas More’s: It’s like a Tudor version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and the whole scene makes me uncomfortable every time I read it.

What does St Paul mean when he says Jesus was made a little lower than the angels?: This is from Hebrews 2:9 in the Christian Bible, and it’s quoting Psalm 8:5 from the Jewish scriptures. Jesus being “lower than the angels” would be a provocation to a Catholic at that time. Catholics believe in a triune god, represented by the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus couldn’t be “lower than the angels” because that would mean God was lower than the angels. The question is an important one for believers, and doesn’t have a satisfactory answer.

‘Look there at my daughter-in-law Anne,’ More says. The girl lowers her eyes; her shoulders tense, as she waits for what is coming. ‘Anne craved – shall I tell them, my dear? – she craved a pearl necklace. She did not cease to talk about it, you know how young girls are. So when I gave her a box that rattled, imagine her face. Imagine her face again when she opened it. What was inside? Dried peas!’ The girl takes a deep breath. She raises her face. He sees the effort it costs her. ‘Father,’ she says, ‘don’t forget to tell the story of the woman who didn’t believe the world was round.’ ‘No, that’s a good one,’ More says. When he looks at Alice, staring at her husband with painful concentration, he thinks, she still doesn’t believe it.: This passage is both heartbreaking and wonderful.

It’s true; John More, Gregory Cromwellm what have we done to our sons?: Just another passage I love.

Biting/tearing/eating: This shows up a lot in this part of Wolf Hall — especially from Norfolk, who wants to bite and eat people all the time. And I just thought that one of the reasons behind Mantel’s title choice is the quotation, “Man is wolf to man.” (Homo homini lupus.)

He drops his gaze in case the duke should stop to read his thoughts. He thinks, my lord would have made such an excellent king; so benign, so sure and suave in his dealings, so equitable, so swift and so discerning. His rule would have been the best rule, his servants the best servants; and how he would have enjoyed his state.: Oh, Crummy.

“There is a prophecy that a queen of England will be burned”: There actually was such a prophecy, possibly published by Geoffrey of Monmouth (1095 – 1155) (from whom we also got a lot of the weird stories in the chapter “An Occult History of England), in a book titled Prophetiae Merlini. And in an earlier paragraph of Wolf Hall, Anne finds a picture of her, Henry, and Katherine — only Anne is missing her head. This was an actual drawing in a book of prophecy; and yes, Anne did dismiss it when she found it at the time.

(I say “possibly published by Geoffrey of Monmouth,” but the thing is, though Monmouth wrote Prophetiae Merlini, I can’t find a copy online. So I can’t check to see what the exact language of the prophecy is. We do learn of the prophecy from a Spanish account, possibly written by Eustache Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador, who witnessed her execution: “Immediately the executioner did his office; and when her head was off it was taken by a young lady and covered with a white cloth. Afterwards the body was taken by the other ladies, and the whole carried into the church nearest to the Tower of London. …Thus, he who wrote this billet says that, according to old writings, he has seen the prophecy of Marlin fulfilled.”)

Quick bit on the prophecy tip: there were essentially two kinds of prophecy in the 16th century: Sibyllic prophecies (using symbols, numbers, and puns) and Galfriedian prophecies (which used animal imagery).

A small suspicion enters his mind, about the paper in the bed. But no, he thinks. That is not possible.: I will admit, I don’t entirely know what Cromwell realizes here? If anyone can set me straight, I’d be ever-grateful.

There’s no man in the room who doesn’t want Henry to have what he wants. Their lives and fortunes depend on it.: A truer statement, etc., etc.

“He said, whose is that shadow that leaps along the wall? And he cried your name.”: This is Cavendish, describing Wolsey’s final moments to Cromwell. And it’s an echo of an early encounter between Cromwell and Wolsey that you may remember from Part 2.

“I found, under his fine holland shirt, a belt of hair.”: Always remember to learn what a man wears under his clothes.

I made up two terms when we were discussing Part 3: Called Catholics and Bureaucratic Catholics. Called Catholics, I said, were religious believers; Bureaucratic Catholics, on the other hand, saw Catholicism, and its offices, as a political path. I suggested Wolsey was more Bureaucratic than Called; but then there’s this, about a belt of hair. Maybe Wolsey was Bureaucratic, and maybe he felt great guilt over that.

Or I’m just wrong about the type of Catholic Wolsey was, full stop.

You will see a glimpse of them in a man’s inner sleeve or in the flash of a whore’s petticoat.: The cardinal’s scarlet garments are being described here. Another instance of “knowing what a man wears under his clothes.” And also how a person can be absorbed back into society.

The performance at Hampton Court: This is going to be a major driving force in Bring Up the Bodies. It also has an echo of the Simonides story: Cromwell will remember exactly who was in that play, and what they did, and who they did it to.

2 thoughts on “Mike’s Marginalia for Part III”

  1. Not in order: Sir John Hawkwood was a noted condottiere in Italy—he was the captain of the White Company. There is a monument to him in grisaille, to look like an equestrian statue in one of the Northern Italian cathedrals—Padua, Mantua—I forget. He was noted for brutality—but then they all were. Doyle’s The White Company is a complete whitewash of what the real White Company was—but it is a good teen market swashbuckler.

    Borgia was Spanish himself, and knew that nasty bloody mindedness. As to being marrano, there were rumors about Ferdy himself… I believe we are now in a St Hubert’s Summer, since it has been VERY warm up here for nearly a week and will go on until mid-week. St Martin’s Summer is October, I believe. In Medieval times you were not supposed to fuck on a Saint’s Day (see Kristin Lavransdatter—and a scene between Ragnfrid and Lavrans) so there must have been a few days with no saints.

    The use of “person” for someone of low birth was common in England up until at least the end of the 19th century.

    The verse I wrote in my teens about Henry and the wives contained the line “King Henry spent his patrimony on adventures full of matrimony.” The only other line I remember is “The Widow Latimer, Katherine Parr, was the last to wed this awful Czar.” It actually scans.

    The Field of the Cloth of Gold cost a bissel, without being a war. Just think of all that cloth all by itself, never mind the rest of it. And Henry humiliated by lanky Francois when they wrestled. Narcissist couldn’t take it. The sulking may have started there. He would have made a dangerous brother if Arthur had lived. Especially if Katherine had had trouble bearing. But that was probably Henry. Older sister Juana could pop ‘em like anything, poor woman.

    Have you ever visited the Cloisters? I went up there the last time I was in NYC. Had not been there since I was a small child. They have a set of the Unicorn tapestries, as well as other marvels.

    Yeeeears ago one of the first poems I memorized, even before all the Millay and Wylie sonnets I can spout, I learned the (not just “a”) famous Wyatt sonnet to Anne Boleyn and can still recite it. But I also have the first part of the lovely but despairing Sidney sonnet on Desire—“Thou fool’s self-chosen snare/Fond fancy’s scum and dregs of scattered thought/Desire, Desire, I have too dearly bought/ with price of mangled mind, thy worthless ware”—that one—because it is quoted as a chapter heading in that marvelous work Gaudy Night. (which has some comments on Tudor politics in it, as a side note…)

    Does anyone know much about poor Mark Smeaton? Verifiably know, I mean.

    Any truth to the idea that Wolsey had the French pox????

    Speaking of Wyatt, have you ever read our once local up here Nancy Kress’ very good story “And Wild for to Hold?” It is a time travel story…she is a damn good writer.

    Yes, all those rituals and observances that appear in their last manifestations in Tess would be very strong in Tudor times, very strong. Remember Kristin as a child encountering some strange nymph figure, and later trying some Nordic pagan healing ritual—and the protective heads Lavrans or somebody carves into the ceiling beams in the wooden houses. Kipling makes use of some of those ideas in Rewards and Fairies, Puck of Pook’s Hill and that charming story Friendly Brook. And games—“nine men’s morris is filled up with mud.” Which is not about Morris dancing…

    I suppose the Christmas Revels will be canceled this year. I miss them. They always do the old Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance. They use any music they like at the original site, but they still have the antlers carbon dated back many many hundreds of years. The Revels does the dance every year, no matter what other national theme that year—in a blue moonlight with very eerie music. Raises the hair at the nape. Has the whiffler and the hobby-horse and the Dame—man en travestie—and the child. The same dances are done in the Basque country, in the white garments, with bells at the knee.

    I had occasion today to mention gargoyles to another e-mail correspondent—it was in connection with earthquakes. I told her of the Xmas cartoon I did the year of the DC earthquake, which showed me as a grotesque, falling off the Cathedral, with the famous shocked Dean earthquake looking on. I Googled a pageful of the Cathedral grotesques and gargoyles and they have some modern ones—a Darth Vader and an astronaut, for instance, and a female one with a ruff around her neck (well it is more a flounce) holding her mouth apart with both hands. Closest they could get to a real SHelah-na-Gigg—those obscene images that can still be found on some Irish churches.

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