Blog, Wolf Hall

Mike’s Marginalia for Part V

Anna Regina

Helen Barre: She actually existed, and her story has the pacing of a Victorian sensation novel. But I have to wait until Part 6 to tell it so I don’t give anything away too early.

‘I never liked his haughty manners, you know, and his processions every day, the state he kept. And yet there was never a man more active in the service of England since England began.”: I find this such an interesting glimpse into Cromwell’s relationship with Wolsey. And we, as readers, are a lot like the people he interacts with in the book, assuming that Cromwell is loyal to Wolsey to a fault, and unable to see things critically. And yet, it makes absolute sense: we don’t see haughty manners in Cromwell, and he doesn’t seem to seek out attention. He just quietly appears in a new role without you ever knowing about it.

William Brereton: Oh William. He’s in Cromwell’s crosshairs because he participated in the skit where Wolsey is set upon by demons: he holds one of Wolsey’s feet. (Cf. “Entirely Beloved Cromwell” in Part 3.) In “Anna Regina,” he and Cromwell have a small scrape, and Brereton threatens Cromwell: “Keep away from my family’s affairs. Or you’ll come off worse, Master Cromwell, than you can imagine.” Then, Cromwell sees Mary Boleyn, and she “holds her hand, thumb and finger an inch apart.” And that’s how Cromwell knows, even before the King knows, that Anne is pregnant. And he calls Brereton back and tells him that Brereton has made a terrible mistake in threatening him.

It’s a cinematic moment, one where, if you’re following Cromwell as a hero, you sort of pump your fists and yell, “YOU TELL ‘IM GIRLFRIEND!” But this is a moment I think first-time readers should file away, and revisit.

He is hoping that Cranmer, by way of coaxing, will impart the secret he promised in his letter, the secret written down the side of the page.: The secret that Cromwell wants coaxed out of him as a bargaining chip is that Anne is pregnant. The secret Cromwell wants was alluded to back in “Alas, What Shall I Do for Love” where Cranmer writes about a secret he has that can’t be shared in a letter: “Something has occurred. Not to be trusted to a letter. It may make a stir. Some would say I have been rash. I shall need your advice. Keep this secret.” We find out soon what that secret is: Cranmer has married. Whose secret is more damning?

“So after Easter,” he says, reading, “it will be against the law and the king’s prerogative to make an appeal in any matter to the Pope. So there is Katherine’s suit dead and buried. And I, Canterbury, can decide the king’s cause in our own courts. Well, this has been long enough coming.”: The document Cromwell is showing Cranmer is one Cromwell himself wrote: The Ecclesiastical Appeals Act 1532. You can read the full text of the Act here.

In order not to make a liar out of Henry or Katherine, one or the other, the committee men think up circumstances in which the match may have been partly consummated, or somewhat consummated, and to do this they have to imagine every disaster and shame that can occur between a man and a woman alone in a room in the dark. Do you like the work, he enquires; looking at their hunched and dusty persons, he judges them to have the experience they need. Cranmer in his writing keeps calling the queen ‘the most serene Katherine’, as if to separate her untroubled face, framed by a linen pillow, from the indignities being forced on her lower body: the boy’s fumbling and scrabbling, the pawing at her thighs.: What I’m remembering from the discussion (It’s possible I may have blacked out) is the argument of Is There a Lot/a Little/No Obsession with Sex in the Novel. I hope we can never speak of this again.

“I was always desired. But now I am valued. And that is a different thing, I find.”: Just a fantastic line and a clear summation of the plight of women in the [x]th century (solve for x by passing the ERA).

“do you think you could soften your answers, to accommodate him?”: I get the sense that for Cromwell, faith is an entirely personal relationship with the Divine — and whatever roadblocks or perils thrown in the path of a believer by another person are of no matter. So, for Cromwell, one can publicly save oneself by “soften[ing] answers” to political questions about faith.

This is maybe one of the keys to understanding Cromwell: that he judges anyone’s faith by how useful it is temporally, rather than spiritually. If your religious fervor requires you to sacrifice yourself for it, then, for Cromwell, it’s not much use as a guidestar. We will see Cromwell often try to point out escape routes — sometimes even literally (in the case of Frith) — and we will see most people choosing martyrdom instead.

“You think you can keep me at your house and wait for the king to change his mind? I should have to break out of there, and walk to Paul’s Cross, and say before the Londoners what I have already said.”

“Your witness cannot wait?”

“Not on Henry. I might wait till I was old.”

“They will burn you.”

“And you think I cannot bear the pain. You are right, I cannot. But they will give me no choice. As More says, it hardly makes a man a hero, to agree to stand and burn once he is chained to a stake. I have written books and I cannot unwrite them. I cannot unbelieve what I believe. I cannot unlive my life.”
: I think about this conversation between Frith and Cromwell a lot. And it allows us to look a little more at religious practices in the 16th century.

Pre-reformation, it was just The Church. There was no need to profess your faith, because everyone had your faith. (I’m making allowances for bubbles of idiosyncratic figures who might fizz to the top; that “everyone” is a qualified “everyone.”) Those who were interested in reforming the Church — and “interested” makes it almost a milquetoasty exercise; I should say “passionate about” — wanted everyone to know what the gospels said. They did not want human intercessories. It’s why “Evangelicals” is the better term for this group at that time: evangelizing the gospel to as many as could hear it was the main drive of reformation.
Cromwell is pragmatic. Cromwell is also more hopeful of eventual success. So he asks Frith to hold on to his witness statement of Christ’s message to the world. Not because Cromwell doesn’t believe in it; but because he sees Frith as a man of strong faith who can do more alive than he could dead. But for Frith, the absolute most he can do for his faith is die for it. For Cromwell, the absolute most he can do for his faith is negotiate. He’s an English Abraham, bargaining with God.

‘Do you wonder I tremble before him? My river. My city. My salvation, cut out and embroidered just for me. My personally tailored English god.’: This is spoken by the new ambassador from France, a man named Jean de Dinteville. I like it for two reasons: the recurring motif of fabric and weaving; and because de Dinteville is a figure painted by Holbein in a piece called The Ambassadors. That painting is super cool because it has an anamorphic skull in it. You can read about the painting on Wikipedia:

“I won’t force you.”

Richard looks up. “Are you sure?”

When have I, when have I ever forced anyone to do anything, he starts to say: but Richard cuts in, “No, you don’t, I agree, it’s just that you are practised at persuading, and sometimes it’s quite difficult, sir, to distinguish being persuaded by you from being knocked down in the street and stamped on.”: This is a conversation between Cromwell and Richard Cromwell, about Richard’s marrying Mary Boleyn.

I call it out because I think we’re supposed to struggle with Cromwell’s argument that he has never “forced anyone to do anything.” Because it’s a semantic one — which Richard carefully uncovers when he says, “it’s quite difficult, sir, to distinguish being persuaded by you from being knocked down in the street and stamped on.”
Like, Cromwell would absolutely have urged Clinton to say, “Ask them what the definition of is is.”

‘Only this, sir, and I think it is what gives Richard pause … all our lives and fortunes depend now on that lady, and as well as being mutable she is mortal, and the whole history of  the king’s marriage tells us a child in the womb is not an heir in the cradle.’: Rafe says this to Cromwell, and it’s absolutely something we should all file in our back pockets while making our way through the trilogy. Anne is the limit that Cromwell must negotiate, and he can only go as far as she does. In a sense, the usually smart and clever Cromwell has found himself as a farm girl, all eggs in a basket carefully balanced on his head.

“Your bill is not passed yet. Tell me what is the delay.”

The bill, she means, to forbid appeals to Rome. He begins to explain to her the strength of the opposition, but she raises her eyebrows and says, “My father is speaking for you in the Lords, and Norfolk. So who dare oppose us?”: This might be the beginning of the break between Anne and Cromwell, who, earlier, seemed like grudging partners who slyly liked each other. But here, she’s demanding the same things of Cromwell that were demanded of Wolsey; and we saw what happened to Wolsey when he wasn’t successful.

But Cromwell, we know, will be successful. And yet he remains in just as much danger from the Boleyn family as he was before.

“You should not sneer at persons of royal blood.” Chapuys shakes out his sleeves. “At least now I am officially informed of the lady’s state, whereas before I could only deduce it from certain spectacles of folly I had witnessed … Do you know how much you are staking, Cremuel, on the body of one woman? Let us hope no evil comes near her, eh?”

He takes the ambassador by the arm, wheels him around. “What evil? Say what you mean.”

“If you would let go your grip on my jacket. Thank you. Very soon you resort to manhandling people, which shows, as they say, your breeding.”: We so often see Cromwell use his intellect and cunning to get things done — but every once in a while, Mantel lets a little of Cromwell’s other nature break through. He’s a blacksmith’s son from Putney before anything else. (Also, I mean, he just got finished intimidating Richard Cromwell into saying that Cromwell doesn’t force people to do things.)

“Have you ever heard of the field called Towton? The king tells me more than twenty thousand Englishmen died.”

The man gapes at him. ‘Who were they fighting?’

“Each other.”
: So, one thing that I am very grateful for in Wolf Hall (and the other novels in the series) is that there aren’t a lot of battle scenes. I am the kind of reader/viewer who would be wholly satisfied with a chyron or note that says, “And then a battle happened, and this side won.” Like sex scenes, battle scenes bring any action (ironically) to a standstill while we do this nonsense.

But Towton is important because it represents the danger England faces without a steady and firm dynasty on the throne. As I’ve mentioned several times previously, the Tudor line isn’t a line yet. It’s two points: Henry VII and Henry VIII. The only thing that will allow Henry to feel settled — and for England to feel settled — is if there’s a solid line of succession. And with a daughter, an annulment, an unpopular marriage, and a break with Rome, Henry Tudor is not yet on firm ground. The threat of civil war is a constant one that thrums through the 15th and 16th centuries.

“Madam, give way to him. For the present. Tomorrow, who knows? Do not cut off every chance of rapprochement.”: Again, we see Cromwell characterizing people’s personal morality as reckless endangerment. If you’re killed, in Cromwell’s mind, you didn’t win. You died.

“If you are found out in treason the law will take its course with you, as if you were any other subject. Your nephew is threatening to invade us in your name.”: This is an interesting theory Cromwell floats: that Katherine might be brought up on charges of treason, which definitely would have carried with it a death sentence.

But would it?

The two women that Henry has executed are not of royal stock. They’re commoners. Or, you can say that the Boleyns and Howards were aristocrats, but not royalty.

Katherine is maybe more of a monarch than even Henry VIII. Both of her parents were rulers of Spain, but each also was a monarch in their own right: Ferdinand was King of Spain and Aragon; Isabella was Queen of Spain and Castille.

No king had executed his queen in Western Europe or England up until the execution of Anne Boleyn. And it is often argued that the reason Anne could be executed is because she wasn’t royalty. Had Henry tried to execute Katherine, it is likely England would have been attacked on several fronts, given who her parents were, and who her nephew was.

Bainham: We first learn about him in a previous section, “Alas, What Shall I Do for Love?” in Part 4. He is an Evangelical, and tortured under More’s watch. (And we should probably talk about More and torture. Defenders of Thomas More, generally Catholic, will argue that Thomas More did not torture heretics. Mantel’s More doesn’t either — at least, he doesn’t specifically torture anyone. But Mantel has More present at the torturing of several Evangelicals, asking questions. So did he literally? No. Was he in the room where it happened? I mean…)

“Some people, those who do not know him as I do, they say, ‘Oh, he will work his will, he will have his desire at any price.’ But I know that he needs to be on the side of the light. He is not a man like you, who just packs up his sins in his saddlebags and carries them from country to country, and when they grow too heavy whistles up a mule or two, and soon commands a train of them and a troop of muleteers. Henry may err, but he needs to be forgiven. I therefore believe, and will continue to believe, that he will turn out of this path of error, in order to be at peace with himself. And peace is what we all wish for, I am sure.”: This is Katherine’s take on Henry’s moral code. And Cromwell’s too. She sees Cromwell as someone unbothered by the sins he accumulates; and she sees Henry as weighed down under them. And she may be right. Where she is terribly wrong, of course, is in her belief that his turn “out of this path of error” will be towards her.

He has filed away all the depositions from the Blackfriars hearings, which seem to have happened in another era: Blackfriars is the court where Henry and Katherine argued their sides on the divorce/annulment case. It’s where Katherine gave this impassioned speech:

“Sir, I beseech you for all the love that hath been between us, and for the love of God, let me have justice. Take of me some pity and compassion, for I am a poor woman, and a stranger born out of your dominion. I have here no assured friends, and much less impartial counsel…

Alas! Sir, wherein have I offended you, or what occasion of displeasure have I deserved?… I have been to you a true, humble and obedient wife, ever comfortable to your will and pleasure, that never said or did any thing to the contrary thereof, being always well pleased and contented with all things wherein you had any delight or dalliance, whether it were in little or much. I never grudged in word or countenance, or showed a visage or spark of discontent. I loved all those whom ye loved, only for your sake, whether I had cause or no, and whether they were my friends or enemies. This twenty years or more I have been your true wife and by me ye have had divers children, although it hath pleased God to call them out of this world, which hath been no default in me…

When ye had me at first, I take God to my judge, I was a true maid, without touch of man. And whether it be true or no, I put it to your conscience. If there be any just cause by the law that ye can allege against me either of dishonesty or any other impediment to banish and put me from you, I am well content to depart to my great shame and dishonour. And if there be none, then here, I most lowly beseech you, let me remain in my former estate… Therefore, I most humbly require you, in the way of charity and for the love of God – who is the just judge – to spare me the extremity of this new court, until I may be advised what way and order my friends in Spain will advise me to take. And if ye will not extend to me so much impartial favour, your pleasure then be fulfilled, and to God I commit my cause!”

“There were holy maids before this. One at Ipswich. Only a little girl of twelve. She was of good family, and they say she did miracles, and she got nothing out of it, no personal profit, and she died young.”

“But then there was the Maid of Leominster,’ More says, with gloomy relish. ‘They say she is a whore at Calais now, and laughs with her clients after supper at all the tricks she worked on the believing people.”: Holy Maid was definitely a table you could stop by at any career day in the 16th century. But let’s look at these two specifically.

One at Ipswich: This is Jane (or Anne) Wentworth, the daughter of a knight, Sir Roger Wentworth. Her story is written in a book by William Tyndale, a Protestant (likely Lollard) Martyr burned for spreading the gospels in English. Tyndale’s book is an answer to a series of dialogues written by Thomas More in 1529 called The Dialogue Concerning Heresies. (More was worried about the origin of miracles, which seemed to be blossoming like mold on the body of the church.) Of Jane (or Anne) Wentworth, Tyndale writes,

And as for the point that we spake of, concerning miracles done  in our days at diverse images, where these pilgrimages be, yet could I  tell you some such done so openly, so far from all cause of suspicion,  and thereto testified in such sufficient wise, that he might seem almost  mad that hearing the whole matter will mistrust the miracles. Among  which I durst boldly tell you for one the wonderful work of God,  that was within these few years wrought in the house of a right worshipful knight, sir Roger Wentworth, upon divers of his children,  and specially one of his daughters, a very fair young gentlewoman,  of twelve years of age, in marvellous manner vexed and tormented  by our ghostly enemy, the devil, her mind alienated and raving, with  despising and blaspheming of God, and hatred of all hallowed things,  with knowledge and perceiving of the hallowed from the unhallowed,  all were she nothing warned thereof; and after that moved in her  own mind, admonished by the will of God, to go to our lady of  Ipswich. In the way of which pilgrimage she prophesied and told  many things, done and said at the same time in other places, which  were proved true, and many things said, lying in her trance, of such  wisdom and learning, that right cunning men highly marvelled to hear  of so young an unlearned maiden, when herself wist not what she  said, such things uttered and spoken, as well learned men might have  missed with a long study ; and finally being brought and laid before  the image of our blessed lady, was there, in the sight of many worshipful people, so grievously tormented, and in face, eyes, look, and  countenance, so grisly changed, with her mouth drawn aside, and her  eyes laid out upon her cheeks, that it was a terrible sight to behold.  And after many marvellous things, at the same time shewed upon  divers persons by the devil, through God ‘s sufferance, as well all the  remnant as the maiden herself, in the presence of all the company,  restored to their good state, perfectly cured and suddenly. And in  this matter no pretext of begging, no suspicion of feigning, no possibility of counterfeiting, no simpleness in the seers, her father and  mother right honourable and rich, sore abashed to see such chances in  their children, the witnesses great number, and many of great worship, wisdom, and good experience, the maid herself too young to  feign. And the end of the matter virtuous, the virgin so moved in  her mind with the miracle, that she forthwith, for aught her father  could do, forsook the world and professed religion in a very good and  godly company at the Minories, where she hath lived well and graciously ever since.

Maid of Leominster: While Jane (or Anne) Wentworth may or may not have been a holy maid (I think she was), the Maid of Leominster seems an open-and-shut case of, “Nope, not a holy maid.” We only know her first name, Elizabeth. She appears at the priory of Leominster, with the story told that she was sent from heaven. Elizabeth and her supporters also claimed that she needed neither food nor drink, but lived only on the Divine Host, which flew from the hands of the prior and up into her room.

Henry VIII’s great-grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, decided to CSI the whole situation, and had the Maid of Leominster investigated. 

It wasn’t a long investigation.

Examining her rooms, investigators found excrement of “no saintly savour,” as well as meat bones under her bed, as well as a wire by which the body of Christ was made to fly from the prior’s hand to her mouth. She finally admitted that she was the mistress of the prior, and both were forced to do public penance.

More says, unblinking, I have no correspondence with the, with the Princess Dowager. Good, he says, because I am watching two friars who have been carrying her letters abroad – I am beginning to think that whole order of the Franciscans is working against the king. If I take them and if I cannot persuade them, and you know I am very persuasive, into confirming my suspicion, I may have to hang them up by their wrists, and start a sort of contest between them, as to which one will emerge first into better sense. Of course, my own inclination would be to take them home, feed them and ply them with strong drink, but then, Sir Thomas, I have always looked up to you, and you have been my master in these proceedings.: Good thing Cromwell doesn’t force anyone.

He raps his fingers on the table, to make More sit up and pay attention. John Frith, he says. Ask to see Henry. He will welcome you like a lost child. Talk to him and ask him to meet Frith face-to-face. I’m not asking you to agree with John – you think he’s a heretic, perhaps he is a heretic – I’m asking you to concede just this, and to tell it to the king, that Frith is a pure soul, he is a fine scholar, so let him live. If his doctrine is false and yours is true you can talk him back to you, you are an eloquent man, you are the great persuader of our age, not me – talk him back to Rome, if you can. But if he dies you will never know, will you, if you could have won his soul?: I find this urgent monologue by Cromwell to Thomas More about John Frith to be very moving and a clear window into Cromwell’s soul: Bad thinking can be argued away; and, if Frith is on the wrong side of religion, who better to bring him back than More. Cromwell appeals to More’s ego, while also making his own case, that a thinker like Frith is more important alive than he is dead.

he, Thomas Cromwell, is running everything, including the weather: Much like we saw Wolsey doing, before his fall and ruin.

“Never mind.” He thinks, tomorrow is another battle, tomorrow is another world.: We discussed this line a little, when we were talking about Cromwell’s pragmatism. Cromwell is this odd sort of optimist, always believing that there will always be a chance to win.

Who says two bishops should hold up her hem? It’s all written down in a great book, so old that one hardly dare touch it, breathe on it; Lisle seems to know it by heart. Perhaps it should be copied and printed, he thinks.: These lines are fascinating to me. Waaaaay back in Part 2, when Wolsey is starting his way out, there’s a scene where Norfolk and Suffolk come to take the Great Seal of England from Wolsey, and Cromwell whispers some instructions into Wolsey’s ear:

They arrived on a Sunday, two vengeful grandees: the Duke of Norfolk a bright-eyed hawk, the Duke of Suffolk just as keen. They told the cardinal he was dismissed as Lord Chancellor, and demanded he hand over the Great Seal of England. He, Cromwell, touched the cardinal’s arm. A hurried conference. The cardinal turned back to them, gracious: it appears a written request from the king is necessary; have you one? Oh: careless of you. It requires a lot of face to keep so calm; but then the cardinal has face. 

‘You want us to ride back to Windsor?’ Charles Brandon is incredulous. ‘For a piece of paper? When the situation’s plain?’ 

That’s like Suffolk; to think the letter of the law is some kind of luxury. He whispers to the cardinal again, and the cardinal says, ‘No, I think we’d better tell them, Thomas … not prolong the matter beyond its natural life … My lords, my lawyer here says I can’t give you the Seal, written request or not. He says that properly speaking I should only hand it to the Master of the Rolls. So you’d better bring him with you.’

He says, lightly, ‘Be glad we told you, my lords. Otherwise it would have been three trips, wouldn’t it?’

Norfolk grins. He likes a scrap. ‘Am obliged, master,’ he says. When they go Wolsey turns and hugs him, his face gleeful. Though it is the last of their victories and they know it, it is important to show ingenuity; twenty-four hours is worth buying, when the king is so changeable. Besides, they enjoyed it. ‘Master of the Rolls,’ Wolsey says. ‘Did you know that, or did you make it up?’

We’re never told if this is true or not, if the Seal can only be handed over to the Master of the Rolls. We do know that the Great Seal was delivered to John Taylor, Master of the Rolls from 1527 – 1534. (Our friend Cromwell is the next Master of the Rolls after Taylor.)In Mantel’s novel, this ambiguity is interesting when we compare it to later Cromwell, who wants things written down. Written down confines a lot of the wiggle room that memory allows.

This also becomes one of the arguments in translating the Bible into common English: if the Word of God is written down in a book that everyone can read, it narrows a lot of the margins priests and popes have to play with. Once they’re written down, it’s tough to argue with them.

(I also think about this a lot with ancient stories that are translated into print — like The Iliad or Beowulf. What we’ve committed to print is just that iteration of the story; but there were many tales told about Ilium; and there were many tales told about the warrior Beowulf. But once something is written down, those other versions become distractions. I don’t know if they should be.

Only one thing checks him, the sight, whisking around a corner, of the hem of a scarlet robe; no doubt it is one of the judges, escaped from his procession.: I love this echoing of Cromwell catching a glimpse of Liz (or Liz’s ghost) on the day she died.

The king laughs. His face is alight. “This is my best,” he says. “This is my best day.”: Oh, Henry. (He’s been told about Anne’s pregnancy, which everyone assumes will be a male child that will secure the Turdor line.)

till he hears a voice from within, muffled like a voice from a tomb and In her ceremonial robes, her condition had hardly showed, and only that sacred instant, as she lay belly-down to stone, had connected him to her body, which now lies stretched out like a sacrifice and He speaks to Anne, stretched out on her catafalque.: These images, of Anne in a tomb, of Anne as a sacrifice, and then, finally, of Anne on her catafalque (Merriam-Webster: “an ornamental structure sometimes used in funerals for the lying in state of the body)all happen over two pages and I had never caught it before until we started reading this book slowly. Mantel is an effing GENIUS.

“I have had all the windows reglazed,” he says. “The better to see her.”: By the 16th century, refinements in window manufacturing put glass within reach of your wealthier Tudor-era citizens. Prior to the 16th centuries, most windows were not glazed (i.e, paned with glass), but were wooden or stone structures that could be covered with tapestries or even thin sheets of horn. Glassed windows were a way to show off status, the way a large library was a way to show off status in the 18th and 19th centuries.

By the way, here’s a VERY impassioned PDF about saving England’s historical glass windows:
I stopped reading after this line: “Unfortunately the value of historic window glass is not always appreciated, leading to unsympathetic replacements. Recent concerns to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions may have also contributed to a drive to replace older windows.”

By afternoon the sun is struggling out. Henry, laughing, spurs away his hunter under the dripping trees. At Smithfield Frith is being shovelled up, his youth, his grace, his learning and his beauty: a compaction of mud, grease, charred bone.:

Compare this with the aftermath of the burning of Joan Boughton in the section, “Alas, What Shall I Do for Love?”:

He saw now that the men and women were not praying. They were on their hands and knees. They were friends of the Loller, and they were scraping her up. One of the women knelt, her skirts spread, and held out an earthenware pot. His eyes were sharp even in the gloom, and out of the sludge and muck he picked a fragment of bone. Here’s some, he said. The woman held out the bowl. Here’s another.

One of the men stood apart, some way off. Why does he not help us? he said.

He is the watchman. He will whistle if the officers come.

Will they take us up?

Hurry, hurry, another man said.

When they had got a bowlful, the woman who was holding it said, ‘Give me your hand.’

Trusting, he held it out to her. She dipped her fingers into the bowl. She placed on the back of his hand a smear of mud and grit, fat and ash. ‘Joan Boughton,’ she said.

When a woman withdraws to give birth the sun may be shining but the shutters of her room are closed so she can make her own weather.: I just love this line so much.

On 26 August 1533, a procession escorts the queen to her sealed rooms at Greenwich. Her husband kisses her, adieu and bon voyage, and she neither smiles nor speaks. She is very pale, very grand, a tiny jewelled head balanced on the swaying tent of her body, her steps small and circumspect, a prayer book in her hands. On the quay she turns her head: one lingering glance. She sees him; she sees the archbishop. One last look and then, her women steadying her elbows, she puts her foot into the boat.: This echoes Anne’s final boat ride to the Tower when she’s to be imprisoned and executed.

Devil’s Spit

“And perhaps God intends some peculiar blessing by this princess.”: The princess in question being Elizabeth, who will later be Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen.

Anne’s glance slides away sideways, and a sideways grin of infatuation takes over her whole face, and she leans down towards her daughter, but at once women swoop, flapping and bustling; the screaming creature is plucked up, wrapped up, swept away, and the queen’s eyes follow pitifully as the fruit of her womb exits, in procession.: I love this moment Mantel gives us with Anne: a woman in love with her child. Whether or not Anne was calculating and scheming — and how could you not be in that environment? — she’s a mother besotted with her daughter.

He says, impatient, we heard very little about the Aries moon when he was settled with Katherine for twenty years. It is not the stars that make us, Dr Butts, it is circumstance and necessità, the choices we make under pressure; our virtues make us, but virtues are not enough, we must deploy our vices at times. Or don’t you agree?: Compare this with Cassius’s speech in Julius Caesar:

Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings. — JC, Act 1, scene 2

Say the name of Christ a thousand times and it keeps fever away. But it doesn’t, does it? The fever comes anyway and kills you.: Patrick Bronte, the father of the Bronte sisters (and Branwell), kept a medical dictionary/encyclopedia in his home. His wife died of cancer. In that dictionary, next to a suggested treatment for cancer that the book assured the reader would work, Patrick writes, in his own hand, “But not always.”

“You can’t disappoint people?” he says; she agrees, that’s it, you can’t. Once you start you have to keep going. If you try to go back they’ll slaughter you.: This is part of Cromwell’s interrogation of Elizabeth Barton, the Holy Maid of Kent. I think she nicely encapsulates Cromwell’s own position very well here.

One single white doe, concealed in leaves of silver-grey; shivering, she hides in the trees, waiting for the lover who will turn her back from animal to goddess. “Send me back to Italy,” Wyatt says. Her dark, her lustrous, her slanting eyes: she haunts me. She comes to me in my solitary bed at night.: Thomas Wyatt was a poet. His sonnet, “Whoso List to Hunt,” is assumed/accepted to be about Anne Boleyn:

Whoso List to Hunt

Whoso list to hunt, I know where is an hind,
But as for me, hélas, I may no more.
The vain travail hath wearied me so sore,
I am of them that farthest cometh behind.
Yet may I by no means my wearied mind
Draw from the deer, but as she fleeth afore
Fainting I follow. I leave off therefore,
Sithens in a net I seek to hold the wind.
Who list her hunt, I put him out of doubt,
As well as I may spend his time in vain.
And graven with diamonds in letters plain
There is written, her fair neck round about:
Noli me tangere, for Caesar’s I am,
And wild for to hold, though I seem tame.

A Painter’s Eye

He turns to the painting. “I fear Mark was right.”

“Who is Mark?”

“A silly little boy who runs after George Boleyn. I once heard him say I looked like a murderer.”

Gregory says, “Did you not know?”: Just perfect.

1 thought on “Mike’s Marginalia for Part V”

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