“Finish It! Damn Her! Finish It!” (Tribute to Hilary Mantel & WOLF HALL)

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Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell (Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company)
Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell (Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company)

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The Palace of Placentia, Greenwich: April 18, 1536
POV: Thomas Cromwell

Where he be then? Where is Chapuys? Both Ralph Sadlier and I are a’ waiting yet again. What else is new? Me thinks the Spanish worry of time not, as the dead dowager princess did same. Though Chapuys is not a Spaniard born, he takes of them… always meddling in the realm’s affairs as England be in his purse. Never the mind, I have far bigger worries. The Queen, I be in the way to her scheming purposes. Damn her! Me thinks I shall be meeting God soon, His son and Lord sitting beside Him. My humors again unsettled with the thought of her, my mind swirling with ominous possibilities, I rise, anger consuming me.

“She wants me dead! Ralph, in front of His Majesty and the entire court that wench from Satan laid down the gauntlet!” I take a deep breath and begin to pace to and fro, to and fro, to and fro in a futile attempt to comport myself. The Queen of England has finally done it. She has me irate, as irate as the King on his worst day since the joust fall, as irate as a penned swine.

“Aye, Master Secretary! Like our beloved Cardinal Wolsey and the heretic Thomas More before you, Queen Anne is intent to see you fall. Lest we forget, she threatened to have your head a’smitten, rolling on the straw at Tower Hill. Now her almoner declared the same back a fortnight, the court aghast with his boldness. Me thinks mayhaps you still have the upper hand, eh? The babe be dead, praise God. His will be done.”

I look about my office here at Greenwich, my parchments neatly piled in organized confusion. The scriveners all enjoying their well deserved day of rest, we can finally speak freely until Chapuys arrives, alone but for the fleas and mice. I look over to dear Ralph Sadlier, once my ward and now my most trusted servant and friend. “I am not so sure, truth be told good man,” I admit. “This day Queen Anne was finally acknowledged by the Imperial Ambassador, a spectacle orchestrated at Sunday Mass clearly by Lord Rochford, mayhaps His Majesty. She has the king’s ear, and worse yet for us, mayhaps his cod.”

Dear Ralph looks back at me, the worry sketched clearly upon his face. He turns away to avoid my glance. “Does His Majesty know of the court gossip about the babe? About the Queen’s own words of the king’s virility?” I nod back, waving my hand. No, I have yet lay this on the king’s door. The time, it must be perfect, perfect.

“Mayhaps the time be now, Master Secretary. Wait too long, and the moment will be lost forevermore, you in The Tower, and the wench spinning her web.”

“Aye, but if the timing be wrong, my head rolls just the same lad. O Lord help me. Tell me the way to be rid of this shrill of a woman, I pray.”

Both Ralph and I hear rustling outside the office door. He holds a finger to his lips to hush me. I wave my hand to him, Ralph rising from his chair on cue. He unlatches and opens the door just a smidgen. There before him be one of His Majesty’s pages, all a’fret to come to the likes of me. He smiles broadly to relax the child. “Master Sadlier, His Majesty has an urgent message for Master Secretary!”

“Oh he does now, lad. Do give me the message, and I will insure Master Cromwell receives it.”

Now the poor boy looks aghast. “No… no.. His Majesty said I must give the message to Master Secretary, no one else,” the poor boys says, his voice a’quiver.

“Do come in then. Do come in,” I speak out in good cheer. The poor lad creaks open the doors and tentatively enters.

“Come in then, lad. I don’t bite, though I snarl from time to time.” This court is a hell’s den, rumor painting me a monster to the boy. “Good tidings, dear lad. You do His Majesty honor.” I hold out my hand and accept the wax sealed parchment, his hand slightly trembling.

“Now be off with you!” With that off the lad scampers, his mission accomplished.

I open the message, the door again now closed. My curiosity peaked, I snicker. O Lord, I thank thee. You work your wonders quickly.

“And? What does he want? What does he want?”

“Oh Ralph, His Majesty commands I meet him at Greyfriars. Imagine that. Me thinks the tide may be rolling in my way. Do you make same?”

“Aye, yes. Praise God. The time be now, I feel it in all my being. Go.. go… go… go! I will stay here and await the Imperial Ambassador. If he makes his presence known before you return, Italian Chianti will pour in abundance.”

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Damien Lewis as King Henry VIII (Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company)
Damien Lewis as King Henry VIII (Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company)

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Greyfriars, Greenwich: April 18, 1536
POV: King Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell

 

King Henry VIII

Memories of Greyfriars swim through my mind. It was here that I married Katherine and here that my children were christened. These walls have witnessed joy and triumph, betrayal and treason. I sought to cozen these monks, keep them loyal. My father endowed this place. The beautiful glass is his, but they failed to keep faith with me. They betrayed a sacred trust. Now, I am confounded by yet another cleric, another man of God who would use his place to chasten me, preferring a queen to his king. John Skip, the queen’s almoner, stood at his pulpit and told the tale of Ahasuerus, with his evil councilor Haman, and his queen, Esther. All of the court heard how a foolish king is easily misled by his corrupt servant, who threatens his mild and honorable wife. While no one would meet my eye, the meaning was plain. All understood.

Would that my queen were as mild and noble as Esther, as pure of heart, and as innocent. She has failed to fulfill her promise to give me a son, and now she thinks to correct and instruct me, before the court, before God. She is no Esther, and I am no foolish king. I have cast aside both friend and family for Anne. I have laid all at her feet. Her rages wear on me, and each day that passes is anguish. After 27 years, all I have to show is two daughters, and a churchyard full of dead babies. My mother’s family has shown me that a weak succession is doomed to fail, and my own time in sanctuary as a child has proved that treachery can come at any moment.

A sound rouses me from my reverie, “Ah, Cromwell. Come, come. Tell me sir, am I Ahasuerus?”

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Thomas Cromwell

I bow in deference, removing my cap. “Are you Ahasuerus, Your Grace?” I pause and decide to speak plainly. “If you forgive my frankness, I was offended by the inference. As if a King as magnificent as you could be ruled by a base born man who owes you all! Please forgive my anger, Majesty. Both your honor and mine were sullied. I be no Haman! My bidding is for you and you alone. I have already written to the Archbishop. Father Skip needs to be reigned in and broken like a yearling colt.”

His Majesty smiles, my words obviously pleasing. “Shall we geld him?”

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King Henry VIII

Cromwell’s words are designed to sooth, to flatter. I snicker at his jest. No fool, he has carefully stepped around the matter. “Do you think Skip so bold a man as to make this allegory on his own? Do you not see Queen Esther’s hand in this?” My temper is rising as I speak, and my voice with it, “Do you believe that the Queen had naught to do with this sermon?”

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Thomas Cromwell

King Henry, he is baiting me. I will take it, but not quite yet. Let the finger at Queen Anne be pointed by him. “Aye, Majesty. After all, he be the Queen’s almoner. Me thinks he forgets who reigns, the king or the consort.” I scratch my chin as in thought. “At least the Imperial Ambassador is wise enough to finally defer to your will once cornered. Spain has now acknowledged your queen. Good show this morn’, Majesty.”

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King Henry VIII

“I’ve had enough of shows, Cromwell. ‘Tis time now for truth. What matter has brought you and your queen to this point? Truth now sir, for I shall know if you lie. You need not fear my anger, not when I ask you to speak freely.”

I watch his face carefully, this wily man. He and my wife were fast friends, and Cranmer with them. But now there is discord, and I must know why. The factions within my own court are always scheming, always plotting for advantage. My wife and her family are no different. Nay, they be at the heart of it. Were God to take me to my glory today, the realm would split asunder, as each faction staked their claim to power. The Emperor and France alike would seize opportunity to make England one of their possessions. After all I have done, it is not enough. Anne and I struck a bargain, a crown for a son. She wears the crown. I have no son.

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Thomas Cromwell

“Queen Anne desires my head smitten, Majesty. She believes your policies are mine. Take a look around Greyfriars here, all idols stripped, all relics burned. The queen believes this all my doing with no consultation or approval. She credits you not for the policies of the realm, and desires I go the way of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey and Sir Thomas More — to my death by your will.”

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King Henry VIII

“Smitten you say? She does grow bold. Is my most beloved Queen now holding her court in the Star Chamber?” I rake my fingers through my hair in exasperation. “Never fear Master Cromwell. If the day indeed comes whence your head needs smiting, it shall be I who attends to it.”

This man has proved himself most loyal to me, and his advice most sound. I had not thought to find such as he in a blacksmith’s son, but in him there is both Wolsey’s cunning and More’s wisdom. I believe I can trust this man. “Cromwell, did you know that Katherine and I were married here? She is gone now sir, but you will remember she vexed me quite terribly, and for quite some time. She often blamed Wolsey for the things I did. I am not a king so easily led. Anne……the queen….she has become…….she has not……” my voice trails off as I consider what Anne became and what she cost me, “But come Cromwell, Matters of monks can not surely disturb you so badly. If there is more, I would hear it.”

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Thomas Cromwell

This be my chance. I swallow hard. “Umm… Majesty, it pains me to bring this to you. The Lady Worcester, she told Master Sadlier the boy babe of the Queen be of Satan himself, no arms no legs, his head huge and misshapen.”

The King looks back at me, his face reddening with pain, with rage. I decide to carry forward. Now not be the time for pleasantries. “The Lady also wagged her tongue to Sadlier that the Queen told her maids your cod fails to rise.”

Instinctively, I step back. I already took many a backhand from the king quite enough. “I thought this all the ramblings of a bitter woman. My spies do say the Lady Worcester is with-child by a man not her husband, but then Lord Borough told me same, his sources the midwifes to the babe and the bedchamber servant.”

I hold my hand to my chest and sigh. Though tell him I must, His Majesty needs this not. The realm needs a Tudor heir, not a dead babe of Satan.

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Damian Lewis and Mark Rylance (Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company)
Damian Lewis and Mark Rylance (Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company)

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King Henry VIII

They are turning now, one against the other – Anne and her ladies, her Chamberlain, and Cromwell. Secrets kept from me for months are now laid bare. Oh, I heard the rumors, how not? But I gave no credence to them. I believed her. Always her. And if there is this, is there not more? My leg throbs in agony as I step closer to Cromwell. Will the damn thing never heal? “And do they name this man? This father?” I ask softly, “For surely her womb is cursed, as is her lying tongue.”

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Thomas Cromwell

My head be spinning… think… think, damn it! Who? Who lays in the web, easy to snare? Oh yes… oh yes, of course. “No Majesty, though the court musician… what be his name? Smithers? Lord Borough says the man boasts heartily his closeness to the Queen. And, Majesty… he now has fine clothes and his own livery. Who done paid for that? It baffles me.”

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King Henry VIII

My gut wrenches at the thought of being so deceived. A musician? Is there no one in this damnable court who does not play some part? Suddenly I remember my daughter Mary, my pearl. Long gone are the days when I could bask in the admiration and love of my daughter. A foot-soldier in the war twixt her mother and me. Mary will not bend, and nor shall I. Mary will never accept Anne as queen, and though my daughter is more blatant in her rebellion, she is not alone. Looking at faces in the stained glass, I arrange my face to feign uncaring.

“Cromwell, these things being said about Anne…” I will not call her queen, not now, “We must investigate. If there is evidence to clear her name, we will find it. If not, see Richard Sampson, Dean of Lichfield. He was most helpful in my last ….with Katherine. Consider the Duke of Suffolk your friend in these matters.” Charles will be smiling behind his hand when he hears all of this. “But you must be discreet Cromwell. The musician’s name is Smeaton. I am surprised you don’t know it. He was a servant of the Cardinal’s as well. Perhaps you might invite him to play at your home some night soon.”

The trouble with Katherine lasted for years. She went to her very grave without our matter truly settled. But between us, between Cromwell and me, there might be enough for Anne to agree to an annulment without the turmoil. The marriage is cursed, or if the stories be true, she is surely cursed by God in her wickedness. “You must not be seen,Thomas. You must not be heard asking questions.”

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Thomas Cromwell

“Majesty, I need to leave court for a few days… lay out a plan in my thoughts that insure the investigations are not seen coming. May I suggest you command it? The Imperial Ambassador awaits at my office. Perhaps we might come upon one another in a manner things be seen, but not heard but by him. Let the court make their own assumptions by what some see and his ever wagging tongue.”

I pause, and think this through. I not be feigning my contemplations this time. “Mayhaps I overstep the mark. Chapuys did acknowledge the Queen this morn’ at Mass, so I advocate a renewed Spanish alliance? Enraged, you set me straight in my ways. Sick at the thought of it all, I leave court. What say you?”

I take a deep breath, and rush to speak once more before the King can answer. “Pray tell allow me one more thought… Majesty you are most benevolent. I do fear, Your Grace, that an annulment after all you did to make the marriage, even breaking with Rome, be not enough. Mayhaps a nunnery in Italy? In a year on hence there will be none here.”

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King Henry VIII

Though Master Secretary takes a rougher course, it is often our destinations are the same. “The Imperial alliance, yes. Yes, that is the very thing. But Cromwell, not so much as to dissuade Chapuys. I intend to pursue this very alliance, and in this matter, I find Anne to be a hindrance, is it not so?”

The Boleyns, they must be brought low, too. Norfolk, he resents the lot of them. He will be no obstacle. I feel I am that great king, Arthur of Camelot. Betrayed by my heart, and I feel I needs must protect my honor and my realm against those with whom I had trusted all. “She urged me to act against the Cardinal, do you remember?”

Though one might not know it by his rough treatment of clerics, Cromwell loved his late master. “He failed me in my great matter, and caused me to doubt his loyalty. His end was… unfortunate.”

A thought, not quite finished, is forming in my mind. “If the matter can not be easily resolved, consider me King Arthur of legend. I am prepared to raise Excalibur against any who threaten my realm.”

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Thomas Cromwell

Excalibur? My God, I think he wants her head smitten. Dead? A reigning queen consort? Oh God no, the king will be the fool of Christendom, me with him. Or is he speaking of me? Mayhaps both?

“Aye Your Majesty. The Imperial Ambassador did make King Charles demands plain. He will speak of no alliances with us… do forgive me, these be his words not mine… while the whoring concubine lives.”

I bow in deference to the King’s command. “You will have your alliance with Spain… and your honor. I do promise your will be done.”

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King Henry VIII

“See that it is.” I wave him off dismissively, watching as he retreats into the shadows.

“Cromwell, like Haman you can be raised high and torn asunder! Finish it! Damn her! Finish it!”

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Writers:

King Henry VIII: Cyndi Williamson, Florida, USA

Thomas Cromwell: Beth von Staats, Massachusetts, USA

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WOLF HALL starring Mark Rylance premiers on BBC2 beginning January 22, 2015 in the United Kingdom and on PBS on April 5, 2015 in the United States.
WOLF HALL starring Mark Rylance premiers on BBC2 beginning January 21, 2015 in the United Kingdom and on PBS beginning April 5, 2015 in the United States.

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WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES featuring the Royal Shakespeare Company and starring Ben Miles will premiers on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on March 20, 2015.
WOLF HALL and BRING UP THE BODIES featuring the Royal Shakespeare Company and starring Ben Miles both premier on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on March 20, 2015.

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AUTHOR HIGHLIGHT

Hilary Mantel
Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel is a highly acclaimed, award winning English historical fiction writer of novels and short stories. A two time Man Booker Prize Award honored author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, both novels featuring Thomas Cromwell as main character, Hilary Mantel is currently composing the final novel of her Tudor Era trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. 

Considered by many to be the world’s finest historical fiction author writing in the English language, Hilary Mantel’s first novel, Every Day is Mother’s Day, was published in 1985. Since then, Mantel’s exhaustive body of work includes a variety of stellar novels and short story compilations. Her commitment to and interest in composing compelling short stories greatly enhanced the genre’s popularity with readers and continued publishing viability.

Awards and prizes bestowed upon Hilary Mantel for extraordinary accomplishment in literature include the following: Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize 1987, Southern Arts Literature Prize 1990, The Cheltenham Prize 1990, Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize 1990, Sunday Express Book of the Year 1992, Hawthornden Prize 1996, CBE 2006, Yorkshire Post Book Award (Book of the Year) 2006, Costa Novel Award 2009, Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2009, National Book Critics’ Circle Award (US) 2009, James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction) 2010, Walter Scott Prize 2010, and Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2012.

A portrait of Hilary Mantel, the creativity of Nick Lord, is on display at the British Library. She is the only living author to be bestowed such honor.

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Hilary Mantel
Hilary Mantel

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Beth von Staats

is the owner and administrator of QueenAnneBoleyn.com. The author of "Thomas Cranmer in a Nutshell", Beth specializes in writing magazine articles, online historical articles, short stories, and flash fiction.

7 Replies to ““Finish It! Damn Her! Finish It!” (Tribute to Hilary Mantel & WOLF HALL)

  1. Beautifully written, I still do not know whose idea it was to execute Anne but I can believe Henry talking himself into her guilt and need for her death.

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