FutureLearn – The History of the Book in the Early Modern Period 1450-1800


I’ve been studying an online course for the last 4 weeks on the history of the book in the early modern period 1450 to 1800. It has turned out to be really interesting, looking at different texts, illustrations and events that have influenced the growth of books and printing.

Click on the following link if you’re interested!

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/history-of-the-book

The topics are divided over 4 weeks of study:

  • Week 1 – How book were made in Western Europe 1450-1800 (designing types, illustrating, sewing, binding and finishing books)
  • Week 2 – How books were sold in Western Europe 1450-1800 (bestsellers, collectors, advertising and book auctions)
  • Week 3 – How books were read in Western Europe 1450-1800 (books and readers, family libraries and annotating books)
  • Week 4 – How books changed the world 1450-1800 (reforming religion, transforming medicine and science and remaking the state)

I learnt some really interesting things that I didn’t know before, and I would be interested in looking in more detail at some of the texts and processes explained over the progress of the course.

I knew that making books would be a time-consuming business, but I don’t think I fully realised that there were so many steps, or about the different types and how the type used influenced the style of book.

Because of my curiosity about the Reformation and religion in the 16th century I think I found the analysis of the Gutenberg Bible and the early modern protestant Bible particularly interesting. However, I also found the discussion about the revolutionary literature of the French Revolution very intriguing.


There are several other courses that I am also interested in that you might be interested in as well, listed below. They also offer a course on the Tudors (top of the list):

The Tudors – https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/the-tudors

A History of Royal Fashion – https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/royal-fashion

Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree – https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/genealogy

Learning from the Past: A Guide for the Curious Researcher – https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/learning-from-the-past

England in the Time of King Richard III – https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/england-of-richard-third

World War 1: Trauma, Memory, Controversy – https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/ww1-trauma

Tynemouth Priory and Castle


Tynemouth Priory is the most local historic site to where I live, no more than a 15-minute walk from my home. I’ve lived in the area since I was 7 years old and the Priory has been a constant fixture. I remember going there many times when I was growing up – to see fireworks displays, jousting contests, and other displays.

I didn’t realise until recently that there was actually a Tudor connection and that the Priory was one of those dissolved during the Reformation. The Priory was also the birthplace of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, in 1564.

Early History

Some Roman stones have been found at the Priory, but there is no evidence of any settlement there. The Danes persistently plundered the priory, and Earl Tostig made Tynemouth his fortress during the reign of Edward the Confessor. In 1095 Robert de Mowbray took refuge in Tynemouth Castle after rebelling against William II. In 1110 a new church was founded on the site.

In 1296 the prior of Tynemouth was given royal permission to surround the site with stone walls and in 1390 a gatehouse and barbican were added on the landward side of the castle. It was originally completely enclosed by walls, but the north and east walls fell into the sea and most of the south wall was demolished. In 1312 Edward II and Piers Gaveston took refuge at Tynemouth Castle before fleeing to Scarborough.

In 1336 a new presbytery chapel was built at the north end of the presbytery. In the 1400s the Percy Chantry was added to the east end of the presbytery. This is the only complete part of the church that remains.

The Tudor Connection

In the early 1500s Tynemouth gained independence from St Alban’s Abbey, but the wealth of the priory was huge so it became a target for Henry VIII’s commissioners who in 1536 brought trumped-up charges of misconduct against the prior and 7 of the 15 monks.

In 1538 the priory at Tynemouth was suppressed as part of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. The priory and its lands were granted to Sir Thomas Hilton. Most of the monastic buildings were destroyed, leaving only the church and prior’s house. Within a year work was underway to improve the defences around the priory to protect from invasion from the river. New artillery fortifications were built from 1545 with the threat of invasion from the French.

The castle was also the birthplace of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, in 1564, when his father, the 8th Earl, was custodian of the castle.

Later History

The headland at Tynemouth remained defended throughout the 1700s. A new barracks was built for 1000 men in 1758. By the end of the 18th century military preparedness was in decline, but this ratcheted up again with the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century.

After 1882 Germany was considered a large threat, and so new military gun emplacements were built. During the First World War there was a selection of long-range artillery based at Tynemouth intended to attack ships out at sea. There were also quick-firing guns to attack smaller boats in the River Tyne. Searchlights and ammunition storage were also in place.

During World War Two Tynemouth also had a defensive role, to defend against aircraft as well as enemy shipping. Tynemouth then remained a military base until the UK’s coastal defences were disbanded in 1956. In 1960 many of the military buildings were pulled down to give more prominence to the Medieval ruins.

Tynemouth is a mishmash of Medieval remains and 20th century military fortifications. It is a beautiful place to visit, and an inspiring place to sit and think. Well worth a visit if you haven’t already.

References

History Bookshelves


I thought I’d do a walkthrough of my history bookshelves, as pictures on my Instagram of different books that I’ve bought or been sent by publishers are always very popular. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt through the #HistoryGirls community on Instagram, it’s that historians and history lovers are always looking for new reading material!

And, no, before anyone asks, I haven’t read all of these yet. I’m steadily working my way through them. I’ve had some very lovely publishers (The History Press and Pen & Sword Books) send me some complimentary copies for review and these are currently top of my list, though this lockdown has slowed me down rather than speeding me up! I promise, I will get there.

Shelf 1 – Monarchy and Wars of the Roses

This shelf starts with my books on the monarchy in general, before moving onto the Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses, Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, the Princes in the Tower, and Richard III.

From left to right:

  • John Burke – An Illustrated History of England
  • David Loades – The Kings and Queens of England
  • J.P. Brooke-Little – Royal Heraldry: Beasts and Badges of Britain
  • The Royal Line of Succession: Official Souvenir Guide
  • Andrew Gimson – Kings and Queens: Brief Lives of the Monarchs Since 1066
  • David Starkey – Monarchy: England and Her Rulers from the Tudors to the Windsors
  • Mike Ashley – A Brief History of British Kings and Queens
  • Elizabeth Norton – She Wolves: The Notorious Queens of England
  • Alison Weir – Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy
  • Peter Ackroyd – History of England Volume 1: Foundation
  • E.F. Jacob – The Fifteenth Century 1399-1485
  • Ian Mortimer – The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England
  • Desmond Seward – The Demon’s Brood: The Plantagenet Dynasty That Forged the English Nation
  • David Grummitt – A Short History of the Wars of the Roses
  • Desmond Seward – A Brief History of the Wars of the Roses
  • Sarah Gristwood – Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses
  • Michael Jones – Bosworth 1485: Psychology of a Battle
  • John Ashdown-Hill – Elizabeth Widville: Edward IV’s Chief Mistress and the ‘Pink Queen’
  • Amy Licence – Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: A True Romance
  • Jeffrey James – Edward IV: Glorious Son of York
  • Andrew Beattie – Following in the Footsteps of the Princes in the Tower
  • Alison Weir – The Princes in the Tower
  • David Horspool – Richard III: A Ruler and His Reputation
  • Philippa Langley & Michael Jones – The Search for Richard III: The King’s Grave
  • Michael Hicks – The Family of Richard III
  • Kristie Dean – The World of Richard III
  • Amy Licence – Richard III: The Road to Leicester
  • Matthew Lewis – Richard III: Fact and Fiction
  • Peter A. Hancock – Richard III and the Murder in the Tower
  • Matthew Lewis – Richard III: Loyalty Binds Me

Shelf 2 – General Tudors and Henry VII

This shelf consists of all my books on the Tudor dynasty as a whole, then just manages to start Henry VII and Elizabeth of York on the end.

From left to right:

  • David Loades – Chronicles of the Tudor Kings
  • Frances Wilkins – Growing Up in Tudor Times
  • Peter Marsden – 1545: Who Sank the Mary Rose?
  • Rosemary Weinstein – Tudor London
  • Peter Ackroyd – The History of the England Volume 2: Tudors
  • Amy Licence – In Bed with the Tudors: The Sex Lives of a Dynasty from Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I
  • Leanda de Lisle – Tudor: The Family Story
  • David Loades – The Tudors: History of a Dynasty
  • Chris Skidmore – The Rise of the Tudors: The Family That Changed English History
  • Terry Breverton – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Tudors But Were Afraid to Ask
  • Tracy Borman – The Private Lives of the Tudors
  • Timothy Venning – An Alternative History of Britain: The Tudors
  • Kirsten Claiden-Yardley – The Man Behind the Tudors: Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
  • A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits
  • John Matusiak – A History of the Tudors in 100 Objects
  • David Loades – The Tudor Queens of England
  • Alex Woolf – The Tudor Kings and Queens
  • Carola Hicks – The King’s Glass: A Story of Tudor Power and Secret Art
  • J.D. Mackie – The Earlier Tudors 1485-1558
  • Annie Bullen – The Little Book of the Tudors
  • Alison Weir – The Lost Tudor Princess
  • Alison Plowden – The House of Tudor
  • Dave Tonge – Tudor Folk Tales
  • Jane Bingham – The Tudors: The Kings and Queens of England’s Golden Age
  • Elizabeth Norton – The Lives of Tudor Women
  • Ruth Goodman – How to be a Tudor
  • Jasper Ridley – A Brief History of the Tudor Age
  • G.J. Meyer – The Tudors: The Complete Story of England’s Most Notorious Dynasty
  • John Guy – The Tudors: A Very Short Introduction
  • Christopher Morris – The Tudors
  • Phil Carradice – Following in the Footsteps of Henry Tudor

Shelf 3 – Henry VIII and the Six Wives

This shelf has the rest of my books about Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, all of my Henry VIII books and those overarching books about the Six Wives.

From left to right:

  • Thomas Penn – Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England
  • Alison Weir – Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen
  • Joan MacAlpine – The Shadow of the Tower: Henry VII and His Background
  • David Loades – Henry VIII
  • David Starkey – Henry: Virtuous Prince
  • John Matusiak – Martyrs of Henry VIII: Repression, Defiance, Sacrifice
  • J.J. Scarisbrick – Henry VIII
  • George Cavendish – The Life of Cardinal Wolsey
  • John Guy – The Children of Henry VIII
  • Robert Hutchinson – Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII
  • Alison Weir – Children of England: The Heirs of King Henry VIII
  • John Matusiak – Henry VIII: The Life and Rule of England’s Nero
  • Philippa Jones – The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards
  • Kelly Hart – The Mistresses of Henry VIII
  • Alison Weir – Henry VIII: King and Court
  • David Starkey – The Reign of Henry VIII: Personalities and Politics
  • Robert Hutchinson – Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Minister
  • Derek Wilson – A Brief History of Henry VIII
  • Robert Hutchinson – The Last Days of Henry VIII
  • Sarah Morris & Natalie Grueninger – In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • Amy Licence – The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII
  • Karen Lindsey – Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII
  • Alison Weir – The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • Lauren Mackay – Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and His Six Wives Through the Eyes of the Spanish Ambassador
  • Antonia Fraser – The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • David Starkey – Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII

Shelf 4 – Six Wives

This shelf is broken down into books on each of the Six Wives – Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn (by far the biggest section, as you can see!), Jane Seymour (zero books), Anne of Cleves (zero books), Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr.

From left to right:

  • David Loades – The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • Amy Licence – Catherine of Aragon: An Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife
  • Giles Tremlett – Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen
  • Patrick Williams – Katharine of Aragon
  • Paul Friedmann – Anne Boleyn
  • Elizabeth Norton – Anne Boleyn: In Her Own Words and the Words of Those Who Knew Her
  • Alison Weir – The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn
  • Elizabeth Norton – The Boleyn Women: The Tudor Femmes Fatales Who Changed English History
  • David Loades – The Boleyns: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Family
  • Amy Licence – Anne Boleyn: Adultery, Heresy, Desire
  • Lissa Chapman – Anne Boleyn in London
  • Lacey Baldwin Smith – Anne Boleyn: The Queen of Controversy
  • Susan Bordo – The Creation of Anne Boleyn: In Search of the Tudors’ Most Notorious Queen
  • Alison Weir – Mary Boleyn: The Great and Infamous Whore
  • Carolly Erickson – Mistress Anne
  • Eric Ives – The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
  • Francis Bacon – The Tragedy of Anne Boleyn
  • Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn
  • Retha Warnicke – The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn
  • Josephine Wilkinson – Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII’s Favourite Mistress
  • Josephine Wilkinson – Anne Boleyn: The Young Queen to Be
  • Elizabeth Norton – Anne Boleyn: Henry VIII’s Obsession
  • G.W. Bernard – Anne Boleyn: Fatal Attractions
  • Joanna Denny – Anne Boleyn
  • Marie Louise Bruce – Anne Boleyn
  • Josephine Wilkinson – Katherine Howard: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s Fifth Queen
  • Conor Byrne – Katherine Howard: Henry VIII’s Slandered Queen
  • Robert Hutchinson – House of Treason: The Rise and Fall of a Tudor Dynasty
  • Linda Porter – Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII

Shelf 5 – The Later Tudors

This shelf goes through Edward VI, Jane Grey, Mary I and Elizabeth I, onto Mary Queen of Scots and the English Reformation. As you can probably tell from the number of books on the later Tudors compared to the likes of Henry VIII, my primary focus is on the earlier period.

From left to right:

  • Hester Chapman – The Last Tudor King: A Study of Edward VI
  • Leanda de Lisle – The Sisters Who Would Be Queen: Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey
  • Nicola Tallis – Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey
  • Alison Plowden – Lady Jane Grey: Nine Days Queen
  • Anna Whitelock – Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen
  • Phil Carradice – Bloody Mary: Tudor Terror 1553-1558
  • J.A. Froude – The Reign of Mary Tudor
  • Alison Plowden – Elizabethan England
  • David Cecil – The Cecils of Hatfield House
  • Robert Stedall – Elizabeth I’s Secret Lover: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
  • John Guy – Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years
  • Anna Whitelock – Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court
  • Carole Levin – The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power
  • J.B. Black – The Reign of Elizabeth 1558-1603
  • David Birt – Elizabeth’s England
  • Robert Hutchinson – Elizabeth’s Spymaster: Francis Walsingham and the Secret War That Saved England
  • David Starkey – Elizabeth
  • Nicola Tallis – Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester
  • Chris Skidmore – Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart
  • Alison Weir – Elizabeth the Queen
  • David & Judy Steel – Mary Stuart’s Scotland
  • Mary Was Here: Where Mary Queen of Scots Went and What She Did There
  • Antonia Fraser – Mary Queen of Scots
  • Lynda Telford – Tudor Victims of the Reformation
  • Diarmaid MacCulloch – Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490-1700
  • Derek Wilson – A Brief History of the English Reformation

Shelf 6 – Palaces and Places

The bottom shelf currently stores largely my guidebooks and BBC History magazines, along with a couple of my more general history books.

From left to right:

  • David Souden – The Royal Palaces of London
  • Christopher Hibbert – Tower of London
  • The Private Life of Palaces
  • Simon Thurley – Houses of Power: The Places That Shaped the Tudor World
  • Suzannah Lipscomb – A Journey Through Tudor England
  • Nigel Jones – Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London
  • Terry Deary – The Peasants’ Revolting … Crimes
  • Merry Wiesner-Hanks – Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe

Guidebooks:

  • Richard III and Henry VII Experience in York
  • Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
  • Framlingham Castle
  • The Jewel Tower
  • The Palace of Westminster
  • Westminster Abbey
  • The Church of Saint Michael at Framlingham
  • St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle
  • Tower of London
  • Hampton Court Palace
  • The Mary Rose
  • Imperial War Museum London
  • Windsor Castle
  • Tower Bridge

Are there any books missing that you would thoroughly recommend? Sound off in the comments!

Book Review – ‘Tudor Victims of the Reformation’ by Lynda Telford


Lynda Telford 'Tudor Victims of the Reformation'

This book describes a selection of people caught up in the turmoil that presaged the reformation – a period of change instigated by a king whose desire for a legitimate son was to brutally sweep aside an entire way of life. The most famous and influential of the victims were the two people closest to Henry VIII. His mentor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a great churchman and a diplomat of consummate skill. The other was to be the King’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. These two adversaries, equally determined to succeed, had risen above the usual expectations of their time. Wolsey, of humble birth, became a price of the church, enjoying his position to the full, before coming into conflict with a woman who had no intention of being another passing fancy for the king. She would become the mother of one of the greatest and most famous of England’s monarchs. They were brought down by the factions surrounding them and the selfish indifference of the man they thought they could trust. Though they succumbed to the forces aligned against them, their courage and achievements are remembered, and their places in history assured. [Description from Pen & Sword]

Thanks to Pen and Sword Books for the chance to read this in exchange for an honest review.

This book doesn’t really cover the victims of the Reformation, so much as it focuses on the lives of two of them: Thomas Wolsey and Anne Boleyn, so it only really covers up to 1536, which is really when the Reformation picked up pace. This means that there is nothing really about Katherine Parr, Anne Askew or the Pilgrimage of Grace, two key figure and one key event in the history of the Reformation, and it doesn’t go into the reign of Edward IV or Elizabeth I, or the counter-Reformation under Mary I, so the title is a little misleading.

There were also a few errors. For example, the Duke of Buckingham executed in 1521 was at a few points referred to as George Stafford, when he was actually called Edward. At one point it was also claimed that Henry VIII acceded to the throne in 1501 when he actually came to the throne in 1509. A good proof-reader would have caught and resolved these problems. They don’t, however, detract from the good tone and writing of the book in general.

I didn’t like that there were no chapter titles, as if you are looking for a particular year, especially when the book is written chronologically as this one is, it should be easy to find a particular period of time. The chapters also don’t always seem to finish where it feels natural that they should. The index is incomplete – for example the pages listed about Anne Boleyn don’t include when she was elevated to the peerage, or about her imprisonment and trial. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘Tudor Victims of the Reformation’ by Lynda Telford”

David Starkey – Henry VIII: the First Brexiteer


Talk at Whitley Bay Playhouse on 6th May 2018

  • The first Brexit was the Break with Rome
  • England was a pariah state – an enemy of Europe
  • Henry VIII fortified the coastline which was the largest scheme of fortification
  • Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
    Henry VIII by Hans Holbein 1540
  • Cartography and maps became important
  • Holbein’s image – the Whitehall mural shows Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Henry VIII and Jane Seymour
  • When Jane Seymour died it was the “smartest career move in history”
  • Anne Boleyn was “brilliant as a mistress but catastrophic as a wife”
  • The words in the middle of the Whitehall mural say that Henry VII was a good king ending decades of civil war but Henry VIII was better as he released England from papal bondage
  • The mural was displayed in Henry VIII’s private rooms
  • Appetite for fame
  • Importance of Erasmus and education “virtue, glory, immorality”
  • Foreign influence – Henry VIII’s astronomer was French, his painter was German and his armour came from Italy
  • France = sex and sophistication, Anne Boleyn raised there
  • Media revolution – printing, books, Caxton’s printing press
  • In the early 16th century typography was introduced
  • Representational painting explains why we are so interested in the Tudors – we knew what they looked like
  • Images make things real
  • Henry VIII is at the centre of England’s history – England different after Henry VIII
  • The Reformation was the greatest change between the Norman conquest and the present day, Reformation partly undoes the conquest
  • English Channel not a barrier but a means of communication
  • Easy to invade England with her natural harbours
  • Henry VII sailed from Honfleur in 1485 – French invasion with tactics, ships, money and army Continue reading “David Starkey – Henry VIII: the First Brexiteer”

Was the English Reformation the Original Brexit?


There are several similarities between the 16th century Reformation and the present-day Brexit. The main one seems to be that we British don’t like being told what to do by an organisation that isn’t even based in our country i.e. 16th century Pope in Rome and 21st century European Union in Brussels. As an island, we are separated from mainland Europe by the Channel, and have different concerns to the mainland. It seems prophetic that the British parliament will activate article 50 this year, the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany.

The main difference between the Reformation and Brexit is that the Reformation in England happened on the whim of Henry VIII because he wanted a divorce from Katherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. However, Brexit was voted for by the British people in a democratic election. However, both seem to have ignited similar battles between the people – Catholic vs. Protestant in the 16th century and Leave vs. Remain in the 21st century. Continue reading “Was the English Reformation the Original Brexit?”

Discussion Questions – ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel


  1. The novel starts off with a description of hawks soaring in the sky and swooping in to slaughter their prey. In the same manner, the novel closes off with an image of a fox attacking a hen coop. What is the significance of these animals and what do they symbolise?

'Bring Up the Bodies' by Hilary Mantel (2012).
‘Bring Up the Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel (2012).

Hawks tend to symbolise awareness, intelligence and a regal bearing. Possibly this is a sense of what is to come – the intelligent and ambitious Anne Boleyn losing awareness of her position as queen and what it relies on (Henry VIII’s love) and ending up being beheaded on the orders of her husband, the king. In the case of the fall of Anne Boleyn the fox represents Cromwell, and the hens are Anne and her faction who are brought down. However, this could also foreshadow what is to come for Cromwell when he becomes one of the hens, along with the rest of the reformist party, and they are attacked by the foxes (the conservative faction).

2. How has Cromwell’s upbringing influenced him to become the shrewd and ambitious man that he is? What is the significance of Cromwell refusing to adopt the coat of arms belonging to a noble Cromwell family even as he widens the chasm between his father and himself? How does Cromwell view family and how is it different from his own experience growing up?

I think the fact that Cromwell had such a difficult relationship with his father encourages him to get away and prove himself. He wants to be a better person than his father. I think this difficult relationship also enhances Cromwell’s ambition and desire for power – he wants to feel the power that he didn’t have when at the mercy of his father. Cromwell doesn’t want to be a part of the inherited nobility – his religious beliefs encourage the rise of self-made men, and promoting them on the basis of their abilities and not their wealth or title. I think Cromwell doesn’t want his own wife and children to experience the family life he had when he was younger – he tries very hard not to exhibit the same characteristics as his father did, and tries to create a happier home. Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel”

Discussion Questions – ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel


  1. What does Holbein’s portrait capture about Thomas Cromwell’s character that even Cromwell, himself, recognises? What kind of man is Cromwell? In the rapacious world of Wolf Hall, do you find him a sympathetic character, or not?

Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.
Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein.

I think that Cromwell becomes more ambitious when he gets a taste of power. I think he likes to thwart those in power with his knowledge, like when Wolsey is demanded to give up the great seal. I think that Cromwell doesn’t come across as more sympathetic in ‘Wolf Hall’ than in other books featuring him, as we see the deaths of his wife and daughters, and the fall of his mentor in his own eyes, rather than the eyes of Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn. I think he is a very caring person with a ruthless streak in his religious beliefs. I think Holbein’s portrait captures Cromwell’s essence in not flaunting his rising position, but still showing his power with the books and papers around him. It’s very clever that it’s not explicit, but it still shows the reined-in power.

  1. What effect did Cromwell’s upbringing have on his character and his later views about the privileged society that permeates the court? How does he feel about the aristocracy and its insistence on ancient rights?

I think that Cromwell’s relationship with his father affects a lot of his thoughts and actions now he is an adult. He seems to be very fixed on not ending up like his father, and having a better relationship with his children than his father had with him. He wasn’t brought up to a privileged way of life, so he can see more clearly than those at court the importance of promoting people for their abilities rather than their wealth and titles. He believes that, in the future, self-made men will have an important role in running the country, more so than the old nobility who represent the medieval period that has now been left behind – men like him represent the future. Continue reading “Discussion Questions – ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel”

Spotlight – Thomas Cromwell


Name: Thomas Cromwell

Title/s: Earl of Essex / Knight of the Garter / Lord Privy Seal / Baron Cromwell

Birth / Death: c.1485 – 28 July 1540

Spouse: Elizabeth Wyckes 1489-1528

Children: Gregory Baron Cromwell 1520-1551 / Anne Cromwell ?-1528 / Grace Cromwell ?-1528

Parents: Walter & Katherine Cromwell (dates unknown)

Siblings: Katherine Williams / Elizabeth Wellyfed (dates unknown)

Noble Connections: Cromwell was first in the service of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, before moving into the service of Henry VIII. He was liked by Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second queen, and assisted in achieving her marriage, as well as her execution 3 years later. His son, Gregory, married the sister of Henry VIII’s third queen, Jane Seymour. Cromwell also promoted the marriage of Henry VIII to Princess Anne of Cleves. Continue reading “Spotlight – Thomas Cromwell”

Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer’ Part 2


Henry VIII c.1542.
Henry VIII c.1542.

String of failed marriages and a religious revolution

Imagery and reputation

1533 Henry VIII anxious about the Tudor dynasty – no son to succeed him so ditched key advisors, split from Rome, divorced his wife and married Anne Boleyn

Powerful and controlling monarch, successful dynasty

Tapestry, art and palaces designed but plundered religious houses

New image had to be forged quickly as his future depended on it

Wrath of the pope and catholic European nations and English people – Rome refused to sanction divorce so Henry left it behind

Supreme Head of the Church of England

Henry vulnerable so built sea forts and the basis of the royal navy

Army of painters, builders and designers through palaces and paintings

Henry VIII interested in art by story – everything he commissioned told the story of his own self importance

Learn things about Henry from the art he commissioned Continue reading “Documentary Notes – ‘Henry VIII: Patron or Plunderer’ Part 2”