Now I've watched the last episode, which I thought condensed the second part of the novel it's based on, Bring Up The Bodies
, well and contained good acting. Historically, err, welllll, more about that in a moment. What I was most curious about in the tv version was how they would handle something the novel did, and the theatre plays based on it didn't, not least because I couldn't see anyway to do it in a visual medium without letting Mantel's Cromwell do something utterly OOC for him and speak these thoughts out loud. The theatre version of Mantel's two Cromwell novels does what Bring Up The Bodies
the novel doesn't, it ends on a note of triumph (Theatre!Cromwell gets to square off against an intimidated Stephen Gardiner). What the novel
does is different. After having build a case against Anne and her supposed lovers based on nothing but gossip and innuendo, and inventing thought crime while he was at it (one exchange between Norris and Cromwell the tv version leaves out), Cromwell suddenly starts to wonder about his own late, much mourned and missed wife. How does he know she
was faithful? That his daughters were his daughters? And the thought can no longer be unthought. The memories he cherishes, which gave him strength, are now tainted. It's the start of karmic retribution, but since it's all happening in Cromwell's head, and he really would not talk of this to anyone, you can't invent a dialogue to get it across. The tv series doesn't do voice overs. So, would it go like the play for triumph instead?
As it turns out, it didn't. Nor did it find a way to get Cromwell's mind applying what he did to his own memories across. But it does come up with something else, which turns out to be a absolutely brilliant ending and sublime foreshadowing, and since it's unique to the tv version, I will cut for t( his one )
Now for the comparisons of tv show versus history. As I expected, and as the novel had done, they cut Anne's speech at her trial (which you can read here
), but unlike the novel, they reinstalled Anne's scaffold speech. (Hilary Mantel deprived Anne of both speeches, just as her More doesn't get to say any of the things he did at his execution, either. Though Anne's execution is still a moment of pathos in her novel - Cromwell thinking/murmuring "put down your arm" is in both.) They even found a way to include one of the key sentences of the novel - "He needed guilty men, and so he chose men who were guilty, if not necessarily as charged" by letting Cromwell say it to Henry Norris in the first person. Both novel and tv show, however, make it look at least likely some adultery happened, which is historically highly questionable (because the court case was really lousy, see last entry on this; no one but Mark Smeaton - the only commoner, and hence the only one who could be threatened with torture - ever confessed, and none of the accused was ever confronted with witnesses testifying against them). Of course, neither the book's nor the novel's Cromwell really care whether or not it happened; his choice of these particular five men to die with Anne is due to them participating in the masque mocking his patron and father figure, Cardinal Wolsey, after Wolsey's death.
This is one of Hilay Mantel's key inventions in the entire Cromwell saga. The "Cardinal Wolsey goes to hell" masque did happen; it was commissioned and paid for by Thomas Boleyn (stay classy, Thomas!), at this point Earl of Wiltshire, and his brother-in-law the Duke of Norfolk and staged at Thomas Boleyn's house at a dinner for the new French Ambassador. How do we know this? Because Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador, mentioned it in one of his dispatches. Quoth he:
“Some time ago the Earl of Wiltshire invited to supper Monsieur de la Guiche, for whose amusement he caused a farce to be acted of the Cardinal (Wolsey) going down to Hell; for which La Guiche much blamed the Earl, and still more the Duke for his ordering the said farce to be printed. They have been ever since [Jocquin’s departure] entertaining the said gentleman most splendidly, and making the most of him on every occasion, and yet I am told that however well treated by them he still says very openly what he thinks of them, and laughs at their eccentricities in matters of government and administration.”
In other words, Daddy Boleyn and Ghastly Uncle Norfolk wanted to impress upon the French Ambassador that now that the Cardinal was dead, they were the go-to men at the English court, and he wasn't impressed at all. Note who isn't mentioned as being present on that occasion? Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn. (And you can bet that Chapuys would have mentioned it if they had been; he would have reported it as eagerly as he reported Henry's river parties during Anne's trial and execution, or Anne wearing yellow when Katherine of Aragon died.) Guess who also wasn't there? Norris, Weston, Bereton and Smeaton. George Boleyn may have been, but it's very unlikely he'd have been one of the participants; that's what his father hired professionals for.
Now it's pretty obvious why Mantel invented this and why the tv show kept it. Least of all because it's visual (which it is), but it gives Cromwell an understandable 21st century type of motive against these
five particular men, in addition to political expediency. (In fairness, Mantel and the tv show also
bring up a genuine historical motive for Cromwell re: Bereton, the later's hanging of one of Cromwell's men. But that's not mentioned on the tv show before or after, so the "avenging the Cardinal" motive still prevails.) Revenge for Wolsey is this, but when Mantel plotted the novels, it must have occured to her it's tricky to justify especially for Henry Norris, because historical Henry Norris, far from having been mean to the Cardinal during the later's fall, is actually on the record for his kindness towards Wolsey. For this, the witness is none other than George Cavendish (who shows up as a character in Mantel's novels and in the tv show - he's the guy wo spots Cromwell crying in the first episode and whom Cromwell tells at the end that God won't have to avenge the Cardinal, he will), whose Life of Wolsey
Mantel names as one of her key sources at the end of Wolf Hall
. It’s Norris whom Cavendish shows us bringing Wolsey the King’s ring as a sign of continued favour (and to whom Wolsey gave his piece of the True Cross by way of thanks) and earlier, it was “Gentle Norris” who saw to it that the displaced and out of favour Wolsey had a place to stay. Cavendish reports that when the papal legate, Campeggio (aka the one who DIDN'T give Henry his annulment), was on his way to King Henry to take his leave, travelling together with Wolsey, per royal order Wolsey was humiliated by not being given rooms while Campeggio did. At which point: "And by way as he was going, it was told him that he had no lodging appointed for him in the court. And therewith astonished, Sir Harry Norris, groom of the stool with the King, came unto him (but whether it was by the King’s commandment I know not) and most humbly offered him his chamber for the time, until another might somewhere be provided for him. “For, sir, I assure you,” quoth he, “here is very little room in this house, scantly sufficient for the King; therefore I beseech your grace to accept mine for the season.” Whom my lord thanked for his gentle offer, and went straight to his chamber."
Good on Henry Norris. (Who seems to have been a stand-up guy otherwise, too. The tv show hints at something which it doesn't show,and which actually happened, that Henry VIII. after having been informed by Cromwell's men of Mark Smeaton's "confession" had Henry Norris, who was a firm favourite with him, accompany him and asked him point blank for confirmation of these stories. Possibly a deal was offered; Cavendish thinks so, but Cavendish had left the court at this point and thus, as opposed to the Wolsey tales, is no longer an eye account witness. At any rate, Norris refused to confess and confirm and went to his death proclaiming Anne's innocence.) But you can see the problem for Hilary Mantel in having to present THIS man as being mean enough to the Cardinal to justify Cromwell putting him on his hit list. And thus "Gentle Norris" becomes Dragging-the-Cardinal-to-Hell Norris.
Now book and tv show, like 90% of Tudor novels, present Anne's sister-in-law Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, as the source of the incest accusation against her husband and Anne, and as a primary source of the "Anne has lovers!" stories, full stop, and presents her as having a catastrophcally bad relationship with her sister-in-law, who bullies her, and with her husband. Hilary Mantel in the tv show are in a firm tradition here; because it was the universal depiction, I had never questioned it myself until Julia Fox in 2006 presented her Jane Boleyn biography which among many other things unearthed the interesting facts that no contempory source names Jane as the source of the incest and other adulteries charge, or depicts her relationship with Anne as bad, or with George. Says Fox: "And, significantly, two contemporaries, John Husee and Justice Spelman (who was on the bench at Anne’s trial) named two different women entirely. John Husee felt information had come from the Countess of Worcester; Spelman said it came from Lady Wingfield. One man, or both, clearly had it muddled, but neither mentioned Jane."
The very popular story that at her own execution eight years later, Jane declared she'd falsely testified against her sister-in-law and husband out of jealousy, has no contemporary source, either. She definitely didn't profit form her actions; since George Boleyn was executed as a traitor, his lands and other sources of income reverted to the crown. (Jane Boleyn had to write a begging letter to Cromwell to get him to help her compell her father-in-law for some money; that letter still exists, and makes no mention of Cromwell owing her anything, which you'd think it would if she'd been his key informant.) (BTW this wasn't the first time Cromwell was begged to help getting Thomas Boleyn cough up some cash for an income-less female relation. Mary Boleyn, cut off by her father for marrying commoner William Stafford some years earlier, did the same thing, and that letter is about the only document allowing for a glimpse at Mary Boleyn's personality that we have.) Fox makes her case for Jane in condensed form in this post
, if you're interested.
(Since 2006, a few non-villainous Jane Boleyns have showed up in fiction; in Howard Brenton's play Anne Boleyn
, she is presented as Anne's friend instead of her enemy and is bullied by Cromwell into a panicked testimony. Even Julia Fox doesn't claim she never told Cromwell anything at all, because there is one thing we know she did say, which is brought up at George's trial, according to Chapuys: "I must not omit that among other things charged against him as a crime was, that his sister had told his wife that the king was impotent. This he was not openly charged with, but it was shown him in writing, with a warning not to repeat it. But he immediately declared the matter, in great contempt of Cromwell and some others, saying he would not in this point arouse any suspicion which might prejudice the king's issue."
(Note the tv show and Mantel's book make two changes here: instead of Anne making that indiscreet remark about Henry not getting it up to her sister-in-law (which btw implies the two women must have gotten along), who tells her husband (George), George is asked whether Anne told him
this directly. The other change is that the tv show, like the novel, lets him panic after having read it out loud, whereas Chapuys' first hand account lets him - after reading it out loud (I guess George at this point must have known he'd die anyway and must have thought, fuck you, Henry) - remark "in great contempt of Cromwell" (not in a panic) that he wouldn't have spread such gossip since it obviously casts doubt on the paternity of the king's (and his sister's) children.)
Anyway, in the end we don't know much about Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, other than her involvement in Catherine Howard's fate a few years later, which as opposed to her role (or lack of a role) in Anne Boleyn's fate is
better documented. That one makes her look none too bright at the very best (covering for a girl married to Henry VIII. when she's meeting a young man when you're an experienced courtier and have better reason than most to recall what happened the last time a Queen was accused of adultery is nothing short of suicidal, surely), but it doesn't say anything, one way or the other, about what she did and didn't do during her sister-in-law's fall. Her role in the tv version is convenient - it means Ladies Worcester and Wingfield don't have to be introduced and given motive for informing on Anne (Hilary Mantel does include Lady Worcester at least, in the novel) -, but it does a bit more than just follow the Evil Lady Rochford tradition; it also, by letting her approach Cromwell as opposed to the other way around, absolves him of coming up wiith the adultery & incest tales to begin with; they're given to him on a silver tablet. Before that, Jane also serves for yet another occasion to present Anne Boleyn as a Mean Girl (when Anne slaps her); going by the tv show and Mantel's novels, you could be forgiven if you assumed Anne Boleyn, when not "selling herself by inches" to Henry VIII., did nothing but bully her ladies-in-waiting. The justification for this on Mantel's part is that some of them informed on her for Cromwell, and therefore she must have done something to deserve their hostility. Given that most of Anne Boleyn's ladies in waiting used to be the much beloved Catherine of Aragon's ladies in waiting, and given that - as was shown by Jane's fate later with Catherine Howard - a lady-in-waiting accused of having covered up the queen's adultery risked execution herself,I don't think it needed any invented yelling and slapping on her part to explain why some of the women told Cromwell what he wanted to know. In any case, since he didn't produce any of them as witnesses at the actual trial, he either must have thought them not convincing enough, or must have struck a deal as to not embarrass them by letting them testify in public. Or maybe he remembered how the Richard Rich testimony had gone down at Thomas More's trial. As opposed to the tv show, which only shows Rich testifying and More unconvincingly denying, at the real trial after More's scathing defense speech about Rich's reliability as a witness the two other men who'd been in the room when the alleged conversation had taken place, packing up More's books, were called in, and, according to chronicler Edward Hall: therefore (Rich) caused Sir Richard Southwell, and Mr. Palmer, who were in the same Room with Sir Thomas and Mr. Rich when they conferred together, to be sworn as to the Words that passed between them. Whereupon Mr. Palmer deposed, what he was so busy in thrusting Sir Thomas’s Books into a Sack, that he took no notice of their Talk, And Sir R, Southwell likewise swore, that because his Business was only to take care of conveying his Books away, he gave no ear to their Discourse.
(In other words, they folded and gave the 16th century equivalent of "I did not hear nothing, guv!" Very embarrassing for Rich and Cromwell, that one had been. Imagine if a witness against Anne had similarly folded. Even with the outcome in no question, it would have displeased Henry.)
The tv show lets Anne hope until the last moment there will be a reprieve, that her husband will be merciful. The novel has Cromwell wonder whether she hopes for this but doesn't make it a certainty. The actual records, due to the Governor of the Tower, Kingston, writing down everything Anne said and reporting it to Cromwell, present her resigned to her fate at this point. (She still had hope early on but certainly not anymore after the five men were executed.) Since this was tested by the French executioner being delayed, which must have meant another day and night of nerve wrecking (she was ready to go when Kingston had to tell her, twice, that there was a delay), her self composure really must have been remarkable. In the tv show, she's barely holding it together. Which I think is meant as sympathy inducing - Anne for most of the tale is presented relentlessly as unsympathetic, so making her very vulnerable at the end is a counterpoint - but still doesn't fit with the woman "brave as a lion" (historical Cromwell on her behavior) in the face of her own death, even in extremis. So I conclude with the report Kingston made to Cromwell on that extra day Anne got due to the executioner's delay: This morning she sent for me, that I might be with her at such time as she received the good Lord, to the intent I should hear her speak as touching her innocence always to be clear. And in the writing of this she sent for me, and at my coming she said, "Mr. Kingston, I hear I shall not die afore noon, and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead by this time and past my pain ". I told her it should be no pain, it was so little. And then she said, "I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck", and then put her hands about it, laughing heartily. I have seen many men and also women executed, and that they have been in great sorrow, and to my knowledge this lady has much joy in death. Sir, her almoner is continually with her, and had been since two o'clock after midnight.