Thank God, I am home. I take off my cloak and throw it over a chair in the main kitchen. I look to my head cook Frances, who pours me a goblet of wine and rests some bread and cheese on the table. I gesture for her to sit with me, and like many a night, she joins me for ‘sup. “My God, Frances, the goings-on at court was cruel. I’ve never seen anything like it… a comedic play lampooning a dead man, the bastards. ” She shakes her head, “Master Thomas, what do you expect? You saw the letters yourself. The Cardinal treasoned His Majesty.” I take a long drink of my wine as she continues. “Master Thomas, the people hated Wolsey. He behaved as both King and Pope, even after being banished back to York.” She holds my hand, “I know you loved him, but Thomas… defending the man in Parliament, that was bold and impulsive of you. Be glad you do not fall with him. After that performance, you still may.” I nod in acknowledgement. She’s right. After keeping my distance for a year, throwing myself at the feet of Norfolk offering my services after the Cardinal’s banishment, I used the very seat Norfolk did secure me to plead dear Wolsey’s case. A stupid move, one I promise myself not to repeat. Use your head Thomas. If you do you might keep it. As we continue resting a spell, dear Ralph Sadler comes in. “Master Thomas, you have company.” I cringe with displeasure as Francis asks with an edge, “The Imperial Ambassador again, so late?” I look over to her, “The man lives next door and thinks he lives here. Damn, I just wanted a bath.” She smiles, how pretty. “No.. no, Master Thomas. It’s George Clavendish. I brought him to your study, and he awaits there.” I rise, and Frances chides… “Be careful what you say. Be careful what you do.” I bend over and whisper, “I will. Do come on up and bring me a late night snack later, will you now?” She smiles knowingly and nods. I walk through the halls to my study. I know why he is here, poor man.
Thomas Cromwell: As I walk into the study, Clavendish rises from a chair by the fire. We both bow respectfully. “George, I am so pleased to see you. Do sit. Tell me how you and your wife fair. The last year has been most difficult, and a more loyal and attentive servant His Eminence never did have.”
George Clavendish: Thomas, how the cardinal did love him, even after learning of his reformist leanings. “Thank you, Thomas.” He motions we sit, and we both do so. “Thomas, I assume you know tomorrow I am to be questioned by the privy council. God help me. I come for your advisories. What say you?”
Thomas Cromwell: I take a deep breath, wipe my brow and consider the question posed. “I believe, George that you should use your basic human dignity, answer their questions with humble honesty, and pray they see the devoted servant you were to His Eminence, one like they might wish in their charge. I think if you can do that they will find you a just and diligent servant with no disloyalty to the crown. I pray to do the same.”
George Clavendish: With honesty I say, “I am fearful, Thomas, I do admit. I agree that is the best chance I have, but I fear they do hate him so, I will suffer it.”
Thomas Cromwell: “Listen George, all will be well. His Majesty took on many of His Eminence’s most loyal staff, Gardiner and Audley included.” Not totally convinced, I add, “I’m sure it shall all be fine. Do not fret so.” I then ask, as I must know. “Do tell me George, how fared he at the end?”
George Clavendish: “Thomas, he became obsessed with winning his way back to power, going so far as you know to lose his foresight, writing letters to gain support from France and Spain. His Eminence was a great man, but his banishment broke him. I believe he truly thought he had no master in this realm, answerable only to His Holy Father and Rome.”
Thomas Cromwell: I nod. “George, I do swear I advised him caution. I did. He bid I leave after we settled him into Cawood, saying ‘Thomas, do what you must,’ and thus I came back to London to make or mar.”
George Clavendish: I will not let this man off so easily, as with the Cardinal I remained to the end. “His Eminence was hurt you did not return his correspondences, Thomas. He thought of both you and His Majesty as sons and felt betrayed, defeated by those he loved most.”
Thomas Cromwell: I state back emphatically, “I live another day because I did not return his letters, and I thank God abundantly none were intercepted. I did the best I could for His Eminence, George. My actions defending him in Parliament may still cost me dearly.” I ask sheepishly, “Did he know I defended him? Did he know, George?”
George Clavendish: I decide to answer honestly. “We were told none of it, Thomas. Sir Kingston was under command to leak nothing, I am sure. I dare say the stress of the Cardinal’s arrest and journey thereafter did kill him. His last days were gut-wrenching as he heaved and let bowel, wreathing in pain. Dear Sir Kingston took pity, taking the ride easy and bringing our dear mentor to the Abbey of Leicester where in the house of the good Lord he breathed his last. May he rest in eternal peace, his purgatory short.”
Thomas Cromwell: As I listen to George my eyes burn, the thought of this great man, more to me a father than my father, dying in pain, deserted by all but this most humble man before me. I will not let George see my tears yet again, as he did at Cawood when caught unbeknownst. Do I reassure him there is no purgatory? No, I let that lie. I say simply, “I will miss him, George. I will miss his company, his wisdom, his whit and his regard of me, which few men have I dare say.”
George Clavendish: “Yes, I will too, Thomas. I will share with you I kept a journal of my time with His Eminence. I most desire to record for generations hence the remarkable life of this man. Say nothing of it now. God willing, times will be kinder of him in coming years and his story can be told freely.” Thomas smiles as I speak, pleased. I pull a small leather pouch from my doublet and hold it out to His Eminence’s most trusted secretary. “The Cardinal asked that I give this to you, Thomas. He most desired you remember him.”
Thomas Cromwell: Touched to the core of my soul, I accept the pouch George hands me. I open it carefully, and rest in my hand the gift so graciously bestowed. My voice cracking, I hold may hand out to George so he can see clearly…. “My God, good man… it’s his Cardinalatial ring.”
~~~~~~~ fade to black ~~~~~
The Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey, by George Clavendish ~~ http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/ret/cavendish/cavendish.html
Who would have ever thought? All I was doing was trying to run far from the sweat ravaging Cambridge, and with one major coincidence, one simple idea, one philosophical question answered, my life changed forever. What does His Majesty see in me? I am just a simple man, a humble man, a shy man. All I do is point out the obvious, that His Majesty’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon can be nullified by the ordinary ecclesiastical courts, and you would think I was Emeritus himself. One idea, one concept, one simple thought so easily attained, and now I am commanded to devote my life, my knowledge, my research, my every being to securing the Defender of the Faith a divorce from his wife, mayhaps a divorce from the very papalcy itself. And the King, he does not make it easy. First, he sends me off to reside with the Boleyns at Durham Place, then appoints me one of His Royal Chaplains, and then ships me off to Rome with Wiltshire to defend my treatise arguing the King’s valid cause, where the matter of the divorce was disputed and ventilated. Yes, I met His Holy Father. Yes, the Pope named me “Grand Penitentiary of England”, but no, we got no further ~~ yet, His Majesty shows me favor anyway. I am not worthy. Listen, I really am not worthy. Now, His Majesty has appointed me an ambassador. By a cruel twist of fate, the man believes me most appropriate to be ambassador to the Holy Roman Emperor himself. I, Thomas Cranmer, largest proponent of His Majesty’s “great matter”, am ambassador of England to Queen Catherine’s nephew. I, Thomas Cranmer, the most shy man in Christendom, must face down politely the Holy Roman Emperor, him knowing my views. Is there not a single man in England besides me who speaks Spanish and Latin? What was His Majesty thinking???
Well, His Majesty’s appointments in Europe were a blessing I do admit. Living among the like-minded in Germany, I know in my every being the evilness of the Roman Catholic Church, it’s pagan roots, the sinfulness of the papal authority. Dear Andreas Osiander, noble reformer, cherished friend, I gained my knowledge from his wisdom, and now I endeavor my life’s work to following the truth of the scriptures. And my wife, Margaurete, oh how she fills me. No longer shackled by the pagan customs governing imposed celibacy, we married with the support of God’s love within the freedom of her Lutheran community. Though now traveling with King Charles as he battles the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, I know we’ll be together again soon. Yes, once my mission is over, I’ll resign His Majesty’s service and worship the Lord, work towards our long awaited reformation, and live with my beloved wife and the family we will raise here in Europe. His Majesty will have his divorce. Through Cromwell and Gardiner, I will see to it. God, I see your path for me now most vividly, and I thank Thee most abundantly. Tonight, like is usual each Tuesday, I have an audience with His Majesty, King Charles. Given the stress of the battles he commands, I believe he enjoys the diversion of intelligent discourse. As I walk towards his tent, I breathe in the cool, crisp evening air, smoke from nearby camp fires sweetening the aroma. As I approach, I realize there is something very wrong, and the hair goes up on the back of my neck. The Spanish Lords and Ladies, they are bending a knee — not to him, but to me.
King Charles V: “Embajador, se ven y únete a mí, querido amigo. Tengo palabra de Inglaterra, una correspondencia de Su Majestad el Rey Henry sí mismo.” (Ambassador, do come join me, dear friend. I have word from England, a correspondence from His Majesty King Henry himself.)
Thomas Cranmer: As I enter the royal tent, I bend a knee and drape my cape. His Majesty speaks and he motions I rise, and I join him as commanded at his dining table. The servants pour us wine, and I eye the parchment in his hand, a letter to me intercepted quite obviously. I respond cautiously. “Su Majestad, yo estaría muy contento de tener noticias de casa, especialmente de mi majestad más benevolente. ¿Qué le digo?” (Your Majesty, I would be most delighted to have word from home, especially from my most benevolent Majesty. What say he then?)
King Charles V: Yo sonrío ampliamente al pobre hombre. Obviamente, él no tiene ni idea. ¿Voy a hacer su día o enviarlo en tormento? Hagamos saber. “Bueno, mi amigo, Su Majestad está en el dolor. Parece que el LEADR iglesia más alta de su reino ha ido para estar con el Señor. Que descanse en paz”. (I smile broadly at the poor man. He obviously has not a clue. Will I make his day or send him into torment? Let’s do find out. “Well, my friend, His Majesty is in grief. It seems the highest church leader in his realm has gone to be with the Lord. May he rest in peace.”)
Thomas Cranmer: I drink down some wine and then some more, my nerves raw. What is he leading to? ”Arch Bishop Warham murió? Esto no es inesperado, Su Majestad. El pobre hombre estaba viejo y sufrido mucho en los últimos años. Estoy seguro de que Su Majestad designará a un sustituto digno, y las bulas papales se enviará a Roma de inmediato.” (Arch Bishop Warham died? This is not unexpected, Your Majesty. The poor man was aged and suffered much in recent years. I am sure His Majesty will appoint a worthy replacement, and the Papal Bulls will be sent to Rome forthwith.)
King Charles V: No puedo dejar de riéndose. Me inclino, y de nuevo golpe de Cranmer. “Oh, él ha, mi amigo. De hecho, el rey Enrique ha hecho su selección conocida. Él ordena que regrese a Inglaterra inmediatamente, excelencia.” (I can’t help snickering. I bend over, and slap Cranmer’s back. “Oh, he has, my friend. In fact, King Henry has made his selection known. He commands you return to England immediately, Your Grace.”)
Thomas Cranmer: Your Grace? Oh my God, no. He can’t be serious. Oh my God, no. In stunned disbelief, I offer. “Usted Majestad. Te equivocas, estoy seguro. No soy más que un clérigo. Steven Gardiner es Arch Bishop. Él debe ser. Todo lo que sabía que se viene”. (Your Majesty. You are mistaken, I am sure. I am merely a cleric. Steven Gardiner is Arch Bishop. He must be. All knew it to be coming.)
King Charles V: Me río. “Aquí, Su Gracia. Leen esto”. Lanzo la carta sobre la mesa frente a él. (I laugh. “Here, Your Grace. Do read this.”I toss the letter onto the table in front of him.)
Thomas Cranmer: My hands trembling, I pick up the letter and begin reading. Oh my God, this is a nightmare. He can’t mean me. No, not me. I am not worthy.
Warham is dead, and I command you return to England
in all haste. The Papal Bulls are on route to Rome for confirmation,
and upon your arrival to London, you shall be consecrated
Arch Bishop of Canterbury.
Thomas Cranmer: After reading the letter quickly, I look up to the Holy Roman Emperor. In all sincerity, I say meekly. “Que Dios me ayude, Majestad. Dios conoce mi corazón, y esto no es obra Suya.” (“God help me, Majesty. God knows my heart, and this is not His doing.”)
As I sit at by the fire in my study at Laudes, I look over the mantel, and here he is, my father ”The Swindler”. I smile as I remember back now 15 years ago how we all had a hearty laugh over this portrait, one I was supposed to burn upon my father’s death for fear he would haunt me, one my dear friend Ralph Sadler risked all to hide away and save until after His Majesty, King Henry’s death. Fifteen years; my God such joy and tragedy swung through my life those years, through my beloved wife’s life, through the lives of our children and my sisters. My mind harkens back to those lost to me now: my mother, my sisters Grace and Anne, Theo, Queen Jane, my father, Nicoleen, dear Thomas Wyatt, my cousin Richard, and most recently, the woman who most influenced my life, Thea Nia. She would be proud today, my Thea would. Iris and Lily turn 16 years, are beautiful women, raised lovingly in both of their parent’s traditions. Despite their major losses and heartbreak, they prosper, in large measure due to the love and influence of Thea Nia, the acceptance of my wife, Elizabeth, and my determination to keep a promise. Poor Nicoleen took a major fall while with child with Anthea, near to death I do swear. In a rare weak moment for my father while she lay unresponsive, I promised, “Father, if anything happens to you both, I will raise them.” In despair, he nodded in agreement. That’s all was said. That’s all that needed to be said. Nothing was written, no will composed detailing it. Our agreement was engraved in our hearts, rather than quill to paper. Such is the way between a father and son. My mind drifting through past times, I am startled upright when Elizabeth rests her hand on my shoulder. I look to her and smile wide, glad she is home in time for this very special day.
Elizabeth Cromwell: As I enter our study, I look to Gregory deep in thought. “Dearest husband, I am home. Thanks be to God, His Majesty is healthy and thriving. The poor boy looks, acts and is dressed like an adult in miniature. Jane would be heart sick. He is a King, but yet he is still a child. She would want a gentler approach with him. King Edward sends his ‘favorite uncle’ his very best wishes and desires you visit him soon.”
Gregory Cromwell: I answer good naturedly, careful not to mention her brother Thomas, so recently executed, the fool. “Well dearest wife, I am only Edward’s favorite uncle because I teach him to falcon and take him on hunts. Lord Somerset is tasked with making him a great king. I pity the poor man. His job is daunting. Yes, I will visit soon. The young stallion from Spades’ line is ready to break.” I add teasingly, “A fine steed, shiny black like ink… that shall do it, Bess. I shall retain my most cherished royal title, ‘His Majesty King Edward’s favorite uncle’.”
Elizabeth Cromwell: We laugh and I chide, “Gregory, you spoil all the children, dear man. Heaven help me. They are ruined, now even the King.”I sit on a chair near my husband, and rest my hand on his. “So, do Iris and Lilith know yet of their birthday party this evening? With all the activity of the cooks and servants, they must suspect something. My heavens, they are 16 years this day. Where did the time go?” I squeeze my husband’s hand a little, and he smiles back at me lovingly. “Next thing we know, Gregory, men will be a calling. You best be ready for that.”
Scholars now believe that this Holbein is Elizabeth Seymour Cromwell rather than Catherine Howard.
Gregory Cromwell: “If they suspect, neither has shown a hint of it. Anthea, the poor dear, came to me with a stunning message, and she is intent on it. Pulling at my arm just last evening, tears in her eyes, she pleaded, ‘Dear Gregory, Theo speaks but so soft I can’t hear. I just hear ringing, two bells ringing, together as one’.”
Elizabeth Cromwell: “I told you many times, dear husband, that child worries me. She ventured through hell and back, and I do believe of all three girls, she suffers the loss of their parents most. With Thea Nia now gone, I am very concerned.”
Gregory Cromwell: I look to my wife and say with all seriousness, “Bess, Thea Nia often told me the girl’s gifts are haunting. Yes, I worry too.” With this I ponder, what does Theo’s message mean? Two ringing bells as if one? Such a puzzle he left Anthea and me. As I think the words, a candle lights bright in my mind. Oh yes, of course… yes, of course.
Servant George: “Lord Cromwell, may I present Sir Ralph Sadler and his wife, Ellen.”
Ralph Sadler: Oh such a joy it is to be at Laudes this special day. As my wife and Bess embrace warmly, I bound to Gregory excitedly. “Gregory, call the girls in, oh please do. I have wonderful news to share from court, just wonderful! Ahhhh… this will be a grand birthday for the twins indeed, I do promise. Even dear Cecil is beaming.”
Gregory Cromwell: I look over to my lead butler, and jovially command. “Well, do get them then George. No tarrying.” I then tease dear Ralph, “Do rest your bones, man. You look like the wind itself, all disheveled.” With Bess and Ellen already seated together on the coach, clucking like birds with court gossip, I pour us all some wine. “So, out with it Ralph. Do tell.”
Sir Ralph Sadler, by Hans Holbein
Ralph Sadler: “No, not yet… I want the girls to hear, too. I want to see all your faces drop with awe as I tell my story.” Just then in they bound, Iris, Lily and Anthea, each giving me and Ellen a warm hug in turn. My God, just looking at them my memories floods of the man more a father than my father; Iris, especially. “Girls, I come with grand tidings. Oh yes. Do sit and I will tell you.”
Lily Sedena- Cromwell: Oh my, we all came quickly. George did say, “Sir Ralph Sadler be here, and he has big news!” Iris said, “I wager his wife is with child again.” Anthea, the girl scares me sometimes, chimed in, “No, it’s far better than that. Father smiles he does… wickedly.” Oh, I can’t wait to hear, t’is must be good, and on my birthday yet.
Gregory Cromwell: With everyone here, I chide… “Ralph, out with it man!”
Ralph Sadler: I rise, and my wife smiles and nods knowingly as everyone looks upon me with rapt attention. “Well it be like this. Yesterday, I arrived at court and to meet as scheduled with our blessed Lord Protector. Dear Edward said as I arrived, ‘Ralph, dear friend, our meeting is cancelled. His Grace, Canterbury has called us to Star Chamber, and I do say this be an event you just can’t miss.’ So off we go.” I look around the room, and Gregory is already smiling, anticipating exactly what I am now to say. “Ah yes… we both went, the Star Chamber filled to the brim with Lords, His Grace at the front. As Edward and I enter, he looks right at me, smiling as wide as a Cheshire cat.” He then bangs his gavel loud, and Star Chamber quiets. You could hear a lace pin drop. ‘Bring in the subject!’, he commands loudly, and then in he walks…” I pause for effect, “Wily Winchester! I must admit I did laugh. I could not help myself.”
Gregory Cromwell: “Ten long years, Ralph. Ten long years, and as he did promise me and the girls, His Grace finally nailed our father’s murderer. May Gardiner rot in hell. Do tell us more… do tell us more.”
Ralph Sadler: I look over to dear Lord Cromwell’s daughters, so beautiful they are. Iris’ eyes are as wide as full moons. Lily’s mouth is dropped, shyly covered with her hand, and Anthea, her expression him so strikingly, smiles with satisfaction. “Well, His Grace did question Winchester about his views on the Eucharist, and the Wily man did try to lie his way out, but then Bishops Latimer and Ridley did testify. All mouths dropped when they declared Winchester views the host as the blood and body of Christ himself. With that His Grace did find him guilty of heresy! It was a great day, oh yes it was…. But I am not done. Then His Grace looks out to the crowd, looking for you I am sure Gregory, and with you not there, called out… ‘Sir Ralph Sadler rise’, and I did. ‘I charge you with escorting the prisoner to The Tower’.”
Gregory Cromwell: As my wife claps her hands gleefully, and the girls begin to laugh, I offer, “Oh Ralph, you lucky man. Norfolk nearly nailed you he did, but your interrogations went so much the better when you were in The Tower tossed. Not only did you vindicate yourself and poor departed Wyatt, but also my father. Ahhhhhhhh… His Majesty King Henry saw the light then he did, both Surrey and Norfolk damned to hell. Now, you throw Winchester to his doom. Father would be proud, damn proud my friend.”
Ralph Sadler: “Don’t I know it! Don’t I know it! I had the guards drag him there, I did, me following. But, the man, he still has nerves of solid iron. On the barge he dared to say, “Sadler, do tell Oakham and Canterbury this one thing… when Mary is Queen, they will burn. I do swear they will burn. My prayers to the Virgin Mary will be to live long enough to hold the bloody torch.” Gregory and I laugh at such absurdity, and I tease, “You best watch out Oakham. Wily speaks!”
Gregory Cromwell: “Oh yes, I pack my bags to flee to Europe as we speak!” With this we are all laughing, and we all rise and hug warmly – a blessed day indeed.
Ralph Sadler: “So Lily and Iris, 16 years this day you were born in France – you Lily, a blessed surprise! Little women ye be now! Are you excited about your party??? Dear Cecil and his family, and Margarete, Tom and Maggie are on route. His Grace sends his apologies, but will call on you both soon.”
Iris Sedena-Cromwell: Lily and I figured something was afoot, but we both feign surprise. “A party? For Lily and me?
Elizabeth Cromwell: My husband has a look of bewildered annoyance, and I chide… “Ralph, you dog, the party was supposed to be a secret. Can’t you keep any??” We all laugh as Ralph blushes in embarrassment. “Now girls, off with you then. Go get dressed in your prettiest frocks.” I look over to Anthea. “No black this day, m’lady. Red will do.”
Gregory Cromwell: I chime in, “Iris… Lily, when you are dressed, do come down and see me. I have a special gift for you both, and I desire to gift it to you privately.”They both nod, Lily smiling. After the girls leave, I approach Ralph with all seriousness. “Ralph, my friend, I need ask you one thing more on behalf of my father and his beloved wife.” I paused and swallow hard. “If Mary reigns and I am not here, I beseech you get my sisters out of England.” He nods, “Of course Gregory, immediately.” I then go to my bed chambers, open my dresser and dig way to the back. There it is. I pull out Nicoleen’s beloved treasure box. I open it carefully, and there they are, three rings, one for each girl as I did promise her. I take out Lily’s and Iris’ and tuck them in my doublet. Anthea’s will wait for her 16th year I decide. I head back to my study and wait patiently, playing with one of the rings as my father always did. Women, they do take forever to dress and ready themselves, I do swear.
Elizabeth Cromwell: Along with two servants, I assist all three girls with preparing, as well as my daughters. They all look so enchanting, especially Lilith. With her long flowing blonde hair and pale opage gown, she looks like the sun goddess Thea Nia always said she will be. When done, I bring Lilith and Iris to my husband, far closer to a father than their brother. “Gregory, do look. The twins, they are beautiful.”
Gregory Cromwell: As my sisters come into the study, I look to them in awe. My eyes moist, I fight back tears. Elizabeth is right. They are beautiful, as father would say exquisite – women now. “Do come here, please.” As each girl approaches, I hug her warmly. “I love you both. Happy Birthday. Do hold out your hands, so I can give you your birthday gift, not from me, but from your mother, who I loved dearly.” They girls look back at me, both touched, Lily to tears. As instructed by Nicoleen, I place my father’s ring in Lily’s hand, and Nicoleen’s ring into Iris’.
Thomas’ Gimmel Ring, gifted to Lily
Iris Sedena-Cromwell: “Mother’s gimmel ring!”
Lily Sedena-Cromwell: “Yes, Iris… I have father’s! Do you remember how he always played with it? How we thought is was magical when he would shake it loose, and after we tried and tried, he’d quickly put it back together.”
Iris Sedena-Cromwell: I smile at the thought. “Oh yes, and mother would chide him so to keep the ring on for fear it would break.”
Gregory Cromwell: “Your Theo made those, and he chided too. ‘Thomas, if you break it, I will not make another. Careful now, it’s molded from scraps of silver, not iron, man.” We all smile. Oh how I wish the girls could have known Theo, a dear man he was.
Iris Sedena-Cromwell: I look to poor Lily. That ring will never fit her. “Lily, do you want to switch rings? That one will fit my middle finger I do think”. She nods in agreement.
Gregory Cromwell: “No… no… Iris and Lily, these rings hold special meaning. They were gifted one to the other when His Grace did marry them in the Anglican way. Gimmel rings symbolize two coming together as one, entwined, and forever bonded. In difficult times, the rings may loosen, but never come apart completely. Do you understand?” They both nod. I hold out Iris’ hand and point to her gimmel ring. Filled with Nicoleen’s gentle wisdom, I speak as I best recall. “Iris is Thomas. Gift her my ring to bring memories of what I taught her.” She begins to cry, and I wipe her tears. I then hold out Lily’s hand and point to her gimmel ring. “Lilith is me. Gift her Thomas’ ring to bring back memories of what he taught her.” Now tears come to us all, a father’s pain I do feel for them.
Elizabeth Cromwell: As I watch on in silence, I am once again reminded how often touched I am by my husband’s words and deeds. He humbles me once again. Though common blood, he is no common man. Jane married a King, and I a saint — like Nicholas, the patron saint of children. I walk over and place my hand on his arm, and look upon these beautiful young women. “No more tears now. T’is your birthday, and our company waits.”
Thomas Wolsey: *It is a seasonably warm January day as I stroll through the handsomely manicured grounds surrounding Hampton court palace. Accompanying me is my young secretary, master Thomas Cromwell. As I speak, I look not directly at him, but rather at the rich colors and textures of the plants and flower beds surrounding us. My hands folded before me, I walk at a deliberate pace and make sure every word is clearly enunciated and comprehended.* … My gardens are a great joy to me, Cromwell. They inspire me, you know? The mind itself is a garden of sorts. From it’s fertile soil spring thoughts that change the world. Ideas, master Cromwell. Ideas. * I smile broadly and raise my hand up* I have asked you to join me, as I require the fruits of your thoughts to assist me in my plans.
Thomas Cromwell: As I walk around the gardens with His Eminence, I admire the beauty and think of how I might improve my own gardens at Austin Friars. I sort through in my mind how to extend my lands beyond the property lines of my neighbors. Perhaps a bribe is in order? Should I just buy them right out? ”Your Eminence, thank you for your continued confidence in me. How can I be of assistance?
Thomas Wolsey: Yes. Well, as we both know, the foundation of any civilized society is education. I strongly believe England can ill afford to set herself behind the other European powers in matters of education. To this end, as Lord Chancellor, I feel it my responsibility to expand our education system. I have had plans drawn up for new colleges to be raised. One in Oxford, the other, in my own hometown of Ipswich. As you can imagine, this project is not only of profound importance to the realm. But near to my heart as well… However. *I stop before taking another step and turn to lock eyes with him* I am at the moment lacking the funds to fulfill this project. *I raise my finger in the air* I need ideas for funding. Major funding. I know, Cromwell you are resourceful and a creative thinker. Moreover I sense you are a man who is not afraid to be bold and not let useless scruples get in the way of an otherwise brilliant idea. Am I right?
Thomas Cromwell: ”New colleges, your eminence? What a spectacular legacy you will leave for the future generations of this realm!” Of course, I will help you in every way I can.” I look over at him with a sly grin. ’In anyway, Your Eminence. Let’s discuss some fund raising ideas, shall we?” I stop walking for emphasis. ”Do tell me, is there a way to divert crowns from the sees due the Vatican, pray tell?”
Thomas Wolsey: *I allow myself a muffled laugh* Master Cromwell, you may sooner wrest a mutton joint from a wolf than run off any crowns from his holiness’ tribute. Besides, though your brazeness is to be admired, it would take time to divert enough coin to complete the task. No, what’s needed here is a windfall. I ask you this. Where in the kingdom can such wealth be found, other than the royal treasury? * Though I knew the answer I spoke with an expression of bewilderment. Gleaning in Cromwell’s eyes if he would absolve me of my thoughts, by speaking them himself.*
Thomas Cromwell: My heavens… the monasteries are filled with riches, false idols and relics. Here’s a golden opportunity to forward the long awaited reformation right under is nose. ”Well, forgive me Your Eminence, but there is much financial waste within the realm’s religious houses. Perhaps they could be consolidated without any undo hardship to the monks, friars, nuns and the poor souls they do service?”
Thomas Wolsey: *’Tis truly discomforting knowing this angler’s thoughts parallel my own. Yet he follows my lead, splendidly. I look at him pointedly, and raise my eyebrows, feigning dismay. I pinch my bottom lip as I speak* Master Cromwell! Are you suggesting procuring these funds by looting the monasteries? … Of course it could not be called ”looting” if they are indeed wasting much needed coin that could be spent on my education project… But still, I don’t know. On the other hand we are dealing with a moral imperative; Keeping England’s future generations in intellectual stead with the rest of the civilized world! … Very well. You have convinced me of the righteousness of this course. I charge you, master Cromwell, with drawing up the details for this venture. It must be legally sound, and we must not do anything to unduly trouble his majesty. Is that understood?
Thomas Cromwell: ”Your Eminence, there is no need to loot the monasteries. You will have all the funds you need by simply ’consolidating’ them. There is much coin in just maintaining the properties.” I look to my mentor, a man who taught me much and state knowingly, ” What you choose to do with the idols and relics is up to your discretion, as it should be.” I then look him in the eye and add in all seriousness, ”Now, let’s discuss compensation. What you ask will require much of my time. I request full escort so I am not murdered by the thugs who will rebel this, and additional wages… I do believe 15% of the spoils, I mean ’savings’ would be a fair wage for the time and effort this difficult project will require.”
Thomas Wolsey: * This man’s arrogance is as boundless as his resourcefulness!* Master Cromwell, we do this, not to fill our own purses, nor for our own self-aggrandizement.*I see him raise a finger and start to speak,but continue before he can utter a word* But being the fair employer that I am, I shall grant you your 15%. Just remember the conditions I have laid out before you. Are we agreed?
Thomas Cromwell: ”Yes, we are agreed.” I offer my ’opinion’ to reinforce I have other options should things not go as I request, and what few the Cardinal remains should I decline him. ”Your Eminence. I am so glad you decided my request for payment was fair. After all, can you imagine if you would have needed to rely on Gardiner to do this for you? I shudder at the thought. I will get started in the morning.”
Thomas Wolsey: Indeed. Exceptional, master Cromwell. Most exceptional. *I raise my hand out* Come this way. We shall take the short cut back. The palace kitchen is preparing a great plump turkey for dinner. By now, it should be just about ready to be plucked, cooked and generously carved. *I look up to see Cromwell’s inquisitive look and smile* We should get our fill of such bountiful game, master Cromwell.
Thomas Cromwell: I look to him and smile as I ponder his comments. We will get our fill of bountiful game indeed.
Thomas Cromwell: The man is impossible. I should have left for Parliament two hours ago, but here I still waiting in my office for Suffolk to arrive. The arrogance of the man. He seems to think because I am common born that my time is not as valuable as his. I am becoming increasingly annoyed as the minutes pass.
Charles Brandon: When I received Cromwell’s note this morning, that he wanted me to join him by his office after council, I was really displeased because this man unnerves me. He always has reports. He has his nose everywhere and his attitude towards me makes me rage. He’s a lap dog to me, a very annoying one. As I arrive to his office, I am announced by his assistant. ”Master Secretary, his Grace, the Duke of Suffolk is here.” I come in, and he bids me to sit, offering me a goblet of wine, which I observe suspiciously.
Thomas Cromwell: What a toad, snubbing his nose at the fine wine gifted to me by the Imperial Ambassador. I look across my desk, and state directly, ”His Majesty is seeking your support in an important matter of state. I should have been at Parliament over two hours ago, but as usual you are late for our meeting. I am bringing with me this series of parchments which detail the Act of Succession. In effect, it will change the succession of the crown from the LADY Mary to the children His Majesty will seed in our new and gracious Queen Anne.” I pass the parchments over. ”I suggest you review these carefully. His Majesty expects your support in pushing this through the House of Lords.” I drink some wine. It is sweet.
Charles Brandon: I finally decide to gulp down the wine, and its tastes very fine, fruity and good … but with Cromwell you never know. ”His Majesty always has my support,” I say, even before listening to him … but once he tells me of the new Act of Succession and the fact that the Princess Mary is no longer a Princess, my face changes, my chin drops… all in my head, of course . ”He wants me to push this through the Hourse of Lords?” I ask him, mostly reassuring myself of what I must do. He nods, and I take the papers into my hands, reading them quickly. … Indeed, the word Princess is stripped off Mary’s name and it’s like a punch in my throat. I care not for religion, but deep down I am a catholic, and she’s a catholic treasure to me. ”Queen Anne,” I say and look at him. ”I wonder why he sends you to tell me this, when he can do it himself… tell me, MASTER Cromwell, is it you who wrote this?”
Thomas Cromwell: He intimidates me not. I look him directly in the eye. ”I am the King’s Secretary and Chief Minister, YOUR GRACE. Obviously, it is my job to draft law at the King’s pleasure, and obviously it is my job to be instructing you of his desires in the matter. His Majesty is a busy man, and does not deal with such trifles. He just wants it done, by me in the House of Commons and by you in the House of Lords. This is his will, and the King’s will is the law, is it not?”
Charles Brandon: I listen to him and sigh, loudly … It’s clear that we both bug each other, quite a lot but we are different, he has to respect me. And me? Well, I don’t have to… ”Yes the King’s will is law, I wonder if it’s really his will,” I whisper lowly and his fact shoots up, looking at me straightly. I sigh again and ask for more wine, which is poured to me immediately. ”I will do as the King says, Cromwell…” He smirks and I look at him, not being able to help it. ”I feel like I should know you by now, but somehow I don’t…” He looks at me emotionless, and I take a deep breath. ”Nevermind, I know what I mean.” I clear my throat. ”Ah, Cromwell… my wife sends her regards.” I laugh sarcastically; there’s no one that dislikes him more than me, but my wife… she dislikes him quite a lot.
Thomas Cromwell: I lean over the desk, and reply feigning concern… ”I do hope she starts her bleeds soon, Your Grace. I am sure you desire more children. It would be a shame if you had to wait too long.”
Charles Brandon: I want to laugh but… ”MASTER Cromwell, how dare you… how dare you speak in those terms of my wife?” I say but inside my head I’m laughing, a lot… it was funny but nevertheless he must know his place. ”You are a servant; you can’t speak to me like that” Looks at him sternly.. ”Ironic isn’t it? That I have a wife next to me, that loves but you… can you say the same? Oh no wait, you are alone, like a street dog…” I clear my throat ”Now, I know your secret so.. you better learn to respect your betters,” I say.
Thomas Cromwell: This man, also born common, forgets his roots. He knows “my secret” not. If he did, I would already be a dead man. No matter, let him gloat. I know who sleeps in my bed, and she isn’t a child. ”Your grace, I was merely stating concern on your behalf. And, my private life is not your concern. As you so commonly point out I am low-born. Obviously, I am not chasing the ladies here at court, but seek my comforts elsewhere..”
Charles Brandon: ”Very well, Master Secretary… I don’t see any point in continuing this coversation,” I say and finish my wine. I stand up and pick up the papers that he so graciously handed me over. ”I shall pass this through the House of Lords; you can tell his Majesty that it shall be done as he says,” I add and head out, back to my apartments. That man, one day, I will get rid of him… piece by piece, I will get rid of him.
Thomas Cromwell: I say abruptly, ”I am so glad we have an agreement, Your Grace. Carry on.”
Thomas Cromwell: I look over and state smugly, ”The song is about me, Your Grace.”
Charles Brandon: I roll my eyes, snear and reply with emphasis, “No, MASTER Cromwell, it’s about ME.”
Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy of Ireland, was a prominent politician and courtier during the reigns of King Edward VI and Queen Elizabeth I. Sir Henry was raised at court as a companion of King Edward VI, and the two grew very close, so much so that Sir Henry was attending the King at the time of his death. A strong patron of the arts, Sir Henry fostered his strong interest in his children, renowned poet Sir Philip Sidney, and celebrated writer, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke.
My closet friend in this world, my King, he languishes. Short of breath, skinned blackened and scarred, legs grossly swollen and leaking pus, he screeches in pain as my heart breaks in shards. My God, nothing settles him. I gaze over at the array of elixirs, each the doctors instruct I give him as he lays. I let them rest. No more, no more shall my beloved Edward be tortured. These doctors know not how to cure the consumption that ails him. They merely know how to prolong his life, betraying God’s will for one more day of pain, one more day of agony, one more day of manipulations laid bare by the Duke of Northumberland. The will is set, the succession decided, there is reason no more. Lord, I pray most reverently that You take my beloved friend into your loving arms. He suffers much, and he was ready to join you weeks ago. I move to His Majesty’s side with a basin of warm water and some towels, hoping to cleanse him, comfort him, but alas the touch is of the cloth is too painful. Tears well, both his and mine. I sit down, and open the Common Book of Prayer to scriptures that His Majesty favors and begin reading aloud, praying the words bring him some solace. Just after I commence, they quietly walk in, Northumberland and the Arch Bishop of Canterbury.
John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland
John Dudley: I look over at the boy king. He is moaning in pain, and looks near death. Thankfully, all plans are laid. The heretic will not rule. “Sidney, you may stop the treatments. All plans for this realm to move in the glory of the true religion as the King commands are in motion. I pray the imp dies swiftly as he pains so.”
Henry Sidney: I will never admit I stopped these cruel elixir treatments three days ago. “Yes, Your Grace.” As I speak, I notice the Arch Bishop placing his hand over His Majesty’s head, near tears and blessing him. The King loved this man so, a more trusting mentor there never was.
Thomas Cranmer: As I bless His Majesty, I harken back to the day of his birth. My dearest Thomas Cromwell and I were praying in the chapel for his safe delivery, when the departed Lord Protector bounded in joyfully to tell us. “We have an heir! We have an heir! Strong and healthy!” In that moment I watched the weight of the world lift off Thomas’ shoulders, as if all rested with him and not the Queen. I look up from His Majesty’s trusting gaze, and speak. “Sir Henry, do pass over the prayer book. Please rise and join me, you as well, Your Grace.” Once in my hands, I open to ‘Ministration at Time of Death’ and begin.
Thomas Cranmer: As I begin, I feel the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost all around us, here to take His Majesty home. My heart is full, and I find strength within me to speak strong and clearly.“Almighty God, look on this your servant, lying in great weakness, and comfort him with the promise of life everlasting, given in the resurrection of your Son Jesus…”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Thomas Cranmer: “God the father…”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “Have mercy on your servant.”
Thomas Cranmer: “God the Son…”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “Have mercy on your servant.”
Thomas Cranmer: “God the Holy Spirit…”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “Have mercy on your servant.”
Thomas Cranmer: “Holy Trinity, one God…”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “Have mercy on your servant.”
Thomas Cranmer: “From all evil, from all sin, from all tribulation…”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “Good Lord, deliver him.”
Thomas Cranmer: “By your holy Incarnation, by your Cross and Passion, by your precious Death and Burial…”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “Good Lord, deliver him.”
Thomas Cranmer: “By your glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and by the Coming of the Holy Spirit….”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “Good Lord, deliver him.”
Thomas Cranmer: I take a deep breath and continue. “We sinners beseech you to hear us, Lord Christ: That it may please you to deliver the soul of your servant from the power of evil, and from eternal death…”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “We beseech you to hear us, Good Lord.”
Thomas Cranmer: “That it may please you to mercifully pardon all his sins…”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “We beseech you to hear us, Good Lord.”
Thomas Cranmer: “That it may please you to grant him a place of refreshment and everlasting blessedness…”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “We beseech you to hear us, Good Lord.”
Thomas Cranmer: “That it may please you to give him joy and gladness in your kingdom, with your saints in light…”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “We beseech you to hear us, Good Lord.”
Thomas Cranmer: “Jesus, Lamb of God, have mercy on him. Jesus, bearer of our sins, have mercy on him. Jesus, redeemer of the world, give him your peace.” (pause)
“Lord, have mercy…”
Henry Sidney and John Dudley: “Christ have mercy.”
Thomas Cranmer: “Lord, have mercy.” I kiss the Common Book of Prayer, my proudest achievement completed through His Majesty’s pious grace and place it by His Majesty on the bed. I will insure it is buried with him.
As the Arch Bishop finishes, I look to both men. Tears well in Cranmer’s eye as mine, but Dudley remains stoic, stiff as a statue. I gaze over at my king, no blood family here to ease his passing, his sisters both shut off and unaware his death looms. My heart fills, and I do as my soul guides me, and lay next to His Majesty, placing him gently in my arms. As I begin holding him, he begins to speak. Though labored and low I hear him clear.
King Edward VI
King Edward VI: “Lord God, deliver me out of this miserable and wretched life, and take me among the chosen: howbelt not my will, by thy will be done. Lord I commit my spirit to thee. O Lord. Thou knowest how happy it were to be with thee: yet for thy chosen sake send me life and health so I may truly serve thee. Oh my Lord God, bless thy people, and save thine inheritance. O Lord God save thy chosen people of England. Oh my Lord God, defend this realm from papistry and maintain thy true religion; that I and my people may praise thy holy name, for thy Son Jesus Christ’s sake.”
God on Earth, my king, my friend, he humbles me. Together in all, we romped and played along with Robert Dudley, Jane Grey and other right noble children, running down the halls, hiding from His governesses and nurses, punishment bestowed on the poor whipping boy. So close to the king, Barnaby Fitzpatrick took the strikes gladly, bless his soul. We played; we studied; we argued; we loved; we grew to near a man, together. A more worthy King there never was. A more longed for King there never was. A more pious King there never was. A more brilliant and well educated King there never was. King Edward, groomed since birth to lead us to glory, he wasted no time on hunts, tennis and jousts. Instead, he studied to exhaustion, learning all a noble and wise King should know. Fluent in five languages, he knows every port in this realm, every invention every conjured, every artist ever regarded, every military strategy ever successful, every Parliamentary Act ever written, every scripture of the Lord, every prayer dear Cranmer authored. A beautiful musician, his performances would bring the most hardened man to tears. King Edward VI, my pride overflows for our Renaissance King, my love overflows for the son of the lion, my grief overflows the cruel fate bestowed on to him, bestowed on to us. God save us all.
As I continue holding His Majesty, his breaths become short and shallow. The Arch Bishop comes over, and rests his hand on my shoulder, a kind gesture of support to me from this gentlest of pious men. To comfort and ease his way, I give my permission for the king to leave this world. “The Lord God awaits Your Majesty. Do go attend Him.” In a low voice I here his response… “I am faint; Lord have mercy upon me and take my spirit.” With that, the King breathes his last. I look over at Northumberland, tears streaming down my face. He merely nods and quickly leaves the room, soon returning with two doctors who confirm the pronouncement.
John Dudley: As soon as the doctors confirm the obvious, I walk up to the dead boy king and remove his ring. I hold it out and declare in a strong, firm voice, “The King is dead! Long Live the Queen!” To punctuate clearly to whom I speak, I add, “Long Live Queen Jane! Long Live Queen Jane!”
Another letter from Thomas… What the bloody hell is he up to now? I open the sealed wax and unfold the parchment to see what kind of mess he is dragging me into this time. Virgin Mary Mother of God, the man’s insane. He wants me to help him close monasteries, and for what? To help Wolsey pay for new colleges? The crowns better be good, that’s all I can say, or he is on his own. I look over to my wife Alice, dutifully organizing the fabrics of our clothing mercantile, and state, “Alice, dear. I need to head over to the Cat N’ Fiddle.” My poor wife, she looks at me and shakes her head. “Thomas again?” I nod. “You best be careful James. The two of you nearly burned just two months ago. What are you smuggling into England this time? Luther himself?” We both laugh. “No, dear. He wants me to help him with a project for the Lord Chancellor. There is no danger involved in working for the Arch Bishop of York, I assure you.” She looks incredulous. “Oh really then? And I am sure Wolsey knows of all the exploits of you both, pray tell? James, Thomas is crazy and you are too for always doing his bidding. Off with you then, and kiss me, just in case it’s the last I see of you.” I dutifully do as I am told, for good measure in the French style, and I am on my way. I ride on out to the Cat N’ Fiddle, and it’s a rowdy night. Whores and barmaids fill the place, and Dukes, Earls, Barons and high ranking merchants partake in their revelry. I look around, and at a table towards the middle of the pub, there is Thomas chatting it up with the daughter of the proprietor. He really is crazy as Alice thinks, I agree. I head on over, and he waves her off, but before leaving she slips something into his hand… most likely the keys to her bed chamber. Poor Elizabeth, the man truly is incorrigible.
Thomas Cromwell: “James, James… do sit down my friend.” I wave over a barmaid. “Joan, do go get James a tank of ale, will you then?” Joan heads straight over to James, places her hand on his arm and bends over, all but spilling her breasts before him. “You want anything else there mate? Maybe some bangers? Cheese? Bread?”
James Edwards: After quickly admiring the scenery, I answer, “No, just the ale, Jane. Thank you, dear.” She kisses my forehead and scampers off. I look over at Thomas, already flashing me a sly grin. “So, monasteries. You want me to help you close monasteries. Pray tell how will we manage that?”
Thomas Cromwell: “Listen James, His Eminence wants fast and easy crowns. He has his mind set on ‘educating England’s future’ and ‘positioning the realm for future glory’, and he is right. We are but a pigmy nation of uneducated peoples. To compete, even survive, we must keep up with our European rivals. So, His Eminence wants to open two new colleges towards that aim.”
James Edwards: Listen, James… Thomas, he always starts his schemes, with “Listen, James…”, a swindler, and a damn smart one, he is. Joan comes with the ale, and I tip her a crown. Cold and fresh, very good.“It sounds all to altruistic, Thomas. What is his real agenda? And what is yours? We both know there always is one.”
Thomas Cromwell: I laugh at James’ comment. He knows me too well. “Of course. Well, Wolsey is long in tooth, James. He is thinking of his legacy, I’m sure. “I bend over, and whisper… “James, this forwards our reformation with the Cardinal’s full knowledge. He is a greedy man. Once he sees the crowns that come out of this, he will want more closed… and more. You watch.” I then add, “And James… we will both profit handsomely at the same time. This is a windfall on all sides.”
James Edwards: I am now intrigued, and in complete awe once again of how Thomas thinks up these schemes. “Thomas, tell me more. How do we pull this all off?’
Thomas Cromwell: I look around to make sure no Lord is lurking. If you do not want to be suspected in conniving, sit in the middle of a crowd, but don’t be stupid about it.” We start with small monasteries and priories. You and I, with armed guards of His Eminence, basically just show up at these places and assert our authority as agents of the Cardinal. You and I, no one else, inventories their riches… their gold and silver jeweled idols and relics, and whatever else they have. I then write a report to His Eminence detailing the ‘inventories’, with recommendations on which of these religious houses to close and which to consolidate the priests, friars, monks and nuns into. ” I take a long drink of ale. “And James, trust me with the inventories, eh?’
James Edwards: I laugh heartily, and motion Joan to get me some more ale. “Thomas, you are evil. I do swear. Are we skimming off the top of the inventories, I assume?”
Thomas Cromwell: “Why yes, to further our reformation, of course, dear friend. We need pay off the pirates, I mean boat captains, for the Bibles and Lutheran tracks, don’t we now? Let us use papal crowns to do it, and if there is some left over for us, all the better.” Joan comes over to me after serving John his ale. “Joan, we are hungry, lass. Do bring us some bangers and bread, will you now? Oh, and Joan… do tell Frances I will see her about 10, okay?” I toss her a crown, and she catches it between her breasts for good measure.
James Edwards: Joan, she is a fun lass, she is. “So what is Wolsey himself knowingly paying? He must not think you are doing this for your usual wages.”
Thomas Cromwell: “He is paying me 15% of the spoils, James. I’ll pay you the equivalent of 5%. So, what say you then? You in?”
James Edwards: “Yes, I am in! To further our long awaited reformation, of course.” We both laugh. “So what’s the gossip of the day then, Thomas?”
Thomas Cromwell: Joan brings over our meals and a pitcher of ale, and we begin eating heartily. After gossiping about our merchant friends, we move on to the Cardinal. “Well, I was with the Cardinal doing some of his legal work when the Earl of Ormond arrived. His Eminence laid the man right out, James, chastising him for flaunting his daughters before His Majesty, first Lady Mary Carey and now the Lady Anne. I gave His Eminence a signal to stop, but on he went. He needs to make no more enemies among the Lords. He has too many as it is.”
James Edwards: After taking a large bite of a banger, I ask,“So is His Majesty bedding the Lady Anne now?”
Thomas Cromwell: “I have no idea, James, but they say the Lady Mary was bedded by two kings. Imagine that? A whore for the ages, my friend. That reminds me, I have ‘plans’, I must head off.. no pun intended.” We laugh. “Can I get you a room? Joan’s free for a price. My treat.”
James Edwards: I look over to my best friend on this earth and answer sincerely, “I prefer to go home to my wife, Thomas… as should you. Good evening. We will make our plans soon, don’t you worry.” I bow, and leave this place feeling just a little bit dirtier than when I came in. I mount my horse, and begin riding home. Looking back at the Cat N’ Fiddle, I think about my dearest friend. Thomas, the man is brilliant, but in truth he is a complicated mess. God help us both.
When I was ten, a strong burly man came to my parent’s home, and my life changed forever. Raised at Austin Friars alongside Gregory and his cousin Richard Williams, I joined a family rich not only in crowns, but in love and character. Lady Elizabeth was gentle and kind. Though not a great beauty, her joyful heart and fun loving manner created not only a wonderful home for her family, but also the servants and all who visited. Master Thomas always joking, was playful with all children in the household, no matter his blood or not. Through the years, Master Thomas became more and more successful, and his leave from Austin Friars more lengthy, so every time he ventured home was like a holiday we all cherished. Master Thomas once told me his father was harsh, beating him frequently. It seems he was determined to undo what was done to him, as Master Thomas was over-indulgent, his children needing nothing, wanting nothing, never punished, always longed for. Rumors say that Master Thomas was often unfaithful to Lady Elizabeth when he ventured for too long, but he loved her and it showed plainly. Her death crushed him completely, but he moved on forward, determined to raise his family in the ways she fostered. Gregory grown to a young man and studying at Cambridge, Master Thomas focused all his spare time, quite precious and too few in his mind, on his daughters.
With their mother now dead nearly a year, all Master Thomas wanted was stability for Grace and Anne, to have them close so they would not want for both parents. Back in London to assist His Eminence Cardinal Wolsey in preparing for the proceedings that God willing will lead to His Majesty’s long awaited annulment, Master Thomas, who I thought so wise and thoughtful always, made a fatal mistake. He chose to keep his daughters home at Austin Friars with him rather than send them to the country. When the sweating sickness began it’s evil course throughout the city, many of the wealthy scrambled to move to safer lands, as far from danger as possible. Even His Majesty moved his court from place to place for months, but Master Thomas was adamant. ‘”Ralph, no worries then, dear lad. God is good, and would never crush our world again. Anne and Grace need their father, so they’ll stay here.” God’s will was done, and both girls perished, but not for want of their father. Each in turn died in his arms, held close as the most stoic man to grace this earth gently wept. Now enclosed completely as required for a month at Austin Friars, Master Thomas, like the rest of us, is unable to travel to be with his son Gregory at Cambridge, nor can Gregory come home, so the tragic news was broken to my dear friend by Thomas Wriothesley. God’s will was done again, most painfully. Alone with no family, word travels from his professors that Gregory is broken, distracted, weepy, brooding and isolating himself to his chamber; and Master Thomas is worried sick. Austin Friars, once a joyous and active place, is dead silent. No children squeal down the hall. No laughter echos from Master Thomas’ study, where Anne and Grace would hide beneath the big oak desk in wait of him. No mother sings a lullaby; no joking between them or bickering or love. The days of this jovial man, always smiling and gentle spirited, are over. He is as black inside as the clothes on his back, his colorful and expensive wardrobe gifted to servants in his household.
Many learned people say that “Time heals all wounds.”, but does it really? Other learned people say “There is a reason for everything.”, but is there really? The priests say, “God’s will be done.” Are the quick and sudden deaths of these precious little girls God’s will really? When I pose these kinds of questions to Master Thomas, he tells me I will find the answers in the scriptures, and he gifted me a English translated Bible so I can find them myself. “Ralph, every answer to life’s questions you will find in this one book. If you have questions, come see me.” Master Thomas’ grief profound, and his guilt overwhelming, I dare not venture to him. Instead, I go to my chambers and drop to my knees. I open my Bible randomly, praying for God’s message to come clear. As I pear down, I read, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” God’s will was done. Grace and Anne are now caressed in the loving arms of their mother. I most earnestly pray He gives Master Thomas and Gregory the courage to find acceptance, faith and strength. Amen.
Exhausted, I swear I am going to drop dead right here at my desk. The servants will find me sprawled over this ever growing pile of official documents, drool smudging the ink. It all started when His Majesty appointed me Receiver General and Master of the King’s Jewel House, courtesy titles rewarding me for my ingenuity in wading through the legal loop holes to end his marriage to the now dead dowager princess. Then over time he added on Secretary of the Realm; Clerk of the Hanaper; Master of the Court of Wards; Chancellor of the Exchequer; Recorder of Bristol; Steward of Westminster Abbey; Joint Constableof Hertford Castle and Hertingfordbury; Constable of Berkeley Castle and Keeper of the Park, Master of the Game, and Keeper of the Woods; Master of the Rolls;andChief Minister to His Majesty. Okay, so I am wealthier than the Pope. Who cares? Yes, I love the challenge. Yes, I love the power. Yes, I love the prestige. Yes, I love the envy of the Lords. Yes, I love the pick of any woman I want save those the King beds. I love it all, especially the crowns, but when His Majesty appointed me Vicar General and Visitor General of the Religious Houses, I finally became completely and utterly overwhelmed. I no longer completely control my own destiny. Now, I must rely and trust in the work of others, and the need to delegate is strong. With His Majesty’s increasing demands, especially his command that I find a way to kill his wife to make room for the Lady Jane Seymour, I need more men I can trust. Yes, the minor monasteries are now dismantled, but there are many more monasteries, abbeys and priories across this realm that must be destroyed utterly to make way for our long awaited reformation. Time is my foe, not my friend. His Majesty is fickle. The crass witch dies now or like Wolsey, I will fall, and these religious houses must be dismantled soon, or His Majesty may swing back to more conservative leanings. I ready myself for a meeting with Sir Richard Rich and Ralph Sadler to discuss our man power challenges, and I enter the Solicitor General’s Office to get things started.
Thomas Cromwell: The Solicitor General offers me wine as I sit at the table, and I decline.“Sir Richard… Ralph, I must say I am exhausted. I’ve not slept in my own bed or a whore’s in days. I’m certain you both are weary, also.”
Ralph Sadler: “I could drop right here, right now. I have been to three monasteries to initiate inventories the last fortnight alone. I left your nephew Richard and Gregory out at Rufford Abbey and James Edwards is pillaging through your neighbors at Austin Friars. They are none too pleased, lecturing all they have done for you through the years… especially when Grace and Anne died. Do tell me, how go the interrogations?”
Richard Rich: I pour myself more wine, and a goblet for Ralph. Thomas refuses again. He must be taxed, poor man.“Yes, Mr. Secretary… do tell us about the interrogations. Rumors run rampant. What is the truth of it?”
Thomas Cromwell: I rub my eyes and yawn. “Well, I tell you this, mate. I’ve never had so many offers to get laid in my life. All the Queen’s maids are positioning themselves, trying to outdo the next. They betray her every confidence, especially the Lady Rochford. She offered her ‘chamber tricks’ in exchange for information, then spilled whole sordid story anyway when I refused. Sir Richard, you were with me when Smeaton confessed. Norris denies, but the knot and rack are not available to him. Tomorrow, I deal with Rochford himself, the pig, and the groom, Brereton. I hear Rochford is into buggery and bedding his own sister. Innuendo is the last boy child born dead and disfigured was of his seed. Can you even imagine? The dogs, they are all walking dead men. What happens to the Queen His Majesty will decide, but I think he aims to kill the bitch.”
Sir Richard Rich, Solicitor General
Richard Rich: “Mr. Secretary, my best to you with Rochford. He is a slippery bastard, his father’s son no doubt there. This debauchery is alarming. I’m sure His Majesty will have his head spiked on London Bridge. I’ll add the ugly blue hat the dog wears.”
Ralph Sadler: I laugh at Rich’s commentary on Rochford’s fashion statements, as does Master Thomas. “Can we add the ugly yellow plume too? The common folk deserve a laugh so. Like us, they toil endlessly. Any ideas on adding a few key trusted men to the fold?”
Thomas Cromwell: I laugh. These men drone on in silliness, and the distraction is welcome. “Gentlemen, no worries. I will ask Lady Rochford to secure for me the hat and plume, and you Ralph may have the honors of placing it upon the top of Rochford’s spiked head. The man did torment you so with his arrogance.” We all laugh again, Ralph nearly choking on his wine. “I suggest we look no further than the Boleyn’s enemies for more trusted men. Who with talent and loyalty to the crown is out there? Sir Richard?”
Richard Rich: “Who is that friend of yours from Oxford? You know, the Lord who owes the Lord Privy Seal his shirt, heavy in debt in crowns? Mr. Secretary, the barrister from the House of Lords?”
Thomas Cromwell: Heavens, I must be ready for the grave. The obvious escaped me. “On my, yes, Sir Richard. Good idea, mate. You are thinking of Sir John Cerwin. And yes, he is brilliant. I attempted to bring him to court three years ago, but Boleyn would have none if it. The dog would not support Cerwin’s arrival at court until all crowns owed were paid with hefty interest. Now, gentlemen, if I took that stance, the government would cave. Over half the Lords here owe me dearly, including Boleyn.”
Ralph Sadler: “Well, Cerwin should worry not of his loan. Wiltshire will fall hard soon. He will be lucky to escape with his head. I will be interested to see who His Majesty chooses as his Lord Privy Seal. My crowns are on Sir John Seymour. I wager 50 crowns. You both want in?”
Richard Rich: I look at Ralph and laugh. A commoner protégé of Thomas’, he’s a fine young man. He will go far. “I will meet that wager, and put my 50 crowns on Sir Charles Brandon. The man has no talent, but His Majesty adores him.”
Thomas Cromwell: I look at the Solicitor General and feign annoyance. “You swine, you beat me to my wager. I think Brandon, also… but I am in. It matters not to me who His Majesty selects. Whoever it is will just be one more man I need to bow abeyance to. I will go with a long shot, and if I win you both have to double… Sir Nicholas Carew.”
Sir Ralph Sadler
Ralph Sadler: “Carew??????” We all laugh heartily. Yes, yes… 100 crowns to you if it’s Carew.” Sir Richard also jokingly agrees to the terms. “Master Thomas, the only longer shot than Carew, is you.” We all laugh heartily again. My God, truer words were never spoken. A base born commoner knighted and awarded Lord Privy Seal? The pope would bow to Luther first.
Thomas Cromwell: I look over to the young man who except by blood is a beloved son and say teasingly,“Ralph, stifle or I’ll throw you back to the streets. Do send dear Richard out to speak with Sir John, and urge that he be here within a fortnight. To spruce the offer with some poetic justice, be sure Richard tells him that he may bring his family, and they may move into Wiltshire’s very chambers. It’s too bad you are already married Ralph. Cerwin’s daughter is quite bonny.”
Richard Rich: “Damn it, Thomas. I wanted those chambers.”
Thomas Cromwell: I laugh. “You can have Rochford’s. I am feeling very benevolent today. We’ll send the wife God knows where, down with the servants maybe until she moves back from the hole she crawled out of. Listen gentlemen, I need some sleep. Do give a list of recommendations of at least three more men you both do think we can count on. I’ll review it first thing in the ‘morrow.” I stand and bow respectfully. “Many blessings to you both.”
The meeting with Ralph and Helen Plantagenet is done, thank God. That woman will make an excellent spy, but her very presence makes me feel dirty, makes me feel disloyal to my wife. Will Nicoleen understand what I am doing? Will she question my commitment to our vows to one another? Will she be hurt at the thought of all this? The answers weigh me down and torment my soul, but I have no choice. I must protect us, and no matter the cost. I vowed to my Nicosa and her family, to me a solemn oath never to be broken. Tongues wag at court all over, the ladies conjecturing who I am with, who shares my life, who shares my bed… and as I rise in favor with His Majesty, the propositions, sometimes subtle, sometimes not, keep coming. Why will not these vulture wenches leave me alone? If I don’t feed “truth to a rumor” soon, the spies Norfolk, Gardiner and God knows who else have on me will eventually come upon the reality. I can risk that not, so here I am, feeding the fire of innuendo and gossip to divert the wagging tongues and prying eyes away from my exquisite Goddess to the beautiful, raven haired court whore instead. The Lords will gloat when they bed her from me, leaking their secrets as she fans their egos and peaks hard their every perverted desire – perfect. God, I pray you forgive me. Dearest Cranmer, I pray you forgive me. Nicoleen, I pray you forgive me. Even with prayers answered, I will never forgive myself. I mean I am such a manipulative and evil bastard, really.
My office now empty but for me and the fleas, I sit by the fire holding and fidgeting with my wife’s crystal pendulum, drinking wine to dull the pain — first one goblet, then another and then another. Was this all Walter was doing? Dulling the pain of his pitiful existence? I decide not. The man who spilled my seed was a pig, a toad, a louse, ale his constant companion, his only companion. Feelings now numb, I look down at the empty goblet in my hand. A small voice in my mind speaks…”Enough wine, Thomas. Stop now. You are not Walter. An evil bastard yes, but you are not him.” My God no, I have not become Walter. I will not become Walter. I throw the goblet at the fire place mantel, knocking off a precious vase imported from Italy that crashes to the floor. Will the noise wake my Gregory? No, he is used to it… just his father upset about something of what yet he does not know, again; a valuable vase in shards on the floor, again; a steely glare instead of an honest answer, again. The poor lad must think I am insane. After a trip to the piss pot, the wine still flowing, I sit at my desk. Overwhelmed with feelings of longing and love for my wife, I take quill and ink to paper. Can I write straight? Let’s do try.
I am empty, and pine pitifully at the thought of you. People around me believe I am high risen, the right hand of His Majesty, and happily arrogant beyond all measure. The performance played well, they are but fools. My heart and soul with you and our babe within you, I carry forward a broken man, only to be mended when you come home to me. Only dearest Thomas knows the truth of it, and he prays endlessly, fearful all will come unraveled. The poor man lives to worry so. T’is God’s will for Thomas to be right tormented endlessly with the worries of all about him.
Nicosa, your beauty fills my thoughts and dreams. As you promised, when I look upon your Luna from our room at Thea’s or while sitting at your rock at the pond, you come to me, fill me, love me, hold and comfort me. I do thank you and your Gods that make it so. May mine forgive me, as dabbling so is sinful say the scriptures. All I do, all I must do, I confess is not pure of spiteful manipulation, but is for us, our love, our safety, our family. Know we are one. Know it always. I beg you.
I pray earnestly that you are in loving hands, that James and Alice bring you companionship and solace. I pray you feel no discomfort, and only the joy of our babe frolicking healthy within you. I pledge to you my undying love and loyalty that I come only on to you, my beautiful wife. God keep you — and God bring you home as this separation is wearing me painfully deep to my soul.
Your Loving Husband, Thomas
I fold the parchment, and my hands shaky, seal it with wax dripping, stamping it with a generic seal. The risks of smuggling Tyndale Bibles, I take once more. Thankful for what that experience taught me, this letter will be hidden unopened by John Phillips within bales of fine woven cloth from my business Ralph so capably manages and shipped to Rouen, and then from James, make it’s way to my beloved wife’s hands, grace be to God. Shall I send a little gift along? I decide something sweet made with love from Theo’s old and near crippled hands may lift my wife’s spirits, so I open my desk draw and take out a leather pouch containing his gifted workmanship and place it alongside the letter on my desk. Though by morning my head shall pound with the wine’s lead hammer, I retreat to my bed chamber, comfortably numb and alone but for the aching thoughts that forever haunt me.