“My special tender friend”: The Long History of More and Cromwell

d9509e_a1183470b7ad4b3c9b79592ae6954221I ran across this earlier this year when Wolf Hall was running in the UK. Since it is running now on Masterpiece Theater, it seems a good time to bring it forward. It’s very good television, just don’t confuse it with objective history, it’s not, there’s a fair amount of propaganda in it.

Here’s Dr. Joanne Paul:

I like to think of More and Cromwell on some sort of bizarre historical seesaw. It seems that when one is up, the other is inevitably down. In A Man for All Seasons, More is the glorified protagonist, so Cromwell becomes the conniving enemy. In Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Cromwell is the hero, or at least antihero, and so More is given a less sympathetic portrayal.

Much of what we think we know of their relationship comes from More’s earliest biographers, who were keen to place the two men in precisely this sort of opposition. For instance, it is from More’s first biographer, William Roper, that we get the story of More, upon his resignation as Chancellor, advising Cromwell: “you shall, in your counsel-giving unto [the King], ever tell him what he ought to do, but never what he is able to do…. For if a Lion knew his own strength, hard it were for any man to rule him”. And Cromwell, in Roper’s version, teases and flatters More while he is in the Tower, prompting his reflections on “eye flattering fortune”

But how much do we really know about More and Cromwell – their relationship, what they thought of one another? We know the end of the story – or we think we do – the two men face off, and Cromwell wins, until he too is cut down. But is that the right way of thinking about it?

The two were probably born about the same time only about 5 miles apart; More in Cheapside, Cromwell in Putney. Neither came from particularly prestigious roots, More’s ancestors were brewers, bakers and candlestick makers, Cromwell’s father was a blacksmith and merchant. The main difference between the two men’s early lives seems to have been their paternal fortunes. More’s father was an up-and-coming lawyer, Cromwell’s was a brute and a drunk.

Continue reading: Dr Joanne Paul | Renaissance Historian | “My special tender friend”: The Long History of More and Cromwell.


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5 Responses to “My special tender friend”: The Long History of More and Cromwell

  1. We must not forget the English Reformation Parliament, 1529 – 1534. Cromwell was surely one of the strongest and most powerful advocates of the early English Reformation!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Btw, allow me to share this about the “execution” of Thomas Cromwell . . .

      On the 28th July 1540, Thomas Cromwell climbed the scaffold and addressed the waiting crowd. He opened by saying “I am come hither to die and not to purge myself, as some think peradventure that I will”4 and then he continued by acknowledging that he had offended God and the King and asking forgiveness from both of them. Then he declared “I die in the Catholic faith, not doubting in any article of my faith… nor in any sacrament of the church”5 but Schofield points out that Cromwell was using gallows humour and irony here and was not referring to the medieval Roman Catholic Church, but instead was using the word “Catholic” in the way that Luther, Melancthon and Cranmer did, referring to the “Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” of the New Testament and Nicene Creed. He continued by denying the charges laid against him and then said:-

      “Many have slandered me, and reported that I have been a bearer of such as I have maintained evil opinions; which is untrue: but I confess, that like as God, by His Holy Spirit, doth instruct us in the truth, so the devil is ready to seduce us; and I have been seduced.”6

      Although the words “I have been seduced” makes Cromwell sound as if he is confessing his guilt, Schofield explains that it was probably meants as a “sort of sweeping, general confession that all believers make from time to time, like “forgive us our trespasses”, or “all we like sheep have gone astray””.

      Cromwell then committed his soul to Christ, calling on his mercy and stating his faith in the resurrection and justification by faith alone:-

      “I see and acknowledge that there is in myself no hope of salvation, but all my confidence, hope and trust is in thy most merciful goodness. I have no merits or good works which I may allege before thee.”7

      And with this attack on “the work righteousness of medieval religion” and a declaration of his Lutheran beliefs, Thomas Cromwell ended his speech, knelt at the block and was beheaded. The idea that his execution was botched comes from the chronicle of Edward Hall, where he says that Cromwell “so paciently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged and Boocherly miser, whiche very ungoodly perfourmed the office”8, which suggests that it was not a “good” execution, but there is no firm evidence of this and there is no suggestion that the executioner was paid off by Cromwell’s enemies or that they got him drunk. Whatever the real story, it was a sad end to a man who had risen from his humble roots – son of a smith from Putney – to be the Earl of Essex and the King’s chief minister.

      RIP Thomas Cromwell, Master Secretary. Amen! He died a true Reformed and Reformational Christian!

      Read more: http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/the-execution-of-thomas-cromwell/#ixzz3X76AAp5e

      Liked by 1 person

      • NEO says:

        WRT the execution, it may have been a hardware problem. The one executioner’s axe that is still at the Tower, is more of a broadaxe than a traditional axe. it has an offset blade which would (and does) make it very difficult to use as an axe.


        • This came from the link above… “Cromwell helped more the English people saving them from the atrocious, cruel and usurious catholic church of the time. The never constant king Henry VIII would kill anyone on a whim, up to and including one of England’s greatest citizens.”

          Amen! I would have to agree about old Henry!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: My Article Read (4-12-2015) | My Daily Musing

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