Thomas Cromwellby Tracy Borman
A fascinating biography of Henry VIII’s most trusted aide, Thomas Cromwell, a commoner who became second only to the king.
Thomas Cromwell has long been reviled as a Machiavellian schemer who stopped at nothing in his quest for power. As Henry VIII’s right-hand man, Cromwell was the architect of the English Reformation, secured Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, plotted the downfall of Anne Boleyn, and, upon his arrest, was accused of trying to usurp the king himself. But here Tracy Borman reveals a different side of one of the most notorious figures in history: that of a caring husband and father, a fiercely loyal servant and friend, and a revolutionary who helped make medieval England into a modern state.
Born in the mid-1480s to a lowly blacksmith, Cromwell left home at eighteen to make his fortune abroad. After serving as a mercenary in the French army, working for a powerful merchant banker in Florence at the height of the Renaissance, and spending time as a cloth merchant in the commercial capital of the world, the Netherlands, Cromwell returned to England and built a flourishing legal practice. He soon became the protégé of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and then worked his way into the king’s inner circle. As Henry’s top aide, Cromwell was at the heart of the most momentous events of his time and wielded immense power over both church and state. His seismic political, religious, and social reforms had an impact that can still be felt today. Grounded in excellent primary source research, Thomas Cromwell gives an inside look at a monarchy that has captured the Western imagination for centuries and tells the story of a controversial and enigmatic man who forever changed the shape of his country.
“Dr. Tracy Borman has crafted an exceptional and compelling biography about one of the Tudor age’s most complex and controversial figures. With expert insights based on a wealth of research and riveting detail, she has brought Thomas Cromwell to life as never before, and achieved a fair and balanced assessment of his character and his career. Above all, her book is a joy to read—a remarkable tour de force by one of our most accomplished historians.” —Alison Weir
“What Tracy Borman has to offer is a long-overdue update on Merriman and his successors, and a much surer guide than Hilary Mantel provides. Borman has immersed herself in the sources, disentangled numerous knots, and let her dramatis personae speak for themselves. Her Cromwell is a complex character . . . Borman unravels the story of Cromwell’s rise to power skillfully . . . If you want the inside story of Thomas Cromwell . . . this is the book for you.” —J. J. Scarisbrick, Weekly Standard
“An engrossing biography. . . . A fine rags-to-riches-to-executioner’s-block story of a major figure of the English Reformation.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Should be catnip to fans of Hilary Mantel’s best-selling Wolf Hall novels about Cromwell.” —USA Today
“Almost 500 years after his death on the chopping block, the consigliere and fixer for the much-married Tudor monarch is definitely having a moment. . . . In the midst of all the dramatizations, Borman’s book is a straight biography that gives Cromwell full credit for his achievements without stinting on descriptions of his brutality.” —Martha T. Moore, USA Today (3.5 out of 4 stars)
“With Wolf Hall mania upon us, Tracy Borman’s cleanly written biography will steer you through the poetic licenses of the forthcoming BBC production to the historical facts.” —The Times (UK)
“If you want to know exactly what we know, rather than imagine, about Thomas Cromwell, this book is a good place to start.” —The Times (UK)
“An intelligent, sympathetic, and well researched biography.” —Allen Massie, Wall Street Journal
“An insightful biography of a much-maligned historical figure.” —Margaret Flanagan, Booklist
“A fascinating insight into a remarkable man.” —Monique Brand, Cove Herald (Texas)
“Borman writes admirably; her prose trips along merrily and is full of intriguing tidbits.” —New Statesman
“Tracy Borman recounts persuasively and engagingly the tale of the meteoric rise of this complex commoner to the highest offices and dominant influence at the court of Henry and his just as meteoric fall from grace and execution.” —Robert Bireley, S.J., America
“Excellent. . . . Borman has scoured the sources to explore the life and personality of the man who in effect created the break from the Church of Rome and her book is an impressive investigation into one of our most elusive characters in history. . . .This deeply researched and grippingly written biography brings Cromwell to life, probing into his complex personality and exposes the Henrician court in all its brutal, glittering splendor.” —Independent (UK)
“[An] elegant historical biography. . . . [Borman’s] prose, as ever, glides beautifully along.” —Sunday Times (UK)
“A highly readable account.” —Financial Times (UK)
“British historian Tracy Borman has unearthed previously unpublished evidence that casts a brighter light on one of the most ruthless of machiavellians in British history.” —Guardian (UK)
“Tracy Borman tells us succinctly in 400 pages what we need to know about the man who rose to be the king’s highest adviser. . . . [A] good book.” —Times (UK)
“Borman combines a mastery of historical detail with a fast-pace and an accessible style. She doesn’t forget that she’s dealing with human beings, with their fallibilities and petty motivations . . . As a psychological subject, Cromwell is as fascinating as the man he served. No wonder we all want to know more.” —Independent (UK)
Praise for Elizabeth’s Women:
“A standout in the flood of Tudor biographies.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Genuinely inspired.” —Sunday Times (UK)
“A thrilling and carefully written book which should grace any history lover’s bookshelves.” —Scotland on Sunday (UK)
By the summer of 1530, Cromwell was clearly a rising star at court. But the preceding months had not just been about feathering his own nest: he had worked consistently to rehabilitate Wolsey with the King so that he might avoid being attainted for treason. The disgraced Cardinal had been effusive in his thanks, referring to his former protégé as “my only comfort,” “my only help,” and “mine own good Thomas.” For all his gratitude, though, the Cardinal had unrealistic expectations of what Cromwell could achieve. He insisted that the minimum he could live on was a staggering £;4,000 a year—equivalent to £;1.3 million today.
It is easy to imagine Cromwell’s exasperation as he read the increasingly insistent dispatches from his former master. But Cromwell had learned the art of diplomacy from his years on the Continent, as well as his service to Wolsey, and he was already an excellent judge of the King’s character and moods. This was proved in February 1530, when he secured Henry’s pardon for Wolsey. Shortly afterwards, his former master was restored to the archbishopric of York, with all of its possessions except York Place.
This was an extraordinary achievement. In a little over four months, Cromwell had transformed Wolsey’s position from disgraced minister on the verge of a conviction for treason to one of the foremost prelates in the land. He had done so from a standing start, with no position and precious few contacts in a court filled with the Cardinal’s enemies. Now, not only Wolsey but also he himself enjoyed the King’s good graces.