Wolf Hall Explained – Richard and Rafe

The storyline of Wolf Hall jumps us around between the ‘present’ and Thomas Cromwell’s flashbacks. When he is in the present, he is often accompanied by two young men – Rafe (Ralph) Sadler (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Richard (Joss Porter). But who exactly are they?

Episode 1 told us that Rafe is Cromwell’s ward. He was born around 1507, the son of an administrator from Warwickshire. In the Tudor period, people would try and secure placements in the households of prominent or rising men in the hope of advancement. For young people it was also a means of gaining an education. By the age of 14, possibly as young as 7, Rafe had entered Cromwell’s service and was receiving an education in languages and the law. At about 19 years of age, he was acting as Cromwell’s secretary, helping to write his many letters. He was both increasingly involved in the business of Cromwell’s household and getting experience of the great affairs of state.

Richard is a slightly more obscure figure in Tudor politics. He was Thomas Cromwell’s nephew  – the son of Katherine Cromwell and Morgan Williams. Originally, he was in the service of Thomas Grey, marquis of Dorset but, around the time of Dorset’s death, he moved into his uncle’s service. As depicted in Wolf Hall, he took his uncle and mother’s surname as his own. It is from Richard that Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, was descended.


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