The Ambassador, the Minister and the King

In episode 5 of Wolf Hall, we saw Eustace Chapuys at Court, being tricked into bowing to Anne Boleyn before being yelled at by Henry VIII, after which Cromwell also found himself on the receiving end of Henry’s anger. So, what exactly was it all about?

To answer this, we need to delve into the international politics of the period…. Continue reading “The Ambassador, the Minister and the King”

Why did the Pole and Courtenay families matter?

In the 4th episode of Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell was shown discovering that Henry Pole, Lord Montagu, and Henry Courtenay, marquis of Exeter, amongst the visitors to Elizabeth Barton (the nun who has been prophesying that Henry will not be King if he divorces Katherine of Aragon and marries Anne Boleyn). He is then shown questioning Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury and Gertrude, marchioness of Exeter. But why were the Pole and Courtenay families important? And why did it matter if they were meeting with the woman predicting doom for Henry and England? Continue reading “Why did the Pole and Courtenay families matter?”

Wolf Hall Explained – Anne’s Family

In episode 3 of Wolf Hall, Cromwell was summoned to a crisis gathering of Anne’s family to deal with Henry Percy’s claim that he and Anne had been contracted to one another (in Tudor England, promises of marriage were seen as binding contracts and would mean that Anne was not free to marry Henry VIII). But who exactly were all the people standing around? Continue reading “Wolf Hall Explained – Anne’s Family”

Wolf Hall Explained – Was Thomas Cromwell a hit with the ladies?

In the second episode of Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell found himself on the receiving end of a reasonable amount of female attention (for a drama that is marketing itself as a serious political interpretation not the sex fest that is The Tudors). First up was Mary Boleyn, perhaps better known in popular culture as the heroine of Philippa Gregory’s novel The Other Boleyn Girl. She made her interest in Cromwell clear, although her motivation appeared to have been that it would piss of her relatives who had little interest in her since she had been cast off as Henry VIII’s mistress. Whilst Cromwell turned Mary down he did give into Joan, one of the women in his household. Joan was in fact his dead wife’s sister and her husband worked for Cromwell. So, did he really have women throwing themselves at him? Continue reading “Wolf Hall Explained – Was Thomas Cromwell a hit with the ladies?”

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? Continue reading “Wolf Hall Explained – Richard and Rafe”

Wolf Hall Explained – Anne’s Accent

So, the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall began last week. It has received favourable reviews for its interpretation of the books and its dedication to historical accuracy but in places it can be hard going for those unfamiliar with the books and/or history. Over the next few weeks, I will be explaining some of the history behind the series starting with Anne Boleyn’s accent.

During the first episode Anne (Claire Foy) alternated between an English accent and an affected French accent – with a pronounced ”Cremuel” for Cromwell. Anne left England for the Netherlands in 1513, when she was about 12 years old, and joined the household of Margaret of Austria. From there she was moved to France to wait on Mary Tudor who married Louis XII of France in the autumn of 1514. The marriage was short-lived and Mary returned to England in spring 1515 after her the death of her husband. Anne remained in France and joined the household of Claude, the new Queen of France. It would be nearly seven years before she returned to England, in 1521. Her time in France had given her an exoticism and polish that was unusual at the English court. To observers, her manners appeared French, she had a taste for Renaissance art and favoured French fashions. Historians believe that she would have adopted a French accent when it suited her to emphasise her continental education and uniqueness.