Just before the end of the year, I read and finished the book, Wolf Hall. It is an account of King Henry the VIII and his quest to divorce his wife Catherine after she failed to produce a son, or a male heir to the English throne and his pursuit of Anne Boleyn. Divorce was not approved by the church despite the King’s many attempts to enlist Pope Clement’s approval. As many know, King Henry was married six times in pursuit of political approval and a healthy male heir. He lived and ruled in the time of the Protestant Reformation when Martin Luther was nailing his theses to the church doors. It was a tumultuous time in the early 1500s. History.com gives a brief yet thorough account of the monarch’s life and rule.
But, the book Wolf Hall really focuses on the life of Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell, born to a lowly blacksmith indentured himself first to Cardinal Wolsey and then to the King upon Wosely’s death. Cromwell is an interesting character as he deals with the death of his family due to the plague and is a parent to children who are not his blood but did so with a heart-wrenching dedication. At times you think he is conflicted with his own morals while reading this novel.
I enjoyed this book and read it before I watched any of the PBS/BBC production of Wolf Hall (which I still have not done). It was my first foray into reading about British monarchs. I learned a great deal, most significantly to my own history, who St. John Fischer was. He is a character in this novel. When I was in nursing school, the rural university we attended sent us to a mid-sized city – Rochester, New York – to attend classes and have a city-based clinical experience for our junior year. The faculty belonged to the university I attended but we had classes on the campus of another university – St. John Fischer College. Having not been raised Catholic, I have a very limited knowledge of saints. Now I know who St. John Fischer was – he lived during King Henry the VIIIth’s reign. I won’t tell you any more than that at this point due to prevent spoilers.
King Henry the VIII was certainly an interesting character who led the Church of England and then, separated from it for his own gain. As I understand it, he tried to make amends before his death but was unable to do what the Pope asked of him. He lived a long life for the period of time in which he lived, dying at age 55. He never did have a long lived male heir to the throne and his daughters’ lineage was finally restored. They both served as monarchs.
Wolf Hall was a fascinating read. I would recommend it.