Royal Baby: Blue hat at the ready....

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Published 2012   Part 2  chapter 1   set in 1536

[Thomas Cromwell is observing Anne Boleyn] For now, Anne seems oblivious to the wings that hover over her, to the eye that studies her path as she jinks and swerves. She chatters about her child Elizabeth, holding up on her fingers a tiny cap, a pretty ribboned cap, just come from the embroiderer. Henry looks at her flatly as if to say, why are you showing me this, what is it to me? Anne strokes the scrap of silk. He feels a needle point of pity, an instant of compunction. He studies the fine silk braid that edges the queen’s sleeve. Some woman with the skills of his dead wife made that braid. He is looking very closely at the queen, he feels he knows her as a mother knows her child, or a child its mother. He knows every stitch in her bodice. He notes the rise and fall of her every breath. What is in your heart, madam? That is the last door to be opened.

Now he stands on the threshold and the key is in his hand and he is almost afraid to fit it into the lock. Because what if it doesn’t, what if it doesn’t fit and he has to fumble….?

observations: A Royal baby for obvious reasons today.
The two Cromwell books – Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies – are remarkable for many reasons, but one is that Mantel is equally good on the broad sweep of history, and the details that pass through a person’s head, the little things they notice. Thomas Cromwell is always convincing – of course he notices everything, and he is brilliant, but his past as a merchant and trader produces beautiful details of clothes and trimmings, ideal for Clothes in Books. He is VERY good on hats: from this embroidered baby cap, through the image of a hat with a broken feather (feathers appear in many forms in the books), to the startling hat – never described but see the Clothes in Books version here – worn by the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, at Christmas, and mentioned now and again throughout this book.

Looking at Catherine Zeta Jones in Chicago and since, you’d think she would be the ideal candidate to play Anne Boleyn, she would be inspired casting. 

There’s a sobering Thomas Wyatt’s poem about his feelings for Anne here.

Links on the blog: both books have featured before, here and here, and Tudors and Boleyns were on our mind before, twice.

The picture is of a different Royal Baby – Louis d’Orleans, a 19th century princeling who as a child moved to Twickenham near London, and died in Sydney of TB. But at least he was a boy, which was more than Anne Boleyn could manage. Well done Kate! (Though they say it doesn't matter any more which gender it is...)


  1. Moira - I've always thought that family history so interesting! And you're right that Mantel has a lot of talent at sharing history. Thanks for remdinding me of these books, and you couldn't have chosen a better day :-)

  2. Royal families are such a mixture of the personal and political aren't they? All views on the rights and wrongs of monarchy aside, they make a much better subject for novelists than Republics and Presidents... no-one cares if the Pres has a boy or a girl baby.

  3. Apologies, I've picked this up and put it back down. I think had too much "old" history at school. If there is something she writes that may be this or last century I'll have another look!

    1. I really like her book Fludd, and one called Eight Months on Ghazzah St, both 20th century kind of books. I think I was ready to take on the Tudor novels because I'd liked her modern ones so much. Oh, and Beyond Black, which is 21st cent....

    2. I'll plead ignorance, I thought she was mired in the 14th/15th C. Live and learn eh....


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