More on Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy

So I didn’t quite say all I had to say in the post earlier this week – but you should read both if you are interested.

Gregory Cromwell, Thomas’s son, features a lot in the third book, and has matured. This is what he looked like:

He looks like a young scally from Liverpool.

In the TV series he was played by an actor called Tom Holland. This young man features in one of my favourite video clips of all time:

I’m going to call it (without checking): not the same costume for this as for Wolf Hall.

Back in 2015 I entertained myself by making a list of my  eleven favourite moments from the two books, and I thought I might run it again now.
1) His children are falling from the sky.
That’s the first sentence of Bring up the Bodies. It’s a reference to Cromwell’s falcons, named after his dead daughters, and surely the best opening line of any book this century.
2) ‘There is the matter of all the other women who want to marry you. The wives of England, they all keep secret books of whom they are going to have next when they have poisoned their husbands. And you are the top of everyone's list.’
The artist Hans Holbein talking to Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall. Well yes he would be, wouldn’t he?
3) His hair is dark, heavy and waving, and his small eyes, which are of very strong sight, light up in conversation: so the Spanish ambassador will tell us, quite soon. It is said he knows by heart the entire New Testament in Latin, and so as a servant of the cardinal is apt – ready with a text if abbots flounder. His speech is low and rapid, his manner assured; he is at home in courtroom or waterfront, bishop's palace or inn yard. He can draft a contract, train a falcon, draw a map, stop a street fight, furnish a house and fix a jury. He will quote you a nice point in the old authors, from Plato to Plautus and back again. He knows new poetry, and can say it in Italian. He works all hours, first up and last to bed. He makes money and he spends it. He will take a bet on anything.
A description of Thomas Cromwell, explaining the perception above. And, blogfriend Samantha Ellis (author of How to be a Heroine) suggests, a fine description for the ‘ideal man’ part of a dating profile.

4) The completely engrossing dinner party at Thomas More’s house in Chelsea in Wolf Hall – plot, character, joyous entertainment, sadness and jokes all come together in a tour de force of writing, a scene you could read again and again. ‘They laugh. You would think they were friends.’

5) ‘I picture you in a hovel, wearing homespun, and bringing home a rabbit for the pot. I picture your lawful wife Anne Boleyn skinning and jointing this rabbit. I wish you every happiness.’
Thomas Cromwell tells Harry Percy how life works (in Wolf Hall), when Percy is threatening to cause trouble. Another tour de force: total bullying, horrible to read, but hilariously funny.

6) The wonderful, brilliantly-portrayed, Duke of Norfolk has been visiting his armourer and is still wearing some bits of it ‘so that he looks like an iron pot wobbling to the boil.’

7) ‘You know what More used to say. “If the lion knew his own strength, it were hard to rule him.”’

‘Thank you,’ [Cromwell] says. ‘That consoles me mightily, Sir Purse, a text from the grave from that blood-soaked hypocrite. Has he anything else to say about the situation? Because if so I’m going to get his head back off his daughter and boot it up and down Whitehall till he shuts up for good and all.’
Cromwell being respectful about his old foe and colleague Thomas More.
8) ‘[Anne Boleyn] is selling herself by the inch. The gentlemen all say you are advising her. She wants a present in cash for every advance above her knee.’
‘Not like you, Mary. One push backwards and, good girl, here's fourpence.’
Cromwell outlines the difference between the two Boleyn girls.
9) No doubt they are discussing the new alliance; he seems to think she has another treaty tucked down her bodice.
Anne Boleyn meets the King of France: the King of England gets jealous. A superb scene, and perfectly portrayed in the TV series.

10) The months run away from you like a flurry of autumn leaves bowling and skittering towards the winter; the summer has gone, Thomas More’s daughter has got his head back off London Bridge and is keeping it, God knows, in a dish or bowl, and saying her prayers to it. He is not the same man he was last year, and he doesn’t acknowledge that man’s feelings; he is starting afresh, always new thoughts, new feelings.
Thomas Cromwell at the beginning of Bring Up The Bodies.
11) She laughs. ‘They could tell Boccaccio a tale, those sinners at Wolf Hall.’
Cromwell and Anne Boleyn companionably chatting and sniggering over the gossip from the Seymour family. But is the whole court Wolf Hall, and this a vital comment on their morals?

Also on the blog is a list of great books on the Tudors, and a  look at Wolves in Books, inspired by Wolf Hall. they both contain links to some of the many other posts on the Mantel books.


  1. I love these moments, Moira! Mantel does have such a way of expressing herself, doesn't she? And I agree about that first sentence of Bring Up the Bodies; I don't think I've ever read another like it. As for the dinner party in Wolf Hall, I think it's superbly done. Thanks for the reminder of it, and for sharing these great quotes.

    1. Thanks Margot! You are such a friend to this blog, you certainly read this list first time around, but you are still kind enought come and comment. It is always appreciated. I hope you and yours are surviving well in this difficult time. Take care!

  2. Reading this series (the first two books) has made me eager to read more of the Matthew Shardlake series and I do have the next two or three in that series. They might be more than I want to concentrate on right now though.

    1. Hello Tracy, and the same applies as I said to Margot above! Hope you are all doing well.
      Yes I like the Shardlake books very much - but my goodness they are a commitment! I re-read some of the earlier ones last year and they stood up well.

  3. Love, love the video clip.

    1. Yes! Thank you. Earlier during this difficult time a friend asked for something to cheer her up and that's what made me bring this out, I could never see it and not smile.


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