Since the sixteenth century, we have been fascinated by Henry VIII and the man who stood beside him, guiding him, enriching him, and enduring the king's insatiable appetites and violent outbursts until Henry ordered his beheading in July 1540. After a decade of sleuthing in the royal archives, Diarmaid MacCulloch has emerged with a new understanding of Henry's mercurial chief minister, the inscrutable Thomas Cromwell.
A masterpiece of documentary detective-work, which buzzes with the excitement of a great historian immersed in archives, interrogating not only the thousands of papers Cromwell left behind, but also the gaps left by a (presumed) shredding of evidence as Cromwell’s partisans sought to save him from the king’s wrath at the end ... acute, elegant and devastating.
A major work of scholarship of the type that will reset academic understanding of Tudor politics for a generation...MacCulloch’s dry donnish humour lifts each page...part of MacCulloch’s skill is to introduce even the general reader to the thrill of a historian’s process.
A history as much as a biography ... even so compelling a figure as Cromwell occasionally gets lost in the maelstrom. This is not MacCulloch’s fault, but the inevitable consequence of his determination to describe the political sacrifices of a great reformer and self-made man who flew too close to the sun ... MacCulloch covers a lot of familiar ground in a fresh and deeply researched way.