‘Lock Cromwell in a deep dungeon in the morning,’ says Thomas More, ‘and when you come back that night he’ll be sitting on a plush cushion eating larks’ tongues, and all the gaolers will owe him money.’
Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. Ruthless in pursuit of his own interests, he is as ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. Hilary Mantel’s prize-winning Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies explore the man and motivations behind this most masterful of political figures.
How did you first come across Cromwell, and when did you decide to write about him?
I first came across him when I was a child learning history in a Catholic school. I grew up with the sainted Thomas More looking down from stained-glass windows. As I am a contrarian, it made me ask whether there was more to Cromwell’s story than just his opposition to More, and I carried that question with me. When I began writing, I registered him in my mind as a potential subject. This would have been in the 1970s, before I’d finished my first novel. There seemed to be a lot of blanks in his story, and it wasn’t easy to find out anything about him, but it’s in those gaps that the novelist goes to work. Read more…
‘So now get up’.
Last night, the television adaptation Wolf Hall became BBC2’s biggest drama series for a decade, drawing in 3.9 million views. The first episode of the six part series served as the perfect coming-to-life of a novel that is at the very heart of our imprint. We at 4th Estate watched both our screens, and our Twitter feed (#WolfHall was trending, of course), drawing delight from both. Read more…