Yes, I know that Hamilton and Tudor England are not the same thing, but we all know that history is decided by the survivors. Who won? Whoever died last. Who was paid, how much was spent, who wielded the most glorious or secret power, who promised what to where- it does not matter. Thomas Cromwell, in the moment at least, lost. He was *centuries old spoiler alert* beheaded, and spent the last several hundred years painted as a scoundrel and a cheat. Many called him a heretic, and many others still called him a conjurer. Many looked down on him for coming from “common” stock, and many more hated him for being (at least for a time) the jewel in Henry VIII’s cap. Hilary Mantel has given Cromwell time and space aplenty to speak for himself, and to crawl his way back up from the grave, culminating in The Mirror and the Light – the eagerly awaited final volume in her much-lauded Thomas Cromwell Trilogy.
Hilary Mantel’s 16th Century England is Armando Ianucci’s political landscape. Everything is funny- biting, cruel, and absurd- but funny throughout. The courtiers jostle about like fools. I saw so much Death of Stalin in this book that I was finally able to convince my husband to pick up this series. These books are funny in the way that Mad Men and The Sopranos are funny. Nothing is written as a comedic set piece, and most things are played straight, further adding to the absurdity of it all. The barbarism and utter ineptitude of the courtiers at hand are hysterical. Men who found themselves educated and graced beyond all contemporaries still found it appropriate to burn female heretics, as burning is less improper than other forms of execution…you know, like drawing and quartering. It’s all bad, and everyone is jockeying to be the worst.
(Unrelated thought: do you think the horses involved in drawing and quartering were into it? I think they were!)
This trilogy, and especially this final piece, will cause the reader to fall head first into research-pit. There is a good deal of time on-hand at this moment; more than enough time to swallow whole the thousands of pages within this series and to dive into an almost-unending history hole. Go ahead; jump in. You will not be disappointed.