Book Review: The Private Life of Thomas Cromwell by Caroline Angus

Genre: History
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Pub date: 30 August 2022

Thomas Cromwell was King Henry VIII’s most faithful servant, the only man the king ever openly regretted executing. But Thomas Cromwell came to royal prominence late in life, and had 45 years of family, friends and experiences behind him before catching Henry’s eye. Born a common boy at a time of significant change in England in 1485, Cromwell grew up in a happy, close-knit family, before heading to Europe for dramatic adventures. Returning to England a decade later, Cromwell emerged with the skills of a lawyer and merchant, with the European language skills and connections to match. Marriage, children, friends, family and manor homes all furnished Cromwell’s life, a man happy and settled in London. But more beckoned for the Italian-Englishman, when a special friendship with Cardinal Thomas Wolsey grew, along with the attention of the king. Tragic personal loss affected Cromwell, hidden behind the more-recorded professional accolades. But friendships remained throughout time, changes in allegiance and even religion. Men who had met the young Cromwell stuck close to him through the years, and Cromwell never forgot a single loyal friend. Cromwell’s desire to support his son saw Gregory become brother-in-law to the king himself, only for more tragedy to harm the ever-growing Cromwell family. Far from the seemingly dour, black-clad, serious man, Cromwell lavished those around him with gifts, parties, extravagant games, entertainments, animals and outfits. But the glamour and beauty of Cromwell’s life would come to a sudden end, leaving a trail of devastated men and women, and an extraordinary manor home, Austin Friars, scattered to the wind. Using a wide variety of primary material, this exciting biography weaves a new narrative on the indefatigable Thomas Cromwell, illustrating him more vividly than we’ve known him before.

Having followed Caroline’s Twitter updates on her progress with this book I was thrilled to get an advanced copy courtesy of Pen and Sword and NetGalley.

Cromwell is something of the Marmite of the Tudor era, many like him whilst many dislike him.
Personally I can’t help but admire a man who rose so high from humble origins, working hard his entire life even to the end whilst held Prisoner in the Tower of London.

There are many books discussing Cromwell’s rise and his relationship with Henry VIII but Caroline goes further, including his relationships with family and friends and how he never forgot his friends from before his rise to one of the most powerful men in the country. His earlier life is included and how he gained his language and legal skills through hard work, spending time abroad, particularly Florence.

Through his and others correspondence Caroline paints a picture of Cromwell as a loyal, generous and dedicated man, ensuring his kings wishes were fulfilled and his family maintained and supported.

However, Caroline does not try and depict Cromwell as an angel or convince anyone to change their opinion on him, and includes his faults to give a full insight into the mystery of the man.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and would go as far to say it has been one of my favourite books that I’ll definitely read again in future.
The Private Life of Thomas Cromwell is due to published 30 August 2022 but is already available for pre-order and I would highly recommend it!

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