Thomas Cromwell has been enjoying popularity lately, due to a series of novels, plays, and televisions series. Dare I name it? “Wolf Hall”. So it seems apt, on this day that celebrates love, that we examine Master Secretary’s secret love life. Did he pine for the company of anyone? Was his heart filled with an ardent desire? Was his love fueled by lust or ambition?
Thomas Cromwell was married to Elizabeth Wykes, and she bore him three children. By all accounts, theirs was a merry household and the marriage was sound if not a love match. Sadly Cromwell lost his wife and two daughters to the sweating sickness in 1528/29. He would never remarry. This does not necessarily mean that Cromwell never fancied another woman. Born the son of a blacksmith, Cromwell had gained not only a position of high favor, but he had also amassed a great deal of wealth. There were widows and daughters of guildsmen who were available, but Cromwell, a romantic at heart, set his cap at another lady love.
Cromwell’s position as Master Secretary to Henry VIII allowed and required correspondence with many people. One of these people was the king’s own daughter, the Lady Mary. Mary petitioned Cromwell for help with her situation with her father, which was dire to say the very least. Could the blacksmith’s son have now become a knight errant in service to this damsel in distress? Could a lonely princess whose social calendar was a bit sparse have grown fond of the man in black?
Apparently so. Rumors began to swirl that Cromwell intended to wed his monarch’s bastard daughter, but first he had to be sure that the maiden would survive until the nuptials. In one of the strangest collaborations of the times, Cromwell paired himself with the Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, and the old Catholic nobility, men such as Carew, Montague, and Courtenay. Between them, they brought down Anne Boleyn and her faction. But Henry, implacable, continued in his harsh treatment of his daughter, despite overtures by his new queen, Jane Seymour.
At this point, Cromwell began to exchange letters with Mary in earnest, through his man, Thomas Wriothesley. Notes of Cromwell’s from this time in his meticulous records refer to Mary as Valentine. He began to send purses of coin to her, along with the occasional Hallmark card, and huge stuffed animal he crafted himself at “Thou Buildest A Bear”. Wriothesley, a rather more handsome man than Cromwell, who carried these trinkets to the forlorn maid said,”For my Lord, who is her Valentine.” Could Wriothesley have been acting as a Cyrano de Bergerac for the less than comely Cromwell?
Now there were men in this time who most certainly would not stand for not only Cromwell’s son Gregory, having married Jane Seymour’s sister, being the king’s brother in law, but now Cromwell was poised to become a prince in all but blood, by becoming the king’s son in law. Norfolk shouted, “It is not to be born!”. And Cromwell’s former allies such as Carew were not supportive of the Putney boy marrying the princess who was not a princess anymore, but still a princess anyway. Or something like that
Cromwell and Chapuys convinced Mary to submit to her father and Jane Seymour encouraged Henry to welcome her back into the fold. Cromwell’s unrequited love left him a vulnerable man, and shortly thereafter his own meteoric fall from grace left him missing not only his Valentine, but his head as well.
Jeff “the wiz” Berlin
Sources: Build-a-Bear workshop- a history
Hallmark- they really DO have a card for everything
Reviews of a Cromwell Biography
“The Tudors” -James Frain, you rock Dude!
“Thomas Cromwell- the untold story of Henry VIII most faithful servant” by Tracy Borman. – If you have not read this, you should, seriously.
“Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel
Author’s notes: Hello dear reader! I hope you are enjoying this special day, and showering those you love with baubles and trinkets galore! If not, feel free to shower me, as I have not a trinket nor a bauble on this day. I blame the Friday the 13th preceding this Valentine’s Day. Still it is nice to think of Bloody Mary receiving little gifts. Maybe I will just go have a drink or two in her name. Happy Valentine’s Day!