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Thomas Cromwell: The Rise And Fall Of Henry VIII's Most Notorious Minister [Paperback]

Robert Hutchinson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 April 2009

The son of a brewer, Cromwell rose from obscurity to become Earl of Essex, Vice-Regent and High Chamberlain of England, Keep of the Privy Seal and Chancellor of the Exchequer. He manoeuvred his way to the top by intrigue, bribery and sheer force of personality in a court dominated by the malevolent King Henry.

Cromwell pursued the interests of the king with single-minded energy and little subtlety. Tasked with engineering the judicial murder of Anne Boleyn when she had worn out her welcome in the royal chamber, he tortured her servants and relations, then organised a 'show trial' of Stalinist efficiency. He orchestrated the 'greatest act of privatisation in English history': the seizure of the monasteries. Their enormous wealth was used to cement the loyalty of the English nobility, and to enrich the crown. Cromwell made himself a fortune too, soliciting colossal bribes and binding the noble families to him with easy loans. He came home from court literally weighed down with gold.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753823616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753823613
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 215,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Anyone who sees history as boring should be given Robert Hutchinson's book post haste. Without sacrificing facts and research, he has the ability to construct and absolutely compelling narrative and, though I never thought I'd say this of a book on Thomas Cromwell, one that is impossible to put down. He is one of the few authors who keep you up till 3am. (Sue Baker THE BOOKSELLER)

Book Description

The rise and fall of Henry's notorious minister - the most corrupt Chancellor in English history

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
116 of 122 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Thomas Cromwell is one of the most important men in both the history of politics and Christianity in this country, and the subject of this year's Booker Prize winning novel, Wolf Hall. I enjoyed this biography but was also irritated by it! While this is a detailed and colourful account of Cromwell's life, with a wealth of quotes from source material, it presents a seriously misguided view of the man. By failing to appreciate how important Cromwell's Christian faith was in making Cromwell who he was, he woefully misunderstands events using a liberal 21st century lens to distort the religious controversy of the day. For example, to describe William Tyndale's opposition of Henry VIII's divorce of Catherine of Aragon as "pompous and priggish" is ridiculous. A detailed examination of Cromwell's relationship with Cranmer and leading reformers is lacking and would have led to an altogether different conclusion. Moreover, to conclude as Hutchinson does that "No doubt Thomas Cromwell would have felt comfortable in the government of a twentieth-century totalitarian state" is extraordinary in the light of the testimony of Cromwell's final days in the previous chapter. It is always a mistake to judge people of a different age by the transient morality of the present day. Hutchinson does that and the fascinating narrative he provides us with is therefore let down at each turn by the conclusions he reaches. By all means read this book - it is certainly entertaining. However read Wolf Hall and John Scofield's biography of Cromwell published last year for a more accurate picture of what Cromwell was like as a man.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but Flawed 15 Feb 2013
I've read a decent amount of literature and source material on Cromwell. This book is an adequate if flawed attempt at painting a picture of the man at the centre of Henry VIII's most turbulent period on the English throne.

To his credit, Hutchinson makes a concerted effort to tell Cromwell's story chronologically and based upon what is actually known about the man (i.e. not a great deal). In doing so he creates an entertaining narrative which is largely based on solid source material. At no point during my reading of this book was I bored.

Despite this, the author suffers from the all too common pitfall of the historian; that of bias. Somehow, Hutchinson manages to portray a confused disapproval of Cromwell. At times we see the author at pains to describe Cromwell the private man, whose apparent attempts at humane behind-the-scenes repentance are in direct contradiction with his more formal 'Machiavellian' state dealings, dealings which the author clearly believes were ideologically driven. This confuses the narrative and gives rise to unanswered questions regarding Hutchinson's mild condemnation of Cromwell. At other times (though thankfully rare), Hutchinson's conclusions are not well-founded in source material and verge on conjecture.

The fact that this is an entertaining narrative which reads well goes some way towards compensating for its contradictory pitfalls. The conclusion remains confused, with Cromwell being described as a man who would be at home in a 20th century totalitarian state; this in spite of the author having spent the previous chapter describing Cromwell's final and quite touching testimony.

All in all I wouldn't discourage anybody from buying Hutchinson's book purely for its entertainment value. However, I would advise against taking the authors conclusions too seriously and would point towards other more accomplished works on the topic of Thomas Cromwell for the more serious academic.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disappointing 12 May 2010
I bought this book with a view to gaining a bit of an insight into 'Henry's most notorious minister' but sadly I felt a bit shortchanged.

To me the book is hazy, sketchy and doesn't really make any discernable point. I wanted an alternative to the common stereotype of Cromwell as a dark villain but I found that a lot of the comment from the author portrayed this man as a one dimensional caricature. My lasting memories of Cromwell, based on this book are that a)he was fat/'corpulent' (this is repeated ad nauseum throughout the book) and that b)he was Henry's 'Henchman' and used brutality to 'crown his power'. Other than that, I can only remember the relish that Hutchinson takes in describing Cromwell's gruesome execution.

In Hutchinson's defense, he does chronicle Cromwell's lifetime on the basis of what is known (i.e not a lot): He chronicles Cromwell's early life through to his demise. As a reader, this journey was quite a protracted, repetitive and monotonous one. I admit to skipping a lot of the content because I couldn't gel with Hutchinson's style: I found it quite tabloid and lacking in substance.

I would say that if you are looking for a book that describes Cromwell's life from cradle to grave then, by all means give it a bash. If you are interested in Cromwell and want to 'read around the subject' then it would serve as a basis of comparison against (arguably) more worthy titles.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very biased 2 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book seems very one sided and I think is very critical on religious grounds, the dissolution of the monasteries for instance, and does not seem to give him any credit for what he did achieve .A lot of these monasteries played on peoples ignorance and superstitions for their own ends and needed reform
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable
An interesting insight of the man who was closest to the Tudor tyrant Henry VIII. This book highlights the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell , a must for anyone interested in this... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Steve Beale
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I loved the authors style of writing,he made me chuckle referring to Henry as a fat grumbling so & so. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Tee Jay
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Purchase
This book was brand new and came in perfect condition. I was really happy with what I got for such little cost
Published 14 months ago by Hannah
5.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Cromwell
bought it for my Husband. he was really pleased with it.
This book was in perfect condition as promised. Thank you
Published 17 months ago by Barbara Massey
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful background info
Having read Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, I wanted to find out more about Cromwell. There was plenty of information here.
Published 17 months ago by JATop
2.0 out of 5 stars He was mendacious from morning to evening
Rather disappointed by this work. From this biography it appears that whatever Thomas Cromwell did, it was done for venal reasons. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Walwyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Cromwell: the rise and fall of Henry VIII's most Notorius.
Henry's Tudor court is a topic close to my heart.
This book is well written and very informative.
It's back on the book shelf waiting to be read again...!
Published 18 months ago by Danny Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the time
Some books I'm now reading on the English royals are well worth the time, Robert Hutchinson's Thomas Cromwell for example. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Boyd Hone
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, enjoyable research project but biased
I've read a lot about Thomas Cromwell, I've formed my own opinions and I'm aware that other people won't necessarily share them, For me, Cromwell is without a doubt the marmite of... Read more
Published on 6 Jun 2011 by JK
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, readable biography
In giving this volume five stars, I'm assuming the author hasn't misled me, and that what he's written in this book is properly researched, verified, backed up by documentation,... Read more
Published on 26 May 2011 by Lally
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