S-over-reign God: or what I realised when I was watching Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall is a 2015 miniseries about the rapid rise of Thomas Cromwell in the courts of the Henry VIII. It’s an adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. It covers the time when Henry was trying to annul his marriage with his first wife, Catherine of Aragorn, until the be-heading of his infamous second wife, Anne Boleyn.
Thomas Cromwell is the mind behind Henry’s annulment and England’s severance from the Catholic Church. Henry wants to end his marriage to Catherine so he could marry Anne. The Pope won’t allow it, said they don’t have the legal grounds. Cromwell, a lawyer, statesman, and disciple of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey – Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of York, engineered a plan in parliament to denounce the authority of Pope over England, and made the king the Supreme Head of the Church of England, thus giving him authority to annul his own marriage. Cromwell became one of the most influential figure in the English Reformation.

Most of us who grew up in the 90s and 2000s think that the British monarchy is one messed up family. Until recently do I only grasped that they’ve always been scandalous, our history lessons coming The Other Boleyn Girl, The Tudors, and Kate Blanchet’s Elizabeth movies. It’s not the best source of accurate history, but it’s entertaining and makes us sound intellectual-ish.

Me thinks:
  1. Politics brings out the foulest of human vile. What’s more enticing than position and power? Influence and a name for oneself? Did not the devil brought Jesus on top of the mountain to show him everything he can possess, “All these things I will give you…” Wolf Hall is a study of these, how men and women position themselves to gain for themselves. It’s astonishing to think that these desires propelled every human government throughout history. How twisted these people are to manipulate the law of the land under the guise of fidelity to the laws of God. As the most powerful institution in the known world of that time, the Church resembles very little to the faith that started in the ancient hills of Palestine. And yet politics is the tool to the rise and fall of any ruling body.
Cromwell plotting (photo credit)
  1. “I represent the King’s interests,” “You must anticipate the king’s desires,” “He changes his desires very quickly,”says Cromwell. Henry is most famous for his marriages. His policies are influenced by his feelings of the moment. And yet his greatest policy – the creation of the Church of England, changed the trajectory of his nation and Christendom. Much ado about a man’s lust.
Henry (photo credit)
  1. A discreet plot line in Wolf Hall is Tyndale’s translation of the Bible to English, the first English translation to be mass produced. Cromwell, though a disciple of Cardinal Wolsey, is a silent advocate of the book, making it accessible to the public. It opened the eyes of many including Henry who read the writings of Tyndale and used them as rationales for England’s severance. What’s my point? I am amazed how God, in his sovereignty, uses the lecherous cravings of men to advance his purpose. What the devil intends for evil, God uses for good.
Anne’s coronation (photo credit)
  1. I cling to my belief that women, for the the majority of human history, have been regarded as second class creatures because she carries so much power and influence even she is not aware of it. She’s always had two major archetypes – virgin and magdalene –  both pointing to her sexuality. I believe these are labels given to her by men, for what bigger power does she hold over him than this. Did not Adam burst into poetry the moment he laid eyes on Eve. There’s very little for a woman in this world. And what advantage she has she uses get by. And yet her influence affects the rise and fall of nations. Anne Boleyn knew this. She seduced the king and manipulated her way in his court. She caused havoc in parliament. But the stability they so desire in a son was provided by her daughter a generation after. England have always done well with ruling queens, and Elizabeth is the greatest of them all.
Henry with Elizabeth (photo credit)
  1. English Reformation thrived during her reign. It’s no coincidence that the next fifty years saw a flourish in English literature. I think the undergirding influence is the English Bible, for what bigger body of literary source there is than scripture. England also started to conquer the known world and discovered new worlds. Their prime weapon were guns and Christianity – a combination of opposites, one brings death, the other a source of life. I cannot deny the atrocities done in the name of Christ. Yet I also cannot deny that it also brought the knowledge of Christ to the ends of earth.

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