Literature Study GuidesWolf HallPart 5 Chapter 1 Summary

Wolf Hall | Study Guide

Hilary Mantel

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Wolf Hall | Part 5, Chapter 1 : Anna Regina, 1533 | Summary

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Summary

For a time Cromwell attends to his own household; among other things he takes in orphans and widows and gives them work and education. On January 25 Anne and Henry take vows again in England. Mary Boleyn communicates to Cromwell that Anne is pregnant, and rumors about her state begin to leak.

On the religious front Thomas Cranmer is soon to be Archbishop of Canterbury. Anticipating this, Cromwell plans to introduce a bill making it against English law to appeal to Rome. Yet despite animosity toward Rome, England has not officially embraced Tyndale or Luther. John Frith, a Protestant scholar and theologian, has been imprisoned in the Tower. Cromwell goes to see him and asks him to "soften" his theology a little so he can be released. Frith refuses. Later in the chapter he is examined and sentenced to be burned.

Anne asks Cromwell to present his son Gregory and his nephew Richard—who has some distant Tudor relation—at court. She has the idea it would be best to marry her sister Mary off, and that Richard might do for the job. But Henry does not agree to the match; the implication is since he cannot have sex with Anne because she is pregnant, he wants Mary to stay at court.

Meanwhile, Henry is set on having Anne's coronation soon despite unsteady public opinion. Anne is impatient for the bill forbidding appeals to Rome to pass and is generally anxious. She knows she has many enemies and puts great store in knowing her child is a boy. Henry, too, defends his decision to marry Anne by pointing out the necessity of having a male heir.

Cromwell's bill passes and he is appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. Katherine, now unable to lawfully appeal to Rome, is given the title Dowager Princess of Wales. She still refuses to concede she was an unlawful wife. Nevertheless, Anne's coronation takes place.

Thomas Cranmer marries a German woman named Margarete, though he must keep the marriage secret. Cromwell agrees to keep Cranmer's secret and appoints Helen Barre, from his own household, to take care of Margarete and the child she is expecting.

Anne withdraws to sealed rooms at Greenwich, where she will deliver her child, on August 26, 1533.

Analysis

As the chapter title suggests, the action revolves around Anne's rise to become England's queen. Mantel focuses on the preparations for and description of Anne's coronation—an elaborate affair full of pageantry preceded by several days of public merrymaking. Anne's elevation has a ripple effect on others. Cranmer is to be elevated to the high post of Archbishop of Canterbury. Cromwell becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer as a reward for his successes. But like a balance scale, when some rise others must sink. Primary among these is Katherine, who is losing not only her title but will be demoted in the eyes of the law from wife to something else—a "harlot," in her words.

Woven throughout the description of Anne's coronation are hints of her pregnancy. On this topic everyone is very anxious. Anne is anxious, because she must bear a son if she is to please the king and because having a child in this time was a risky venture. Women often died in childbirth. So when Anne is rowed away to Greenwich, there is a chance she will not return. Henry is anxious because not only does he want a male heir, he has built an entire argument for his split from Katherine on the importance of having a male heir.

It is significant that Cranmer has to keep his wife secret because it shows one way Henry remains aligned with Catholic positions on many religious matters. Henry VIII never really accepted Protestant theology and practice, including married clergy, even though in other ways he benefitted from Protestant views. Martin Luther, for example, believed pastors may and even should marry.

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