Thomas Cromwell

A Revolutionary Life
Narrated by: David Rintoul
Length: 26 hrs and 38 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (124 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The long-awaited biography of the genius who masterminded Henry VIII's bloody revolution in the English government, which reveals at last Cromwell's role in the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

"This a book that - and it's not often you can say this - we have been awaiting for four hundred years." (Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall

Since the 16th century we have been fascinated by Henry VIII and the man who stood beside him, guiding him, enriching him, and enduring the king's insatiable appetites and violent outbursts until Henry ordered his beheading in July 1540. After a decade of sleuthing in the royal archives, Diarmaid MacCulloch has emerged with a tantalizing new understanding of Henry's mercurial chief minister, the inscrutable and utterly compelling Thomas Cromwell.

History has not been kind to the son of a Putney brewer who became the architect of England's split with Rome. Where past biographies portrayed him as a scheming operator with blood on his hands, Hilary Mantel reimagined him as a far more sympathetic figure buffered by the whims of his master. So which was he - the villain of history or the victim of her creation? MacCulloch sifted through letters and court records for answers and found Cromwell's fingerprints on some of the most transformative decisions of Henry's turbulent reign. But he also found Cromwell the man, an administrative genius, rescuing him from myth and slander. 

The real Cromwell was a deeply loving father who took his biggest risks to secure the future of his son, Gregory. He was also a man of faith and a quiet revolutionary. In the end, he could not appease or control the man whose humors were so violent and unpredictable. But he made his mark on England, setting her on the path to religious awakening and indelibly transforming the system of government of the English-speaking world.

©2018 Diarmaid MacCulloch (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"This a book that - and it's not often you can say this - we have been awaiting for four hundred years." (Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall)

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Just Wonderful!

I loved this book because I find the life of Thomas Cromwell just as intriguing as the Tudor dynasty and to listen to what is uncovered in his papers, letters and dynastic records is very revealing. David Rintoul does an outstanding job keeping what could have been tedious reading ( records can get a bit TMI! ) lively and interesting. Diarmaid MacCulloch has written an outstanding biography of one of the real powers in KH8’s time. It’s also very nice to get a balanced assessment of TC’s rise and fall instead of the written for drama versions of the man!

6 people found this helpful

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Not about the Tudors

This book is not what one expects in past readings about Thomas Cromwell, and his relationship with the King Henry VIII. When one envisions this story, one sees Cromwell and the great English break from Rome, which enabled Henry to remarry 5 times all told. And the execution of Anne Boleyn being his working. This is just one example.

Well this book has little to do with these events. In fact, the layout of the book is one that makes events hard to follow. At one point, the reader thinks Anne is surely executed. And then in the next chapter Henry is still married to her. An outline is desperately need to keep up.

This book is about the legal career of Cromwell, deeds, the dismantling of monasteries, etc. It’s geared for the legal mind. A person interested in Tudor law would love this. There is so much interesting information in this book, it’s just not what one expects. The narration is strong and sufficient. Overall it’s an enlightening and unexpected read.

5 people found this helpful

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Henry and His Henchman

i was always of two minds about Thomas Cromwell. Was he the nefarious henchman of Henry VIII who carried out his Master's schemes and died when he overstepped the mark? Or was he a man of his age, sailing too close to the wind in order to do the most good for the most people all the while parsing good vs. evil in a tumultuous age? The answer is yes. Thomas Cromwell, while not to be lauded for all his deeds (such as enabling the execution of Anne Boleyn) was working to bring about the Protestant reformation which has had a lasting effect on world history. Cromwell was an amazing man in an age of amazing men and should be praised as such.

5 people found this helpful

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For those bit hard by the Mantel trilogy

This is a astonishingly well researched history of the now resurrected Thomas Cromwell, who before Mantel’s spellbinding fictional recreation was doomed to be one of history’s reliable stage villains.No document went unexamined in MacCulloch’s effort to fully understand this remarkable personality and his revolutionary impact still felt almost 500 years later. Whether you visualize Mark Rylance or the Holbein portrait as you listen is up to you and the discipline of your imagination. So beautifully read I became carried away by the music of the actor’s voice before I swam back upstream to recapture the content. A stuffed, generous companion for those reluctant to leave Cromwell’s complicated company.

3 people found this helpful

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If you like real history...

...this book may be for you. More like a detailed and fascinating documentary, extremely well-written and narrated, it clarifies nicely the lacunae in Wolf Hall.

3 people found this helpful

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Sir Thomas Cromwell's Morals

Love the story based on many primary sources. Presented the times he lived in the all the upheaval and change going on. Reminded me humanity somehow has survived its self-importance.

3 people found this helpful

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An Extraordinary Life Indeed !

As a whole; more about Henry the Eighth's intersein Court politics then I ever wished too know! The story contains more Beheadings and Burnings then eight seasons of "The Game of Thrones" combined! As a stalwart Lutheran through, I found the book adds much 'flesh" to the early Reformation in England, which is usually covered as Henry wanting an annulment from his first wife and braking with Rome to get it! And he HATED Luther and Lutheran's! Excpt, I found out, in this book, that Henry the 8th who, it seems, he very much liked and Respected Philip Melanchthon! Who Knew? Also if Thomas Cromwell had had his way with the English Reformation, England might very well have been the first Lutheran Kingdom! Over all a some what tedious "Listen", but very informative to those who wish know more about the early English Reformation!

2 people found this helpful

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An excellent history of the e and full of Thomas Cromwell under the transformative King Henry the VIii

The tumultuous and transformative Spock of Henry the VIkings and his impact on the United Kingdom and Thomas Cromwell who was instrumental to that transformation is a fascinating chronicle of this vital and crazy reign.. This history is framed and supported by copious surviving correspondence provide a contemporaneous chronicle of the symbiotic relationship of these two giants of their age that paved the way to the reign of Elizabeth,. This economic and political portrayal of this cruel and dynamic interaction of the impacts of the English reformation enables the reader to obtain a vital perspective of this generation.

4 people found this helpful

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Thomas Cromwell: Beyond Hilary Mantel’s Novels

Wow! Cromwell comes alive as a pivotal player in the Tudor reign. He also becomes so powerful that not only must he be physically restrained, but perceived as a threat to king and the lynchpins of Henry VIII’s jealous and slanderous coterie. This book lays the ground work for the Wolf Hall series. I’m so glad I’m listening to this book before even Wolf Hall. Cromwell gives necessary details in order to follow the trail of Thomas and his many intrigues with the famous and infamous. Another side note: do not purchase The Mirror and the Light (Wolf Hall Book 3) unless it becomes available unabridged—I believe you may be disappointed as I was. Still listening to Cromwell, but loving the texture and nuance of this wonderful history brought to life!

1 person found this helpful