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Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,625 ratings  ·  189 reviews
Thomas Cromwell has long been reviled as a Machiavellian schemer who stopped at nothing in his quest for power. As Henry VIII’s right-hand man, Cromwell was the architect of the English Reformation, secured Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and plotted the downfall of Anne Boleyn, and upon his arrest, was accused of trying to usurp the King himself. But here Tracy B ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published December 2nd 2014 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published September 11th 2014)
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Leanda Lisle
Jan 20, 2015 rated it liked it
The travel writer Colin Thubron once told me that to understand a country and its people he first asks, ‘what do they believe?’ This is also a good place to begin when writing about the past, not least when your subject is Thomas Cromwell, a key figure in the English Reformation. But Tracey Borman’s Cromwell doesn’t have beliefs so much as qualities: ones that will appeal to fans of the fictional Cromwell of Hilary Mantel’s Tudor novels.

Borman’s Cromwell likes women, and is nice to the poor. Tr
...more
Christine
This is actually quite a nice and balanced biography of Cromwell. He isn't white washed, he isn't made a saint. It is pretty darn good. And you don't need a background in the Tudors to read it. ...more
Joan Colby
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who enjoyed “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel would profit by reading ‘Thomas Cromwell” which provides a fuller portrait of Henry VIII’s right-hand man. A noticeably absent element omitted in the Masterpiece Theater production and not emphasized in Wolf Hall, is the extravagantly luxurious lifestyle attained by Cromwell as he became one of England’s richest men. A lover of art, music, the theater, hunting, falconry and sumptuous foods, he was known for his posh hospitality and witty conversati ...more
Johanne
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh what a disappointing book, full of bad suppositions, contradictory statements and weak assumptions. The one that made me lose faith in the whole edifice was "at 50 Cromwell was older than most other people at court because Tudor life expectancy was 35" - doh if a historical biographer doesn't understand the impact of high child mortality on life expectancy (its a mean average), the Tudor court had many people in late middle age, e.g. Fisher, Wolsey, More etc. The use of quotations is inconsis ...more
Amy
Feb 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read much of Tudor history (both fiction and non-fiction) and being a huge fan of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, I felt this book would be an extremely interesting addition. It is very well researched and reads fairly easily, but doesn't necessarily add anything new to Cromwell's story. Whereas Mantel's writing cast Cromwell as a sympathetic character, Borman has Cromwell as a complete pragmatist and the mastermind and champion of the church reformation and Anne Boleyn's execution.

Unfortunat
...more
Phee
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Cromwell will always be a fascinating historical figure for me. Tudor England is one of my favourite periods of English history to learn about. Especially Henry VIII’s reign.
Not only did Cromwell achieve some incredible feats in terms of religious, political and legal changes. But he become the faithful servant of one of the most ruthless Kings of England, all whilst being low born.
Carolina Casas
Thomas Cromwell is one of the most controversial figures of the Tudor court. He is cast either as a villain or a saint. In a man for all seasons he is the main villain who does everything in his power to convict the saintly Thomas More of treason. Thomas More in contrast, represents all the goodness in the world. But in real life, he wasn’t devoid of demons as Boarman shows us in this book. And neither was Thomas Cromwell whose reputation has been very blackened since the nineteenth century. In ...more
V.E. Lynne
Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have long been interested in the life and character of Thomas Cromwell and thanks to the success of Hilary Mantel's 'Wolf Hall' he has got a new lease on life. In this biography by Tracy Borman we see laid out Cromwell's rise from very humble origins to the peak of power in Henry VIII's England and, more importantly, what it took for him to reach those heights. Essentially he was smarter, more ambitious and had a stronger work ethic than anyone else, especially his rivals in the aristocracy, w ...more
Chris
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly enjoyable biography of one of the most powerful and influential men in English history.

The book goes into as much depth as can be expected considering the mystery that shrouds most of Thomas Cromwell's life. Although it is true that not much is known of Cromwell's early life there is a good deal of documentation from the people at Henry VIII's court about his rise to power (and subsequent fall) much was written about his personality, but not always from a neutral point of view.

Thoma
...more
Kimberly Wells
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
After reading Mantel's fantastic Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, I was looking for a historical biography that would tell me what was actually known about Thomas Cromwell. Borman's very readable new biography was a perfect answer. ...more
E.  Lindsay
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Perfect accompaniment to Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.

Even if you haven't read them I would still reccomend and is a well balanced biography in keeping with current historiography.
...more
Pamela
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Biography of Thomas Cromwell, adviser to Henry VIII, who was one of the most able politicians and administrators of the Tudor age. Cromwell has been viewed as both hero and villain through the ages, mainly depending on how the regime of the time viewed his religious reforms. In more recent times, Hilary Mantel's fiction has provided a more nuanced and interesting portrait of Cromwell.

This biography provides a balanced view of Cromwell's achievements and is very readable. There is a lack of writt
...more
Jacob Stelling
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading another book on Thomas Cromwell earlier this year, I became intrigued by a figure who seemed to represent the rise of meritocracy in the court of English kings, and who was able to effect radical social and religious reforms before being brought down by the old, aristocratic elite.

Borman's account of events provided a different perspective to that which I had encountered previously and was thus an extremely enjoyable read.
...more
Cindy Rollins
Apr 23, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 If you have been following the life of Thomas Cromwell by reading Hilary Mantel's books then you will
probably enjoy this solid biography of Cromwell by Tracy Borman. Much food for thought about an extremely perplexing man who lived in extremely perplexing times.
...more
Pat Lilley
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
A good read though a little dry at times. I was raised on the idea that Thomas Cromwell was an amoral, Machiavellian type minister, toadying to Henry VIII in order to win power & riches. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy turned this idea on its head and I was interested in finding out whether historians agreed with her assessment of Cromwell. This book comes close to doing so, focusing on Cromwell’s towering achievements while acknowledging his ruthlessness. I recommend it.
Joyce
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 and 1 / 2 stars

This is a very good book about the life and times of Thomas Cromwell. It chronicles the period of time from his birth through his death. Contrary to historical opinion, Thomas Cromwell was not wholly bad, but had many good qualities as well. He was generous, kind and funny to his friends. He loved his family and was caring and very loyal to his friends. He was pious and abstemious and did not buy into the fanciful clothes or possessions of the day. While the public part of his h
...more
Aaron
Mar 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fans of Tudor history will find themselves easily drawn into this book, which focuses on one of the villains of the age. As Henry VIII's top aide, Cromwell played a major role in shifting England toward protestantism as well as arranging for the divorce from Anne Boleyn and the marriage to Anne of Cleeves. He also was at the core of the projected to close the nation's monasteries, turning their wealth over to the crown.

Borman very much presents Cromwell in a bit of a different light. While she d
...more
Chris
I'm not quite sure what I was hoping for when I bought this book. Maybe my fascination with Henry VIII - who I now find a repulsive, childish and cruel specimen (even as far as being repulsed by his own daughter, Elizabeth, because she reminded him of her mother, Ann Boleyn!) - inspired me. All the things I had read before about Cromwell pointed towards him being an evil man looking out for himself rather than anyone else, and although Tracy Borman portrays him as kind, considerate and generous, ...more
Jenny
Dec 02, 2015 rated it liked it
It took me a while to get through this, though in its defense I had a bunch of other books on the go. I feel like this is a decent introduction to the subject, especially if you've read Wolf Hall and want to know more.
The more time I spend reading about Cromwell, the more I am convinced that it is difficult to draw conclusions. Borman tries to bring up some of the newer scholarship and opinion, as well as fresh interpretations of the record.
In trying to read further from the source documents,
...more
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
Well-researched and well-written account of Cromwell's life. Enjoyed the perspective. That being said, I don't think it makes him any more sympathetic, which is what the author seems to have been going for. Cromwell is like Anne Boleyn for me - the charges were totally bogus and everyone knows it now as they knew it then, but I'm not sorry to have seen either go. When one plays the dangerous games Cromwell did - had to - to survive and gain more power, it is hardly surprising he was brought down ...more
Juliew.
Oct 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: tudor, england, biography
Slightly biased and relying on rumor for some of the more controversial issues but I still found it a very readable and enjoyable account of Cromwell's life.It includes many lesser known side facts about his career and personal dealings and I couldn't help but to be totally immersed in the brutal but fascinating world of Henry VIII's court and that of one his most trusted aids. ...more
Katie
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“And it is not unknown to many of you, that I have been a great traveler in this world, and being but of a base degree, was called to high estate, and since the time I came thereunto, I have offended my prince, for the which I ask him heartily forgiveness, and beseech you all to pray to God with me, that he will forgive me.”

This was a well-rounded biography on Cromwell by all accounts. Some parts about the wives were repetitive for me, but I think the context provided is great for people who rea
...more
Rick
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Borman’s is a very fine single volume biography of the villain of Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons and the hero of Hilary Mantel’s novels. If you are a fan of both Bolt and Mantel and need to reconcile the different views, this book will sort you out regarding the hero-villain question. The answer, of course, is it’s complicated.

A scholar, merchant, lawyer, despite low birth and a difficult childhood, Cromwell was, like More, a man of great competence, intelligence, and ambition. His climb t
...more
David Taylor
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Writing books about Thomas Cromwell has become awfully fashionable. What impresses me most about Tracy Borman's biography is her recognition of Henry VIII's unstated reason for getting rid of his most accomplished minister. Cromwell had an almost cat-like cunning for the political game until he overreached himself by marrying his son Gregory to Jane Seymour's sister, thereby making himself Henry VIII's uncle by marriage. He, more than anyone, should have been aware of Henry's ruthless determinat ...more
Carol
May 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I do not usually read biographies but after reading Mantel’s trilogy I wanted more information about this man of his times. It was complete and did offer me some further information to fill in some of the background about him. He was no more a simple man than was Henry VIII and in a way they were great partners and adversaries despite their very different backgrounds
Toni Kely-Brown
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: type-audio-books
Whilst I have read a lot about Thomas Cromwell, its been where he is a player but not the central figure, so this is my first biography about the man himself. He was clearly intelligent and politically astute and had a strong work ethic (or really a workaholic!) who was loyal to Henry VIII.

I enjoyed the first half the least, because there isn't a lot of sources and information about his early life so there is a lot speculation with "likely" and "possibly". I enjoyed the later chapters about his
...more
Lauren
Jan 21, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars-a pretty balanced look overall but for some reason didn't give me a real feel for Cromwell as a person, although it certainly does a good job as a biography of covering his life. Also not sure as to why some quotes were translated into modern English and others left in middle English, sometimes even within the same paragraph. Going to try MacCulloch's next and see how that one reads. Did appreciate that Borman addressed on page 12 the one thing that basically no literature about this t ...more
Noah Goats
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is something inherently satisfying about the story of Thomas Cromwell. He rose from humble beginnings, became the second most powerful man in England after the King, and then fell abruptly and brutally from grace. He was pushed out of power and onto the block by men who used the same sorts of strong arm and underhanded tactics that Cromwell had used against so many.

Tracy Borman does a great job of telling this story. Her portrait of Cromwell is vivid and convincing, and her book is an enjo
...more
Caroline
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Thomas Cromwell is hot property right now, with Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and the BBC adaptation of the same name, so it seemed like an opportune time to finally read this. The reign of Henry VIII is endlessly fascinating, not just because of Henry's marital history but because it was an era of great change for England, much of which can be laid at Cromwell's door.

Cromwell was an aberration at the Henrician court, a commoner, the son of a butcher from Putney, an entirely self-made man amongst bl
...more
G. Lawrence
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good biography of Cromwell himself; fair and balanced. If you are looking for a readable, well-written biography of Cromwell, this is the one.

I was rather put off by the two dimensional evaluation of Anne Boleyn. Portrayed here as nothing but a vindictive shrew, I felt Borman let herself down somewhat. Even the fact that Anne wanted money taken from the dissolution of the monasteries to go to charity rather than to line the King, and Cromwell's pockets was glossed over. She is also mentioned
...more
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Tudor History Lovers: January 2018 - Thomas Cromwell, by Tracy Borman 12 62 Jan 30, 2018 09:07AM  

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Tracey Borman is a historian and author from Scothern, United Kingdom. She is most widely known as the author of Elizabeth's Women.

Borman was born and brought up in the village of Scothern, England near Lincoln. She was educated at Scothern Primary School (now Ellison Boulters School), William Farr School, Welton, and Yarborough School, Lincoln. She taught history at the University of Hull, where
...more

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