Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wolf Hall Wednesday: It's all about the face

 Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall. Clearly the TV show is going for the beautiful Anne.

This week's Wolf Hall Wednesday reading —roughly pages 300 to 400 of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall— open with a bang. First Hans Holbein and Thomas Cromwell discuss the possibility of the great artist painting Lady Anne even though Holbein says—
"They say she is not beautiful."
And Cromwell admits that she may not be beautiful but ...
"She has great presence, esprit...You may not be able to put that in a painting." 
p. 314

Anne Boleyn: Sketch by Hans Holbein the Younger/The Royal Collection

It's hard to say if she was beautiful or not as most contemporary portraiture of Anne was destroyed when she, er, lost her head. This sketch was only recently (2006) authenticated as being the work of Hans Holbein by Brendan Grosvenor. Art history types still debate its veracity and call attention to the double chin.


That face, that face, that fabulous face!

Beautiful or not, Anne Boleyn had all the boys in the yard following after her like puppies. Last time out we took a look at Thomas Wyatt who, along with Henry VIII is sick with love for her. This time it's Henry Percy. When Mary Talbot says her husband Henry Percy hasn't shared her bed for two years and wants a divorce because he believes he is not truly married to her, since, according to him, he was already married to Anne Boleyn, holy hell breaks loose. The king is outraged — it's okay for him to be married, it's okay for him to be having an affair with Mary, the other Boleyn girl, but the expectations he has of Anne are very different. Especially in light of what he's going to have to do in order to marry her. Anne is furious at Percy, who is on the verge of destroying her chances of becoming Queen of England. Of course, she denies everything, telling Cromwell.
"That the earl spoke to me of love, I allow. He wrote me verse, and I being then a young girl, and thinking no harm of it—"
p. 316

Harry Lloyd as Harry (Henry) Percy

Cromwell pays Harry Percy a visit and threatening him, not with imprisonment in the Tower, not with a turn at the Skeffington's Daughter, not with a beheading, but good old-fashioned financial ruin. It's the first time we see Cromwell being quite so cutthroat, although he would say he's just being pragmatic. Doing his job.
"The king will take your title away, and your land, and your castles, and give them to someone who will do the job you cannot." (Cromwell)
"He will not. He respect all ancient titles. All ancient rights." (Percy)
"Then let's say I will."
Let's say I will rip your life apart. Me and my banker friends. 
p. 319

Cromwell goes on to warn Percy in the plainest terms possible
"as for the Duke of Norfolk, if he hears the slightest imputation against his niece's honor he will drag you out of whatever hole you are cowering in and bite your bollocks off. Now," he says, resuming his former amiability, "is that clear, my lord?"
You may know actor Harry Lloyd better as Viserys in Game of Thrones, season one. Viserys tried to get his own way, wanting the crown, and ended up being doused in molten gold. Poor guy, never can get his own way!

Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones
"And I will tell you this, for the avoidance of doubt. If you think Lady Anne loves you, you could not be more mistaken. She hates you. The only service you can do her now, short of dying, is to unsay what you said to your poor wife, and take any oath that is required of you, to clear her path to become Queen of England."
p. 320

That, my friends, is telling it like it is.  Join me next week for Wolf Hall Wednesday? I'm reading in preparation for the BBC television program to make its debut on Masterpiece Theatre in April.
Here's the trailer


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