Austin Friars/City of London Photo Credit: Eric at Londonist FlickerStream
Wolf Hall Wednesday: Week 6
It's impossible to read Wolf Hall without feeling something akin to affection for Thomas Cromwell, even while he's grimly sending those who refuse to take the oath to the tower. It's not as though he wants to send Elizabeth Barton to her death. It's not as though he takes any grisly pleasure at the idea of those stubborn souls being consumed by fire, or hung or, alas, beheaded. But what must be done, must be done.
Hilary Mantel paints the sympathetic portrait by carefully planting exquisite little details such as his love for his garden at his Austin Friars home. In the midst of dealing with the crisis brought on by Henry Percy's declaration of love for Anne Boleyn and Mary Talbot's complaints about her husband, he turns to the garden while he waits for Rafe to bring him some important papers—
"While he waits he opens the window and looks down into the garden. The pink of the roses has been bleached out by the sun. I am sorry for Mary Talbot he thinks; her life will not be easier after this.For a few days only, she instead of Anne was the talk of the king's court." p. 322
"He leans out of the window. I wonder if peach trees would be possible? Rafe brings in the bundle." p.322Mantel knows that making Cromwell into a man who stops and smells the roses humanizes him. And it's not fiction, the gardens were a part of Cromwell's estate. Austin Friars is clearly a place that provides solace, a place of refuge, quite simply, it's home. The place where his family, his children, his wards, his large entourage and staff await. There's no place like home. Mantel shows again the soft side of Cromwell, the happy family man, highlighted by his delight with the the sound of children's voices playing around the house, running up and down the halls.
"Oh, we are not going to bed. We are running Gregory's greyhounds up and down the hall and making noise fit to wake the dead."
"I can see why you don't want to break it off."
"Yes, it is excellent," Alice says. "We have the manners of scullery maids and no one will ever want to marry us. If our aunt Mercy had behaved like us when she was a girl, she would have been knocked round the head till she bled from the ears." p. 216
I was so captivated I found myself traveling all over London—virtually, courtesy of google—in search of Austin Friars and Cromwell's beloved garden. The real Austin Friars was in the heart of the City of London, a former friary which Henry VIII annexed from the monks for Cromwell, back in the mid 1500's. Much of London was destroyed in the great fire of 1660, and Thomas Cromwell's Austin Friary home has been rebuilt since then but remnants of his beloved garden remain in the imagination and on the site of Drapers Hall, at the end of Throgmorton Street deep in the heart of the city. You can see many of the beautiful current rooms via the Spitalfields Life link below.
Wolf Hall has become so popular that an industry has grown up so you can take a Wolf Hall themed London walk. I'm including some of the links I've found below. I can't tell from my sunny So Cal perch whether they're any good or not, so I'm asking you, good reader, if you've been on a wonderful Wolf Hall walk or know a great tour, please leave info in the comment section. Thanks.
Remnants of Thomas Cromwell's Garden at Austin Friars 'Drapers Hall' via Spitalfields's Life
Image via Madame Guillotine Another great blog that combines history, literature & art in a supercool way.
As lovely as the garden is, the house is not at all as I imagined. Back in the day, even though it was deep in the heart of the city, Cromwell's home would probably have looked more like the stately home that the BBC production used to double as Austin Friars. Great Chalfield Manor and its' garden, near Melksham,Wiltshire, built between 1465 and 1480 has also been seen on screen in The Other Boleyn Girl and Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
These beautiful manors and mansions — now I'm going to have to figure out the difference between a mansion and a manor — are going to be so much fun to see onscreen! All these glorious old structures and all that green sure isn't helping cure my Jonesing for a trip to merry old! Much like Downton Abbey, I think Wolf Hall is going to stir up a deep desire to return to my true Brit roots. Taking a cue from my friend Paulita and her Dreaming of France meme where fellow Francophiles link their French-themed posts, I might have to create a Dreaming of England meme! Would you play along?
In the meantime, I'll have to do my perusing online. Scroll down for the newest Wolf Hall trailer. It's coming Sunday, April 5th.
More locations: The Stately Homes of Wolf Hall via the BBC news
Walking and Other Tours
The Real London of Wolf Hall: Footprints of London
New Tudors & Shakespeare Walk: London Town Walks
The Lost City of London: Austin Friars
Wolf Hall Tour of Locations: BritMovieTours.com