Simanaitis Says

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I’M REALLY ENJOYING The Mirror & the Light, Hilary Mantel’s third novel in her Wolf Hall series about Thomas Cromwell. He was Henry VIII’s fixer, sort of like a Trump underling who lasts long enough for a trilogy. (Alas, I know what happened to Cromwell eventually, so let’s not continue this analogy any further.)

The Mirror & the Light, by Hilary Mantel, Holt, 2020.

Cromwell and the French Envoy. At one point in The Mirror & the Light, Thomas Cromwell meets with the French envoy, who, like other French (and those who affected being so) pronounced his name Cremuel (Anne Boleyn did too).

Thomas Cromwell, c. 1485–1540, English lawyer, statesman, and chief minister to King Henry VIII. This Cromwell is the one in TV’s Wolf Hall saga, not to be confused with Roundhead Oliver Cromwell. Portrait by Hans Holbein.

The envoy says to Cromwell, “My king understands that you do nothing except for money. And he sees that although you may be a heretic, you keep Henry from war. If it were not for you, he might be still indulging his belief that he is ruler of France.”

“What does your king want?” [Cromwell asks.]



The Pale of Calais. By way of background, according to Wikipedia, “In 1360, the Treaty of Brétigny assigned Guînes, Marck [nearby towns] and Calais—collectively the ‘Pale of Calais’—to English rule in perpetuity.”

An etymological pause here: As discussed here at SimanaitisSays, a “pale” (not “pail”) is a staked territory of security. It comes from the Latin palus, “stake.”

In 1450, the small portion of Ireland controlled by English King Henry VI was also known as The Pale. The rest, seemingly glaringly unacceptable, was “beyond The Pale.”

The Pale of Calais remained under English control until the French Siege of Calais in early 1558. Henry VIII had died in 1547; Cromwell, 17 years before the Siege.

Hence, from Thomas Cromwell’s perspective, his “Never” to the French envoy was a correct assessment of Calais’ status as an English outpost.

Tomorrow, in Part 2, we visit other outposts across what the British call the English Channel. The French call it La Manche. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

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