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June 29, 1539 – Cromwell and Norfolk Fight at Lambeth

Lambeth Palace (photo mine)

This was a big deal. The two men had a major public fight in front of Henry, and their enmity would never be fully contained again.

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had invited the King and courtiers to dinner at his Lambeth Palace (the London homme of the Archbishops of Canterbury). Somehow the conversation turned to Cardinal Wolsey – a controversial topic. Norfolk had always hated Wolsey, largely because a man of such humble origins had come to hold more power than the premier English duke (this was the same issue Norfolk had with Cromwell). Cromwell had always loved Wolsey, largely because the cleric had given him his first chance at court because he valued talent more than blood (again, this too can be turned around to explain Cromwell’s issue with Norfolk). The discussion became heated, Cromwell charged Norfolk with disloyalty and Norfolk called Cromwell a liar. They technically made up afterwards (Henry insisted – though he did secretly love pitting his advisors against each other) but we all know where the story would end only a year later (spoiler alert: Norfolk won…)

Cromwell did experience a good run for a bit. First, although the Act of the Six Articles (or Whip with the Six Strings, depending on what you believed!) remained the law of the land, Henry fell in love with Holbein’s portrait and married Anne of Cleves who represented an alliance with the Protestant powers even though she herself was technically Catholic. Then Cromwell had Thetford Priory (the resting place for a thousand years of Howard ancestors) closed, and just a little later he was named Earl of Essex…but then Cromwell’s luck ran out.  I have several July posts that chronicle his downfall….keep an eye out over the coming weeks.

(I also show this scene in The Path to Somerset – I have to say, it is wild trying to write dispassionately about an event I tackled with so much nuance! I don’t think I will be able to do it when it comes to the sinking of the Mary Rose! I may just have to include an excerpt for that one! 😉 )


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The cell in the Tower of London where Raleigh was imprisoned

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June 29, 1539 - Cromwell and Norfolk Fight at Lambeth
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  1. In ‘The King’s Commoner’, the fictionalised life of Thomas Wolsey which is due out in the next few weeks, I have the enmity between him and Norfolk beginning at school, where Wolsey was a fine scholar and Norfolk was already a bully. This might also account for their later antagonism, apart from Wolsey’s low birth.
    Do you think I exceeded the bounds of literary licence?

  2. Rebecca Davis Rebecca Davis

    It’s not quite true to say that Henry ‘fell in love’ with Anne of Cleves … quite the opposite.

    • Thank you!! You are absolutely right – what I MEANT to say was that he fell in love with her portrait, enough so that he played the disguised suitor kind of game he had once played with Catherine of Aragon (and that ended in disaster). My text did not convey that at all; correcting it now.

  3. This scene is a novelist’s dream. Here are some additional tidbits from the evening’s events. The dinner was actually held in honor of Cranmer by Henry to show his continued support to his archbishop even after conservatives won the day in Parliament. Henry’s idea of hosting a feast was to find others to do it, so Cranmer hosted this dinner organized in his honor… lol. Also, Cromwell had a few words for Cranmer, sharing his frustration that Henry forgave Cranmer all… basically whining that the King liked Cranmer more than him, making allowances for Cranmer that he would never receive — a true statement shared at wrong place, wrong time. By some accounts Cranmer tried to play mediator between Norfolk and Cromwell, failing miserably. All in all, this must have been a great event to have been a “non-involved spectator”… say Brandon… lol.

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