Saturday, February 21, 2009

Question from Jenna - Henry VIII, Cromwell and 16th century politics

From all that I have read on Thomas Cromwell, he seems to have been a madman by today's standards; a blood thirsty monster in King Henry's court. It seems that he masterminded everyone's demise until someone caught on and turned it against him. At his beheading it took three chops of the axe. Maybe that was his payback.

So who really was the psychotic demon, Henry VIII or Thomas Cromwell or both? What was wrong with this civilization and it's rulers, movers and shakers? I think that I would have rather lived in the country and stayed to myself than to live in the city and especially in the King's court.

6 comments:

PhD Historian said...

"...By today's standards ...." But it is totally invalid to judge the past by modern standards! Tudor England was an entirely different world from modern Britain or Europe or the US, with a different political system, different religion, different laws, different cultural values, different social values, different morals, different ethics ... everything was different to a degree that is difficult for most people today to truly comprehend.

Today's "blood thirsty monster" was yesterday's efficient royal servant.

And neither Cromwell nor Henry VIII were "bloodthirsty" by sixteenth century European terms. Remember, it was an era in which execution was demanded by the law as punishment for a very wide range of crimes; an era in which hanging, drawing, and quartering was widely practiced; an era in which executions were public spectacles. Tudor society was far less squeamish about death than is modern "politically correct" Western culture and society.

Nor was either man a "psychotic demon." Psychosis is a psychiatric diagnosis, marked by the sufferer's inability to distinguish reality from non-reality, and often characterized by both visual and auditory hallucinations.

Nothing was "wrong" with Tudor civilization ... unless you want and expect it to be just like modern civilization. It is a fundamental principle of the study of history that the student must accept the past on its own terms, without reference to the values and standards of the present, otherwise the study of history is little more than an exercise in frustration.

Tracey said...

Henry asked, Thomas provided. Henry wished, Thomas made it happen. Henry had an unrefined thought, Thomas put in the details.

Thomas was an extremely valuable servant to Henry.

IMO...Henry originated all the ideas for dissolving the monasteries, divorcing Anne Boleyn, and getting rid of Anne of Cleves. Thomas was there to do the footwork.

Poetic justice in Thomas getting his head cut off? Nope...just darn bad luck 'cause he caught himself a bad moment with Henry.

Mindy said...

In Henry's time a blog like this would have meant a traitor's death for us all. We can't even compare today's standards to the standards of the day back then. They are just too different.

jenna said...

Well of course I know that all of you are right and I have said as much myself. I even explained in one blog how difficult it is today in our culture for people to understand the thoughts, feelings, devotions and ideas of my Great Grandfather's time during the American Civil War.

Just recently in reading up though on Thomas Cromwell, I was surprised to find out that he too was found guilty of a crime and beheaded. After all that the had done to get King Henry's annulment from Katherine of Aragon, the work he had done toward the Reformation and then of course all the dirty little deeds that he had done for the King's personal pleasure, I was totally shocked to find out that he too had lost favor in the King's eyes.

Even with PhD Historian's great explanation about Tudor civilization and how everything was so totally different from today's standards including their squeamishness about death, I still think that I would have been looking for a rock to hide under to stay out of trouble and to keep my head and never would I have been as bold and outspoken as Anne Boleyn was.

Jenna said...

I forgot to thank everyone for your answers and input.

This is all so interesting to me and it hard to find anyone who is interested to the point that we are. Even in History classes they just want to move on. I am afraid that I am stuck in Tudor's court.

Tudorrose said...

I am simillar.I was stuck in the Tudor era thats my area of interest.The thing is Im still stuck there partially.