Author: StJohn Piano
Published: 2020-10-17
Datafeed Article 187
This article has been digitally signed by Edgecase Datafeed.
3292 words - 664 lines - 17 pages

[excerpt: page 37]

'No!' Gregory says. 'Am I old enough to know? Does everybody know? Does Carew know they know?'

Richard grins. 'He knows we know.'

It's better than gossip. It's power: it's news from the court's inner economy, from the counting house where the units of obligation are fixed and the coins of shame are weighed.

[end of excerpt]

[excerpt: page 67]

In Henry's own council chamber, with or without the king's presence, there is a conspiracy of gestures, of sighs, a counter-point to what can be spoken aloud; but when a messenger from the privy chamber comes in to say, 'His Majesty is delayed,' there is a shuffle and covert relief. The councillors may speculate as to why: gone riding, perhaps, or bowels recalcitrant, or just feeling lazy - or tired, who knows, of the sight of our faces? Someone will say, 'Master Secretary, will you?' And led by him through the agenda, they will begin their round of scrapping and cavilling, but with a furtive camaraderie they would not like Henry to witness, for he prefers his councillors divided. If councillors frown at the foe, the king can smile - ever-gracious prince. If they bully, he can reward. If they insist, he lulls, he coaxes, charms. It is his councillors, as mean a crew as ever walked, who carry his sins for him: who agree to be worse people, so Henry can be better.

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[excerpt: page 69]

You know what Medusa does. You cannot look in her face. You must trap her image in polished steel. Gaze into the mirror of the future: the unspotted glass, specula sine macula.

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[excerpt: page 102]

He had once said to Cranmer, the dreams of kings are not the dreams of other men. They are susceptible to visions, in which the figures of their ancestors come to speak to them of war, vengeance, law and power. Dead kings visit them; they say, 'Do you know us, Henry? We know you.'

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[excerpt: page 139]

The will of the heavenly Father is often obscure.

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[excerpt: page 160]

He is silent. Chapuys had said, you may renegotiate with the living, but you cannot vary your terms with the dead. He thinks, I bound myself: why did I? Why did I bow my head?

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[excerpt: page 241]

'What I say is, these are new times. New engines drive them.'

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[excerpt: page 248]

The cardinal, in his days as master of the realm, had spoken of God as if He were a distant policy adviser from whom he heard quarterly: gnomic in his pronouncements, sometimes forgetful, but worth a retainer on account of his experience. At times he sent Him special requests, which the less well-connected call prayers; and always, until the last months of his life, God fell over Himself to make sure Tom Wolsey had what he wanted. But then he prayed, Make me humble; God said, Sir, your request comes too late.

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[excerpt: page 249]

Henry Wyatt says to him, 'Thomas, I doubt I shall see another winter.' One by one, those gentlemen depart, who served the king's father, whose memories stretch back to King Edward and the days of the scorpion; men bruised in the wars, hacked in the field, impoverished, starved out, driven into exile; men who stood on foreign quays and swore great oaths to God, their worldly goods in sacks at their feet. Men who sequestered themselves in musty libraries for twenty years and emerged possessed of inconvenient truths about England. Men who learned to walk again, after they had been stretched on the rack.

When the men that were then look at the men that are now, they see companies of pretty painted knights, ambling through the meadows of plenty, through the pastures of a forty-year peace. Not, of course, if you live on the Scots border, where the raiding and feuding never stops, or on the Kent coast within sight of France, where you hear the war drums across the Narrow Sea. But in the realm's heart there is a quiet our forefathers never knew.

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[excerpt: page 260]

'Thomas More used to say, all translators crave something from their text, and if they do not find it they will put it there.'

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[excerpt: page 261]

'I tell you, no word is the last word.'

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[excerpt: pages 377-378]

'What remedy?' he says.

'Body armour?' Baldwin says.

He has worn it before, in times of civic excitement, under his court robes. It is hot and as the day wears on it becomes a hoop around the ribs and a band tightening the heart. It is the same feeling you get when you are standing before the king, agenda in your hand, twenty items on it and every one crucial - and the king decides to talk about the medicinal properties of lilies.

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[excerpt: pages 387-388]

The rebels call him, Lord Cromwell, a Lollard. It is a term almost antique, though when he was young, men and women were burned for it. He hears a woman's voice in the air, on a breeze blown from his childhood: 'A Loller, that's one who says the God on the altar is a piece of bread.'

He is small; his belly is empty; he is far from home. Motherly, she takes his hand as they are jostled in the crowd: 'Stick by me, sweetheart.' She bats at the men in front of them, their solid wall of backs, and they part for her, saying, 'Sister, watch out, you'll have that child trampled!'

'Let us through,' she says, 'he's come a long way. Show him how the filthy creature dies, the enemy of God, so he gets a good view and remembers it when he is a man grown.'

Some memories from his childhood he can entertain. John in his kitchen, even Walter in his forge, all accompanied by the smell of burning. But when a memory like this rises up - and in truth there is no other like this - he slaps it down like a man killing a mole with a shovel.

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[excerpt: page 419]

Young men claim they want change, they want freedom, but the truth is, freedom just confuses them and change makes them quake. Set them on the open road with a purse and a fair wind, and before they've gone a mile they are crying for a master: they must be indentured, they must be in bond, they must have someone to obey.

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[excerpt: page 428]

The Emperor's black double eagle flies over the walls; Antwerp is not a free city, though it has free men in it.

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[excerpt: page 434]

Lazarus, of course, died twice. The second time it was for good and all.

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[excerpt: page 452]

He sends for Thomas Wyatt to see him at the Rolls House. Like every loyal gentleman he has been in the saddle against the rebels, but there is another task for him. He has long begged to be sent out of the kingdom. Now he is going as ambassador to the Emperor. It means pursuing Charles across Europe summer and winter: an ideal posting for a restless man. The role needs honest force and honeyed words, and a certain willingness to obfuscate about the intentions of the King of England: and as Wyatt says that to him nothing is ever clear, and no truth is a single truth, he seems the man for the job.

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[excerpt: page 568]

Wyatt thinks himself shrewd, but he does not grasp what friendship is, as the world goes now. Friendship swears it will stand and never alter, but when the weather changes men change their coat. Not every man has a price in money: some will betray you for a kind word from a great man, others will forswear your company because they see you limp, or lose your footing, or hesitate once in a while. He says to Rafe and to Call-Me, I urge you both, undertake no course without deep thought: but learn to think very fast.

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[excerpt: page 616]

Origen says for each man God makes a scroll, which is rolled and hidden in the heart. God inscribes with a quill, a reed, a bone.

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[excerpt: page 617]

When I was in Italy, he thinks, I saw Virgins painted on every wall, I saw in every fresco the sponged blood-colour of Christ's robe. I saw the sinuous tempter that winds from a branch, and Adam's face as he was tempted. I saw that the serpent was a woman, and about her face were curls of silver-gilt; I saw her writhe about the green bough, saw it sway under her coils. I saw the lamentation of Heaven over Christ crucified, angels flying and crying at the same time. I saw torturers nimble as dancers hurling stones at St Stephen, and I saw the martyr's bored face as he waited for death. I saw a dead child cast in bronze, standing over its own corpse: and all these pictures, images, I took into myself, as some kind of prophecy or sign. But I have known men and women, better than me and closer to grace, who have meditated on every splinter of the cross, till they forget who and what they are, and observe the Saviour's blood, running in the soaked fibres of the wood. Till they believe themselves no longer captive to misfortune nor crime, nor in thrall to a useless sacrifice in an alien land. Till they see Christ's cross is the tree of life, and the truth breaks inside them, and they are saved.

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[excerpt: page 623]

All souls must make the passage, Dante tells us.

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[excerpt: page 624]

Ou sont les gracieux galans
Que je suivoye ou temps jadiz,
Si bien chantans, si bien parlans,
Si plaisans en faiz et en diz?

[end of excerpt]

[excerpt: page 630]

Call-Me has always been touchy, quick to take offence; easily rattled, and proud of his good blood. But the new year has begun well for him, because he has laid hands on that coveted master-spy, Harry Phillips.

How did this happen? Phillips has simply walked into our embassy and handed himself over. He craves Henry's pardon for anything he has done or seemed to do against England and Englishmen. Now he is ready to tell the truth about his life, and is able to lead us straight to Master Traitor Pole. And then, Wriothesley believes, Phillips can be interrogated and turned, sent back into Europe to work our will - drawing the king's enemies gradually towards him, then spilling them into the hands of the executioner.

Call-Me's dispatch has scarcely been read at Westminster when he is obliged to write a follow-up. Though placed under guard, Harry Phillips has absconded in the night, taking with him a bag of money belonging to our English delegation.

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[excerpt: page 631]

Henry's subjects are now released from their obedience to him. The Pope reminds the faithful that for sectaries and schismatics, the normal rules are suspended. You may break your contracts with them and seize their goods. All Englishmen abroad, whether students, merchants or ambassadors, are at risk of arrest. It is true there has been no formal declaration of hostilities. But it feels like war. The King of Scots is preening himself; he thinks that if France invades, they will partition the kingdom and give him the north, if not the whole.

The men around our king live by what they call honour: skill in arms, prowess on the battlefield. Their appetite is not slaked by the cutting up of northern rebels, or the attrition of border feuding. Norfolk calls war business. 'If we have business with the French,' he says, or 'Should some business with Charles ensue...' Now church bells are cast into cannon, ploughshares beaten into swords, the cross of Christ becomes a bludgeon, a club to beat out the brains of the opposition. What's ink in Whitehall is blood in the borderlands, what's a quibble in the law courts is a stabbing in the streets. Mild monkish blessings are turned to curses, and the giggling of courtiers tails off into an uneasy hush. Each man is watching the other, for signs of treason, signs of weakness. You cannot greet the world in the morning with anything less than ferocity, or by evening you will be destroyed.

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[excerpt: page 632]

A castle is a world in little. Everyone inside it must work together. If it falls it is because it is betrayed from within.

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[excerpt: page 633]

You can hire soldiers, of course. The king's father hired the army that knocked the throne from under Crookback. They will fight as long as they are paid or rewarded with plunder, but they will not stir one foot unless they hear the chink of coin. He, Cromwell, puts out scouts through Germany and Italy. He is not interested in a poxy rabble of Irishmen or Scots, only in proven captains from nations where war is a science.

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[excerpt: page 633]

The king's council is smaller now. It is compacted to an effective body, so there are no makeweights. But every man who sits has a strong will and strong interests. The king begs for concord amongst his advisers. But Henry himself cannot walk a line: he leans violently one way, then violently the other, and it takes a robust man to support him. Intemperate councillors fail.

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[excerpt: page 637]

'Our ambassador in Spain has begged to return home, but they say, "Tarry, Mr Wyatt." The Inquisitors have begun a process against him. You would not like to be in Wyatt's place.'

'Why would I be? I am not a heretic.'

'Once they detain a suspect he cannot answer to the charge, because he is not allowed to know what it is. Nor is he told who has laid information. He is tortured by methods - well, my lady, I would not sully your ears. In Castile these days, every soul lives in fear.'

'They have nothing to fear from the Holy Office,' she says. 'Not if they are good livers, and go to Mass.'

'They fear their neighbours. Old enemies bring each other down.'

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[excerpt: page 642]

He, Cromwell, sits down with the king's council and lays before them certain facts. He introduces them to the substance called alum, without which we cannot dye cloth.

In our grandfathers' time we bought alum from the Turk, who would never take cash alone, he wanted arms - thus equipping himself for war on Christians, using their own money. Then sixty years back a deposit was found at Tolfa near Rome, a deposit so rich that they say it will never run out till the Day of Judgement. The Vatican brought in the Medici to run the trade and invented a new and grave sin: trading in alum without a licence.

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[excerpt: page 654]

When he was a boy in Putney he used to pick up coins from the mud of the foreshore. They were thin and worn and bore the features of monarchs almost erased. You could not spend the money; it was not even good to clink in your hand. All you could do was put it in a box and wonder about it. If so many coins are washed up, how many does the river conceal, in its channels and deeps? A treasury of princes, squinting up at the hazy light, each with a spoiled single eye.

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[excerpt: page 665]

He dreams of a disembodied self walking in deep woods. There are mirrors set among the trees.

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[excerpt: page 704]

The child's flower face turns on its stem, her lips emit a stream of chatter. Norfolk's face wears an expression of strained tolerance - he is alert in case the king comes in. The girl forgets her uncle, drops his arm and stares around. Her glance slips absently over the men, but rakes the women head to toe. Clearly she has never seen so many great ladies before; she is studying how they stand, how they move. 'Sizing up her rivals,' he says; she has no guile.

'She has no mother, bless her. She was but an infant when she died.'

He casts a glance at Rochford. 'A soft word from you, my lady.'

'I am not a monster, my lord.'

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[excerpt: pages 758-759]

He ushers Riche out as Wriothesley comes in. Clearly he has been eavesdropping on Riche, because his face is flushed. He says, 'That man has no feeling at all. He is a tissue of ambition.'

He thinks, but that is what Riche tells me about you. But while I rule, you do your best for me, and your best is very good. I must place my trust, even if I have misgivings. I cannot work alone. The Seymour boys have their own interests at heart, why would they not? In these strange times Suffolk is my well-wisher, but Suffolk is stupid. I cannot count on Fitzwilliam for support, he is busy defending his own position, and blames me because he is blamed. Cranmer is frightened, he is always frightened. Latimer is disgraced. Robert Barnes I would not trust with his own life, let alone mine. Manuals of advice tell us you should fear weak men more than strong men. But we are all weak, in the presence of the king. Even Thomas Wyatt, who can face down a lion.

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[excerpt: page 831]

Cranmer does what is in him. It is all any man can do.

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[excerpt: page 833]

Princes hate those to whom they have incurred debts.

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[excerpt: page 834]

It is not only kings who cannot be grateful. The fortunes he has made, the patronage he has dispensed: these count against him now, because favours that cannot be repaid eat away at the soul. Men scorn to live under an obligation. They would rather be perjurers, and sell their friends.

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[excerpt: page 840]

Treason can be construed from any scrap of paper, if the will is there. A syllable will do it. The power is in the hands of the reader, not the writer.

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[excerpt: page 844]

All over England there are standing stones, petrified forms of men who hoped to rule: Stick stock stone, As King of England I be known. For their presumption they are condemned to stand for a thousand years, two thousand, in wind and rain; around them are smaller stones, the forms of the wretches who were their knights.

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[excerpt: page 846]

But the law is not an instrument to find out truth. It is there to create a fiction that will help us move past atrocious acts and face our future. It seems there is no mercy in this world, but a kind of haphazard justice: men pay for crimes, but not necessarily their own.

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[excerpt: page 849]

Myself, I never saw hair of him, not since that day he was led away. But some claim they have. And as I am alive and a Christian man, you will hear the old fellow overhead, Fisher. You hear him dragging himself across the floor.'

'You shouldn't believe in ghosts,' he says uncertainly.

'I don't,' Martin says. 'But who are they to care, if I believe in them or not?'

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[excerpt: page 856]

'Has he said how I am to die, my lord?'

Norfolk does not answer. 'My son Surrey says, if you had been left to run your course, you would have left no nobleman alive. He says, now is Cromwell stricken by his own staff. Now it is with him as it has been with many a man who has crossed him, both simple and grand.'

'I do not dispute it,' he says. 'But it might give my lord Surrey pause, to imagine how he would order himself were he to find himself a prisoner here. Fortune and the king have raised him high, but he should not trust to that, the ground beneath our feet is slippery.'

'I'll tell him,' Norfolk says. 'By God, you wax sententious! Wise men have no need of such warnings. They wash their eyes clean every day. You think the king ever loved you? No. To him you were an instrument. As I am. A device. You and me, my son Surrey, we are no more to him than a trebuchet, a catapult, or any other engine of war. Or a dog. A dog who has served him through the hunting season. What do you do with a dog, when the season ends? You hang it.'

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[start of notes]

I have a paper copy of The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel in my possession.

Details from the first few pages:
- First published in Great Britain in 2020 by Fourth Estate
- Copyright © Tertius Enterprises Ltd 2020

I was able to download a copy (after going through several intermediate pages) from:

I used this as my starting text.

[end of notes]