The best books about Thomas Cromwell 📚

Browse the best books on Thomas Cromwell as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall

By Hilary Mantel

Why this book?

Another famous man from the sixteenth century, this time Thomas Cromwell. The Holbein portrait of Thomas Cromwell shows us a very grim-looking character with shrewd eyes looking away from us. History gives us Henry VIII’s political fixer. Hilary Mantel gives us the living, breathing man, abused by a cruel father, later grieving for his dead wife and his adored daughter while negotiating a political world in which a man must be as ruthless as his enemies. Hilary Mantel shows us that history is not as simple as it might seem, and Thomas Cromwell is a human being with all the…

From the list:

The best novels featuring historical figures

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Book cover of Mistress Cromwell

Mistress Cromwell

By Carol McGrath

Why this book?

Another lesser-known figure, Elizabeth is the wife of Thomas Cromwell. She has very little mention in the historical record but the author draws on what we do know of her husband, Thomas. Elizabeth Cromwell’s character is convincing and likable. I particularly enjoyed glimpsing another side of Thomas Cromwell, a more human side and I loved the descriptions of their imagined daily life together. The author doesn’t over describe but the sights, sounds, and smells of the city are touched on just enough to provide a sense of place. It was also refreshing to see a woman involved in business in…

From the list:

The best books that illustrate life at the Tudor Court

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Book cover of Bring Up the Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies

By Hilary Mantel

Why this book?

Although Wolf Hall is the better-known and lauded novel, my preference is for the second book of Hilary Mantel’s trilogy. The author’s focus is Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s ruthlessly efficient first minister who came to prominence after Cardinal Wolsey fell from grace for his failure to solve the King’s “Great Matter.”  I admit I’ve never warmed to Cromwell, although he has been praised by illustrious Tudor historians such as GR Elton. Certainly, he was instrumental in freeing the King of his papal shackles and all that followed in the wake of England’s break from Rome. That being said, the Cromwell…

From the list:

The best historical fiction books on the perils of life at the English court, c. 1483-1547

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Book cover of Dissolution: A Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery

Dissolution: A Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery

By C.J. Sansom

Why this book?

Set during and after the reign of Henry VIII, this series features the hunchback lawyer, Matthew Shardlake. First employed by Cromwell, he is sent to Scarnsea to solve the murder of a commissioner sent to ‘persuade’ the abbot to surrender the abbey during the dissolution of the monasteries. The seven novels in the series chart Shardlake’s shifting fortunes as his allegiance shifts from Cromwell to Henry and his last wife, Catherine Parr, and finally to the Lady Elizabeth and her advisor, the wily William Cecil. The crimes are carefully plotted, the characters keep you guessing, and the series presents a…

From the list:

The best medieval murders and mysteries in fiction

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Book cover of Matrix

Matrix

By Lauren Groff

Why this book?

Matrix pulled me in immediately. I loved the realness of the setting: the mud and the cold and the food and the smells. Life in the middle ages wasn’t easy, and Groff’s novel doesn’t try to romanticize that. I also loved the protagonist, a woman who gradually builds a position of power for herself. Groff explores sexuality and desire, community and meaning, religion and power on a scale that is both personal and profound.

From the list:

The best books that reimagine the Middle Ages

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