Those of you who are old enough to have enjoyed the music of the 80s doubtlessly remember Culture Club’s hit Karma Chameleon. I couldn’t resist the pun, and now I cannot resist describing Cromwell’s career trajectory as red, gold, and green. Yes, there is something wrong with my mind.
Red: Although Anne Boleyn had been Cromwell’s benefactress and without her he would have not risen to his current position, he turned on her like a rabid weasel. He and Anne were fighting over the fate of the smaller monasteries. Cromwell, motivated by either the hatred of Catholicism or by the desire to plump up Henry’s treasury, seemed eager to destroy every last monastery and confiscate the riches. Anne, in contrast, wanted the smaller monasteries left intact so that they could produce scholars who could in turn spread the word of God throughout England. Cromwell knew Anne was a formidable obstacle in the way of his plans, which probably included a chance to fill his own coffers with a share of the expropriated monastic goods. Working under the timeless assumption that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Cromwell joined the Catholic faction in destroying Anne Boleyn.
Cromwell’s men were the ones tasked with finding “evidence” against Anne, and it was Cromwell who made sure no one on Anne’s side with clout got to meet with Henry. Cromwell knew he had little to no proof, so he used open ended accusations against Anne to facilitate her forgone guilty verdict at trial. Moreover, when Anne was beheaded on May 19th Cromwell made sure there was as small an audience as possible because Anne’s jailer had warned Cromwell that the queen was likely to “declare herself to be a good woman”. This same jailer told Cromwell he had witnessed Anne’s last sacrament and had heard her swear “as touching her innocency always to be clear”.
Cromwell knew he was murdering an innocent woman for his own gain.
Gold: With Anne out of the way, Cromwell was both golden with the King and raking in monastic gold from the dissolution. For the next four years Cromwell’s influence with the king made him the most powerful man in Henry’s government.
Green: Let’s say this phase of Cromwell’s life was green because this is when he reaped what he had sown. He had shown Henry the ease of legalized murder, and the king became fond of that solution. Unhappy with his marriage to Anna of Cleaves, the king had Cromwell arrested on June 10, 1540 and beheaded on July 28th of the same year. Unlike Anne, he didn’t even get the dignity of a kangaroo court. His head was embedded on a spike and displayed on London Bridge, which could also be described as going “green” if one was an uncouth individual (which I am).
Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn’s cousin, Kathryn Howard, the same day he executed Cromwell. Unlike Cromwell, I feel sorry for Kathryn’s fate.