Hodder is to publish a new biography of Thomas Cromwell, in the lead-up to the final instalment of Hilary Mantel’s prize-winning Tudor trilogy.
Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant (September, £25) has been written by historian Tracy Borman, chief executive of the Heritage Education Trust and joint chief curator of the Historic Royal Palaces. The idea for the book came from Maddy Price, assistant editor at Hodder Non-Fiction.
Price said: “I loved Wolf Hall and was looking for [relevant] biographies to read and there weren’t any by authors that I knew. I kept hearing about all the other things that were going on with the Royal Shakespeare Company plays and the BBC adaptation, and I thought the timing was right.”
Borman has written several popular historical biographies including Matilda: Wife of the Conqueror (Jonathan Cape, 2011, £20) and Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen (Cape, 2009, £20). Price had read Borman’s book about Elizabeth I and approached her: “The timing just worked out well—Tracy was out of contract and liked the idea. She knew all about Cromwell from having researched him for her other books.”
The book explores “Cromwell’s wayward youth”, which Mantel’s novels shed light on, as well as “new insights into Cromwell’s character”. Borman’s research uncovered new sources of information about Cromwell, including letters he sent to his wife and son, and details of his parties—including spending £1,000 on a fancy dress costume to entertain Henry VIII. Hodder is also heralding Cromwell as a feminist, using evidence of aid he gave to widows and fallen women.
Hodder is marketing the title as a way to explore further the version of Cromwell that Mantel presented. Price said: “The book shows that all the stuff Mantel writes about in Wolf Hall really happened. Tracy talks briefly about Wolf Hall in her introduction, explaining that she agrees with Mantel’s portrayal but that she believes there’s more nuance. She’s uncovered more dark and light.”
Hodder is looking to take advantage of the gap between publication of Bring Up the Bodies (Fourth Estate, 2012, £25) and the eagerly anticipated final instalment in Mantel’s trilogy, The Mirror and the Light (Fourth Estate, provisionally 2015). Borman is opening the BBC History Festival in October with Mantel; the pair have done an event together already, in Stratford-upon-Avon in March.
The book is being launched in September at the Tower of London—where Cromwell was executed in 1540—and Borman will undertake an extensive nationwide tour of events and signings.
Price hopes that the book will have appeal beyond readers of popular history: “Tracy’s style means it’s a really good read. Readers of Wolf Hall will get just as much enjoyment out of it as readers of history—we’re definitely hoping to get some fiction readers on board. It’s perfect for people who have read Mantel, who are anticipating the BBC adaptation at Christmas, and who want another Tudor hit.”