For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: This week’s CFFC topic is Special Request: Wilting, dead or aging flowers and leaves.
The topic is fitting somehow. This week I finished the last pages of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light (2020). I had dreaded what was coming, so thoroughly had Thomas Cromwell and the world of 16th-century England peopled my imagination, a testimony to Mantel’s literary genius (see Well Met, Jude: Mann & Mantel).
And so Cromwell’s story comes to an end, his life cut short by his execution on the orders of Henry VIII.
Like the rest of us, Cromwell was a mix of darkness and light. Mantel humanizes him by showing us just how. His character at times was profoundly noble, particularly in the cause of ensuring that the Bible would be widely translated and distributed in the vernacular of his countrymen. He was also relentless in the service of England’s interests. A commoner who rose to great heights of power, he was capable of great acts of compassion and sacrifice as well as indefatigable service to a ruthless monarch who in the end sent him to his death.
Cromwell’s last thoughts as he went up the scaffold were of loss and expectation, a jangle of childhood memories and, irrationally, the lines of a popular song of the times, Scaramella.*
Scaramella is going off to war
With lance and buckler
La zombero boro borombetta,
La boro borombo
Cromwell knew, none better, that we live in a fallen world. In such a world, death seems natural. But it was never meant to be so. Death – however it comes – is unnatural. And until its final demise when Christ comes again, it will continue to be unnatural.
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