Wolf Hall Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary
by Hilary Mantel

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Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary

Thomas Cromwell is greeted by his wife, Lizzie, on his return from Yorkshire and the visit to the cardinal. She hands him a cup of wine as well as a letter from their son, Gregory, who is at school in Cambridge. Gregory sends little news written in bad Latin. Cromwell makes excuses for Gregory’s laziness, glad that the boy is not turning out as rough as he himself was in his youth.

Cromwell tells his wife that Wolsey wants him to go to court to act as a spy on the queen and her people since he knows a little Spanish. Lizzie tells him of her visit to a friend whose husband is a master jeweler. Recently a large emerald was brought in to make a ring, but the stone shattered. Lizzie believes the ring is for the king to give to some woman.

Cromwell tells her about Wolsey’s lining up of replacements for the queen. Lizzie warns that if he divorces his wife because she has not been able to give him a son, the whole world, especially women, will be against him. Cromwell agrees, knowing that the Holy Roman Emperor, Katherine of Aragon’s nephew, will be against King Henry.

Unable to sleep, Cromwell reads a book that arrived from Germany. It was packaged as something else because it is illegal and heretical. Cromwell is interested in the writings of Martin Luther and his followers. He himself has a copy of William Tyndale’s New Testament written in English, which is also illegal. He tries to get Lizzie to read it, telling her that she would be surprised what is not in there: no purgatory, no relics, no monks, no pope.

Cromwell reflects on Lizzie’s father, Wykys, who had been a cloth merchant. Cromwell had met him over some legal matters. He took the old man to Antwerp to meet his old friends, cloth merchants who helped him when he ran away from home. Wykys decided that Cromwell would be a good husband for his daughter, who recently had been widowed, and Cromwell decided that she would be stable. They married and soon had a son. Cromwell is committed to being a better father than his own father was.

The next morning, Cromwell broods over Lizzie’s concern for Queen Katherine. He wonders why she should worry about women who have no sons or even imagine what it is like to be someone else. He decides that he could learn something from that. With these thoughts in his mind, he heads off to work at the cardinal’s home.