Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary
Anne Boleyn arrived in King Henry’s court in 1521, dancing in a yellow dress. Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell discuss the conflict when her father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, announced that she pledged herself to Harry Percy, the heir of the Earl of Northumberland, instead of Wolsey’s planned suitor, Butler of Ireland. Cardinal Wolsey ordered Boleyn to stop his daughter.
Cromwell tells Wolsey of the gossip that Anne Boleyn’s sister, Mary Boleyn, is currently the king’s mistress. It is also rumored that it was the mother of Anne and Mary with whom young Henry lost his virginity. The scandal of the king sleeping with the entire family intrigues Wolsey, although it also worries him. King Henry already has one illegitimate child by Elizabeth Blount; too many will cause problems.
George Cavendish relates to Cromwell how Wolsey convinced Harry Percy to give up hope of marrying Anne Boleyn, who is only the daughter of a knight, and instead consent to be wed to Mary Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Katherine of Aragon gave birth six times, including to some sons, but only sickly Mary survived. Katherine is now forty two, although Cromwell points out that his own mother was fifty two at his birth.
Katherine of Aragon refuses to blame the king for his desire to divorce her. She says that it is Cardinal Wolsey, who has tried to supplant her from the king’s side ever since he came to court. In Rome, the Emperor Charles has captured Pope Clement. Since Charles is the nephew of Katherine of Aragon, the pope will do nothing in the matter of Henry’s wish to divorce his queen.
Thomas Cromwell’s beloved wife, Liz, dies of the sweating sickness. Because of the fear of contagion, the family does not gather until much later, after the threat of the plague has passed, for the memorial service. Cromwell remembers his childhood, his escape to the continent, and his return to England, not willing to see his father until after his marriage and fatherhood.
The next summer is also one of sickness. Mary Boleyn’s husband is one of the victims. Mary becomes friendly with Cromwell, who considers the possibilities of a woman who has been the mistress of King Henry and might become his sister-in-law. In the end, he keeps his distance. He hears rumors that she is pregnant; it cannot be his, but perhaps it is the king’s. Soon, there is no child. Perhaps the rumors were false or else the baby “disappeared.”
The trial against Katherine of Aragon, whether or not she was a virgin when she married Henry, continues. Pope Clement and the Emperor Charles make a treaty, and Cardinal Wolsey falls from the king’s favor. The sweating sickness returns once again and takes Cromwell’s two young daughters.