Wolf Hall Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary
by Hilary Mantel

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Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary

Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and the uncle of Anne Boleyn, seeks to add Thomas Cromwell to his entourage. He questions Cromwell about his past, curious that he fought as a soldier for the French, who are now the enemy. Cromwell urges him to seek peace with the French, but Norfolk dismisses this.

Cromwell still attends Wolsey at Esher. Wolsey is glad that Cromwell has managed to procure a seat in Parliament and is ready to defend him against charges of treason, which have already been drawn up.

At the Austin Friars, Cromwell views the Christmas season with sadness. Not only his wife and daughters have died, but also his sister Kat and her husband. Their two sons now live with Cromwell. Gregory, home from school, sits with Cromwell. His father can see that he is quickly becoming a man. They discuss past Christmases, but Cromwell does not have the heart to decorate this year.

On Twelfth Night, Cromwell takes the young men in his household to the festival at Gray’s Inn. The law students put on a vulgar play with Cardinal Wolsey as the main character. Wolsey flounders in the mud away from London, luridly wishing for his forty virgins. Cromwell gets up and leaves, and his household comes with him. That night, his nephew Richard, Kat’s son, asks if he should now change his name from Williams to Cromwell. His uncle points out that his name is not popular at the moment.

Cromwell goes to see the king about Cardinal Wolsey. Thomas More has brought forty-four charges against the cardinal, including a ridiculous one regarding Wolsey’s attempt to give the king the “French pox” by breathing on him. The king asks Cromwell if he thinks hunting is evil, as does Thomas More. Cromwell is in favor of the chase, he says, which pleases King Henry, who lives for the hunt. The king questions Cromwell about his previous statements advising against war, and Cromwell stands firm in his views. After Cromwell’s visit, some new furnishings arrive at Esher for the cardinal.

Cromwell attends a Lenten dinner at the home of an Italian merchant. Among the varied guests is Thomas More. The atmosphere is tense and arguments are barely contained. Thomas More leaves early, and the merchant warns Cromwell to tread carefully. The dinner was designed as a warning to him. If he wants to stay in the king’s good graces, he must stop his ardent support of Cardinal Wolsey. Whatever he does, he should not sit down with any of the Boleyns.