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Henry VIII's Enforcer: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell

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Great statesman or thuggish fixer? Enlightened reformer or looter of monasteries? How you regard Thomas Cromwell may vary according to what historical novels you’ve been reading – and it’s likely to change again when Mark Rylance plays him in BBC2’s planned adaptation of Wolf Hall.

But Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch knows where he stands: for him Cromwell is a maligned giant, “a visionary who helped lay the foundations of the modern British state”, and MacCulloch lays his case out brilliantly in a thoughtful gem of a programme.

It’s full of telling detail, of how the publican’s son from Putney rose to be the king’s chief minister and Earl of Essex in an age hardly known for social mobility. But also, how the disastrous marriage he foisted on Henry with Anne of Cleves meant that his fall, when it came, was as dramatic as the one he had engineered for Anne Boleyn.


Lawyer and statesman Thomas Cromwell served as chief minister to Henry VIII from 1532 to 1540 and has gone down in history as one of the most corrupt and manipulative people ever to hold power in England. In this documentary Diarmaid MacCulloch reveals another side to the man, arguing that Cromwell was a principled idealist and revolutionary whose radical evangelism laid the foundations for the modern British state.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Diarmaid MacCulloch
Director Charles Colville
Executive Producer Chris Granlund
Producer Charles Colville


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