Assiduously tracking Henry VIII’s point man in Rome.
Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon took six years to effect, involving numerous emissaries to the Vatican who may or may not have been on the up and up, and rupturing England’s ties to the Catholic Church in the end. The process proves exacting, engrossing reading as English academic Fletcher (History/Durham Univ.) focuses on the toilsome job of “resident diplomat” in Rome Gregorio Casali, who tried desperately to placate all factions, including Pope Clement and King Henry. However, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, had besieged Rome for plunder and was not amused by Henry’s attempt to divorce his lawful queen of nearly 20 years. While Catherine was effectively lobbying her Spanish relatives and the pope constantly for support, Henry was enlisting academics to substantiate his claim that marrying his brother’s wife had amounted to a biblical hex. The campaign for public opinion wore on: Henry wanted an heir, plain and simple, and was willing to sever ties with the Roman Catholic Church to do it. Little by little, with his lover Anne Boleyn’s help, he cut the Church’s influence across England, putting the pressure on Clement, who delayed interminably. Fletcher goes step by step, a numbing-by-details process: Bribery, nepotism, murder, marriage (Casali's own) and Halley’s Comet all pass through these pages before Henry finally got his way and married Anne in 1533. Yet with Wolsey’s fall from favor and death, Casali returned to England to plead his case “that I and my kindred shall be an example to every man of the ingratitude of princes,” then died soon after, abandoned by England.
An impressive, dogged study for armchair Tudor detectives.