►’Lamentation‘, by ►CJ Sansom, is the novel of the English Inquisition that was never written about the Spanish Inquisition.
It is the year 1546 and the King of England, Henry VIII is dying.
It is a time of religious terror, the fight between the murderous clans of the rich aristocrats who own England shows in the persecution of dissidents under the guise of religious conformity –even of religious freedom, such are the ironies of the age.
The King has rejected the authority of the Pope over the Church in England, but we cannot speak of Protestantism as such, there are many religious obediences and a slight mistake or misunderstanding, or words said in confidence to a friend, or overheard by an enemy, or denounced by a servant, can easily send anybody, even the rich and powerful, to awful tortures and even dying at the stake.
Any overt doubt or unbelief in the matter of transubstantiation –the belief that the body and blood of Jesus Christ is present in the consecrated bread and wine, physically present, not as a metaphor- was considered treason, the King had defined it in his Act of Six Articles in 1539, and the doubter would die, burnt alive after horrible tortures and losing all his wealth.
A reign of terror, that had all the citizens in fear of their lives, especially as the King often changed his mind about this or that article of faith, Henry, the King of England was in effect the Pope of the English Church, and Lutherans were also persecuted and killed.
Tribunals, delations, tortures, horrible death, it was the same as in Spain, it was the worst of times, and you would die at the same temperature in the flames stoked by Philip II of Spain or by Henry VIII of England.
If to scare the enemy is military to scare your population is political, and the King of England knew how to keep the unruly, poor and desperate population underfoot: the King had slaughtered his subjects several times in the years before.
The King is dying and the Queen, ► Catherine Parr has written a book, ► Lamentation of a Sinner, too extremist in its devotion, a book that can take her to the Tower or to the burning stake. Her book has been stolen from her secret chest and now the Queen is in danger.
In that time of 1546 Anne Askew, a woman preacher, and some extremist believers with her, die burning alive in London, killed legally and judicially by the tribunals of the English King.
Some among them were anabaptists, a branch of dissidents who can even be considered communist by our standards of 2017 and were hated and much feared by all right-thinking somewhat prosperous people, because these extremists believed that wealth should be equally shared among all Christians.
The Inquisition, it is the English Inquisition that doesn’t dare say its name that must stop this rot.
☼ It is not usually known that the English expulsed all their Jews two centuries before the Spanish did, the Jews were expulsed from Spain in 1492 –on the same day, 3rd August 1492 that the ships of Christopher Columbus sailed forth to discover the New World, and there were several Jews on board, perhaps including the Admiral Columbus himself.
But ► in England the Jews had been expelled two centuries before that in Spain, in 1290, by an English King who needed money and stole the wealth of his Jewish subjects.
During the reigns of the Tudors, Henry, Mary and Elizabeth, any Jew found in the land would be burnt alive at the stake.
In England, in this kingdom of terror of 1546 under the Tudor King Henry VIII, where the subjects don’t trust anybody, neither spouses, parents, children, or domestic workers who could bring forth a terrible death even by a false accusation, a lawyer, Matthew Shardlake who is a humpback but a very sharp lawyer, is asked by Queen Catherine to find the book she wrote and has been stolen from his belongings.
Shardlake the lawyer, who has helped the Queen before, now risks his life and position trying to find the lost book among the deadly intrigues of the powerful protestant and catholic families of England who are waiting for the death of the King to profit from it.
☼. The historical novels of CJ Sansom cover about the same period as the novels of Hilary Mantel, like Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies but I find them very superior to the ones by Mantel.
It beggars belief that the arrogant and ignorant English dare criticize the so-called Spanish Inquisition -a hateful institution, certainly- and they don’t know that they had exactly the same thing going on, the same secret tribunals and courts, the same awful and cruel penalties, in their own country at that time.
We don’t have in Spain a novel about the Spanish Inquisition as good as this one about the English Inquisition.
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Other books by Sansom in this series
- Dissolution –King Henry VIII confiscates the monasteries of England and their land and wealth. Religious henchmen like the upstart ► Thomas Cromwell fight over the loot, there’s a murder and Shardlake investigates.
- Revelation, a serial killer and the book of Apocalypsis.
- Heartstone – here Sansom uses a clever ►McGuffin, the hearstone of the title plays no part in the novel, but the real interest of the novel lies in the sinking of the ► Mary Rose, the capital warship of King Henry VIII.