(Saffran’s article appeared in Horse Directory Magazine, 5/3.)
It is night (or close to it), or is there a storm, in the first scene of the made for television adaption of the novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. The horses are clomping along. Fortunately, the cameramen did not run into them, but then again, horses have night vision — it is part of what protects them from predators in the wild, so they know to avoid the cameramen. This is a candle/fireplace lit production, which explains why we see the profile of a distinguished black Spanish movie horse (from The Devil’s Horsemen, Wychwood Stud, Buckinghamshire, UK, Gerard Naprous, Horse master) but we cannot see much else.
The party is en route to Cardinal Wolsey, the Lord Chancellor, played by the charming Jonathan Pryce, to ask for his resignation. Once inside, the emissaries are rebuked indirectly by Thomas Cromwell, portrayed by the phenomenal, enigmatic Mark Rylance, who whispers advice in the cunning Wolsey’s ear. A great team. Then there are many changes of scenes — mostly all indoors without transition scenes of horses and riders going to the locations. After his wife and daughters die, Thomas visits his cranky, previously sadistic father (Thomas had to run away from home at an early age to escape his father or possibly from a stint in jail.) In this scene, Thomas’s father is still a working blacksmith. Thomas walks to where his father is shoeing.
Where is Thomas’s horse in this scene? Young Thomas grew up around horses. It would have been more lively if Thomas rode into the stable yard, then his father would have asked him about what was probably an expensive horse, now that Thomas has moved up in the world — a way to counteract his father and a lost opportunity to reveal status in a class preoccupied society. While abroad, Cromwell fought for the French army in Italy in 1503, and then he was employed by Italians, who taught him about finance. Thomas also sold donkeys while in Italy.