Historical writer Tom Holland attacks BBC's Wolf Hall for being 'a wee bit boring'

'Cromwell cared nothing for the truth. He was a fanatic,' says the author of 'Persian Fire'

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The Independent Culture

A leading historical writer has attacked the BBC’s adaptation of the Hillary Mantel book Wolf Hall as “a wee bit boring”.

Wolf Hall tells the story of the rise of Thomas Cromwell under Henry VIII in the 16th century.

Tom Holland, author of the award-winning Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, Persian Fire and In the Shadow of the Sword, said on Twitter: “Catching up with WolfHall, I can't help but think it's just a wee bit boring.”

And he added: “WolfHall is v beautiful and Mark Rylance [as Cromwell] is predictably compelling - but without Mantel's voice the story is just too familiar to be gripping.”

He criticised the show after the story was attacked for being anti-Catholic propaganda by Andrew M Brown writing in the Telegraph.

“Mantel wants to rescue Cromwell from his bad reputation and tell his story, which is all very well, but she does distort the truth,” he said.

“What we get is a sort of propaganda, just as the 16th-century pro-Protestant Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was.”

He highlighted last week’s episode in which Cromwell tells Henry “the monasteries were riddled with corruption – and he hadn’t come to this view through prejudice, he insisted, but from his own observation”.

“That is untrue: there were abuses, but we know that monasteries were much valued as centres of pilgrimage and sources of spiritual help as well as education and health care,” Mr Brown wrote.

“But Cromwell cared nothing for the truth. He was a fanatic. He and his agents made up revolting lies about monks which they spread in lip-smacking pornographic pamphlets, notably The Black Book.”