Daniel Diehl Day 2

Author Interview  Part 2
Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your work?
As a working historian there is no limit to the wonderful stories I would love to tell.  The past is
rich with fascinating stories, many of which, like ‘Nothing Left Sacred’ mirror our own times in
many ways and for anyone sharp enough to read between the lines they will tell us the shape of
our own future – and what we have to do, or not do, if we are going to avoid complete disaster.

Favorite places to travel or visit?
I first went to England in 1970.  Over the next twenty-five years I went back more than two
dozen times and I moved there in 1996.  I had to come back to the US in 2007, but if I had been
given a choice I would never have left England.

And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and
tantalize us:( Include links to where we can find your work)

Chapter 1 – April 1527
Tuesday, 12th April 1527
       It was the middle of spring and still mind-numbingly cold.  Rain had been falling steadily for
almost two months, flooding the fields across much of England’s southernmost counties.  Even
as far north as Oxenford the ground was constantly sodden and the dampness had crept through
even the stoutest stonework, collecting in puddles on floors and creeping up the walls in ugly,
moldering patches.  A sickly shaft of pale light crawled through the small, clerestory windows
high in the chapterhouse wall of St Frideswide’s Cannonry and fell limply on the ochre and rust
colored floor tiles beneath Philip Latimer’s sandaled feet.  When he stirred his foot, tiny moats of
dust raised briefly, only to drop lifelessly across his half-frozen toes.  Behind him, he could hear
his ten brother cannons and their prior muttering nervously among themselves.  Under normal
circumstances a visitation from the church authorities would have been taken as a matter of
course, but these were hardly normal circumstances.  Visitations were carried out regularly,
every three-to-five years, by the local bishop and one or two of his clerks, enquiring into the
financial and spiritual wellbeing of each of the more than eight-hundred monastic and clerical
houses scattered across England and Wales.  After examining the financial accounts, the visitors
interviewed each member of the house, questioning them on how conscientiously the mass was
observed; if everyone judiciously attended each of the seven daily services; which members of
the community held a job in the secular world, and other questions intended to ensure that every
man or woman in the house was living a properly pious life according to their vows of poverty,
chastity and obedience.  But the past two days had been something altogether out of the ordinary.
       Brother Latimer did not know who the two men seated at the table in front of him were, but
there was no doubt in his mind as to the identity of the massive figure seated in the shadows
behind them.  Even hunched down in the folds of in his capacious scarlet robes, this could be
none other than Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Papal Legate and Lord Chancellor of England. 
Wolsey had no direct connection with St Frideswides’ and therefore no reason to be here.  But
here he was, and the two men at the table were obviously working for him.  Despite the room
being cold enough that the breath of its fifteen occupants rose in pale, steaming clouds, Philip
could feel a tiny rivulet of hot, sticky sweat collecting between his shoulder blades, before
crawling inexorably down his shivering back. 
       “Brother Philip, please answer the question.”  It was the older, more benign looking of
Wolsey’s clerks who spoke. “There is no cause to be troubled of mind.  This is no inquisition,
there are no right, nor wrong, answers here; so please help us to the best of your ability and we
shall soon make an end to this enquiry.”
      Philip Latimer looked up from his feet just far enough to see the faces of the men seated in
front of him.  His questioner was smiling gently, but his eyes were unreadable.  The man next to
him, a short, stout creature dressed in dull brown robes trimmed in black fur, had the hard, fleshy
countenance of an angry boar.  The most prominent feature of his face was a pair of small, cold
grey eyes that seemed intent on boring a hole through Philip’s head. Whoever he was, this was
not a man to be trifled with.
       Latimer nodded as he spoke.  “Yes.  Yes, all of the hours and services are keenly and most
reverently observed, Master Visitor.  To the surety of my knowledge, the members of St
Frideswide’s house are each, and all, well dedicated to their faith and to the service of God, Holy
Mother Church and their duties in Oxenford Cathedral.”  At the far end of the room, Latimer
could see Wolsey shift uncomfortably on the hard, wooden chair, grunting as he hefted his
massive bulk back into position.
       “Our thanks to you Brother Philip, you may be seated.”  The man glanced at the heavy book
before him, made a single mark with his quill and raised his head.  “The visitation would now
hear the words of Brother Jerome.  Brother, would you please be upstanding, step before the
court and take your position where Brother Philip stood previously.”
       By the time the eleven canons and their prior had all been questioned, the sun had crept
below the line of the clerestory windows, casting the chapterhouse into ever-deepening shadows. 
Once dismissed, cannons and prior shuffled towards the door, heads bowed and cowled; each
man quietly jockeying for position near their prior, desperate that he would, or could, put their
minds at ease as to the unsettling visitors’ purpose at St Frideswide's.   As the last of the men
made his way slowly through the door, hunching his shoulders against the drizzle, Cardinal
Wolsey and his associates pushed past them, as though it were a race to escape the oppressive
confines of the chapterhouse.  In the lead was the small, pig-faced man, forcefully making way
for the great cardinal.  At the rear, clutching the enquiry book close to his chest, the older of
Wolsey’s two clerks followed his master through the door and into the dusk-shrouded passages
of the cannon house cloister.  As they rounded the corner of the cloister, Wolsey turned and
spoke to him.
       “Master Gardiner, be so kind as to return to our lodgings and address your attention to the
accounts.  I would have a word in private with Master Crumwell.”
       With a simple bow of his head and a mumbled ‘Yes, my Lord Cardinal’, Stephen Gardiner
turned and scurried back through the cloister, toward the doritor and gatehouse beyond.  Once
sure that he was out of ear-shot, Wolsey stuffed his fleshy hands into the wide, satin cuffs of his
cardinal’s robes and stared down his long nose at the head of the small, barrel shaped figure
beside him.
       “Well, Master Crumwell?”
       “My Lord?”
       “Are you satisfied?”
       “Well satisfied, my Lord.”  Unbidden, Thomas Crumwell elaborated.  “This is - correct me
if I err - the twenty-second of the twenty-nine houses on your list of those deserving of
dissolution, though I do not understand why, if you are minded on their closure, you insist on
these superfluous visitations.”
       “Form, Master Crumwell, form.  All things must take their proper, legal course as you
should know full well.”
       “Well said, my Lord.  Appearance is all.  And even with the necessity of carrying out the
remaining visitations, I can foresee no impediment to completing the work by the end of the
current month.”  He knew the work would proceed more quickly if he and Gardiner were not
encumbered by Wolsey and the eighty-three servants and retainers travelling in his entourage,
but aloud, he said only “Once completed, you will have immediate, personal access to all of their
possessions, beneficences and holdings.”
       “Thomas, Thomas.” Wolsey shook his head slowly.  Even in the dim light filtering between
the arches of the cloister, the shadow of a smile could be seen playing across his heavy mouth. 
“I have personal access to nothing, as you well know. This is all being done for the surety and
betterment of Holy Mother Church.  Of the eight hundred and twenty-five ecclesiastical houses
in England and Wales, not all of them can be expected to carry their own weight.  To continue
their existence in these difficult times constitutes a financial pressure which the church cannot
reasonably be expected bear.  Diseased limbs must be pruned so the body of the tree may
continue to flourish.”
       “Of course, your Eminence.  No disrespect was meant.”  In his lawyer’s mind, Crumwell
was wondering how much money his master had already spent on building and decorating his
massive estate, Hampton Court, which rose its towering head almost forty miles west of London. 
How man rooms were there?  Sixty?  Seventy?  One Hundred?  He had no way of knowing, but
the chimneys rising from its roof seemed nearly as numerous as the trees in the New Forest.  He
recalled the nasty little rhyme that was currently circulating about Wolsey’s penchant for living
in a style no churchman north of Rome had ever aspired to…
‘Why come ye not to court?
To which court?
To the king’s court
Or to Hampton Court?’
If anyone in the kingdom had been in doubt as to the Papal Legate’s wealth and status, the
construction of Hampton Court heralded it loud enough for all to hear.
       “You smirk, Thomas”, Wolsey interrupted his companion’s reverie, “yet you know full well
that every groat collected from these closures will be put to God’s work in educating England’s
young.” Wolsey rubbed his hands together – out of excitement or just warding off the cold,
Crumwell could not tell – and, for the dozenth time, expounded on his latest pet project.
      “The meager wealth and income of these twenty-nine houses – from the two-hundred pounds
per year generated here at St Frideswide's to that sad little priory at Tiptree, in Essex, with only
twenty-two pounds per year - each shall help fund construction and endowments for a public
school at Ipswich…”
“Where you were born, I believe, my Lord.” 
“Yes, Thomas, where I was born.  And what better way to show gratitude to the town of my
birth than by providing all future generations of Ipswich’s most promising young men with the
advantage of having an education on their doorstep?  An advantage, I remind you, which I did
not, myself, enjoy.”
“No better way, my Lord.  And the other?”
 “Ah, yes. A new college here at Oxenford.  One which…”
Again Crumwell interrupted his master’s train of thought, asking a question that he already
knew the answer to.  “And how shall you call this new college, my Lord?”
Seemingly unaware of the gentle barb behind the question, Wolsey beamed and answered “I
am of a mind to call it Cardinal’s College.  How think you?”
“Oh, I think that is very well named.”
“Yes, I thought you would.” 
Now, Crumwell had the unsettling feeling that it was he who was receiving the sharp end of
a barbed witticism, but when he looked up, beyond the brim of his black, woolen scholar’s cap
he could see the line of Wolsey’s mouth had grown tight and hard. 
“My Lord?”  No amount of jibing, being given dirty jobs, or taking the blame for Wolsey’s
oversights could lessen Crumwell’s earnest concern for his master’s wellbeing.  “Are you not
well disposed?”
Wolsey fluttered his sausage-like fingers dismissively.  “Tis nothing Thomas.” 
“By your leave, Eminence, it is something.  Even in these shadowy confines I see it writ
large across your face.  One minute you are joyous over your new projects and now, of an
instant, you are grey as a corpse.”
Wolsey took a massive breath that made his huge belly swell even larger than normal before
letting it out in a shudder.  Waiting, Crumwell lowered his eyes and twisted distractedly at the
massive ruby ring on his gloved hand.  When Wolsey refused to speak, Crumwell prompted him
“I am your legal counsel, your Eminence.  There is nothing which you cannot, indeed should
not, tell me.  If I do not know the manner of the difficulty, I can neither protect nor advise you. 
Thus tis no more than wise to tell me all.”
“From this matter, I fear no man can protect me.”  Wolsey forced his great jowls into the
vague semblance of a weary smile before running a hand across his forehead, pressing the palm
deep into one eye socket, as though the pressure would, somehow, organize his thoughts.
“No, no.  All is well with Rome, praise God.” Then, after a pause, he continued.  “At least
for the moment.”
“I beg you, my Lord, do not keep me in darkness.  Whatever the matter, the knowing of it
can only be less of a burden than not knowing.”
“As you will.  I have received a letter from the king.”
“Surely his Highness is not still angry over your failure to force parliament into paying the
Amicable Grant?  That has been four years past.”
“No. No.  Although I think he has never quite forgiven me my inability to provide him with
the two-hundred thousand pounds specified in the grant.  The entirety of this matter is newly
“Which is?”
Wolsey signed again, deep and long.  “Thomas, the king is of a mind to rid himself of the
Crumwell’s hand shot to his mouth.  “Oh.  Oh, Lord, may God save us all.” 

‘Nothing Left Sacred’ is on Amazon.com at:

on Amazon.co.uk it is at:
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