Is Thomas Cromwell the ultimate suit?

Wolf Hall: Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell
Wolf Hall: Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell

Laura Chamberlain, the client services director at Now, says Wolf Hall is finally connecting her history degree with modern life in adland.

As I've settled down over the past three Wednesday nights with a generous glass of red to watch Wolf Hall (the BBC’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s epic, Man Booker Prize winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies), I have pondered that my long ago, mostly forgotten, time studying dusty history tomes in the Bodleian and my career in adland have rarely felt so related.

Much as I enjoyed my degree – after all it gave me my husband and a remarkable tolerance for vodka when mixed with Red Bull – my rusty knowledge of the machinations of Tudor England hasn’t really come in that handy in my career. Or so I thought.

Watching the enigmatic Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell, the loyal, right hand-man of Thomas Wolsey and on his way to become Henry VIII’s most powerful minister, I wondered… is Cromwell the ultimate suit?

Some would say he was cold, calculating, ruthless and Machiavellian, but Mantel gives us a talented, hard-working pragmatist, deftly navigating the political landscape to help make the seemingly impossible happen – engineering Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and marriage to his mistress, Anne Boleyn. 

To achieve this he had to think creatively and draw on his diverse talents and skills as a mercenary, merchant, lawyer, accountant, politician, friend and confidant.

By the time Cromwell paid the ultimate price, he had left the crown wealthier and more powerful and had firmly laid the foundation for the strongest dynastic brand in history.

So what can account "men" learn from Cromwell?

Anything is possible if you are prepared to work hard in pursuit of a creative solution.

Acquire and deploy a range of skills to make things happen. We should be proud to be "jacks of all trades" and multitaskers extraordinaire.

Getting things done is all about managing people and personalities – some might go so far as to call this manipulation, but I prefer to think of it as persuasion.

Be calm in a crisis, while still being passionately committed to your cause.

Never expect to get the credit but always be prepared to step up and take responsibility…luckily, we get to keep our heads.

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