Bring Up the Bodies

Bring Up the Bodies is a historical novel by Hilary Mantel and sequel to her award-winning Wolf Hall. The second part of a trilogy charting the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell, the powerful minister in the court of King Henry VIII, it won the 2012 Man Booker Prize and the 2012 Costa Book of the Year. The final novel in the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, was published in March 2020.

Bring up the Bodies
First edition
AuthorHilary Mantel
Audio read bySimon Vance
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesThomas Cromwell trilogy
GenreHistorical Fiction
PublisherFourth Estate (UK)/ Henry Holt and Co. (US)
Publication date
8 May 2012
Media typePrint (hardback)
LC ClassPR6063.A438 B75 2012
Preceded byWolf Hall 
Followed byThe Mirror and the Light 


Bring Up the Bodies begins not long after the conclusion of Wolf Hall. The King and Thomas Cromwell, who is now Master Secretary to the King's Privy Council, are the guests of the Seymour family at their manor house, Wolf Hall. The King shares private moments with Jane Seymour, and begins to fall in love with her. His present queen, Anne Boleyn, has failed to give him a male heir. Their relationship is a stormy one, sometimes loving and sometimes characterised by angry quarrels. At length, the King tells Cromwell privately, "I cannot live as I have." Cromwell understands this to mean that the King has tired of a wife who gives him neither peace nor a son and wants his marriage to her ended. Cromwell promises the King he will find a legal way to make this happen.

Ever the dealmaker, Cromwell attempts to negotiate a voluntary dissolution of the marriage with Anne through her father, the Earl of Wiltshire, and her brother, Lord Rochford. Wiltshire is willing to negotiate, but Rochford is intransigent, telling Cromwell that if Anne and the King are reconciled, "I will make short work of you."

Cromwell makes inquiries among the ladies and gentlemen who are close to Anne and hears more and more rumours that she has been adulterous. The musician Mark Smeaton and Anne's sister-in-law, Lady Rochford, are particularly helpful in passing on rumours. He determines to build a case against Anne and succeeds in doing so, ultimately securing enough damaging testimony to have her arrested and tried on capital charges. The King seems quite willing to see Anne destroyed if it will serve his purposes. Mindful that some of the people closest to Anne connived at the ruin of his old mentor Cardinal Wolsey, Cromwell relishes the opportunity to bring them down as well. In the end, Anne and several of her confidantes, including her brother, are tried and executed. Cromwell is aware that not all of the evidence against them is true, but he is willing to do what is necessary to serve the King (and to avenge Wolsey), and having started the process he must see it through if he himself is to survive. As the King focuses on a new marriage with Jane Seymour, Cromwell is rewarded for his efforts with a barony and his position as the King's chief adviser seems assured.


Bring Up the Bodies was published in May 2012, by Harper Collins in the United Kingdom and by Henry Holt and Co. in the United States, to critical acclaim.[1][2]


Janet Maslin reviewed the novel positively in The New York Times:

[The book's] ironic ending will be no cliffhanger for anyone even remotely familiar with Henry VIII's trail of carnage. But in Bring Up the Bodies it works as one. The wonder of Ms. Mantel's retelling is that she makes these events fresh and terrifying all over again."[2]


In January 2013, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) announced that it would stage adaptations by Mike Poulton of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies in its winter season.[3]

A six-part BBC television series Wolf Hall, an adaptation of the books Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, starring Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis and Jonathan Pryce was broadcast in the UK in January 2015[4] and in the United States in April 2015.

Awards and honoursEdit


  1. ^ Atwood, Margaret (4 May 2012). "Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel". The Guardian (review). London. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
  2. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (1 May 2012). "A Canny Henchman, Targeting the Queen". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  3. ^ "David Tennant to play Richard II at the RSC". Daily Telegraph. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
  4. ^ "Wolf Hall adaptation planned for BBC Two". BBC News. 24 August 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  5. ^ Flood, Alison (5 December 2012). "EL James comes out on top at National Book awards". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 December 2012.
  6. ^ Staff writer (2 January 2013). "Hilary Mantel wins 2012 Costa novel prize". BBC News. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  7. ^ McCrum, Robert (29 January 2013). "Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies: a middlebrow triumph". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  8. ^ Rahim, Sameer (29 January 2013). "Costa Book Award: who would dare refuse Hilary Mantel her crown?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  9. ^ Staff writer (30 January 2013). "Hilary Mantel wins Costa Book Award". BBC News. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  10. ^ Daley, David (23 December 2012). "The What To Read Awards: Top 10 Books of 2012". Salon. Retrieved 24 December 2012.
  11. ^ "Shortlist for 2013 Walter Scott Prize Announced". Borders Book Festival. 18 April 2013. Archived from the original on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2013.
  12. ^ "Tan Twan Eng wins The Walter Scott Prize". Borders Book Festival. 14 June 2013. Archived from the original on 8 September 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2013.

External linksEdit