Final Sacrament (Clarenceux Trilogy #3) by James Forrester
The concluding chapter to this Tudor conspiracy saga was excellent. Like some massive Chaucerian pilgrimage the relentlessness momentum surrounding the lives, loves and tragedies of those involved roll on inexorably.
It seems like every page has a line, a gem, that you want to ponder before moving on. However the story line is so intense that all I could do was note them so that I can return and meditate.
What is the final sacrament? The idea is heavy with meaning and symbolism.
William Harvey(Clarenceux) comes to know and understand. We the reader come to know and understand somewhat. The final sacrament can allude to many things, but in his fight for loyalty and truth even unto death Harvey the man, not just the Herald, embodies the idea.
As he says, 'Loyalty has been the driving force of my life and betrayal my greatest fear...'
The biblical Job comparison to Clarenceux at the start is a telling comment on all Harvey has faced and will face.
The crux of the three novels is the supposed marriage document of Anne Boleyn to Lord Percy. A document that might illegitimatize Elizabeth and place the Scottish child prince, Charles James Stewart, on the throne. At this time, for a Protestant England especially, the fear of more civil unrest, deaths and persecution, and a possibility of a return to the times of bloody Mary Tudor is a real danger.
Elizabeth learns the truth about the document and the gift of legitimacy her mother, Anne Boleyn had her in reconciling herself with King Henry before going to her death. Again a reference to the idea of 'final sacrament.'
I found Walsingham's later talks to Lord Cecil about Elizabeth insightful, 'She must...do all she can to stay alive--and that means not marrying, not becoming pregnant, not being seen to be womanly or weak, but playing the part of God's angel in England.' Another sort of final sacrament?
The events that leads to this series' culmination, this third act, pares back like an onion being peeled away precisely and carefully, layer upon layer, with a stringency that leaves you helpless in the onslaught of dissection, even as you are brought to tears.
Always the 'Document', the sword of Damocles, hanging across our characters lives.
Walsingham wants the document to keep the throne and England secure. As does Cecil.
The bitter harbinger of vengeance, Lady Percy has commanded an army of assassins to destroy those near to Harvey, paving the way for her to secure the documents and throw the English throne into turmoil, returning Catholicism to it's former place. Towards the end, a third player, strategically hidden, is also revealed.
What Harvey wants and is trying to prevent is an England free from the threat of revolution and unrest, and safety for his family, the touchstone of his life and joy.
What I find telling is that in this novel that I am thinking about him and referring to him more and more as William Harvey, the man, the husband, the father, not Clarenceux the Herald of Arms.
Harvey's reflections throughout are wonderful.
When he muses on a quote from Aristotle about memory he reasons,
'Memory is imagination...If that is so...then all recorded memory is merely fable. And the document I guard...is also nothing more than fable. The illegitimacy of the Queen becomes untrue. But the truth is the truth, and always will be; so the truth of the past is changeable even if God alone knows it.'
'In all our struggles the last word is hope...in the final struggle the last word is love.'
If you like Tudor era historical suspense this series is a must!
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