Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Selling schemes by Thomas Cromwell #WolfHall, and Baldezar Castiglione for courtly conduct in our digital age

Actor Mark Rylance’s performance as the politically astute Thomas Cromwell has been much admired. His role depicts the  perilous rise  of Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII. 

After establishing himself in London's legal and mercantile world, he went on to gain a seat in the House of Commons as MP for Taunton and to serve in the household of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who was himself a formidable politician, statesman and diplomat.

 2.9 million viewers tuned in to BBC 2 to watch the six part costume dramatisation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.  I have do some surfing level research into Thomas Cromwell that I think will interest the community of Sales professionals - modern day business courtiers.   

Thomas Cromwell's Dad was a salesman

Born to a working-class family of no position or name.  Thomas Cromwell was born around 1485 in Putney, London, as the son of Walter Cromwell, a blacksmith, fuller and cloth merchant, and owner of both a hostelry and a brewery.

As a youth, he left his family in Putney and crossed the Channel to the continent.

 There are various accounts of his activities in France, Italy and the Low Countries .

 It is alleged that he first became a mercenary and marched with the French army to Italy, where he fought in the battle of Garigliano on 28 December 1503.

While in Italy, he entered service in the household of the Florentine banker Francesco Frescobaldi.

Thomas Cromwell -National Portrait Gallery, London
Networker par excellence and mixed among salespeople

Later, he visited leading mercantile centres in the Low Countries, living among the English merchants and developing a network of contacts while learning several languages.

 He returned to Italy.

The records of the English Hospital in Rome showed that he stayed there in June 1514.

 Documents in the Vatican Archives suggest that he was an agent for the Archbishop of York, Cardinal Christopher Bainbridge, and handled English ecclesiastical issues before the Roman Rota.

Cromwell rose to become the right-hand man of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, adviser to the King. He survived Wolsey's fall from grace to eventually take his place as the most powerful of Henry's ministers.  

Cromwell declared to Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer that he had been a "ruffian ... in his young days".

As viewers of the TV drama, we realise that many of the behaviours in royal courts and the intrigues of Tudor England are still to be recognised today.

The machinations of court life continue in our corporate world and the era of the Industrial Internet of things.

Corporate HQ are the equivalent to the palaces of Tudor times

We have few royal or ducal courts nowadays but their ‘descendants’ are  some business  HQs which have taken on the appearance of powerful courts of the past .

 Princedoms with their castles to house their entourage. 

The design of the Peterborough Pearl  Assurance Castle, the Doge palace of the Edinburgh HQ of RBS. Image links below

Courtyards of the Big Banks of the City of London tend to be a covered atrium now but vast spaces designed to impress and possibly impose or intimidate  the visiting business courtiers of today.

Volumes of empty space convey corporate wealth and stability.

In the world of TV depicted world of  business  TV shows, people pay court to the dukes and duchesses of the Dragons Den . 

Apprentices court the favour of Lord Sugar in front of his throne like chair in the frosted glass boardroom.

How to achieve true greatness
The ‘schmoozing’ as Lord Sugar refers to it, by the young apprentices ,is as recognisable as the flattery and sycophancy of renaissance courtiers.

Courts require codes of behaviour,  rules of etiquette a. 

Book of etiquette get written for our new age. Such an example would be DeBretts Etiquette for the Digital Age.

Human Nature has not change much though. 

So it is useful to seek out past wisdoms to mix with the modern fads we must learn.

‘How to achieve true greatness’ No 29 in the Penguin Books mini series * Great Ideas is worth reading. 

The unabridged version
It is an abridged version of  Baldesar Castiglione’s "Book of the Courtier."

 Despite being a guide written for 16th Century Italian gentleman, its observations into human conduct and the arts and crafts of success within a ducal court is fascinating.

 It is written as a discussion over two evenings between courtiers  on the ideal virtues of a Renaissance courtier. 

Yet  it covers the attributes , skills and knowledge covered in today’s HR requirements for job description and personal profile.

It could even give inspiration to better written profiles of Linked in.

 Castiglione sets out values that continue to offer clarification in questions of leadership espousing such qualities of prudence, courage, loyalty, affability and style which still hold court for today’s  sales professional.

It even covers extra mural activities some may wish to covering their CVs.

It also suggests time honoured advice in the best way to gain influence in power.

Who knows , maybe Thomas Cromwell could have saved his head in 1540 if he had kept to its  precepts ! The first English edition was published in 1561

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