I had not thought much about Thomas Cromwell but I realise I should have: he is a critical figure in the Tudorian revolution which paved the way for the full fruits of the English Reformation. A masterly politician (until he lost his touch which proved to be his undoing), Cromwell, mostly surreptitiously, fostered the birth and hidden infancy of the English Reformation.
Rather than regurgitate the whole story and its many lessons - read MacCullough directly! - I observe here a little vignette from p. 533. But first, a basic bit of Anglicanism: we pride ourselves on the ability to find the via media, the middle way, the compromise between two extremes, which enables us to live together with tension and difference, sometimes even with contradiction, if not happily ever after, then unhappily ever after.
In a limited mind such as mine, the via media Anglicana is something of an Elizabethan invention, notably at the hands of her courtly theologian, Richard Hooker (steering the good ship CofE, as he did, between the shoals of Papal Catholicism and the reefs of Puritan Protestantism).
But here is MacCullough on an determination of Henry VIII's:
"[Cromwell's] death did not end the killing [in 1540]. Two days later a notorious event embodied the King's idiosyncratic notion of the 'middle way'. Six priests were executed: three evangelicals for heresy, and three papalist Catholics for treason."
Well, that is not what most of us these days think embodies the via media!
My serious observation, though, is how tyrannical, totalitarian, and psyschopathic was Henry VIII. He was the Stalin of his day, cheerfully murdering (albeit by beheading, burning, hanging, drawing and quartering, rather than by pistol) any and everyone who stood in his way or looked like they might do so. He married Jane Seymour on the day of Anne Boleyn's execution and married Katherine Howard on the day of Cromwell's execution!
As an Anglican I can be grateful to Henry VIII for triggering (via the good office of Cromwell) the legislation which which cut the ties of the Church in England from the rule of Rome and began the life of the Church of England.
Oh, and I can be thankful that Henry VIII appointed Cranmer and Cromwell.
They say even Stalin had his good points (not least that he led the necessary effort from the Eastern side of Europe to defeat Hitler).
But, really, is there much else we Anglicans can thank Henry VIII for?