We never do live quiet. The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel.
We have all read the sermons. We could write them ourselves. But we are vain and ambitious all the same, and we never do live quiet, because we rise in the morning and we feel the blood coursing in our veins and we think, by the Holy Trinity, whose head can I stamp on today? What worlds are at hand for me to conquer? Or at least we think, if God made me a crewman on his ship of fool's, how can I murder the drunken captain, and steer it to port and not be wrecked?
As well as establishing the dramatic arc and tension, that opening creates sympathy with Cromwell's equivocal position. By writing in the third-person present tense Mantel maintains the story as his; it is his present tense we are reading, so we want him to keep going, even if it means the death of a young queen.
He is our hero, but he is not always heroic.
He reflects the world, rather than just going forth into it with his own light. People see in him what they want to. He is secretive but looks honest. He is concealed but looks open. That is presumably why the title is a reference to The Mirror and the Lamp, the great critical book which showed the divide between pre-Romantic art that reflected the world and Romantic art which projected the individual.
Mantel allows Cromwell to do both because of her use of the third-person present tense.