Six Wives : The Queens of Henry VIII, Paperback

Six Wives : The Queens of Henry VIII Paperback

3 out of 5 (3 ratings)


Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived CATHERINE OF ARAGON: the pious Spanish Catholic who suffered years of miscarriages and failed to produce a male heir...ANNE BOLEYN: the pretty, clever, French-educated Protestant whose marriage to Henry changed England forever...JANE SEYMOUR: the demure and submissive contrast to Anne Boleyn's radical and vampish style...ANNE OF CLEVES: 'the mare of Flanders' whose short marriage to the overweight Henry followed a farcical 'beauty contest'...CATHERINE HOWARD: the flirtatious teenager whose adulteries made a fool of the ageing king...CATHERINE PARR: the shrewd, religiously radical bluestocking who outlived him...In this dazzling study, David Starkey gives us a richly textured picture of daily life at the Tudor Court from the woman's point of view.

Above all, he establishes the interaction of the private and the public, and demonstrates how the Queens of Henry VIII were central in determining political policy.




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My overall feeling about this book is that it successfully bridges the gap between serious academic (but rather dry) tomes and more populist histories. Starkey does a good job of bringing the six wives to life, explaining their actions within the context of the (dangerous) times. Although the bulk of the book is taken up with the stories of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, I think this makes sense. Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon for over 20 years, and the divorce - occasioned by the king's relationship with Anne Boleyn - was obviously historically significant, to put it mildly.Catherine of Aragon comes across as a woman with a good deal of backbone, happier during times of conflict than during peacetime. Starkey explodes some common misconceptions about all the wives (for example, that Katherine Parr was an inoffensive little woman and essentially Henry's nursemaid). Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves are dealt with briefly (Jane died shortly after the birth of a son, and the marriage to Anne of Cleves never really got off the ground, although Starkey provides evidence that she remained on largely friendly terms with the king).My one quibble with the first section of the book is that the detailing of the process by which Henry divorced Catherine are given in extraordinary detail, to the point where it becomes difficult to understand exactly what was going on. Similarly, throughout the book Starkey rather over-indulges himself with blow-by-blow descriptions of every procession and ceremony.Nevertheless I think this is an excellent book for anyone who wants a relatively succinct account of Henry VIII's marriages, where the emphasis is very much on the personalities and strengths (and weaknesses) of the women themselves, rather than on the king. [December 2009]

Review by

This book was very dry and starkey challenges things that most authors accept as true.

Review by

A bit unbalanced - long detailed history of first 2 wives of Henry VIII & briefer content on the rest. Authoritative.Read Feb 2005

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