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The Six Wives of Henry VIII

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Weir has tirelessly made her way through the entire labyrinth of Tudor history to tell the collective story of the six wives of Henry VIII--a vivid, full-blooded portrait of six very different women--in a work of sound and brilliant scholarship. Illustrations.


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Weir has tirelessly made her way through the entire labyrinth of Tudor history to tell the collective story of the six wives of Henry VIII--a vivid, full-blooded portrait of six very different women--in a work of sound and brilliant scholarship. Illustrations.

30 review for The Six Wives of Henry VIII

  1. 4 out of 5

    leslie hamod Temporarily off line, still reading!

    A remarkable achievement by Alison Weir! A highly accurate historical fiction based on the wives of Henry the eighth. Beginning with Katherine of Aragon, sent as wife to his elder brother Arthur, she was widowed after spending several months as the Princess of Wales. She was held for ransom by Henry the seventh in exchange for the remainder of her dowry. Her mother having died, King Ferdinand hadn't the money nor goods to fulfill his obligations. Henry VIII had promised marriage upon his age of m A remarkable achievement by Alison Weir! A highly accurate historical fiction based on the wives of Henry the eighth. Beginning with Katherine of Aragon, sent as wife to his elder brother Arthur, she was widowed after spending several months as the Princess of Wales. She was held for ransom by Henry the seventh in exchange for the remainder of her dowry. Her mother having died, King Ferdinand hadn't the money nor goods to fulfill his obligations. Henry VIII had promised marriage upon his age of maturity. Upon the death of his father, he married Katherine and truly loved her for over twenty years. Anne Bolyn was raised in the French courts and was novel to the english. She had incredible charm and was to marry the next Duke of Northumberland. Cardinal wolsey, counselor to Henry prevented the marriage. After nine years of waiting, the Catholic church was in ruins and Henry was declared leader of the Church of England. They were married in secret after learning Anne was pregnant. The marriage was considered invalid. She was convicted of adultery and beheaded by swordsman from France in his love for her. She had been a lady in waiting to Katherine of Aragon. Following Anne was Jane Seymour, a lady to Anne and completely opposite in character. Nine days after Anne's death, the marriage took place. Since both Katherine and Anne were dead, this marriage was valid and shortly after delivering of a son she died of neglect and most probably peurpeural fever. Her son went on the be king. Next was my favorite, Anne of Cleves. She was from a German Duchy and a good, kind and thoughtful woman. However, her size was unappealing to the king. Following this marriage, which was never consummated, she was offered the position of the kings "most beloved sister" , provided a generous income and Hampton Court. Of course she accepted, since as she said, she was enamored of her head. Following these was young Katherine Howard, cousin of Anne Boleyn. She was an adulterous and foolish girl. Her main focus were the acquisition of gifts and sexual relations out of marriage. She was lady to Anne of Cleves. Unlike Anne Boleyn, she was truly guilty of her crimes. Before being beheaded, she requested th block in order to practice. She wanted her death to be done correctly. His final wife was Catherine and she was never consummated in.marriage. She was more nurse than wife. She survived Henry and finally married her true love Thomas Seymour. She died giving birth to his infant daughter. Incredible history, in depth research and a wonderfully written learning experience. I highly recommend this book. It is a MUST READ!

  2. 5 out of 5

    karen

    i have never before spent so long reading a book and having less to say about it at the end. before reading this book, what i knew about henry VIII came mostly from one pbs (week-long)special and the herman's hermits song, which turns out to be historically inaccurate and not actually about henry VIII at all. kids, don't get your historical information from novelty songs... what i know: henry may be one of history's shittiest spouses - after reading this, i find myself able to cut warren zevon s i have never before spent so long reading a book and having less to say about it at the end. before reading this book, what i knew about henry VIII came mostly from one pbs (week-long)special and the herman's hermits song, which turns out to be historically inaccurate and not actually about henry VIII at all. kids, don't get your historical information from novelty songs... what i know: henry may be one of history's shittiest spouses - after reading this, i find myself able to cut warren zevon some slack. henry really wanted a son. and he was willing to bend tradition, religion, social conventions, public opinion and personal reputation and chop off some heads to get one. spoiler alert: henry sucks at making a son. but he's great at getting women, even if he has to manipulate competition out of the way into different countries to free up a path. it's great to be king. my new favorite man in all of history is (eustace) chupuys, henry's much-harried ambassador whose name i adored saying aloud every time i encountered it in the book. i pronounce it kind of like t'pau. when he eventually died (spoiler!)i felt sadder than i did at any of henry's wives' deaths. this book was just chosen at a bad time for me: long book, end-of-semester mania, too much to do and too little sleep meant i was frequently drowsing over it. but it's not the fault of her writing which is clear and interesting. i was just too yawn for it. but at the very least, it made me want to read biographies of lady jane grey and katherine howard (the minx), and at some point i'm sure i will be reading wolf hall. so - a springboard book for me. chapuys!!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lavande

    Watch "The Other Boleyn Girl." Then watch an episode of "The Tudors." Afterward, immediately go to confession for such shameful and useless acts. Do penance by reading "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" to save your soul lest ye go through life thinking that the Tudors were all about bad acting and awkwardly placed sex scenes. Be warned that ye may lose friends when someone tries to talk to you about an episode of "The Tudors" and you turn it into a teachable moment about what *really* happened becau Watch "The Other Boleyn Girl." Then watch an episode of "The Tudors." Afterward, immediately go to confession for such shameful and useless acts. Do penance by reading "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" to save your soul lest ye go through life thinking that the Tudors were all about bad acting and awkwardly placed sex scenes. Be warned that ye may lose friends when someone tries to talk to you about an episode of "The Tudors" and you turn it into a teachable moment about what *really* happened because you...you know...read one book so, of course, you know everything.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    Extensively researched and fascinating - a must-read for anyone interested in the women behind Henry VIII, aka the patron saint of man-whores. (I just made that up on the spot, but it works so I'm keeping it) Weir isn't completely unbiased in her description of Henry and his various women, but I can't blame her. With this family, it's hard not to take sides. This is especially clear when Weir describes the way Henry felt about Anne of Cleves, his wife for about ten minutes. Weir talks about how H Extensively researched and fascinating - a must-read for anyone interested in the women behind Henry VIII, aka the patron saint of man-whores. (I just made that up on the spot, but it works so I'm keeping it) Weir isn't completely unbiased in her description of Henry and his various women, but I can't blame her. With this family, it's hard not to take sides. This is especially clear when Weir describes the way Henry felt about Anne of Cleves, his wife for about ten minutes. Weir talks about how Henry whined that Anne was fat and ugly and then, no doubt with a wicked grin on her face, Weir goes on to describe how gross Henry had gotten by that point. You can just tell she's dying to call Henry a fat bastard, and I'm proud of her for resisting that urge.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    A Kirkus review I read ages and ages ago, back in those days when their reviews were reliable, i.e. before it had been purchased by a publishing company whose aim is to sell books, said the book was meticulously researched but a bit dry. So unfortunately, I put it off until now. I did not find it in the least dry! The book's content is based on meticulous research, but in that Alison Weir, author and historian of British Royalty, is so very knowledgeable in her field, she has the ability to pr A Kirkus review I read ages and ages ago, back in those days when their reviews were reliable, i.e. before it had been purchased by a publishing company whose aim is to sell books, said the book was meticulously researched but a bit dry. So unfortunately, I put it off until now. I did not find it in the least dry! The book's content is based on meticulous research, but in that Alison Weir, author and historian of British Royalty, is so very knowledgeable in her field, she has the ability to present information clearly and engagingly. It is this that is her great talent. A person who really knows what they are talking about can explain the complicated simply. Such a person also has the ability to throw in tidbits that engage and capture one’s interest. Lots of books have been written about Henry VIII, his six wives, the Tudors and Thomas Cromwell, but I recommend this because I have found it clear and captivating and not hard to follow even for those with little previous knowledge of Tudor history. Weir knows how to explain. This isn’t always easy when so many are given the same name – Mary or Edward or Catherine or Elisabeth or Jane. Which Mary, Edward, Catherine, Elisabeth or Jane must be crystal clear. Nor is it easy when these very same individuals are also referred to as counts or admirals or duchesses of this or that place. I never got mixed up, and I am no expert, so I don’t think you will either. There is that rhyme divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived to help you keep the six wives straight: *Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536) born in Alcalá de Henares, Spain A staunch woman of principle. *Anne Boleyn (c.1501 -1536) born in Blickling, England Vivacious, ambitious, ruthless with a penchant for vengeance. Sex appeal. *Jane Seymour (c.1508-1537) born in Wiltshire, England Obedient, pious. Strong-minded matriarch in the making. *Anne of Cleves (1515-1557) born in Dusseldorf, Germany Level-headed, clear-thinking and valued independence. *Catherine Howard (1523-1542) born in London A licentious wanton. *Catherine Parr (1512-1548) born in London Erudite, intellectual and wise, but knew where her heart lay. The rhyme tells only the end of their respective stories; there is so much more to who they were. I have a good feeling now for Henry’s, his six wives’ and their children’s temperaments, backgrounds and religious leanings. I particularly appreciated that religious and political views are focused upon, showing how the Reformation and the shift from Catholicism to Protestant beliefs began in Britain. This is as much a central theme of the book as are the facts about the wives and children (Mary, Elizabeth, Edward and the acknowledged but illegitimate son Henry FitzRoy). Life of the royalty in the 1500s, for example customs, traditions, sports, childbirth and deaths, clothing, festivals, foods and illnesses are documented in vivid detail. You know a book is a hit when the first thing you do is pick out more books to read by the author. Books I have read by Alison Weir: *The Six Wives of Henry VIII 4 stars *The Life of Elizabeth I 4 star I want to read: *The Children of Henry VIII *Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens which is the beginning of a series. As well as *Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England and *Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life because these two queens are not covered in Queens of the Conquest: England’s Medieval Queens Innocent Traitor I have also read, but only gave it 2 stars. It is fiction. I do not recommend the author’s fictional books. Her non-fiction is much better. ETA: I should add this. I tried to read The Wars of the Roses and gave up. It read as a string of names; people who meant nothing to me. Simon Prebble reads the audiobook wonderfully. It could not have been improved upon. 5 stars for the narration.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Where I got the book: purchased on Amazon UK. Ah, I do enjoy an Alison Weir. I am not enough of a historian to have Opinions about history, so my comments are about the writing rather than historical merit, and the writing is good. Weir is always lively and entertaining, perfect for a recreational history reader like me, and I found myself zipping through this as if through a novel, even though I knew how each character's story ended! It's strange, though, that my interest is always greatest up to Where I got the book: purchased on Amazon UK. Ah, I do enjoy an Alison Weir. I am not enough of a historian to have Opinions about history, so my comments are about the writing rather than historical merit, and the writing is good. Weir is always lively and entertaining, perfect for a recreational history reader like me, and I found myself zipping through this as if through a novel, even though I knew how each character's story ended! It's strange, though, that my interest is always greatest up to the point where Anne Boleyn dies. I always think that the real Henry VIII story was that of the Henry-Catherine-Anne triangle, and the rest of the wives never seem to match up to the cut and thrust of the Great Matter. Once Henry won the point that he could marry and dispose of at will, the other wives' stories seem to be those of ambition overcoming common sense with the possible exception of Anne of Cleves, who really did quite well out of the deal (granted, it's a bit trickier, politically speaking, to behead a foreign princess so she had some guarantees going in). Perhaps this is why I felt that the book started off as an account of the wives but ended up more as the standard Henry +6 story; Catherine and Anne dominate the first part of the book, and then the wives get less interesting. Still, if you're looking for a good recap or just a bit of Tudor entertainment with real-life characters, read this one. It also has a good chronology, very useful if you need to check dates.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tania

    I’ve read some Phillipa Gregory and Hillary Mantel titles about Henry VIII and was totally entranced. Which is weird because I’m Afrikaans, live in South Africa, and never even had history at school. The only problem with the historical fiction titles, is that they only deal with one or two wives at a time, so I could never get a complete picture. I also wasn’t sure how much of the stories I’ve read was fictionalized. So I decided to try a non-fiction, and I was very impressed by Alison Weir. He I’ve read some Phillipa Gregory and Hillary Mantel titles about Henry VIII and was totally entranced. Which is weird because I’m Afrikaans, live in South Africa, and never even had history at school. The only problem with the historical fiction titles, is that they only deal with one or two wives at a time, so I could never get a complete picture. I also wasn’t sure how much of the stories I’ve read was fictionalized. So I decided to try a non-fiction, and I was very impressed by Alison Weir. Her research was extremely thorough, but the book never comes across as academic. I have a much better understanding of Henry and why he made the choices he did. I thought it would be a fun idea to share a fact about each wife instead of doing a review: 1. Catherine of Aragon – “The queen had conceived six, possibly eight times, yet all she had to show for it was one daughter.” Divorced 2. Anne Boleyn – “...thus effectively crowning her as queen regnant, as no other consort has been before or since.” Executed 3. Jane Seymour – “When Henry VIII died, he left instructions that he was to be buried with Jane.” Died 4. Anne of Cleves –“Her handling of a difficult and potentially dangerous situation shows that she was, perhaps, the wisest of Henry’s VIII’s wives.” Divorced 5. Catherine Howard – Henry married Catherine when he was 49 and she somewhere between the ages of 15 and 19. Executed 6. Catherine Parr – “She wrote and published two books.” Widowed

  8. 4 out of 5

    Camilla

    This prodigiious work on the wives of King Henry the 8th of England is so well written. It reads like a novel of suspense, passion, treachery, European History, betrayal, obedience, faith, God and love. It did what I really enjoy in books--made me want to read more about other characters mention such as Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Also to review maps and learn of the royalty of Spain, France, and Germany. Many words to be looked up to enhance your vocabulary as well. Learn about the fir This prodigiious work on the wives of King Henry the 8th of England is so well written. It reads like a novel of suspense, passion, treachery, European History, betrayal, obedience, faith, God and love. It did what I really enjoy in books--made me want to read more about other characters mention such as Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Also to review maps and learn of the royalty of Spain, France, and Germany. Many words to be looked up to enhance your vocabulary as well. Learn about the first theatrical musicals and how the masked ball came to be. In the end, decide for yourself if Henry was evil, tyrannical or the greatest King of England.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore

    I started this book rather late in May as part of my ‘Kings and Queens’ theme that month but didn’t end up reading very much of it for lack of time. Despite every intention of finishing it in June, I got caught up with challenge and group reads and didn’t pick this up at all but then again at the beginning of this month finally picked up from where I’d left off and completed it. Though I would have read it anyway, this also fit into my theme of this month—doorstoppers—at 600+ pages. This book, m I started this book rather late in May as part of my ‘Kings and Queens’ theme that month but didn’t end up reading very much of it for lack of time. Despite every intention of finishing it in June, I got caught up with challenge and group reads and didn’t pick this up at all but then again at the beginning of this month finally picked up from where I’d left off and completed it. Though I would have read it anyway, this also fit into my theme of this month—doorstoppers—at 600+ pages. This book, my first by Alison Weir, as is pretty evident from the title is about the six women whom Henry VIII married. But as Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s first queen came to England much before his was crowned, and two other wives Katherine Parr and Anne of Cleves outlived him, it also is the story of Henry’s reign albeit restricted to a telling of those aspects of his life and reign that was related to his queens (among them of course, his break with Rome, and his ultimate ‘takeover’ of all power in England, something that emerged from issues relating to his marriages but went on to become and affect much more). And even though it doesn’t tell us the history of the entire Tudor dynasty, all six of its monarchs (even Lady Jane Grey) are here, and we learn something of each of them as well. This book certainly took me a while to read (the one-month ‘break’ in the middle apart), but it was very readable and interesting, keeping my attention throughout. I have read accounts and stories, and historical fiction about Henry’s wives before but never a collective biography, and didn’t know the stories of all his queens, particularly Anne of Cleves and Katherine Parr, so these parts were fairly ‘new’ to me, but I also learnt a fair bit about the stories of the wives I ‘knew’ about—things like just how long it took for both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn’s marriages to go through, just how strong of a fight Katherine of Aragon put up (and how long that lasted), and what became of Anne of Cleves after her divorce/annulment and of Katherine Parr, among other aspects. What also stands out in the book, besides the issues of succession and love/lust that surrounded Henry’s marriages is also the politics around them, and how it impacted not only how each marriage was brought about, how it ran its course, and came to an end. I also enjoyed learning about their intellectual pursuits—I knew Henry was well-educated and had composed songs but had no idea that he’d written books as well, nor that Katherine Parr was also the author of a couple of volumes. That Henry didn’t object to these pursuits in his wives (Anne Boleyn too was well read and read some fairly heretical matter openly and with Henry’s knowledge, and Katherine of Aragon in a manner of speaking was well educated), even though this may have led to some serious differences at times (particularly for Katherine Parr, who averted some serious danger very cleverly) and although his word was of course law, I thought reflected in his favour. In the book, one also gets to see Henry’s gradual descent from jovial charming King to an ill-tempered tyrant of sorts, but also somewhat his point of view on things which makes one a little more sympathetic towards him (his health issues particularly, as well as how rarely he was really able to have a ‘family life’ (something likely common to all monarchs)) and also understand him a lot better (even if one can’t defend his actions—even by the standards of his time, perhaps). As with reading different accounts of the same time and people (and by different people)—there were things that were different from other accounts I’d read—among them the impression I’d formed of Lady Rochford and her role in Katherine Howard’s trial, of Anne Boleyn herself, and of some facts like Katherine Carrey’s age when she attended Anne in the tower. Interesting, informative, and enjoyable. I shall probably try some of Weir’s Tudor fiction also soon. This review also appears on my blog at: https://potpourri2015.wordpress.com/2...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Santiago

    Henry VIII, England's most famous and rougish king, takes somewhat of a back seat (though still figures prominently) while his six wives (their courtship, marriage, and their fate) are front and center by one of England's most preeminent storyteller of royal history. Intrigue, duplicity, executions, and, of course, Henry's marital infidelities that led to a major and cataclysmic reformation of religion in England, Weir weaves her spell that gives breath and personality to each of Henry's wives, Henry VIII, England's most famous and rougish king, takes somewhat of a back seat (though still figures prominently) while his six wives (their courtship, marriage, and their fate) are front and center by one of England's most preeminent storyteller of royal history. Intrigue, duplicity, executions, and, of course, Henry's marital infidelities that led to a major and cataclysmic reformation of religion in England, Weir weaves her spell that gives breath and personality to each of Henry's wives, and their feelings on the reasonings behind the kings dissolution of each of his marriages. An excellent read!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

    This was a very lucidly written and entertaining history of Henry VIII's six wives. Weir's style is straightforward and factual, but her warm, wry tone come through occasionally in her word choice. This makes for a very conversational story, easy to follow, and engaging. In fact, it's what I had hoped Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France would be like. Weir tries very hard to be balanced and manages for the most part not to pick sides between Protestant/Catholic/Church of England. Th This was a very lucidly written and entertaining history of Henry VIII's six wives. Weir's style is straightforward and factual, but her warm, wry tone come through occasionally in her word choice. This makes for a very conversational story, easy to follow, and engaging. In fact, it's what I had hoped Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France would be like. Weir tries very hard to be balanced and manages for the most part not to pick sides between Protestant/Catholic/Church of England. The only place I would say she oversteps her authorial bounds are in a few places where she attributes Henry VIII with more benevolent intentions than I believe he merits. In a few cases, she argues, his apparently selfish behavior was actually for the benefit of the crown and the country. I'm not so sure about that. However, Weir keeps herself reined in, and these points come up as interesting opportunities for discussion and critical thought rather than an interruption in the storyline. She presents each woman as a three-dimensional human in her own right, and takes a very clear-eyed look at the rationale that began (and often, ended) each marriage. She brings political, religious, sociological, geographical, and historical context to this dramatic story, and backs up her assertions with historical documentation. Overall, this was a very evidence-based but very readable history book. It should be a model for other authors of history. She neither turns it into a romance novel nor a term paper. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in history, or who would like to know the facts behind the legends. My only real quibble with the book is with the printing. My copy repeated 30 pages at one point, and then left out 30 pages at a crucial point (one minute Henry was disgruntled at meeting Anne of Cleves face-to-face and the next page he was happily married to Katherine Howard moments before someone noticed she spent a lot of time out of her room at night).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ray Campbell

    Excellent read. I have read several books that cover the lives of the Tudors and more specifically Elizabeth, Mary and Henry. However, none had done much with the wives of Henry VIII beyond Jane Seymour having been the mother of Edward VI. So I picked this one up and thoroughly enjoyed it. Weir has written several first class histories on this period so there is much overlap. The first third of the book was not only familiar, but in some cases a direct re-tracing of steps. However, the details we Excellent read. I have read several books that cover the lives of the Tudors and more specifically Elizabeth, Mary and Henry. However, none had done much with the wives of Henry VIII beyond Jane Seymour having been the mother of Edward VI. So I picked this one up and thoroughly enjoyed it. Weir has written several first class histories on this period so there is much overlap. The first third of the book was not only familiar, but in some cases a direct re-tracing of steps. However, the details were oriented toward the lives of the wives, not the politics or religion. In the middle of the book the story provides detail on not only the lives of the wives, but of Henry as a husband and private person. Weir creates a portrait of a powerful leader struggling with ruling a nation while growing older, heavier and having massive issues with fatherhood and fathering. As the book gets to Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr, Weir does not disappoint. In many respects this is the same story I've read from the point of view of the Children of Henry, the Life of Elizabeth and other histories, but from the point of view and experience of these three women. Weir creates portraits of real people which allow the reader a meaningful experience beyond a simple understanding of the facts. All six of these women had fascinating stories. Having been married to Catherine of Aragon the longest, the largest single portion involves her life. Having been married to Catherine Howard for the shortest interval, the book tells the tale and moves on. I enjoyed Weir's following through with the stories of Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr who outlived Henry. Thus, this was truly the story of the wives from beginning to end.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A solid and entertaining history of the lives of the women who had the good fortune and the bad luck to marry England’s most legendary and terrifying king. This is a fascinating collection of seven intertwining biographies: six women and one man; not to mention the families and the powerful individuals fighting it out in the deathmatch that was politics in the age of the Tutors. This was a world that was still very much medieval in its flavor and outlook but we can see the changes beginning, the A solid and entertaining history of the lives of the women who had the good fortune and the bad luck to marry England’s most legendary and terrifying king. This is a fascinating collection of seven intertwining biographies: six women and one man; not to mention the families and the powerful individuals fighting it out in the deathmatch that was politics in the age of the Tutors. This was a world that was still very much medieval in its flavor and outlook but we can see the changes beginning, the shifts that would eventually lead to the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution in the Modern World. Of the wives, I found myself feeling the most sympathy for Catherine of Aragon. She seemed like a sincere person who didn’t deserve to be pushed aside the way she was. I think she did herself no favors by standing on her principles and insisting on her rights. It’s true enough that we all need to have our principles that we won’t back down on, otherwise we’d be left with the moral compass of a psychopath. It’s just too bad that hers left her on a collision course with an overwhelmingly powerful man who did have the moral compass of a psychopath. She might as well have tried to stand up to an avalanche. I didn’t find myself with much sympathy for Anne Boleyn. She did herself no favors. I’m not saying she deserved what she got, but she wished worse on others. She just didn’t come across as very likable. There were ways to survive the snake pit she had willingly dived into but she was never able to rein in her pride and vengefulness enough to give them a try. Her ambition and insecurity ended up being her undoing. Of course Henry deserves a lot of the blame for what happened but it just feels like you might as well blame a volcano for erupting. Jane Seymour comes off a bit better, though her eagerness to see Anne Boleyn in her grave so she could hurry up and marry the king did her no credit. She definitely seemed to have had a better handle on how to win friends and influence people, the chief of which being to give the king a son and die before he gets tired of you. The episode with Anne of Cleves does more than just show how incredibly shallow and superficial Henry was. She could have been upset that the king didn’t find her good-looking enough to get his motor running and insisted on her rights, which probably would’ve left her as bad or worse off than Catherine of Aragon, but instead she embraced her narrow escape and gained more wealth and freedom than any woman had a right to dream of back then. I liked Anne of Cleves. She seemed like a nice person who managed to make very good use of her winning lottery ticket. Catherine Howard seemed like such a tragic figure. Sure she was shallow and not very bright but then she was just a barely educated teenager whom men had been taking advantage of since she hit puberty, if not sooner. It may be that the only real asset she possessed was her looks, but that doesn’t excuse Henry for allowing her to be killed because a fat old man wasn’t enough to keep her eyes from straying. She never had a chance. I found Catherine Parr to be very likable. She didn’t really want to marry Henry, and who can blame her, but she knew that there was no real choice in the matter so she bent with the wind. She managed to navigate those treacherous waters and, after Henry’s death, marry for love. It’s just too bad that the shallow pretty-boy she married could’ve done more to deserve such a wife. She was brilliant and very sensible and was one of the ones who saw to the Princess Elizabeth’s education which is perhaps one of the reasons why Elizabeth was destined to become one of the greatest monarchs England would ever know. Then, of course, there was the complex and dangerous narcissist at the center of the storm. I’m not sure if Henry had much of a chance to be better, being raised the way he was. He was clearly brilliant and he knew it. He was also shockingly self-centered. I understand how important having a son was both to him and to England itself, but I can't help but feel there were less vicious and bloodthirsty ways to go about it. He started out with all the good intentions in the world and only gradually morphed into the monster that he is commonly understood to be today. There was a lot more to the man than his image. He started his reign being mostly loved by his subjects and ended it being mostly feared, but not really universally hated. For all that he did wrong, he must’ve done something right, at least in the eyes of the people of his time. Still, if I were a woman living back then, knowing what I know, I would’ve fled the country the moment he showed any interest. It’s quite a story. I highly recommend this one.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Orsolya

    Although the fact that Henry VIII had six wives is remarkable alone; even more interesting is the unique personalities and lives of these six women. Alison Weir opens the door to the marital ups and downs of Henry and his partners in, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”. Note: I initially read this book over a decade ago when I was less versed in Tudor history than I am now. Thus, this review is based on the impressions of one who has more knowledge on the topic during a second reading. Alison Weir’s Although the fact that Henry VIII had six wives is remarkable alone; even more interesting is the unique personalities and lives of these six women. Alison Weir opens the door to the marital ups and downs of Henry and his partners in, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”. Note: I initially read this book over a decade ago when I was less versed in Tudor history than I am now. Thus, this review is based on the impressions of one who has more knowledge on the topic during a second reading. Alison Weir’s books can be divided into two categories: her earlier works which are more in the vein of objective, scholarly pieces and her more recent books which are in the popular history realm (intermingled with opinionated text and a more novel-like narrative). “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” fits into the former category, having been published when Weir’s approach was more academic. This means that the text is heavy with detail, facts, and a less biased view of Henry VIII’s wives. With that being said, don’t expect an argumentative thesis comparing the wives to each other or even conclusive biographies. Instead, Weir offers a more overall look at the relationship of each wife with Henry and how it flowed into the next wife. Even with this marital focus though; Weir explores some of the politics of the reign in detail making “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” an excellent secondary source for research and as entertainment for both novice and well-versed readers. There are moments when Weir is too detailed and sidetracks on the topic. Granted, these meanderings are related and therefore aren’t tangents; but they still slow the pace and create a feeling of clustered confusion. Oftentimes, this can be interpreted as Weir having too much information to present and messily trying to squish it into a small space. Another issue—a big one, in fact—is a complete lack of notations. Weir includes many quotes, chunks of documents, and full sources; but these aren’t notated at all (the book lacks a notes section). This doesn’t question Weir’s credibility per se, but one can see the author’s own interpretation of the original sources due to this absence. On a positive note, Weir showcases some of her detective/sleuth skills which is more prominent in her earlier works and thusly debunks some myths by setting records straight. This certainly creates excitement in the piece and helps the text not feel so dry (which it is sometimes guilty of). “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” becomes increasingly compelling throughout with Weir becoming more passionate and confident in her writing. Furthermore, with some exceptions, much of the content is historically accurate taking the publishing date into consideration. On the other hand, there is a noticeable emphasis on Anne Boleyn and the lives of the wives are merely retold versus truly bringing them to life resulting in a level of detachment within the piece. The chapters after Anne Boleyn are rushed and less detailed. Granted, there is more information concerning Anne but she seems to be Weir’s focus and this is supposed to be a book on ALL of the wives. Also increasing with the progression of the pages are more opinions by Weir; the major being her feeling that Henry VIII was coerced and cajoled into his selection of wives by other ambitious factions versus his own feelings (as though he was too weak in character to make his own decisions) and that his wives weren’t much at fault for their actions. Those readers not agreeing with this school of thought may find slight aggravations with this. The conclusion of “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” isn’t as powerful as one would hope. However, there is a more detailed page covering Catherine Parr’s daughter (with Thomas Seymour) than most history books convey. Plus, readers will come away with a true sense of how amazing each of Henry’s wives were. As previously mentioned, there are no notes and only a bibliography (which is messy). The book is supplemented by color plates (in black and white) and genealogical tables which depict each major family mentioned in the text. Also to be taken with a grain of salt: Weir mentions The Spanish Chronicle not being a dependable source but uses it when it suits her arguments. Time may have weakened the strength of Weir’s writing but luckily “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” remains steadfast with its readability and facts for both new readers and those already familiar with the topic. Yes, there are some flaws but otherwise the book is recommended for everyone interested in Henry VIII and his wives.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    I am notoriously slow reading non-fiction (I still have not finished John Adams). So I gave this book 5 stars as I could not put it down. I read it in a week (and it is a substantial size book). It reads as nicely as any fiction (much like I thought seabiscuit was). I learned so much about stories that I was a little familiar with already -- I just had no idea that they were in reality even crazier than I learned. Politics, deception, ambition, religion, and a tad bit of "crazy" make for some of I am notoriously slow reading non-fiction (I still have not finished John Adams). So I gave this book 5 stars as I could not put it down. I read it in a week (and it is a substantial size book). It reads as nicely as any fiction (much like I thought seabiscuit was). I learned so much about stories that I was a little familiar with already -- I just had no idea that they were in reality even crazier than I learned. Politics, deception, ambition, religion, and a tad bit of "crazy" make for some of the bizarrest scenarios in all history. The idea that "sex" or in more euphemistic term "lines of succession" completely dominated all aspects of these peoples lives is really fascinating. I gave thanks a thousand times over that the quality of my life is not dependent on my ability to have a son especially in a time period where the very attempt to have a child would likely cause my own death. That Henry VIII actually lived and that these stories are in fact true is a testament to the line "truth is stranger than fiction". I think anyone would enjoy this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    THIS WAS ONE LONG BOOK TO SAY THE LEAST BUT I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT. A FEW MONTHS AGO WATCHED THE TUDORS ON NETFLIX AND FELL IN LOVE WITH THE SHOW, AS I HAVE THE WHOLE SEASON ON BLU RAY NOW :) THEN I HAVE SLOWLY STARTED GETTING BOOKS ON THIS SUBJECT. I HAVE REALLY ENJOYED READING THIS BOOK AND LEARN A LITTLE MORE THAN THE SHOW. I WOULD RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO ANYONE INTERESTED IN THIS DYNASTY.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    A great book that I never would have attempted without audio nor without my book club. I had never read much about this time period and found it fascinating. If you are an audiobook listener like me, or an ebook reader, find a hardcopy and look at the pictures.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I read most of this book for an essay years ago but decided now to read it in full and... I am conflicted. Alison Weir is one of the most well known and respected historians of Tudor England and yet I found so many issues with this book. It is a good introduction to the period, and it serves as a neat narrative of the six wives of Henry VIII. It offers exactly what it says on the tin and is pretty much successful in doing so. However. This book is not perfect. There are no footnotes, making it pr I read most of this book for an essay years ago but decided now to read it in full and... I am conflicted. Alison Weir is one of the most well known and respected historians of Tudor England and yet I found so many issues with this book. It is a good introduction to the period, and it serves as a neat narrative of the six wives of Henry VIII. It offers exactly what it says on the tin and is pretty much successful in doing so. However. This book is not perfect. There are no footnotes, making it practically impossible to figure out what sources are used (the bibliography at the back really doesn’t help much). This wouldn’t usually be so much of an issue - except I noticed that Weir was wrong a few times. First she said Henry VIII was the first king of England to introduce the term “your majesty” - but he didn’t. I wrote a whole dissertation on Richard II, and guess what - it was that egotistical maniac that started that off in the 1390s, not Henry VIII. And then to top it off, Weir did something really strange and I would love for someone to fill me in if possible - she mentioned a missal belonging to Katherine of Aragon but when she quoted the missal, it was a sentence written by Anne Boleyn in a book of hours (I only really noticed because I’m going to Hever in two weeks so have been looking at her books of hours online). So I dutifully went to the bibliography to find only that she got it from the British Library. No manuscript number, no title... nothing, save it’s in the King’s Manuscripts collection in the BL (which has 441 manuscripts). I googled, and a small handful of people have noticed the same, and said the only reference they can find to this missal is this book, and a search on the BL website comes up only with Anne Boleyn’s book of hours. So.... I’m confused. I can’t find a single reference to a missal belonging to Katherine of Aragon containing this sentence in (“By daily proof you shall me find to be to you both loving and kind”)...so where has a Weir got it from, because evidently just saying “The King’s MSS in the British Library” isn’t enough. Clearer footnotes and sources would be massively appreciated. I also didn’t really like the representation of Katherine Howard, who is several times referred to as “empty-headed”, nor how the young Elizabeth I was seen as guilty somehow for Thomas Seymour’s grooming of her. It’s blamed on her “Boleyn blood” and some sort of innate sexuality that she had inherited from her mother. The only thing Weir says about Seymour is that he “should have known better”. Elizabeth was “ripe for seduction and probably willing enough”. Nothing she says condemns Seymour’s actions against a child, but paragraphs are spent on how “willing” Elizabeth was, how her “budding sexuality was aroused”. Is it only my skin crawling rn???? So yeah, some things she says are problematic. I’d like to see her sources properly footnoted, and it needed checking for errors. An alright introduction to the six wives, but it wouldn’t be my top choice if anyone asked for recommendations.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Scott Sheaffer

    “Off with their Heads” . . . Oh wait that wasn’t Henry the VIII or was it? Find out why Henry had the heads of two of his wives lopped off. Was it that they were unfaithful or because they were not considerate of the French term Ménage à trios or was he simply looking for a way out of a bad relationship and couldn’t bring himself to tell them that “it was over”? What motivated these women to marry Henry knowing that if they didn’t please him they could/would be killed? Was the last wife of Henry “Off with their Heads” . . . Oh wait that wasn’t Henry the VIII or was it? Find out why Henry had the heads of two of his wives lopped off. Was it that they were unfaithful or because they were not considerate of the French term Ménage à trios or was he simply looking for a way out of a bad relationship and couldn’t bring himself to tell them that “it was over”? What motivated these women to marry Henry knowing that if they didn’t please him they could/would be killed? Was the last wife of Henry a mad crack whore or something? What about the children? Find out if Henry really did sire “Bloody Mary”. You’ll also learn much about the politics and workings of the royal court during the reformation of papal jurisdiction and the dissolution of the monasteries. But wait . . What did the wives of Henry have to do with England’s transfer of wealth and power from the church to the crown? Plenty! In fact I think that Henry’s desire to dump Catherine of Aragon was the sulfur that sparked the fire of reformation. Easy to read and well researched. The story behind the six queens is filled with spies and double spies and has all the makings of a Tom Clancy novel.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    The rhyme that has stuck with me since school is divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Which of course refers to the final outcome of each of Henry VIII wives. This is a well reasserted book, packed full of details and anecdotes about the martial affairs of Henry VIII. Weir has gone into great depth, especially on the first two wives, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Bolyen. The book goes into detail on the character of the six ladies, and all the court intrigue and political postur The rhyme that has stuck with me since school is divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Which of course refers to the final outcome of each of Henry VIII wives. This is a well reasserted book, packed full of details and anecdotes about the martial affairs of Henry VIII. Weir has gone into great depth, especially on the first two wives, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Bolyen. The book goes into detail on the character of the six ladies, and all the court intrigue and political posturing that went on during his region. Henry was infatuated with women, and as well as marrying these ladies, also conducted numerous affairs. There was no comeback on his behaviour, even though he has his penultimate wife executed for adultery and treason. Katherine of Aragon, Jane Seymor and Katherine Parr come across as being kind and well meaning, but Anne Bolyen is shown to be scheming and manipulative, and is linked to a suspected poisoning. Anne of Cleves was a political marriage, but Cromwell who arranged it suffered a political fall when Henry decided that Anne was not the beauty that he had been led to believe that she was. I could not believe just how decadent the time was. Weir describes the amour of clothes, jewellery and gifts that he showered on those women that took his fancy. Especially when you consider that most of his subjects were in poverty and suffered horrendously from disease. He was a huge mane, greedy too as he reached a point where his suit of armour has a waist line of 54"! He spent the fortune that he inherited from his father very quickly, and was always looking for extra sources of income. Weir has written a comprehensive account of one of the significant monarchs of our country, and the effect that his insistence on marrying who he wanted had on the religious, social, political infrastructure of our country. Well worth a read if you enjoy history, and want to discover more of this time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brittany B.

    4.5 stars! 5 stars for the narration (Well, the internet page just closed, and I lost a review that I worked on for about an hour and a half. So I am greatly peeved.) The Six Wives of Henry VIII is an excellent, accessible nonfiction historical biography. Considering that this is my second time reading it, I can easily call this book a page-turner!! It unfolds like a carefully-crafted novel; a fabulous retelling of the allegorical Bluebeard. Thus, The Six Wives of Henry VIII definitely lends credib 4.5 stars! 5 stars for the narration (Well, the internet page just closed, and I lost a review that I worked on for about an hour and a half. So I am greatly peeved.) The Six Wives of Henry VIII is an excellent, accessible nonfiction historical biography. Considering that this is my second time reading it, I can easily call this book a page-turner!! It unfolds like a carefully-crafted novel; a fabulous retelling of the allegorical Bluebeard. Thus, The Six Wives of Henry VIII definitely lends credibility to the cliché that fact is often stranger (and more dangerous) than fiction. As usual, this book demonstrates that Alison Weir is undoubtedly among the finest authors and historians of our day. Note ***Upon reading it a second time, I found that Weir's writing showed bias during the Anne Boleyn years. All authors have some bias, I get that. Weir may have even had proof of her assertions, but she did not present it that way. Instead, her words imply that the majority off Henry's actions were forced by Anne, and not of his own volition. No doubt Anne influenced the king, especially in the beginning. But like Wolsey and Cromwell, Anne was the perfect scapegoat for Henry's bad behavior. He personally blamed everyone else but himself. I am surprised how much credit (aka: blame) Weir gives to Anne for Henry's actions. Considering Anne could not rid her own household of Henry's mistress, I'd say the king had a mind of his own....

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gunjan (NerdyBirdie)

    Well… this was a lot more to take in than the 2007-2010 TV show about the Tudors. Just a note here that I’m writing this review based on my personal enjoyment and how I felt the author combined storytelling with presenting facts. The Six Wives of Henry VIII was not as easy a read as I thought it would be. It turned out to be quite the hefty book. The political mingling and the religious conflict that took time during Henry VIII’s reign was interesting to read about. After a while I was just so exh Well… this was a lot more to take in than the 2007-2010 TV show about the Tudors. Just a note here that I’m writing this review based on my personal enjoyment and how I felt the author combined storytelling with presenting facts. The Six Wives of Henry VIII was not as easy a read as I thought it would be. It turned out to be quite the hefty book. The political mingling and the religious conflict that took time during Henry VIII’s reign was interesting to read about. After a while I was just so exhausted and started becoming tired of Henry VIII. I do appreciate Alison Weir’s ability to combine story telling in with her fact presentation. It felt like she shunned away from placing personal opinions at most parts which I appreciated. At the same time, there was this one passage where she mentioned that a certain book was historically inaccurate or something like that yet uses passages from that same book. So maybe a professional historian can give you better information on this book than me. This book was pretty straightforward. I’d recommend it if you don’t mind heavy content (not really heavy writing) on the politics and other things about the time of King Henry VIII’s reign. I’m not an expert so idk about historical accuracy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kiesha ~ 1Cheekylass

    It's always fun re-visiting this book. So much great historical detail and perfect narration. Henry VIII was an ogre. The most interesting wives are of course the first 3.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Although quite long (22 hours, or nearly 600 pages in hardcover), The Six Wives of Henry VIII was consistently interesting. To the extent possible, Weir focused on each woman's personality, her actions, and her own words, and as a result "Henry VIII's wives" became intriguing people in their own right. If you're unfamiliar with the fates of Henry's wives, the following six paragraphs could be considered spoilers. Katherine of Aragon: she was hard done by, both before and after the height of her ma Although quite long (22 hours, or nearly 600 pages in hardcover), The Six Wives of Henry VIII was consistently interesting. To the extent possible, Weir focused on each woman's personality, her actions, and her own words, and as a result "Henry VIII's wives" became intriguing people in their own right. If you're unfamiliar with the fates of Henry's wives, the following six paragraphs could be considered spoilers. Katherine of Aragon: she was hard done by, both before and after the height of her marriage to Henry. I have to admire how strongly she stuck to principle, despite her extremely powerful husband wanting to shuffle her off in favor of a sexier, potentially more fertile wife. Anne Boleyn: one of three of Henry's wives who drew him in with sexual allure. Weir seems to believe--and as a result, I believe, too--that her death by execution was a result of a combination of Henry's wandering lusts and political expediency, and not any actual guilt on her part. This is not to say she was a nice person.... Jane Seymour: another seductive person, she quite possibly made it off easy by dying shortly after she gave birth to Henry's only living son. (Who, himself, didn't live very long.) Anne of Cleves: Henry was not sexually attracted to her, and their marriage was quite brief and ended in annulment. Anne outlived Henry, and never remarried, and seems to have enjoyed life as a country noblewoman on the gifts of property Henry gave her on their separation. Katherine Howard: she likely was encouraged to seduce Henry by her politically ambitious family, but was also willing to do so. She was too reckless about her indiscretions during a time when infidelity to the king was treason, punishable by death. Katherine Parr: a well-educated woman, her marriage to Henry was the most amiable and mature of any of them. There are hints that she might have eventually fallen victim to religion-based accusations that would result in a seventh wife for Henry, but he died before those went anywhere. She married Jane Seymour's brother soon afterward, and died of puerperal fever. There's a lot of information presented along with the wives' stories, and much of it could easily (and, I'm sure, does) take up full books on its own. Court intrigue during Henry's reign, the changing religious landscape, Henry's many residences and the annual progress through the kingdom. The high rate of infant and child mortality, and death due to childbirth. The horror of plague during a time that hygiene was very little known. The justice system being brutal and its decisions being as much about the whims of power as anything else. And so on. Simon Prebble's audio narration was excellent. It was always lively and engaging, and never showed itself off at the expense of the content. Weir's sympathy for these queens--even (or especially) the ones who have a bad name today in the popular consciousness--came across perfectly. The only real setbacks to reading this book in audio are the lack of an index to keep track of the many individuals in the orbit of the Tudor court, and not having family trees readily available to figure out how any given royal was related to another.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Well, that was a lot of history. This was a new genre for me: serious non-fiction (humor is what has made non-fiction palatable for me in the past). It was certainly a little dry, but the Tudor court adds spice. The introduction presents an overview of life in the Tudor court, particularly for women. I was hoping more of the book would be like that, and for some kind of conclusion that sums up the lives of the six wives. I'm not entirely sure why I was hoping for a sixth grade essay, but the boo Well, that was a lot of history. This was a new genre for me: serious non-fiction (humor is what has made non-fiction palatable for me in the past). It was certainly a little dry, but the Tudor court adds spice. The introduction presents an overview of life in the Tudor court, particularly for women. I was hoping more of the book would be like that, and for some kind of conclusion that sums up the lives of the six wives. I'm not entirely sure why I was hoping for a sixth grade essay, but the book did kind of end abruptly (followed by 40 pages of bibliography, which I did not read). I like Alison Weir's writing. She's factual and impartial most of the time, and then she'll insert a naked opinion like, "Katherine Howard was a silly whore" (not a direct quote, but pretty close). She also does a lot of "and he never saw her again," and "and that was the last time she ever...". She's not much for suspense, but I suppose she has to assume that her readers already know what's going to happen. Also, much like Philippa Gregory, Weir repeats herself mercilessly. Honestly, this book didn't need to be 600 pages. Despite what I may have implied, I really enjoyed this book. I found the history fascinating, and I loved how the lives of these women were so intertwined. This dimension wouldn't have been so visible in individual biographies of each of the wives. I definitely want to read more Weir. Next on my list (of Weir books to read) is The Children of Henry VIII (if I can find a copy, Borders didn't have it and there are no copies on Bookmooch, maybe I'll actually go to the library!), but I'd also like to read Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Children in the Tower, and The Wars of the Roses.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I became interested in the reign of Henry VIII after watching the Showtime series, "The Tudors." After reading Alison's Weir's well-researched book about the six wives of Henry VIII, I can understand why so much has been written about the period and why it still fascinates more than 500 years later. King Henry was married to his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, by far the longest, and I'd always assumed it was simply his infatuation with Anne Boleyn that made him discard Katherine. Katherine was I became interested in the reign of Henry VIII after watching the Showtime series, "The Tudors." After reading Alison's Weir's well-researched book about the six wives of Henry VIII, I can understand why so much has been written about the period and why it still fascinates more than 500 years later. King Henry was married to his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, by far the longest, and I'd always assumed it was simply his infatuation with Anne Boleyn that made him discard Katherine. Katherine was seven years older than King Henry and was already in her 40s when he decided to have his marriage declared null. What is surprising is King Henry was rather religious and did have genuine religious concerns about the validity of his first marriage. I won't give any more away! Six marriages -- 2 be-headings, one marriage voided, one annulled, one wife dying shortly after childbirth, and finally one widowed. These six women are fascinating themselves.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mack Hayden

    What a wild ride this story was. Some historic books of this length tend to delve deep into their chosen time as a whole, for better or worse, but this one truly did feel like seven biographies focused pretty intently on the seven people portrayed—one for each of the wives and one for King Henry himself. It's a focused and nuanced set of portraits of six women and one man who are far more complex and sympathetic than high school history textbooks give them credit for. Don't get me wrong: there's What a wild ride this story was. Some historic books of this length tend to delve deep into their chosen time as a whole, for better or worse, but this one truly did feel like seven biographies focused pretty intently on the seven people portrayed—one for each of the wives and one for King Henry himself. It's a focused and nuanced set of portraits of six women and one man who are far more complex and sympathetic than high school history textbooks give them credit for. Don't get me wrong: there's still plenty of outright sociopathy, immorality, and insanity here to go around. But the book's greatest strength is revealing the beautiful and ugly humanity of every party involved in the Elizabethan era's premier soap opera.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Duffy Pratt

    I really liked this, and especially liked the fairly even handed treatment Weir gave to these people. But there is one notable exception. Compared with everyone else, Weir seemed to take delight in Thomas Cromwell's execution and even in the fact of the executioner botching the job and taking two swings of the axe to finally sever his neck. With others, Weir seems to see both sides of a person's character. But, for her, Cromwell was Henry's evil genius, and she seems to think ill of Cromwell eve I really liked this, and especially liked the fairly even handed treatment Weir gave to these people. But there is one notable exception. Compared with everyone else, Weir seemed to take delight in Thomas Cromwell's execution and even in the fact of the executioner botching the job and taking two swings of the axe to finally sever his neck. With others, Weir seems to see both sides of a person's character. But, for her, Cromwell was Henry's evil genius, and she seems to think ill of Cromwell even while she is disposed to look favorably on his master. I found that a bit odd. Of course, I may be a bit prejudiced by James Frain's amazing portrayal of him in the Showtime series, The Tudors. The legal hoops that get jumped through are pretty amazing. Katherine married Henry's brother, but it got annulled with Papal dispensation on the grounds that the marriage was not consummated. Henry then had his marriage to Katherine annulled because it was incestuous, based on the prior marriage to his brother. Lots of people think of Katherine as simply a victim in this. But it's pretty clear that she would have been pleased for her nephew to go to war with England to restore her marital rights. And its also clear that she insisted on her rights, even if upholding them insured that England would fall again into civil war as a result. On top of that, she also seems to have had a soft spot in her heart for the burning of heretics. Anne Bolyn was probably a horrible woman. It's pretty clear that she was willing to poison her. But, its also abundantly clear that the charges against her were completely fabricated. Henry needed an alliance with Spain at that point, so Anne was a political handicap. She hadn't given him a son, and was a pain in the ass, so she had to die. (And so did several totally innocent men, just to complete the tableau.) This marriage got annulled on the grounds that it was incestuous -- since Henry had already had an affair with Anne's sister Mary before marrying him. You would think after the exact same problems with his first marriage, that Henry might have learned something... Jane Seymour was the wife Henry liked best. I think this is because, of all his wives, she had the good taste to die before he got bored with her. Katherine Howard is another great case. She probably cheated on Henry. However, its pretty clear that she was precontracted to marry Dereham, and thus her marriage to Henry was void, and she could not have committed adultery against Henry for the simple reason that they were not truly married. It's also pretty clear that Henry understood this, but he was hurt and wanted her dead for it. And his handlers wanted her dead for fear that Henry would get over being hurt, and take her back. She was too Catholic for them, so she had to die. Thus, they had to make her adultery a capital crime. Dereham also had to die. His crime was having sex with the future queen, before the King had even met her. This marriage never got annulled. And that makes sense, since it was the only one that had a legitimate basis for annulment. Of his other two wives: Anne of Cleves was fortunate. She repulsed Henry from the outset, and he put her away. Thus, he never got bored or disappointed with her. And she seems to have lived a fairly good life. Katherine Parr escaped burning by very, very little. Basically, the courier who had the warrant for her arrest dropped it, and it was discovered by someone loyal to Katherine. So she learned of her peril in time, and managed brilliantly to make amends. Otherwise, Henry would have succeeded in killing half his wives. Instead, Katherine Parr got to survive Henry and then die horribly from the complications of childbirth. As vile and fascinating as the characters in Henry's court were, the big impression I got from this book was how incredibly scary childbirth must have been in Tudor times. It was incredibly common for the woman to die of complications afterward. It was even more common for the kids to die. And if the kids did manage to grow up, chances are they would die young from the plague or war or something equally terrible. But, of course, there was always the chance that they would grow up to be incredibly successful, at least until their rivals figured out some way to get them attainted and put their heads on the block.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alaine

    If you have any interest in history and the Tudors then you need to buy this book, it is fantastic. I was so impressed by the attention to detail, it gives you such a great understanding of Henry VIII and the Tudor court and of course his six wives. It is not like reading a text book, it is biographical and therefor very interesting. I borrowed it from the library and had it on audio, I started listening to it but switched over to reading it. By the time I was half way through the book I had ord If you have any interest in history and the Tudors then you need to buy this book, it is fantastic. I was so impressed by the attention to detail, it gives you such a great understanding of Henry VIII and the Tudor court and of course his six wives. It is not like reading a text book, it is biographical and therefor very interesting. I borrowed it from the library and had it on audio, I started listening to it but switched over to reading it. By the time I was half way through the book I had ordered a copy of my own. I was really impressed by the detail in this book, if the colour of the Queen's gown was recorded then those details where included. Henry VIII was a complex and highly intelligent man who controlled a nation with fear and suffering. He changed a nations religious beliefs all for the love of a woman, a woman he came to hate and would not allow her name to be spoken. Did you know that Henry's father, King Henry VII considered taking Katherine of Aragon for his bride after his eldest son Arthur died? Katherine fell pregnant six to eight times but only had one child, Princess Mary. Anne Boleyn was six months pregnant with Elizabeth when she had her coronation. It is easy to see why so many historical authors have depicted Anne as the conniving husband stealer. She managed to hold off giving herself to the King of England when women usually fell at his feet including Anne's sister Mary. "Anne's biographer, George Wyatt, asserted that she was not in love with the King and had hoped for a future husband that was 'more agreeable to her'. He also says that she resented the loss of freedom she had suffered as a result of the King's courtship ... she handled him with such calculated cleverness that there is no doubt that the crown of England meant more to her than the man." After Anne was decapitated her mouth and eyes moved, leading the crowd to believe that it was supernatural, it was of course a reflex reaction. After Anne died the King was never heard to utter her name again. Jane Seymour - Anne Boleyn waited seven years for her crown, Jane waited seven months. On the day of Anne's execution Jane was preparing her wedding clothes. Jane Seymour's personal motto was 'bound to obey and serve'. Henry's wedding present to Jane was 104 manors in 4 different countries as well as a number of forests and hunting chases. The income from these properties were to support her. Did you know that Jane Seymour didn't have a coronation because Henry couldn't afford it? The only Queen's that Henry gave a coronation to were Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Henry's four other wives were Queen's without coronations. I will definitely read more from this author!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Another Alison Weir, another book I loved. If you're looking to learn more about the Tudor period, this is a good way to do it. She presents the story of the wives in a pretty readable format, even for those who aren't usually into reading historical books for fun. :) Well researched, well put together, very informative. And not at all a struggle to read!

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