Summary of: The Six Wives of Henry VIII
The tempestuous, bloody, and splendid reign of Henry VIII of England (1509-1547) is one of the most fascinating in all history, not least for his marriage to six extraordinary women. In this accessible work of brilliant scholarship, Alison Weir draws on early biographies, letters, memoirs, account books, and diplomatic reports to bring these women to life. Catherine of Aragon emerges as a staunch though misguided woman of principle; Anne Boleyn, an ambitious adventuress with a penchant for vengeance;
Review of: The Six Wives of Henry VIII
The story of Henry VIII’s rule can only truly be told once a reader understands the vital importance attached to begetting an heir to the kingdom. Alison Weir, as usual, offers this thoroughly-detailed, sometimes amusing, sometimes heartbreaking portrait of a man who, thwarted at nearly every turn from getting a queen who could produce strapping male heirs to the Throne of England, descended from a jolly, back-slapping prince to a fat, cruel and nearly despotic king, whose final wish to be buried alongside Jane Seymour must have cut his final surviving wife, Katherine Parr, to the quick. But, as the title suggests, the primary thrust of this book is not so much Henry VIII as each of his unfortunate wives. One learns a great deal more about them than the usual lines given by armchair historians. For example, “saintly” Jane Seymour, usually depicted as a meek and mild young thing, was just as much a deliberate factor in the downfall of Anne Boleyn as her royal husband-to-be. And as one reads about Anne Boleyn’s temper, one teeters between sympathy for her and … a vague feeling that perhaps Henry beheaded her not so much for failing to produce an heir as to get her to shut up and cease her constant nagging and ill-tempered outbursts. (Of course, then you swing back into Anne’s camp, figuring anyone living with someone like Henry would be ill-tempered … or perhaps worse!) And so it goes …
Fascinating, chock full of details of court life and rife with facts from many primary sources, Allison Weir’s account of Henry VIII and his wives remains a standard of its genre.