Synopses & Reviews
No one in history had a more eventful career in matrimony than Henry VIII. His marriages were daring and tumultuous, and made instant legends of six very different women. What could make him marry six times? In this remarkable new study, David Starkey argues that the king was not a depraved philanderer, but someone seeking happiness -- and a son. Knowingly or not, he empowered a group of women to extraordinary heights and changed the way a nation was governed.
Henry took his first bride, Catherine of Aragon, when he was seventeen. They lasted twenty-four years together, but Catherine suffered through many miscarriages and failed to produce a male heir. Henry then fell in love with Anne Boleyn, the mother of Elizabeth I. Their relationship transformed England forever, but Henry had Anne beheaded and married his next wife, Jane Seymour, on the very day of Anne's execution. At last, Seymour gave birth to Henry's longed-for son, Edward VI. What followed was a farcical beauty contest which ended in the King's brief marriage to the "mare of Flanders," Anne of Cleves. Finally, there were the two Catherines: Catherine Howard, the flirtatious teenager whose adulteries made a fool of the aging king and who was the second bride to lose her head; and Catherine Parr, the shrewd, religiously radical bluestocking who outlived him.
Six Wives is a masterful work of history that intimately examines the rituals of diplomacy, marriage, pregnancy and religion that were part of daily life for women at the Tudor Court. Weaving new facts and fresh interpretations into a spellbinding account of the emotional drama surrounding Henry's six marriages, David Starkey reveals the central role that the queens played in determining policy. With an equally keen eye for romantic and political intrigue, he brilliantly recaptures the story of Henry's wives and the England they ruled.
"A rich account....[E]minently interesting if sometimes overly detailed....A boon to fans of English royal history, full of murder and mayhem, but also of solid analysis of a maddeningly complicated era." Kirkus Reviews
"Caught between scholarly work and storytelling, the book gives us high drama at a languid pace....For readers who are not put off, this is a strong, entertaining and occasionally audacious interpretation." Publishers Weekly
"Uneven in a purely technical sense, this is an extremely balanced book...it's also absorbing, though Starkey has an irritating weakness for jarring anachronism...." Geoffrey Moorhouse, The Guardian (U.K.)
"Relentlessly scholarly, Starkey's is the best study of Henry's wives ever published....A masterly and persuasive narrative which, despite its prestigious detail, never loses its grip over the story or the reader." Evening Standard
"Extraordinary....It is a tribute to Starkey's narrative drive, his puckish wit and sharp discrimination that it doesn't seem a page too long....With each queen, Starkey offers a vivid character study but also has fresh discoveries that subtly alter the picture he started out with." Sunday Times
Perhaps no one in history had a more eventful career in matrimony than Henry VIII. His six marriages were tumultuous, complicated, and instantly legendary. Henry took his first bride when he was 17 in 1509. Catherine of Aragon was the widow of Henry's brother, and her 24-year marriage to Henry was a relatively stable prelude to what followed. In a ten-year span, the king would marry five times, and two of his wives would lose their heads along with the king's favor.
Now, distinguished historian David Starkey weaves startling new facts and fresh interpretations into a spellbinding account of the emotional drama and political intrigue that attended Henry's six marriages. With a keen eye for both the personal and the global stage, Starkey masterfully recaptures the Tudor era and the wives of Henry VIII as only he can.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -818) and index.
About the Author
David Sharkey is a historian and commentator, and Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. He is the author of several works on the Tudoe period, including The Reign of Henry VIII and The English Court, from the Wars of the Roses to the Civil War. He lives in London.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Henry's weddings -- I. Queen Catherine of Aragon -- II. Rival queens -- Divorcing Catherine ; Anne Boleyn ; Jane Seymour -- III. Later queens -- Conversation ; Anne of Cleves ; Catherine Howard ; Catherine Parr.