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Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David…

Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII (original 2003; edition 2004)

by David Starkey

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Title:Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII
Authors:David Starkey
Info:Harper Perennial (2004), Paperback, 880 pages
Collections:listsofbests to get
Tags:unowned, listsofbests, outstanding books for the college bound

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Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey (2003)



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This book was very dry and starkey challenges things that most authors accept as true. ( )
  Desilu42 | Aug 1, 2013 |
This book was really everything I look for in a non-fiction book about history. It was so engagingly written that it could have been non-fiction, but sources were all cited and deviations from accepted wisdom among Henry VIII scholars were mentioned. The story was presented chronologically, with a few, well integrated digressions to give us the history of each of Henry’s wives. Chapters were short and the introduction of new characters was kept to a minimum, creating a very lucid narrative. New characters were always given context, both in the writing and by some great family trees, and we were often reminded who recurring characters were. This made the massive amounts of information in this 880 page book fairly manageable.

Overall the book was very approachable, especially for something that clearly involves an awful lot of scholarly research. The straightforward writing style and family trees helped, as did the author’s lack of assumptions about the reader’s previous knowledge. It also helped, of course, that the book was just fun. The author is clearly enthusiastic about his subject and in addition to dates and events, there was speculation about people’s feelings and motivations, obviously separated from but based on historical records such as personal correspondences. Quotes from these sources were integrated into the story very nicely, adding to the narrative without disrupting it.

Finally, the story itself was full of enough drama for a TV show. And, in fact, it has been made into a show called Tudor, which I tried watching but couldn’t get into for lack of a sympathetic character in the first episode. The book, however, made if very easy to feel for each of Henry’s wives, even as they replaced each other. I think that’s what made the book so great – its stuck the perfect balance between historical accuracy and engaging personal stories. ( )
1 vote DoingDewey | Nov 6, 2012 |
This is one of my favourite books. David Starkely does an amazing job with this massive book. He destroys some well known myths about the queens of Henry the III and does it in style. He notes that in at least one instance Katherine of Aargon did indeed lie and to her father as well. She was capable of lying just as much as anyone else.

I found it impossible to put the book down and have in fact read it several times.

Highly recommended. It is very well written and researched. ( )
1 vote Janine2011 | Sep 2, 2011 |
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] ( )
1 vote startingover | Feb 1, 2011 |
David Starkey presents a different take on a well-known part of Tudor history. Very detailed and descriptive throughout, my interest was held by the subject matter rather than the writing style, which was heavy in repetitive language ('squaring the circle' appears far too often in the text, for example) and his contrasting of past events with Diana, Princess of Wales.

That aside, I enjoyed the sections on Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. The rest of the book has less original material to refer to regarding the other wives and thus is shorter than the portion covering the first two wives. ( )
1 vote floriferous | Aug 29, 2010 |
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The Six Wives of Henry VIII is one of the world's great stories: indeed, it contains a whole world of literature within itself.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060005505, Paperback)

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. In this remarkable study, David Starkey argues that the king was not a depraved philanderer but someone seeking happiness -- and a son. Knowingly or not, he elevateda group of women to extraordinary heights and changed the way a nation was governed.

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:49 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

What makes a man marry six times? Was Henry VIII a voracious philanderer? On the contrary, says David Starkey, the King was seeking happiness - as well as hoping for a son." "The first of his wives was Catherine of Aragon, the pious Spanish Catholic who suffered years of miscarriages and failed to produce a male heir. The only one of his wives to be royal by birth, she was married to him the longest. As Catherine's looks faded, Henry fell passionately in love with the pretty, French-educated 'Protestant', Anne Boleyn. Their six-year courtship and three-year marriage transformed England for ever. Jane Seymour's Catholic orthodoxy and demure submissiveness were in deliberate contrast to Anne's radical and vampish style - and Henry married her on the day of Anne's execution. Jane died soon after giving birth to the longed-for son. There followed a farcical 'beauty contest' which ended in the short marriage of the now grossly over-weight Henry to the 'mare of Flanders, ' Ann of Cleves. The final part of Six Wives contrasts the two Catherines - Catherine Howard, the flirtatious teenager whose adulteries made a fool of the ageing King, and Catherine Parr, the shrewd, religiously radical bluestocking who outlived him." "In this study, David Starkey draws on the letters, artefacts and documents of the period, together with the rituals of diplomacy, marriage, pregnancy and private religion, to give 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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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