I am a Tudor History Buff aka nerd If it s about Henry VIII, his wives, Elizabeth I, etc, I will read it On my bookshelf, I have Alison Weir s Six Wives of Henry VIII I had seen David Starkey s PBS documentary before, and I was interested in reading the book So I checked it out of the library.
all 600 plus pages of it I felt he spend too much time on the lives of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn True, these are the most pivotal queens in Henry s life and English history, but Jane Seymour and Catherine Parr should have had I was also disappointed that there was about two paragrahs of Catherine s life after Henry s death It is a very thorough look at Henry and his wives There is numerous examples to letters and other court documents After just coming off the book at the other look at Anne Boleyn, I was a little disappointed in the way her story was treated He would mention her a few pages and then go back to Catherine of Aragon s story It was an odd way to flashback rather than take each Queen s story Overall, I feel Allison Weir s book was much, much better.
I find it hard to believe that none of the goodreads reviews that I read about this book mentioned his horribly sexist and patronizing attitude It starts with his insulting characterization of a female historian as being able to get access to archived material because she s pretty, and just gets worse from there His constant editorializing about his personal views on marriage and society are also offensive and unprofessional for a writer of history Sample passage He expected marriage to make him happy, rather than merely content, which is the most that sensible people hope for The result nowadays is a soaring divorce rate and a looming crisis of marriage Oh, and men die left and right because of lust and over enthusiastic consummation of the marriage Really These constant asides and interpretations just make Starkey sound ridiculous.
Meanwhile, the book meanders, includes tons of irrelevant detail without keeping the narrative moving forward, and are repetitive and tedious when Starkey isn t busy commenting snarkily on the character of various historical figures.
I thought the book was just awful and didn t bother finishing it Highly disrecommended for anybody who doesn t share Starkey s sexist, antiquated views of women s role in the world.
I got off on the wrong foot with Mr Starkey s work by page 3 of his introduction, in which he oh so faintly disses Antonia Fraser s and Alison Weir s books on Henry s 6 wives, both of which I greatly enjoy, refer to often and have proudly nestled in my bookshelves side by side.
After that, it was all downhill IMO, his offering doesn t hold a candle to theirs in terms of scholarship or readability.
Needless to say, his book won t be nestled between Fraser s and Weir s on my Tudor shelf I enjoyed reading this I know a lot of people find Starkey off putting but I like to see a bit of personality in an information heavy read The main complaint I ve seen is that he blows his own trumpet a bit too much Im not bothered by that He s a well accepted authority on Tudor England and he s got other books to sell A bit of in book marketing is all I see If information or an interpretation thereof is new then why not point it out If you ve nothing new to say then you re just relaying information available I found it to be very comprehensive I broke it up and read a wife at a time while reading shorter novels in between and it was a manageable task that way Reading it the whole way through would have been too much for me If you need to know about the wives this is the place to start.
I m finding it difficult to assess this book because I found the forward to be so incredibly off putting Starkey comes across as arrogant and contemptuous of all biographers who have come before him, and this impression is reinforced by occasional subsequent comments by him in the rest of the book Starkey inserts himself at points to congratulate himself on new interpretations of primary sources, and he also lumps together and denigrates all the others who held a different view While he may be correct, the effect is obnoxious His coverage of Catherine of Aargon and Anne Boleyn is incredibly detailed, but the other four wives are given a very superficial telling While I appreciate Starkey s defense that Catherine and Anne had much bigger roles to play, there are key events in the lives of the other four wives that are entirely skipped here Starkey likely will roll his eyes and dismiss me with a derogatory comment, but I much preferred Alison Weir s Six Wives.
I ve read several books about King Henry VIII and some of his wives mistresses I.
e Catherine of Aragon, Anne and Mary Boleyn but this is my first that covers all of the wives I m afraid it was pretty dull I was put off immediately by the arrogant tone of the writing, David Starkey sounds like he things an awful lot of himself The writing was peppered with little asides similar to all other historians think this, but they were wrong, here s what really happened As if Mr Starkey was there and has some great insight that no one else does So yeah, the writing style irked me I also didn t like how the flow of the book was put together It makes perfect sense to have six sections i.
e one for each wife but I didn t like how there was no interconnectedness between the overlapping wives, particularly Catherine and Anne Anne was a huge part of Henry s life and a major influence during the divorce, but the book went all the way through Catherine hardly mentioning Anne and then when the section on Anne began we went back in time to when the affair with Anne started and then Catherine was barely mentioned I think it would have made sense to have a seventh section here perhaps titled the divorce where the overlapping nature of these two relationships was explored together rather than separately I also think that there was a lot of extraneous detail Things like who rode their horse where, how long it took, and whether it was a rough ride or not because of the weather I could have probably edited about one or two hundred pages of stuff that really doesn t matter and doesn t appear to have anything significant to do with Henry s wives i.
e the title of the book I also just have to point out, there was one whole section on a bowel movement that Henry had No joke I read it and the sections before and after it a couple of times to figure out why the hell it was there, I never could figure it out On a high note, I think that this book represents a lot of thought and research on the part of David Starkey There were sections where he mentioned that the following material had never been presented before and he does offer differing opinions I think he would consider them fact, I consider them opinion than what you can find in other resources If I were reading this book for it s scholarly value and depth I would give it a higher rating Alas, I m a simple layperson reading about a time in history that I m interested in and would therefore give it 2 stars and not recommend it for folks like me.
Reading other reviews on this book, I am struck how the reviewer focuses on the author rather than the work I don t agree with the author policitically but found no evidence whatsoever in this work of any misogyny, as other reviewers have At nearly a 1000 pages long, six wives The queens of Henry VIII, is a rolling, tumbling, lop sided book The first two of Henry s queens, albeit probably the most famous, take up the vast majority of this book Catherine of Aragon, is treated with kindness and almost pity by Starkey, as he goes into intimate detail into the now famous divorce The one distinct exception is the reformation which Starkey paints as almost a forgotten side show in this carnival of Love, depression, obsession and betrayal Anne Boleyn is treated with almost contempt and you feel the tone of the book lift as the sword of the executioner falls to remove her head It is here that the book speeds up Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleeves and Catherine Howard are dealt with in the blink of an eye Catherine Parr, who outlived Henry, similarly is dispatched quickly No study of the six Queens woud be complete without the mention of the king, and Henry is shown to be capricious, over bearing and at times almost pocessed there is almost an unmentioned sympathy towards the king in places In short if you re looking for a quick study of tudor life, there are better, easier and accessible works out there If on the other hand the daily life at Tudor court and the policital complexities of the time draw you in, Six Wives is a good place to start.
THE BOOKDavid Starkey is a loathesome right wing creep who gets invited onto British political discussion programmes because producers know he ll say something outrageous and all the liberals will be hissing about him the next morning But he s a solid historian who attacks his field monarchy in general, Tudors in particular with gusto and narrative energy Mostly, he s a good read In this book he includes way too much detail about the pomp n ceremony and the royal progresses the King on tour and the protocols and suchlike, mainly, I think, aside from the possibility that he s in love with all this stuff, because it s like what used to be called Kremlin watching When you can t get the inside dope, you have to infer what s going off in the court by who sits with who and who visits who and for how long It s not all like that we do have lots of juicy bits too.
So I would have cut this book by about one third it s a bugger to lug about but it becomes easy to spot which bits can be skipped And even when you do all the ceremony skipping, it s still really long.
But the story is very remarkable, and the psychology is all intact for the armchair student.
GOD WARSAs we know, when kings marry it s not for love, it s all part of the dynastic chess game Henry broke this rule a couple of times and did marry for love, and see how that turned out not well There were two main problems for Henry s wives producing sons only one managed to do that, and only one son , and figuring out their place in the ongoing religious hoo hah called the Reformation.
This needs a word of explanation I had been thinking before reading this book that when Henry decided the Pope was never going to give him a straight answer about his divorce, and told the Pope to take a running jump, and declared himself to be the supreme head of the English Church, that this was the English Reformation, and the country then became Protestant Not so Henry didn t change anything, he was just as Catholic as the next Pope He dissolved the monasteries but that was purely for money So the Protestants were laying out their theologies that transubstantiation did not exist, that only faith got you to heaven, etc but Henry was burning them for it The reformation in England happened after Henry It was a complicated piecemeal affair But Henry s wives were all caught up in the whole religious war, which was sometimes hot, sometimes cold, always subversive to personal lives, always cruel, never merciful They each had their beliefs, or they thought they did, and they perforce had to get involved in all the manoeuvring once they became Queen It wasn t pretty It was the end for than one of them.
THE WIVES1 Catherine of Aragon Well, she had a strange life She was a piece on the diplomatic chessboard, moved around by her parents and by Henry VII and then by his son She never got to do much of anything she actually wanted to do She was Spanish, and was betrothed to Arthur son of Henry VII at the age of three he was 2 When she was 16 she went off to England to be finally married The groom was 15 Less than a year later he died So now what Bright idea from Henry VII she should stick around in England and marry his other son, Henry Who was ten at the time She had no choice So when he was 17 and she was 24, they married She had umpteen pregnancies, produced only one daughter and no sons, and Henry became convinced she was a dud and that someone else should get the job The way he was going to dump Catherine was to say that they were never married he found a verse in the Bible saying marrying your brother s widow is wrong there s another verse saying marrying your brother s widow is compulsory so he decided the marriage was never legal He just had to persuade the Pope, who was a political pawn of Catherine s uncle and who took 7 years to not make a decision So Henry dumped the Pope then dumped Catherine Good news, he didn t kill her 2 Anne Boleyn after Penelope Cruz came Elizabeth Taylor Henry couldn t keep up Eventually he decided either she was getting way too Protestant and radical so he got Cromwell to fit her up with some bogus adultery charges, or she really had been spreading herself around the court Who knew She got the chop.
3 Jane Seymour After Penelope Cruz and Liz Taylor came Bridget Jones Henry really liked her ordinariness She liked him too Life was good Then she got pregnant Better still Then she had a boy The best queen ever Then a week later she died.
4 Anne of Cleves This was where Henry selected her out of several foreign possibilities based on portraits Turned out she was so ugly he almost couldn t look at her the Flanders Mare But he took pity explained to her via a translator that her looks prevented him from getting an erection and that therefore the marriage was annulled, and she could stay in England and be his sister instead 5 Catherine Howard Then came Lindsay Lohan She lasted 18 months Boy bands have had longer careers Her head rolled.
6 Finally Catherine Parr who actually outlived survived Henry by about 18 months She came close to getting the chop but did some fast talking Immediately in a matter of weeks after he died she married the guy she really loved, then became pregnant, then died It was dangerous being female in the 16th century 500 years later in a lot of places not much has improved.
No One In History Had A 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 Elevated A Group Of Women To Extraordinary Heights And Changed The Way A Nation Was GovernedSix 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