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The Six Wives of Henry VIII

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

4.3 249
by Alison Weir

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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.


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; Jane Seymour, a strong-minded matriarch in the making; Anne of Cleves, a good-natured and innocent woman naively unaware of the court intrigues that determined her fate; Catherine Howard, an empty-headed wanton; and Catherine Parr, a warm-blooded bluestocking who survived King Henry to marry a fourth time.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
YA-- A wonderfully detailed, extensively researched collective biography. Although the book is undoubtedly the work of a Tudor scholar, with sources ranging from previous biographies of these women to private papers, letters, diaries, and diplomatic sources, it is also the work of a competent fiction writer. The narrative is free flowing, humorous, informative, and readable. Weir's research abilities and deductive reasoning have shed a whole new light on the political maneuverings of the era and thus on the myriad forces that drove Henry VIII, his wives, and his children. Personal and obscure facts about the women, Henry's relationship with his nobles, and quirks of the times enliven the text. Genealogical tables for all the families involved are included. This book can be used for research, as it contains a wealth of information. However, students who don't read the whole book (even though its size may intimidate them) are missing a once in a lifetime opportunity to have the Tudor era laid open for them.-- Debbie Hyman, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Weir (the genealogical Britain's Royal Family—not reviewed) here uses the many public records and personal letters of the early 1500's to offer a comprehensive, factual version of the tempestuous private and public lives of Henry VIII and his six wives. The story is dominated by Henry and the devolution of his character from an "affable," "gentle," and gifted (he wrote poetry) lover, soldier, and ruler into a porcine, paranoid, impotent old man who was exploited and manipulated by courtiers and women, some of whom he imprisoned, beheaded, or hanged. Henry's brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon, six years the king's senior, became at 24 his first wife. Thirty years later, she was set aside for the ambitious "virago" Anne Boleyn, who was in turn beheaded to make room for the gentle Jane Seymour, who died in childbirth and was replaced by the repugnant and scholarly Anne of Cleves. Soon, Anne was retired for Catherine Howard, a 15-year-old "empty- headed wanton" who, despite Henry's passion for her, was executed—along with three alleged but innocent lovers—and replaced by the king's most "agreeable wife," Catherine Parr, who narrowly escaped execution herself for religious quarreling. Vowing in marriage to be "bonair and buxom/amiable/in bed and at board" and to produce heirs, Henry's wives illustrate to Weir, through their pregnancies, miscarriages, and infants' deaths, both the profligacy of nature and the dependence of political power on sexual prowess. Yet Weir offers this sensational chapter in history in the cautious tone of a college term paper, doggedly and unimaginatively piling up facts and occasionally lapsing into naivet‚, as when Mary (whose mother, Catherineof Aragon, had been banished to die alone) and Elizabeth (still too young to understand that Henry had beheaded her mother, Anne Boleyn, in order to marry Jane) are invited to court: "At last the King," Weir writes, "was settling down to something resembling family life." (Sixteen pages of b&w illustrations; 74 pages of responsible bibliographical essays.) (Book-of-the-Month Dual Selection for May)

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.14(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.42(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Alison Weir lives and works near Peebles in Scotland. Her books include Britain's Royal Families, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Children of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry VIII: King and Court.

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The Six Wives of Henry VIII 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 249 reviews.
kamiPA More than 1 year ago
after watching The Tudors, i wanted to go more in depth and had heard good things about Alison Weir's works. I loved the book and went through it very quickly. was fascinated that even though The Tudors is largely dramatized for entertainment value, quite a few of the details in the book are shown in the series. it keeps you enthralled like a fiction book, all the while enlightening you to life during Henry VIII's reign. the backgrounds on each wife were very detailed and really painted a portrait of each that helped enlighten how they came to their (mostly) unfortunate ends. since reading this book, i have followed up with The Children of Henry VIII and just finished The Life of Elizabeth I. Am now starting Mary, Queen of Scots, with The War of the Roses waiting in the wings! will probably check out Ms. Weir's other books as well - including Henry VIII that i got for my dad for his birthday when he's finished! I would highly reccomend this book for anyone interested in learning more about the life and times during the reign of Henry VIII.
Cindyoz More than 1 year ago
Alison Weir presents a modern perspective on an ancient topic-King Henry VIII. It is refreshing to revisit topics with the new bent-why was Henry so obsessed with wives? What are the true possible medical reasons behind his never having begotten a son with Anne Boleyn? Was Anne truly the sordid character that many have said she was? Was he truly the lecherous old man as he is often portrayed? Alison presents this bit of history in an enlightened modern day format. This read is so palatable that it was the impetus for my reading as much about English monarchies as I possibly could. Bravo, Alison. Well done. A must-read!
BooBooAZ More than 1 year ago
This is not a "dummies" type book but Alison Weir has made English history not only easy but exciting, compelling and absorbing to read. Her research is impeccable; the dialogue is based on historical fact; and when not verifiable she makes it known. A wonderful companion to this is her "The Children of Henry VIII."
Tudor_Fan More than 1 year ago
Henry VII caused many divisions in his quest to have a male heir. However, the psychological problems endured by his surviving children due to his bastardizing of his daughters would cause many more problems. His heir Edward VI didn't live long enough to have the true power of the King, his youth became a great tool for those that wanted to carry out their own agendas in the young King's name. This is aptly noted when upon the death of Henry VII, his will on how Edward's council was to be made up is not carried out due to this battle for power. Of course the Seymour brothers jealousies and ambitions play a great role in this battle. Issues even followed Mary I and Elizabeth who were forever linked to plots by those wanting to return England to the See of Rome and those viweing Elizabeth as the deliverer of the Protestant faith. The way the author interelates the lives of each heir places the reades in the halls of English palaces, the streets of England and in the midset of each ruler as they struggle with the many issues that develop around them. It just makes you wonder what if Mary would've been better treated and prepared in her youth, would she been a much stronger ruler than she eventually became. In a way her hunt for heretics was like her father's actions on the catholics. Elizabeth seems to have been also adversely affected in her reluctance to marry and in developing a very astute mind so as not to get easily influenced into actions that would damage her standing as the ruler following Mary. Her father's execution and treatment of his wives undoubtedly had an effect on her reluctance to marry or be dependent on anyone but herself. This book is a very engulfing quick read for anyone who has been facinated by Henry VII via Showtime's: The Tudors or just for any fan of this facinating period of history.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best books I ever read! It is very detailed and has lots of information. I recommend this book to any Tudor lover.
Sweet_MelissaMN More than 1 year ago
A must, if you're interested in the Tudor dynasty. Alison Weir makes non-fiction interesting, and read like fiction.
jbraetzke More than 1 year ago
Weir manages to provide the reader with incredibly detailed information about the lives of these amazing women. There are times when this can be problematic as she can focus on the minutiae of a banquet, for example, and continues at length describing banal experiences only an expert on this subject would find interesting. However, my experience with this book was more akin to reading a historical novel rather than a stodgy historical text. If you're interested in the subject I would highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was really good! I was intimidated to read it because I thought it would read like a text book. However, I could not put it down. King Henry VIII lived a crazy life and Weir does an amazing job bringing it to life! I felt like I was at the Tudor court!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this one of Alison Weir's best books. I read it in about 2 weeks while I was watching The Tudors on DVD. I couldn't put the book down. Granted, Henri VIII's life is stranger than fiction, but many writers tend to ramble on about unnecessary details when it comes to non-fiction. It's a book that really makes you wonder about the karmic lessons in the various charachters lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most dull and boring books I have read since reading droll text books in school. It jumps around way to much. Just when you think that thr story of this wife is done, she takes you back in time to repeat the story again. I am truly sorry I purchased this one. I have read many books on this subject, this being the most boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book, love Allison Weir. Reads like fiction- it's so interesting. One of my favorites.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am usually an avid fiction reader and find non-fiction of this time period filled with dates and names that all sound the same. I have to admit that I could not put this book down. I was captivating and made you feel as though you were right there in the court of Henry VIII. Allison Weir writes from a non-biased point of view and presents the facts with poise and drama. It was fantastic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alison Weir's The Six Wives of Henry VIII is a highly reable account of the life and times of the six fasinating women who were married to one of England's most famous monarch's. While the account is very detailed it is puzziling that Weir left out some facts like after Katherine of Aragon's first miscarriage her stomach did not shrink and it was believed that she was carrying twins and the diasterious first meeting between Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII where the bride-to-be failed to recoginze the king who was in disguise souring the marriage before it started. But still highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was actually sad to end this book. This is a long book, but it is written with such fluidity and historical insight that I found myself easily reading into the whee hours of the morning. However, I do think that women might enjoy this book more a bit more. I highly recommend!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Weir was able to clear up misconceptions that I had, which I think are common among novice historians. This is an excellent book that is fair, not harping or condemning the wives. I think it was also fair to Henry VIII. You can love him and loathe him in the same breathe. If you want to learn about English history, this is an excellent angle to look at it from. It is well worth the time to read. I was engrossed in their lives and the history. I did very little skimming and that really says alot! Buy and keep as reference.
Anonymous 7 days ago
Fascinated by the wealth of contemporary documentation of the period! It kept me interested for over 500 pgs-and altered my impressions of some of these historic figures.
Anonymous 7 months ago
I absolutely loved this book. It was a good read with lots of interesting info\.
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CH2 More than 1 year ago
Wonderful.  Well-written, and meticulously researched.  After reading this book, I feel as if I knew these six women (and King Henry VIII) personally.  The author really brought them to life.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How often will this phrase be repeated???? Dont know but i'm on page 33 and i count 4 times...except for that phrase its an interesting book....so far
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