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The Wives of Henry VIII

The Wives of Henry VIII

4.6 10
by Antonia Fraser

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The six-week New York Times bestselling history of the legendary six wives of Henry VIII--from an acclaimed biographer. "Admirably succeed(s) in bringing to life the six women who married England's ruler. . . ."--New York Times Book Review. 16 color plates. 32 pages of illustrations.


The six-week New York Times bestselling history of the legendary six wives of Henry VIII--from an acclaimed biographer. "Admirably succeed(s) in bringing to life the six women who married England's ruler. . . ."--New York Times Book Review. 16 color plates. 32 pages of illustrations.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fraser ( Mary, Queen of Scots ) here turns to the reign of Henry VIII, who ruled from 1509-1547, and the six women he married: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr. From her scrupulous research and informed interpretations of historical events, Fraser succeeds in presenting Henry's queens as complex and intelligent women who struggled to express themselves in a world where females were subservient to and ruled by men. Catherine of Aragon, married to Henry for 20 years, displayed cleverness and bravery when she fought her husband's attempts to divorce her. Anne Boleyn, a learned woman, was innocent of the adultery she was accused of, but was beheaded because she could not produce a son. Unlettered, 21-year-old Katherine Howard, queen for just 18 months when she was beheaded in 1542 for the ``violent presumption'' she had committed adultery, met death on the block where her cousin Anne Boleyn had died six years earlier. By firmly anchoring each woman's fate in Henry's failure to be philoprogenitive--most crucially in not producing male heirs--Fraser makes a major contribution to feminist scholarship. Illustations not seen by PW. 50,000 first printing; History Book Club and BOMC alternates. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Fraser here attempts to provide a fuller view of the six women who unenviably danced around the maypole that was the corpulent King of England. Fraser, the distinguished author of many historical studies, including The Weaker Vessel ( LJ 8/84), portrays in fascinating detail the women who sought to be included in and were sometimes destroyed by the power structure of the times. Inevitably, more time is spent on Catherine of Aragon (after all, Catherine and Henry were married 24 years, whereas all five of his other marriages only totaled a little over ten years), and although Fraser claims to have tried to avoid any bias, she betrays a lingering sympathy for Henry's first queen. One cannot help but speculate, as the author does, what history would have been like if Catherine had provided Henry with a male heir. Not only were Henry's wives prisoners of their biology, but also Henry himself. Fraser's readable style, empathy for her subjects, and piquant use of historical details and anecdotes make this a satisfying addition to the history shelves. Recommended for all public and academic libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/92.-- Katherine Gillen, Denver P . L .
Brad Hooper
British schoolchildren remember the matrimonial sequence by learning this little rhyme: "Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived." Thus were the fates of the six women who--unfortunately, for most of them--entered into legal matrimony with the great Tudor king, Henry VIII. Esteemed British biographer Fraser brings her considerable talent for blending impeccable research, fresh interpretation, and an easy-flowing style to bear on a collective biography of Harry's half-dozen queens. That "the six women have become defined in a popular sense not so much by their lives as by the way these lives ended" is Fraser's point of departure; in the end, she has reconstructed cradle-to-grave portraits of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr as individuals dynamic in their own right, aside from the manner in which each was dispatched. Contrary to popular notion, King Henry was no bluebeard simply out to satisfy a gargantuan sexual appetite; Fraser's Henry is a husband who married five times for love and once for reasons of state. It's an aspect of English history--Henry and his wives--that can and has been treated either as silly or salacious. Fraser's tack is to see it in its personal and political seriousness.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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Meet the Author

Antonia Fraser is the author of many internationally bestselling historical works, including Love and Louis XIVMarie Antoinette, which was made into a film by Sofia Coppola, The Wives of Henry VIIIMary Queen of ScotsFaith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot, and Perilous Question: Reform or Revolution? Britain on the Brink, 1832. She is also the author of Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter. She has received the Wolfson Prize for History, the 2000 Norton Medlicott Medal of Britain’s Historical Association, and the Franco-British Society’s Enid McLeod Literary Prize. She was made a Dame of the British Empire for services to Literature in 2011.

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The Wives of Henry VIII 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
mercury_falling More than 1 year ago
I love this book, and have read it twice now, as well as Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette biography. This book is thorough and absolutely enjoyable if you like Tudor history. The amazing thing is Fraser does not seem to bias toward any one queen; she takes the same time and care with all six ladies and their stories. Fraser has a knack for explaining what motivations might have been behind the actions of these women, so that it's no longer as great a mystery why on earth Katherine Howard would commit adultery against a man who had already had one wife executed for the crime. The book's tone is very straightforward, and at times, dry, so be prepared accordingly--its first purpose is to be informative, rather than entertaining. I don't mean that it isn't entertaining, just that entertainment purposes were not the first thing in Fraser's mind when she wrote it, and accordingly some passages are somewhat slow or bland. Overall, though, a very good read, I think.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have ever read about King Henry and his wives. Her style is informative but readable. I have read it 3 times. I like the insight she gives into the backgrounds of each wife. I was truly impressed with the way she did not allow any bias she may have had to interfer with the information presented. Too many times authors allow their preconceived ideas to come between the reader and facts. This book truly allows you to look at each individual and come to your own opinions.
StephanieFRiley More than 1 year ago
Love this author! Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is very informative without being overwhelming. A great read!!!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is absolutely 100% historically accurate in my mind. I just don't think it is very readable. I still liked it.