Read Reading The Wives of Henry VIII –

In A Sweeping Narrative, Fraser Traces The Cultural, Familial And Political Roots Of Each Of Henry S Queens, Pushes Aside The Stereotypes That Have Long Defined Them, And Illuminates The Complex Character Of Each The Result Is A Superb Work Of History Through Which These Six Women Become As Memorable For Their Own Achievements And Mistakes As They Have Always Been For Their Fateful Link To Henry VIII Illustrations

10 thoughts on “The Wives of Henry VIII

  1. says:

    While this would be a quality history by any standard, I ve decided to judge it by exactly the standard that Antonia Fraser sets for herself right at the beginning of the book She says that her mission is to rescue the six wives of Henry VIII from the sterotypes that have plagued them for centuries not to mention the horrid singsong of divorced, beheaded died etc The stereotypes in question are, in order The Betrayed Wife, The Temptress, The Good Woman, the Ugly Sister, The Bad Girl, and The Mother Figure I should note that she does admit that of course there is an element of truth to the stereotypes, but it isn t all as presented So, does she accomplish this task The answer to that is a mostly unqualified yes This is my first Antonia Fraser history, and I am so delighted that this is the one I chose I highly respect her methods, her voice, and her manner of presentation If I can become half the historian that she is I will consider myself quite accomplished She s utterly meticulous, and obeys the rule of cite cite cite, several times a page, using as many primary documents as possible, and notifying the reader when an account of a story comes from someone who was not present, or who hadn t been born yet, or who had a reason to write with some kind of bias She goes out of her way to note even the slightest possibility of error, giving us footnotes even on the origin of various paintings, or the craftsmanship attribution of the Queen s badges Things that might not even seem important she makes it a point that every fact is important, and the historian doesn t get to decide which ones to give and which ones to withhold It is for the reader to decide that While one historian might simply state an event, Antonia Fraser goes through several different versions of an event, drawn from different eyewitness accounts, analyzing the likelihood of one story or another being true She makes it a point to address our most prominent myths about the Queens, and tell us either why they re untrue, or leave the question open I really liked that it shows a respect for the reader s intelligence that was very appealing All of this gave her writing a very reassuringly evenhanded, fair, measured tone that would hardly ever lapse I think there were only a few occasions when the author allowed her opinions to be known usually through a snide comment, but she was always careful to make sure that she wasn t presenting it as fact, just a possibility Honestly, it didn t bother me because most of such opinions were after chapters of dealing with the same nonsense from a particular character until I wanted to scream at them and Antonia Fraser just allowed herself a Jane Austen, ladylike sarcastic sideswipe I liked that too showed there was a bit of a person behind there, no matter how hard she tried to keep up the facade.Okay, right, onto the actual queens themselves and the stereotypes Catherine of Aragon, The Betrayed Wife Honestly, I think that it is this stereotype that is the most true It is sort of hard to deny after reading all of the crap that Henry put the poor woman through But she does rescue her from being merely a wife very handily Catherine is seen to have some power, her own opinions, a fantastic sense of drama when necessary Not to mention we see just how happy their marriage was for a time Also, the first section contains a lengthy description of the diplomatic conditions of the time period, sets up the rivalry of the Three Kings, and explains just why it was such a coup for Henry VII to get Catherine in the first place and how her status changed It was a fascinating lesson in the diplomatic ways and means of the period, and just how unstable this Europe was in many ways, even before Luther and his door nailing party Anne Boleyn, The Temptress, I acquit her of this one, mostly After all, she did wait seven years for the guy to marry her, and didn t sleep with him until well into the sixth year Also, Henry seems to have been rather singleminded about his loves, so Antonia Fraser did a good job of pointing out the situation she was in and how limited her options were once she attracted the attention of the king Also, interesting discourse on her Lutheran tendancies it appears she was a geniune reformer Had intellectual interests other than catching men However, I don t acquit her of being an utter bitch at times, especially to Mary Though I do now have understanding of her insecurity and why that may have happened Jane Seymour, The Good Woman The poor girl didn t live long enough to judge Turns out she may have been kind of a prude, and definitely was interested in protecting her position as Queen some jealousy towards the pretty girls around her She was also probably not particularly Protestant, which was interesting Anna of Cleves, The Ugly Sister This was, oddly, probably the most interesting bit of the book Her story is a fascinating stumble of mistakes and miscues, rash decisions followed by waiting periods Girl got totally screwed over by her relatives and Henry, though he did pay for her upkeep after the divorce She seems to have been well meaning at first, and probably wasn t ugly at all Tried really hard to become English The interesting part is that she succeeded, stayed on at the court, etc Seems she felt rejected when Henry didn t remarry her after the death of Katherine Howard and she had the capability to be just as much of a bitch as Anne Boleyn Also, she survived the longest of the wives Interesting personality I d like to read a novel of her life someone should write that Katherine Howard The Bad Girl Nope, not particularly evil Just dumb and shallow your basic girl from a small town goes to the big city for college and loses her head a little bit Flighty, kind of dumb Catherine Parr The Mother Figure Not really Yes, she was a pretty good nurse She was chosen for her maturity But I don t think it was to mother him necessarily Henry just always needed a woman next to him to oppress them, sometimes Also to take care of him and adore him He likes dominating women and loving them about equally for most of his life, the balance tips to selfish domination and getting his own way towards the end She had interesting religious opinions, and definitely a mind of her own Probably the most Protestant Queen, next to Anne Boleyn I loved the portrait of her after Henry died, how she sort of overflowed with the repressed life that she d had to hide as Queen Some bad things went on then, but it was heartbreakingly understandable I think I liked her best of all the Queens, except when Anne Boleyn was at her earthiest and most honest.Overall lesson As Fraser tells us herself, women were truly helpless to the whims of their male relatives, strong personalities or not, and doubly so if this person was the king It sucked to be a woman and yet women were fighting back against it in small ways all the time In small ways In the ways open to them Some of them were wise enough not to try, tried to work within the system Some of them said fuck that Anne Boleyn being among those.Also, as many others have said about this book these women were women, not symbols Henry VIII was a man, not a monster Granted, he did terrible things, but Antonia Fraser is able to break those down, tell us why they may not have seemed like terrible things at the time She s able to try to give us some psychological insight as to why he might have felt himself justified, or why he became the person that he did It doesn t give you sympathy with him, per se, but it did succeed in lessening the vitrolic disgust a bit Context always helps with that, of course.Anyway to wrap up this loooong review oops , I will say that I recommend this to those interested in the Tudor era, women s studies, Tudor foreign affairs, or anyone willing to sit through a bit of history for some good psychological profiles.

  2. says:

    I read this non fiction account of the six wives of Henry VIII because my interest was piqued by the television series The Tudors and the historical fiction novels Tudor Court by Philippa Gregory Prior to these two sources, I had no real knowledge of the women Henry married of course, I knew their fates were divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded and survived as that little ditty goes although I had not heard that particular ditty So where better to go to now than a non fiction account by prominent historical biographer, Antonia Fraser One must bear in mind that this book is Non Fiction as opposed to Historical Fiction there is a big difference in the two genres As Fraser says It is seductive to regard the six wives of Henry VIII as a series of feminine stereotypes but Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr possessed real intellectual ability, during those fraught months of 1536, Jane Seymour s comportment was a model of discreet wisdom, Anna of Cleves behaviour during her bewildering short marriage displayed a touching dignity and poor Katherine Howard a charming amoral butterfly. But there is depth to the women who featured in Henry s marriages as he was driven to provide an heir for the English throne.Fraser provides you with so much interesting information she sources documents, written accounts, letters, bills of fare and much She quotes ambassadors at the court, in particular and my favourite Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador who provided a link to home for Katherine of Aragon, later a link to Katherine for Mary.I particularly liked how Fraser gave you a history of the women, their family connections and how they, somewhat unfortunately I think, came into Henry s radar It was refreshing, for me, that she did not impose emotions on the wives, rather she says would might have felt , could have imagined when relating the women s perspective I have not read any other Historical Biographer s work of this topic so I cannot make any comparisons I will say I tremendously enjoyed this comprehensive account of six women who are distinguished in history by their fate 5

  3. says:

    Having read a book called the last queen which details the life of queen Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country s throne, her sister Catherine of Argon was the first wife go King Henry VIII I came across when it was reviewed by a Goodreads member I decided to give it a try as Tudor history has not been high my radar and I wanted to learn about Catherine s time in England I was pleasantly surprised by this book as it is well written and well researched and Antonia Fraser gives an insight into the women and the marriages of King Henry VIII without too much of the politics of the time As I say I am not a fan of Tudor History but this managed to keep me interested and I learned a little something along the way The author included family trees, photos, and notes throughout the book which I really feel added so much to the book.I think this has satisfied my curiosity on the Tudors as the book was very informative.

  4. says:

    I haveattempted to deal with each woman in turn with the sympathy I feel they all deserve for having had the unenviable fate to my way of thinking of being married to Henry VIII At the same time I have tried to practise the detachment which recognizes that this is an eminently modern judgement not one of the King s six wives married him against her will I have also hoped to practise that detachment towards the King himself the gigantic Maypole at the centre of of all round which these women had to dance But of course this is not his story It is theirs I ll open by stating the good aspects of this book first, it s obviously very well researched and Fraser does her best to stay neutral and not call Henry a stupid fat bastard with the emotional maturity of a toddler you know it s true It s all very in depth and informative, and I would have no reservations about recommending it to someone who wanted to learn about Henry VIII s wives beyond the old divorced beheaded died, divorced beheaded survived thing It s not bad, is what I m saying But I only gave it two stars why Simply because, in my mind, Antonia Fraser failed to deliver what she promised in the beginning of the book She says that her goal is to show us these women beyond their respective stereotypes the Betrayed Wife, the Temptress, the Good Woman, the Ugly Sister, the Bad Girl, and the Mother Figure Fraser says she s going to make us see that these women were than their stereotypes make them seem, and that we shouldn t think of them in these terms But you know what, Fraser The stereotypes are true Katherine of Aragon was Henry s loyal wife for over twenty years and he betrayed her Anne Boleyn seduced Henry and kept him interested for seven years until he married her Jane Seymour was a good woman by Tudor standards because she gave Henry a son and didn t cheat on him possibly because she just didn t have enough time Anne of Cleves was not attractive, and after Henry divorced her she was treated as his sister Katherine Howard cheated on Henry, which is both bad and stupid Catherine Parr was a good wife and a good mother to her three stepchildren and needy immature husband The stereotypes exist because they re based on truth, and any extra information Fraser shares with us about these women s educations or whatever doesn t do much to convince me otherwise And maybe I ve just read too many books about the Tudors, but I didn t feel like I really learned anything from this There was new information about the wives, sure, but none of it really shocked me or made me see them in a different light The ideal reader for this book is someone who s recently become obsessed with that HBO show The Tudors, and is curious to see how accurate the show really is If I knew someone like that, I d recommend Fraser s book without hesitation It s a good introduction to the real story of Henry VIII s famous wives, but since I already knew the story, the book didn t have much to offer me.

  5. says:

    This is a work of elaborate research into and objective recount of the lives and fates of the six queens of Henry VIII Although I had to struggle with the innumerable and often confusing names and titles of the gargantuan cast in the presentation, this didn t thwart my desire to get to the end.The stories of the women themselves are poignant, if not upsetting upsetting because they are not fictitious but real people Their fates are a direct result of the times they lived in, which was probably one of the bloodiest reigns in English history, not to mention their ill luck of being tied in marital bond with, to say the least, a volatile and self indulgent monarch who was obsessed with the issue of a male heir.The author did a good job in explaining in detail the intricacies of European politics in that era the unending strife between the Catholic and Protestant factions, the in court rivalry between the consort related nobility and the use of royal marriages for political ends Highlighting such labyrinthine political background are the calculating and often deadly machinations by stakeholders behind a masquerade of civility and honor.One gruesome detail of the narrative is the description of those monstrous capital punishments and tortures permitted under sixteenth century English law, which rival in cruelty with China s penal system in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties.Overall, the moral lesson that can be drawn from this historical account is perhaps that a ruler or political leader man or woman can never be trusted with having absolute, unchecked power over others.

  6. says:

    Loved everything about this For me, Antonia Fraser can do no wrong at least thus far I even learned a few new things about the wives, which I didn t think was possible at this point Highly recommended.

  7. says:

    Some may think that having already read The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir, that reading The Wives of Henry VIII would be Tudor over kill and nothing than repetition However, Antonia Fraser manages to put her own spin on these famous wives and brings out details and facets of each woman that I hadn t previously contemplated I am not sure I could choose a favorite between Weir and Fraser If I remember correctly, Weir seemed to put a bit focus on Anne Boleyn while Fraser leaned a bit towards Catherine of Aragon It took me awhile to read this book through not fault of the author or the book itself , but I was able to pick up where I left off each time I read and I finally made it through Some people are uncomfortable leisure reading history books because of the boredom factor Frasier has an easy narrative way of writing that keeps you interested in the story of this king and his ill fated wives I would highly recommend this to established Tudor afficionados as well as fans of The Tudors series on Showtime who may want to learn a bit about this storied royal family.

  8. says:

    La storia di Enrico VIII e delle sue sei mogli sembra fatta apposta per affascinare il pubblico divorzi, tradimenti, esecuzioni, quasi una soap opera ante litteram Il rischio per il biografo per che romanzi troppo per il gusto del raccontare, o al contrario che in nome del rigore storico privi le vicende del mordente e del fascino che indubbiamente rivestono La Fraser non cade in nessuna delle due trappole e ci offre un saggio curato nei dettagli senza rinunciare alla piacevolezza dell esposizione Il suo intento donare spessore e profondit a queste donne intrappolate nel mito, immergendole in un contesto realistico e storicamente molto accurato la forza del libro sta proprio nel non dimenticare mai che ci stiamo occupando di persone vere, con le loro ambizioni e i loro drammi privati aldil dell importanza storica che rivestono per i posteri.Lo stile poi brillante, a volte sembra quasi di leggere un romanzo vista la vivacit con cui narrato e l abbondanza di aneddoti e piccole scene quotidiane che snelliscono la prosa.Penso sia un libro ideale per chi appassionato di storia, ma allo stesso tempo in cerca di un libro scorrevole che sia da leggere e non da studiare.

  9. says:

    I wanted to get a better overview of the whole series of wives of Henry VIII from the vantage of actual history, rather than historical fiction I also wanted to get a better picture of what happened after Anne Boleyn I enjoyed this book a great deal Fraser creates a compelling narrative while retaining good scholarship She does a good job of going over what information is hard fact, what is conjecture, what is rumor, what is likely or unlikely she s honest about the reliability of the various pieces information available and analyzes what does doesn t make sense In particular, I appreciated reading the context of Henry VIII s reign and relationships in terms of what was happening on the continent Because the story of the English reformation and Henry VIII is presented both in basic American history textbooks and in popular culture in isolation, there were some lines that I never drew between events until reading this book For instance, we never say much about the Puritans until they re already on the boat and headed our way but in fact, they were on the rise in the early reign of Henry VIII, catching the interest of not only Anne Boleyn but Jane Seymour and other members of court and the aristocracy The humanist writings of Erasmus and the reforming tracts of Martin Luther were also getting a lot of attention by this time It was very helpful to consider how this would have contributed to the choices made at court Beyond that, the Hapsburg Empire in continental Europe and the kings of France and Spain also had a big influence on Henry VIII s selections for himself and his children One somewhat throw away line about Suleiman the Magnificent fighting the Hapsburgs was almost embarrassingly revelatory Duh all these things were happening at the SAME TIME Why have I never thought of how they would have had at least a tangential relationship with each other Why is the history of so many interacting players always presented in little pieces, as though they are separate tents instead of rooms in the same house I also never got a thorough appreciation for Henry s obsession with having a son Americans come away from World History class with the impression that Henry VIII was just following his pecker around We re never given a clear impression of the awful civil wars that occurred in England whenever the succession was not clear And yet of course, he was king if all he wanted was to get laid, who would stop him But the idea of having a stable of illegitimate children to challenge for the throne would have been a bad one The idea of leaving an inadequate number of sons, in a sexist world of high child and infant mortality, was also a bad one In fact, Henry VIII seems to have taken the lessons of English history and his own responsibilities in providing a clear succession rather seriously, and genuinely found his lack of sons as a possible judgement from God on the validity of his marriages to both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn Fraser does a good job of presenting this concept to readers who are not steeped in early English history the way a native might be.

  10. says:

    Not a bad one, but definitely for beginners I felt like this covered all the information that I expected it to and I didn t feel like I learned new things about the women Fraser sets out to disprove the common stereotypes of them Catherine of Aragon is the loyal wife Anne Boleyn was a temptress Jane Seymour didn t have a chance to be anything but the good wife Anne of Cleves, in Henry s eyes, was the ugly wife Katherine Howard s choices made her a bad girl Catherine Parr was Henry s mother figure While Fraser does illuminate things that made them unique Catherine of Aragon fought to the death and wasn t loyal to maintain her queenship Anne Boleyn was very, very smart and religious Catherine Parr was also a scholar but it still felt like she followed the stereotypes Still, I would totally recommend this to people who are starting their Tudor journey and want a book that s easy to understand and covers the information that you want it too in a relatively unbiased way.