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Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII [Paperback]

Dr David Starkey
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Mar 2004

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived

CATHERINE OF ARAGON: the pious Spanish Catholic who suffered years of miscarriages and failed to produce a male heir...

ANNE BOLEYN: the pretty, clever, French-educated Protestant whose marriage to Henry changed England forever...

JANE SEYMOUR: the demure and submissive contrast to Anne Boleyn's radical and vampish style...

ANNE OF CLEVES: 'the mare of Flanders' whose short marriage to the overweight Henry followed a farcical 'beauty contest'...

CATHERINE HOWARD: the flirtatious teenager whose adulteries made a fool of the ageing king... CATHERINE PARR: the shrewd, religiously radical bluestocking who outlived him...

In this dazzling study, David Starkey gives us 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.

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Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII + Elizabeth: Apprenticeship + Reign Of Henry VIII: The Personalities and Politics
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Product details

  • Paperback: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (4 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099437244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099437246
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr David Starkey is Bye Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. He is a winner of the W.H.Smith Prize for Biography (for Elizabeth) and the Norton Medlicott Medal for Service to History presented by the Historical Association.

Product Description

Amazon Review

David Starkey's massive Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII follows on the huge commercial success of Elizabeth. Like its predecessor, Starkey's latest book mixes its author's scholarly erudition with a mischievous eye for a contemporary comparison or salacious soundbite. Starkey's topic is, as he admits from the outset, "one of the world's great stories"--the lives, and deaths, of the six wives of King Henry VIII. The story has been told before, but as Starkey points out, it has been wrapped in the romantic myth of 19th-century historiography.

Starkey's virtue lies in his return to the archives to unearth new evidence for his story of Henry's wives. The result is a weighty blockbuster that will annoy the purists but delight the popular reader. Henry is portrayed as a fairytale prince gradually transformed into a "prematurely aged and bloated monster". Starkey concludes that "like us, he expected marriage to make him happy", but this simple desire had increasingly disastrous consequences.

Henry worked his way through a series of wives from Catherine of Aragon to Catherine Parr who, according to Starkey, encompass "the full range of female stereotypes: the Saint, the Schemer, the Doormat, the Dim Fat Girl, the Sexy Teenager, and the Bluestocking". While this tends to flatten out the complexity of many of Henry's wives, there is plenty on the cataclysmic impact of the Reformation, new evidence on Henry's first wife's marriage to his brother, and a reconsideration of Henry's final wife, Catherine Parr, as "the first Queen of the Age of Print", to keep even the most sceptical reader happy. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A tribute to Starkey's narrative drive, his puckish wit and sharp discrimination" (Sunday Times)

"Relentlessly scholarly...Starkey's is the best study of Henry's wives ever published... A masterly and persuasive narrative which never loses its grip over the story or the reader" (Evening Standard)

"High-powered history pithily expressed... This study of Henry VIII's women shows David Starkey at his best" (Sunday Telegraph)

"So gripping that one finishes it wishing it were even longer... The punchy style adopted by Starkey is perfectly suited to the story he has to tell" (Mail on Sunday)

"Starkey keeps the narrative alive with a combination of sound chronology, peppery opinion and startling detail... Six Wives provides an intriguing new perspective on this key period in English history" (Daily Telegraph)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
99 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book for new-comers and experts 5 Aug 2004
I have always been fascinated by the story of the Tudor dynasty, and pride myself on having read most books currently available on the subject. I was somewhat apprehensive about reading Starkey's examination of the six fascinating women who were married (however briefly) to Henry VIII. But I needn't have been. This was historical scholarship at its best.
Starkey cannot be accused of romanticising history, and he successfully blows apart some of the more cherished romantic anecdotes surrounding Henry's queens. It transpires that Henry probably didn't nickname his fifth wife his "rose without a thorn" and that Catherine Parr, his sixth, certainly didn't act as a nurse to her ailing husband. Starkey is similarly unprepared to prop-up misconceptions and stereotypes. He refuses to present Catherine of Aragon as a saint, despite the best efforts of numerous other historians and novelists to present Henry's first wife as a perfect wife, mother, queen and Christian. Rather, Starkey shows Catherine to have been admirable, politically-important and dignified; but he also shows that she could be deceitful, incalcitrant and naive.
Anne Boleyn (to whom most of the book is devoted) emerges as a more likeable individual than she does in Alison Weir's narratives. Anne's political and religious impact is the main focus of Starkey's narrative but he also reveals Anne's charisma, intelligence and style (even if he also relates how she could be a temperamental drama queen when she wanted to be!) Starkey also manages to construct a new (and more convincing) timetable for Henry's affair with Anne, and persuasively argues that Henry had a much larger part to play in Lord Percy's enforced marriage than previously believed.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More about the King than his wives 8 May 2004
By Elise
Format:Audio CD
There is a certain fascination with the larger than life (and towards the end of his life, grotesque) figure of Henry VIII. Of all of the Kings of England/Britain he is almost certainly the most recognisable. And the Tudor era certainly seems to be one which fascinates on television lately. This book, however, was supposed to be about, not King Henry, but his wives. Although they are all here, along with their life stories (to a greater or lesser extent - for some their lives before becoming Queen seem to be shrouded in mystery) the figure of Henry dominates the book, very much as he must have dominated these women in life.
The most interesting stories are that of Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Here the stories are most dramatic, and therefore most gripping. In audiocassette form, the first 2 (of 4) tapes are taken up with these two - more Katherine than Anne admittedly, though of course, their stories overlap by about 7 years. The final four wives make do with approximately a side of a tape apiece.
Although well written the final four wives seem almost two-dimensional characters in comparison with Henry and his first two wives, and it is easy to see why there are biographies of Anne Boleyn by the score, but very few of say Jane Seymour - you simply couldn't find enough to write a full-length book it seems.
As I have read a couple of David Starkey's books before and found them to have depth, as well as being amongst the most fast paced and readable of histories, I do wonder how much personal detail about the women, which would turn this from a history text into a collection of biographies, was cut in the abridgement. I suppose I shall just have to read the book to find out.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio Cassette
Historian and Tudor specialist, David Starkey, has made - and perhaps enjoys - a public reputation from his TV and radio appearances in Britain as a combative, quarrelsome and idiosyncratic free thinker who does not suffer fools gladly. Noone doubts the sharpness of his intellect but, say his detractors, he is sometimes just a little too opinionated and cocksure for his own good.
That is a shame, since as this latest work on the Six Wives of Henry VIII shows, away from the TV lights, Starkey is also a first class historian of clear perception, astute psychological insight and mature judgement.
For sure there are some early 'Starkeyisms' to be found here: Richard III, we are told 'almost certainly' killed the Princes in the Tower. Well, maybe he did and maybe he didn't. Or even let's say, conceding Starkey's case, that "although still disputed by some, the balance of evidence suggests strongly that Richard killed the princes." But, though the word 'almost suggests he may be mellowing, Starkey is not usually given to such weaselly shades of grey in his contempt for the pre-Tudor English establishment. Strange, because he is very capable of subtlety, refinement and moral ambivalence when it comes to his favoured dynasty.
Here, his portrait of Catherine of Aragon, for example, is freshly original, balanced and credible: his Catherine is 'saintly' for sure but also shrewd, calculating and not averse to the darker arts of political intrigue and spin. Further Starkey brings a novelist's gift of enabling us to empathise, at one and the same time with both Catherine and her arch enemy, and replacement as Queen, Anne Boleyn.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A master at bringing history to life
I saw the TV series before I read this book so I could hear Starkey's voice in every line. He's one of my favourite historians because he just makes the events and characters from... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Les
4.0 out of 5 stars Tudors
Got this book to complement the Mantel books on Cromwell. Strange chatty style, but very readable.
The book was in fine condition, and amazingly low in price- also it arrived... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Troy Beal
5.0 out of 5 stars loved the book
I must admit that i am a fan of David Starkey, his books are so easy to read.They are written in a straight forward & concise manner. Read more
Published 7 months ago by kitty
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
After watching David Starkey in his television series this book was a must! Whilst reading this book I felt that I was actually there I felt the tension of living in those... Read more
Published 10 months ago by olga eddy
5.0 out of 5 stars good product
I love tudor history, so I keep this on my shelf for when I need a knowledge top up. I have never read the book throughout, despite owning it for over 2 years! Read more
Published 10 months ago by Lizzy
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read at a bargain price
Bought in good condition second hand for 2.80. A very well written book. Makes clear the complex political issues of Tudor England.
Published 10 months ago by W. B. Collins
5.0 out of 5 stars Starkey at his best!
A massive book to get through but well worth it. Fascinating facts on Henry's six wives. Was interesting to learn about their previous family lives before Henry got his hands on... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Noz
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Very good. Very quick, Very reliable. Very pleased . Super quick . No fuss. Very competitive price wise. Informed when it was available straight away.
Published 11 months ago by Mr. Alan W. Beckley
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling
David Starkey's "Six Wives the Queens of Henry VIII" is an essential book in your Tudor bookcase. David Starkey lays out his interpretation of events, letters, court gossip and... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Kelpiemare
4.0 out of 5 stars David Starkey inaccuracies?
I was really excited to read this book, and although I haven't reached the end yet, I'm already a little disappointed. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Miss H L Brown
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