15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Clearing the cobwebs from historical myth!, 21 Aug 2003
Finally, a definitive book on those most famous and misunderstood women who comprise the myth of Henry VIII. Starkey has written a seminal volume that blows the lid off the "set-in-stone" images of the six women, most especially Katharine of Aragon, to whom the majority of the first half of the book is appropriately focused on-- after all, he was married (or not) to her for longer thajn all the others put together. Katharine's image as the pious, marble Madonna is smashed with Starkey's historical record, showing her to be quite well-informed, machinating and matching Henry's moves, often before Henry himself was ready to make a move. As a counter, little space is devoted to the "relatively unimportant wives," although I regret that more information does not exist about the secluded life of Anne of Cleeves-- but history does not provide for such desires. Starkey's book rivals, and indeed betters, all other books available that focus not only on the personalities of the women themselves, but Henry's manipulations, cuckolding, pressures and obsessions in dealing with them. Anne Boleyn emerges, not surprisingly, as a frenetic, shrewish, frightened woman, but the Catherine Howard legend takes a completely different, and often quite empathetic view, at least in modern terms-- perhaps Starkey's views are with a 21st century approach, but regardless, they bring these women to life in a a way never before available--or so deeply enjoyed--as this book does. This is not only a magnificent starting point for anyone interested in the topic, but a fantastic oppoortunity to examine our own taught or inherent beliefs about these six women. Needless to say, this is highly recommended.