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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars sympathetic personal biography
If, like me, most historical narratives are a bit hard going (all those dates and wars!) then this is a perfect antidote: Fraser focuses on the personal lives of Henry and his wives, relegating the politics to the background.

She manages to keep all the wives distinct and give them their own persoanlity which is excellent, as well as charting Henry's...
Published on 9 July 2007 by Roman Clodia

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars History
Fascinating but became a bit tedious towards the end but that is probably my fault. If you want the story with meat and bone then it's the book for you.
Published 16 months ago by Robert Ridgley


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of 16th intrigue, horror and romance, 12 April 2001
By A Customer
Six wives, six lives, six women, six tales of romance, hope, lust and murder. This book is not about Henry V111 its about the couragous and ill fated women who were married to him. As scholarly as all of Antonia Frasers history books are, it is also a completely absorbing tale of doomed romance, hope and legalised murder. The women are not victims but come across and strong and couragous to the end, whatever their eventually fate. Read this book and dismiss the monster Henry and fall in love with his women, who deserved so much better. A great book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and sympathetic look at the wives of Henry VIII, 16 Jun. 2010
By 
A. L. Rutter "Floor to Ceiling Books" (Portsmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
As Fraser points out at the start of her novel detailing the lives of Henry's six wives, most people onl know them by either the rhyme "divorced, beheaded, died... divorced, beheaded, survived" or by the female stereotypes attributed to them: "the Betrayed Wife, the Temptress, the Good Woman, the Ugly Sister, the Bad Girl and the Mother Figure." Fraser sets out to debunk myths and present an unbiased view of the six women who came to share Henry's life. Unlike other books of this nature, Henry is not focused on at all - we merely see glimpses of the man he is at the time of each of his marriages.

Fraser writes extremely sensitively about each of the six women - telling their tales from birth to death and using contemporary sources as far as possible. The research is impeccable and allows Fraser to consider many of the myths that have grown up around one or other of the wives and decide whether they might be true or not.

I loved the fact that each woman was presented as being courageous and spirited - they each had some good quality that Fraser explored in her quest to discover why that particular woman caught the eye of the king.

A great deal of learning can be achieved from this novel. For instance, I did not realise that it was Henry's desire for a male heir that drove him so thoroughly to move from woman to woman. I also was not aware of how he had each time lined up the successor to the queen he wanted to rid himself of. Again, it was new to me the fact that Henry was married to Catherine of Aragon for over 20 years, while the sum total of years of his other five marriages numbered just ten. It presents an entirely different view of Catherine - of a royal princess whom the king cast off reluctantly, but whom also did not go quietly.

Another point that both amused and horrified was the reputation that Henry VIII (and, by extension, England) developed thanks to his mistreatment of wives. England was universally laughed and sneered at by the other countries in Europe, and it might well have caused many of the European princesses to be withheld from Henry for fear of how they might be treated (thereby changing the course of history?)

My one real fault of this book is its density. It is extremely well-written and as gripping as a non-fiction historical novel can be but there are still dry passages which take a while to read through. In addition, there are a great many notes that add to the reading but necessitate flicking back and forth within the book which disturbs the narrative flow.

I have great admiration for the fact that Fraser managed to present an impartial viewpoint on each of the six wives and strove to reach understanding as to their motives. I did come away from the book with a sneaking suspicion that she preferred Catherine of Aragon and decried the actions of Katherine Howard - it would be interesting to know if I had correctly identified her most and least favourite of the six wives.

There is a current trend at the moment (in fiction, led by Phillippa Gregory, and on television, including series by David Starkey) for exploring anew the Tudors and the "tyrant" who epitomises the lineage. This book should be read by anyone who has been interested in this period of history - in summary, it is a well-rounded and sympathetic look at the six wives of Henry VIII.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reading about six fascinating women!, 23 Aug. 2007
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Antonia Fraser's book focuses on the six queens as individuals, one chapter about each queen. They are very different personalities and no doubt there was quite a bit of jalousy between them. Anne Boleyn (2 - The Most Happy?) may seem the most colourful and famous of the six, but this book shows that both Catherine of Aragon (1, Arthur's Dearest Spouse), Jane Seymor (3 - Entirely beloved), Anna of Cleves (4 - An Unendurable bargain), Katherine Howard (5 - Old Man's Jewel) and Catherine Parr (6 - Obedient to Husbands) were all every bit as interesting.

I felt very sympathetic to these ladies. Maybe in particular, Anna of Cleves, whose marriage to the King was never consummated and finally nullified. After 6 months as Queen, the docile lady Anna submit to the King's will and spent over 17 years as a "good Sister", never to return to her native Germany. Her burial place is, however, magnificient, her fine tomb to be found in Westminster Abbey.

The book also explains a lot about the King's relationship with his queens as a young man, when he was a strapping attractive youth, not only the old, sick and fat man who is usually pictured/painted in history books. It would not have been difficult for a young woman to fall in love with, as the book says, "this fine figure of a man, with his tall blond good looks".

The reason for the many marriages and their unfortunate/cruel outcome, was Henry VIII's desperate attempt to get at least one male heir to the throne. His marriages failed in ensuring this succession, and therein lay the unique fate of his six queens and the religious and political developments in England during Henry's reign.

There was, of course, Edward, Prince of Wales, his son by Jane Seymour. But Edward was not strong and died at an early age. In the end, his daughter by Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth, became Queen Elizabeth I of England, but in quite a different connection and not as a succession to her father.

I enjoyed Antonia Fraser's book immensely and learned numerous new facts about both the King himself and his six interesting queens.

This is a book which is not a tedious history lesson, marred by too many dates and facts. Apart from an interest in six unique women and a very special time in English history, one does not need any particular qualifications to read and enjoy this book. And at the same time, learn!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser, 22 Aug. 2010
By 
G. C. Gough (Bristol UK) - See all my reviews
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This book contains charts of the royal lineage; it would have benefited from a table of everyone else and their relationships mentioned in the pages. Far too many names crop up for comfortable remembering. Otherwise, a nice re-exploration of one of the best loved periods of British History from the point of view of the wives. What a bully of a man!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Would Satisfy Any Feminist in its Respect for the Queens as Individuals, 26 July 2013
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Wives of Henry VIII (Hardcover)
Upon its 1992 American publication, THE WIVES OF HENRY VIII by critics' darling British biographer/historian Lady Antonia Fraser was on the New York Times bestseller list for six weeks. The New York Times Book Review, among other publications, said that it "admirably succeed[s] in bringing to life the six women who married England's legendary ruler." That legendary ruler was, of course, the sixteenth century's Henry VIII of England, the richest, biggest bully and Blue Beard of them all.

Note that Fraser has chosen to name her book THE WIVES OF HENRY VIII, not "The Six Wives of Henry VIII."The author has noted the prevalence, in British gift shops, of miniatures of Henry and his six wives, looking, for all the world, like those Russian dolls that fit one inside the next. Fraser also notes that the wives have long been defined by the roles they played in the monarch's life. British schoolchildren learn them as "divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived." And as female stereotypes, "the Betrayed Wife, the Temptress, the Good Woman, the Ugly Sister, the Bad Girl, and, finally, the Mother Figure."

In this hefty book that runs 430 pages, plus notes, charts, family trees and maps, 16 pages in color and 32 pages of illustrations, we get the author's fact-packed efforts to free these outstanding women from centuries of misunderstanding and simplification. They were, of course, the majestic Catherine of Aragon; the almost modern-seeming Anne Boleyn; the quiet Jane Seymour; Anna of Cleves, dubbed the "Mare of Flanders" by Henry upon their first meeting; poor little Katherine Howard, not yet twenty when the king first noticed her, and the twice-widowed Catherine Paar, who nursed him through his last days, and, due to the poisonous atmosphere at his court, nearly did not survive him.

The court of Henry VIII was certainly rife with intrigue, rivalries, jealousies, ambitions, romances; none would have been better placed to understand this than the women at its heart. The Tudor period of English history is essentially dramatic, an age of international warfare, uncontrolled fatal illnesses, social unrest and growing religious discord. Add the overweening life arc of Henry, who transformed from handsome young monarch to debauched obese tyrant, a dangerous man wielding absolute power, which is unrivaled in its striking nature. So it's no surprise that today this period is extremely popular, often treated in literature, theater, and film. See the American Showtime television series THE TUDORS; THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, the film based upon Philippa Gregory's book of the same name, THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL; the historical fiction works by Alison Weir; or the multi-award-winning literary historical novels by Hilary Mantel, WOLF HALL, BRING UP THE BODIES. I believe there's even a stage play in London about the Tudors at this time. However, I really don't know whether this era was as popular or well-known at the time this book was published, though there was the 1969 film ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS, and the 1966 film A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS.

THE WIVES was a best seller in 1992. However, I wonder if it would be so if published now. The writer has clearly done a vast amount of research, the book is very informative, and would satisfy any feminist in its respect for the queens as individuals. But it's not quick reading. I never met a fact I didn't love - and Fraser even tells us how many shoes were ordered annually from Belgium, apparently THE place to get them, by queens Katherine Howard and Catherine Paar--and what a great detail that is. But I found the book a slow go.

Mind you, I studied the history of this momentous century at a fine university: granted, my studies were largely centered on Italy, rather than England. But there were certainly intersections: Henry was, after all, desperately negotiating with an Italian pope for his annulment or divorce when the marital dramas of his life begin.

Lady Antonia Fraser is author of many popular biographies of historical, frequently female figures, best-known, perhaps, for Mary Queen Of Scots, and Marie Antoinette. (Sofia Coppola based her recent film Marie Antoinette on Lady Antonia's book of the same name.) Fraser also penned a detective series featuring Jemima Shore, television news presenter that was made into a TV series at one time. Lady Antonia is the daughter of a well-known literary family, known as, alternatively, the Pakenhams, or Longfords, who are almost as famous as the Mitford sisters of the 1930s.

Well, more years ago now than either Lady Antonia or I would like to recall, I interviewed her for an American newspaper, and found her, as you can surely guess, attractive, charming, and personable. And she gave me a great line that I suppose she'd successfully used before, that resulted in the interview's selling itself to further publications, including "Readers' Digest." She'd found, she said, that she benefited from the "after all" theory. People would say that perhaps her books were not the greatest. But, after all, she did have six children. Others might say that the six children were not the best-behaved; but after all, she did write books. Lady Antonia has indeed raised six children and written many books; this one is admirable, if not an easy read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An insightful listen, 18 Feb. 2003
This was a very interesting listen about a subject that is much talked aabout. It spans from the Birth and early years of Catherine of Aragon to the death of Anne of Cleves. The thing that I liked about this was that it focuses on the wives, seeing events fron thier point of view. What really comes accross though is that they were all victims of circumstances beyond thier control. A great audio book for people who enjoy history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Whole History of King Henry's Wives, 23 May 2011
The last time I read a book this thick was too long ago. I bought it because I thought I would flick through it "at some stage". Well, I started reading it and was inthrawled.

Like another reader, I did find that so many people's names did get me muddled. But you don't just have a name thrown at you - you are told how they fit into the bigger picture. I may go back and do another linear chart because the characters are so intertwined.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII is an easy, enlightening read. The footnotes are short and informative. The numbering system throughout shows the source of the information (if you really want to look it up - I didn't). The bibliography at the back is a ideal reference point and would give anyone a good idea where to go, if they wished to see "the real article".

I would not hesitate in buying any of Antonia Frazer's other books. In fact I have Mary, Queen of Scots waiting in the wings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Book by Antonia Fraser I have Read!!, 2 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: The Six Wives Of Henry VIII (WOMEN IN HISTORY) (Kindle Edition)
Wonderful book I don't have words to describe how much I enjoyed it, for me Antonia Fraser gave me a feel of the reality of life at that time. It is always easy for history to be written as something that is not real or not something that happened but with this book I could understand how the women would have felt, their lives were in danger they must have known that!!

The Six Wives of Henry VIII: In my opinion a must read, brilliant!!!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars King's Consorts, 30 Oct. 2013
By 
Amazon Customer (Limerick, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Six Wives Of Henry VIII (WOMEN IN HISTORY) (Kindle Edition)
Antonia Fraser is a wonderful researcher & writer. This book told me all I wanted to know about the Six Wives & as one expects from this author, it told me in a very interesting way. Excellent read if you have even minimal interest in the subject. A very telling portrait of Henry VIII too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good easy history, 22 Jan. 2013
This review is from: The Six Wives Of Henry VIII (WOMEN IN HISTORY) (Kindle Edition)
I listened to an audio version of this whilst doing household chores and cooking etc. I found it very easy to listen to and a good balanced account of the wives. I liked the little extra details about the Queens that were mentioned. I would recommend this as a fairly easy historical nook about the six wives and will definately read more Antonia Fraser in the future.
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