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Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII Paperback – 4 Mar 2004
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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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David Starkeys Six Wives is ( as it was ment to be ) a true masterpiece. I found it a more informative than Alison Weir's book although Mr. Starkeys is considerably more heavy. Having said that anyone who is interested in Tudor history must have a copy.
This is David Starkey at his very best. A book to be proud of which just wanted me to read even more Tudor history. A true masterpiece.
But Prof Starkey seems merely to regurgitate the usual stuff with little new analysis as to how it came about,why, etc. Again, undue reliance is placed on the writings of Eustache Chapuys, which are trotted out as if gospel (Chapuys said) , apart from the odd reminder that Chapuys is for Catherine of Aragon and against Anne Boleyn. Surely it is much more than this? Chapuys was writing for the Emperor's consumption, nothing else, (and certainly not for English posterity), and would write what his Emperor would like to hear, rather than the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. For example, according to Chapuys, all the bad things that were done to Catherine were done by Anne, not by Henry. But how could that be? Henry was King and didn't do anything he didn't want to. Contrast with the French Ambassador who said that Anne did nothing that wasn't agreed by the King. 'All that the Lady does is by the king's order.'
In my opinion Chapuys was fooling both himself and his Emperor, and was possibly even misled by other English courtiers feeding him stuff he wanted to hear. I do not understand why Prof Starkey did not question more of Chapuys' output - perhaps because if he ignored it there would be so little material?
I did find it easy enough to read (apart from the sheer size/weight of it), although there was a wealth of detail (mainly from Chapuys) that I had read several times before. So why did I read it?- Because I had heard so much about Prof Starkey's new interpretation of history that I sincerely believed that this was worth a try. After reading it, perhaps a better question would be 'why did Prof Starkey write it? I didn't find anything new here,so I think that, in the end, this is just an average '6 Wives'. So 3 stars.
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