Monday 4 July 2016

#CBR8 Book 69: "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" by Alison Weir

Page count: 676 pages
Audio book length: 22hrs 26 mins
Rating: 4 stars

Tudor history has pretty much always been my favourite era of any historical period ever. There's just so much drama and intrigue and the personalities were so immense, be it Henry VIII or his two daughters, Mary I and Elizabeth I. Back in November, there was a big audiobook sale over at Audible, and I picked up a huge amount of books, this one included. It took me nearly three and a half months of on and off listening to get through this nearly 23 hour long historical exploration of Henry VIII's six marriages, with focus firmly on the various ladies in question and their lives both before (and in some cases, after) they married what most would consider the most famous king in English history.

Divorced (Catherine of Aragon), Beheaded (Anne Boleyn) , Died (from complications of childbirth, Jane Seymour), Divorced (Marriage annulled, actually, but that doesn't make it as catchy, Anne of Cleves), Beheaded (Catherine Howard), Survived (Katherine Parr). Six women, one hugely powerful, and as he aged, increasingly erratic and unpredictable ruler, whose chief obsession during his reign was to beget sons. Despite my Masters degree in History, where I spent part of a year studying the various Tudors, especially Elizabeth, I do love me some Sexy Tudors. Sadly, they never got round to showing Mary or Elizabeth's reigns, but I'm confident that Kate Beaton has captured what it would have looked like:

After listening to Alison Weir's insightful chronicling of the lives and fates of these important historical women, I feel even more strongly that Mallory Ortberg (RIP The Toast, you will be missed!) speaks powerful truth in her advice to each of the various queens, many of whom could have made better descisions over the course of their marriages to the king. It made me cackle with laughter when I read it back in November, and re-reading it now, it felt even more apt.

A very good book for anyone interested more in his queens than Henry VIII himself (let's face it, more than enough of history books have been written about him). It's long and comprehensive, but will because of it answer any questions you may have had about what being a queen in the Tudor era was actually like. The Tudors may be fun, but it's a soap opera, not actual history. It also clearly gives an impression about what the early years of Mary and Elizabeth Tudor must have been like, and it's not surprising that one grew up to become a hysterical religious zealot and the other one, despite her passionate nature, foreswore marriage forever.

Judging a book by its cover: Not too much to say about this. It's a book about Henry VIII's six wives, so a portrait of him, surrounded in turn by each of the six women he at one point or another was married to, seems suitable.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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