Six Wives
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Six Wives

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  5,319 ratings  ·  236 reviews
No one in history had a more eventful career in matrimony than Henry VIII. His marriages were daring and tumultuous, and made instant legends of six very different women. In this remarkable study, David Starkey argues that the king was not a depraved philanderer but someone seeking happiness -- and a son. Knowingly or not, he elevateda group of women to extraordinary heigh...more
ebook, 880 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published January 1st 2003)
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A play in several indecent acts


Scene 1

The Year : 1500. Plymouth Docks

Catherine of Aragon (aged 16) : So this is England... (She is violently ill).

Scene 2

The Year : 1501. London

Chuck Berry : It was a teenage wedding and the old folks wished them well

You could see that Young Arthur did truly love the mademoiselle

Catherine : Like, what are you, 15?

Arthur: Well, yes… (begins crying).

Scene 3

The Year : 1502. Ludlow Castle, Wales

Arthur : I’m goin...more


(Having had some
crude knockabout fun with this book
I thought that it deserved a reasonably straight review too. )

As Shakespeare didn’t say, some are born weird, some achieve weirdness, and some have weirdness thrust upon them. This is English history as Mexican soap opera. It’s compelling stuff.


David Starkey is a loathesome right-wing creep who gets invited onto British political discussion programmes because producers know he’ll say something outrageous a...more
The moment I opened this book and stared reading I instantly began to feel distain for Starkey. Throughout his introduction he refers to references and sources of materials that he had drawn upon when writing this book, claming that no one in the past when writing about Henry VIII and his wives has ever drawn upon these sources. This I find extremely hard to believe.

He then moves onto Alison Weir’s book “The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ and insults her writing, relating it to a story of legend and o...more
Marie desJardins
I find it hard to believe that none of the goodreads reviews that I read about this book mentioned his horribly sexist and patronizing attitude. It starts with his insulting characterization of a female historian as being able to get access to archived material because she's "pretty," and just gets worse from there. His constant editorializing about his personal views on marriage and society are also offensive and unprofessional for a writer of history. (Sample passage: "He expected marriage to...more
Krista Ashe
I am a Tudor History Buff aka nerd. If it's about Henry VIII, his wives, Elizabeth I, etc, I will read it. On my bookshelf, I have Alison Weir's Six Wives of Henry VIII. I had seen David Starkey's PBS documentary before, and I was interested in reading the book. So I checked it out of the library....all 600 plus pages of it!

I felt he spend too much time on the lives of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. True, these are the most pivotal queens in Henry's life and English history, but Jane Seym...more
I'm finding it difficult to assess this book because I found the forward to be so incredibly off-putting. Starkey comes across as arrogant and contemptuous of all biographers who have come before him, and this impression is reinforced by occasional subsequent comments by him in the rest of the book. Starkey inserts himself at points to congratulate himself on new interpretations of primary sources, and he also lumps together and denigrates all the "others" who held a different view. While he may...more
I found this incredibly fascinating, although I did come in without a great deal of factual historical background. It was interesting to me the way the book seemed to sort of follow the pace of Henry's life, whether or not that was intentional. The Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn sections were by far the most gripping and engaging, and of course, the longest. By the time Catherine Parr rolled around, the narrative - and, of course, Henry himself - really starts winding down. It does have it...more
Well, I only got halfway through this complete snoozer. I guess I'll never know what happens to Anne Boleyn (hah!). I looked at other reviews of this book, and I wonder why I felt so differently. First off, there was way too much editorializing. I understand historians write to make a point, but the constant comparisons between Anne Boleyn and Princess Diana were aggravating. And the ego involved! Every single page the reader is treated to insights, facts and discoveries that only David Starkey...more
Very thorough and detailed. The author is clear about his own conclusions but discusses and evaluates other people's ideas carefully.
M.M. Bennetts
This review was originally published in The Christian Science Monitor.

Following his father’s passing in 1509, the 17-year old Henry Tudor, now King Henry VIII, married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon; she was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, sponsors of Christopher Columbus and more controversially of the Spanish Inquisition.

Then some 16 years later, one daughter and many miscarriages later, Henry laid eyes on Anne Boleyn–Anne, dazzling Anne, witty, beautiful, highly intelligent...more
Finished "Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII" by David Starkey. I started this one because of the Tudors series on Showtime, which I'm still in the middle of, and found the two overlap quite a bit. Taking the author at his word, it is amusing that the further away we get from events of King Henry VIII's reign, the more accurate the information about the event becomes. On the other hand, the author had an attitude of superiority over other historians with all the cattiness of a royal reporter. F...more
The title of this book was misleading; I expected more information about the personal lives of Henry's queens instead of the politics involved in each marriage. I did learn a lot about the religious issues that became central to policy-making during Henry's reign. By which, I mean A LOT - too much for me; I found it difficult to keep track of what was happening and who was on what side. I did not care for Starkey's writing style; it was rather pedantic and he seemed very full of himself. He may...more
I really enjoyed the documentary TV series based on this book, which aired on PBS a few years ago, and did much reading on Wikipedia afterward, trying to fill in some of the gaps. So when I saw the book a few months later ON SALE (only $6.99 - hardcover!) in my local book store, I snapped it up. What an absorbing read. I m ashamed to say that I didn't care for the subject of History when in school, being more absorbed in Theater and the Sciences - so reading this book was part of my ongoing conv...more
This book really starts out with a bang, in that the majority of it is written about Queen Catherine, whom the author really seems to enjoy writing about. Over 1/2 of the book is dedicated to her (nearly 500 pages, I think!), with the next substantial portion addressing Anne Boleyn, and then the next 4 wives divide up the remainder of the work. I really enjoyed the section on Catherine, but I didn't enjoy the timeline in Boleyn's section. (You go through Catherine's history, then start over on A...more
Oct 04, 2009 Brianna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brianna by: Shelbina library
I shouldn't have read the Introduction to this book, because it made me too aware of the author. I mean, it's all well and good that he gave his reasons for the times he diverted from tradition (things like: Catherine was not raven-haired and dark-complected, but fair of skin and hair) but he came off a little too self-important.

But, the introduction aside, I really enjoyed this non-fiction. It was nice to take the focus off of Henry and put it onto the women (and not just Anne Boleyn, for once)...more
I really enjoyed this, a very good and interesting read. I like that David Starkey has tried to portray the various Queens as human beings, not as either the saints or sinners that they have been painted as previously.
Parts of it do get repetitive as it deals with each wife in turn and of course certain events effected more than one wife. Starkey does try to present the overlapping events differently for each wife, as these events such as the divorce from Catherine of Aragon would have had a dif...more
I have read several books on the Tudor dynasty & the periods before and after, so I love the subject matter, but I do not care for the author's preening and his assertions that he had "definitively proven" so many things that cannot really be proved. Even worse, he enjoys taking potshots at Alison Weir--one of my favorite historic scholars--and Antonia Fraser. I expect books about history to be about facts, not the author's opinions and biases.

I only got through this book because it was an...more
While I enjoyed Starkey's history of the wives of Henry VIII, I would only recommend it to those who want to read a great amount of detail. He is very thorough, particularly when it comes to the lives of Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn and the "great matter" (Henry's divorce from Katherine). I thought he kept a fairly good balance between academic-style writing and more popular forms of biographical history, but some may find it a bit dull or tedious in sections.
His writing style is not as easy to get through as Alison Weir. However, his take on events surrounding these women and the court of Henry the VIII offer more information from the political, less emotional side, thus making this book a good companion to the Alison Weir bios (which are the gold standard, to me, of english biographies)
David Starkey may be a pompous little toad who infuriates me with his belligerent comments about female historians but when it comes to Tudor history, he is wonderful. Accessible to everyone and thoroughly enjoyable. Look no further for your Henry VIII fix.
Conor Byrne
Meticulously researched with an engaging written style. Starkey does evidence some gender bias, in for example denigrating the work of the female writers Agnes Strickland, Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser.

Starkey's favourite wife is clearly Katherine Howard. He suggests she never committed adultery with Thomas Culpeper. He also depicts her as more independent, astute and resourceful than most historians give her credit for. Starkey's reinterpretation, though problematic in suggesting Katherine and...more
This was a very long book, 29 discs on audiobook, the format I "read" it in. In spite of that, I was interested throughout. Most of the book is devoted to the first two of Henry's wives, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, which is hardly surprising since his marriage to Katherine was longer than all five of his remaining marriages put together. Henry's attempts to free himself from his marriage to Katherine and his subsequent marriage to Anne were extremely important politically as the result...more
Jeni Enjaian
I so wanted to like this book. I really did. Throughout the book I found myself absolutely fascinated by the history. I wanted (and still want) to learn as much as I possibly can about everything mentioned in the book. I loved making connections with other things I've learned (like my History of the Reformation class back in grad school). I learned so much from this book; I just wish the historical scholarship/historiography was better.

Here are the things that I disliked about Starkey's handling...more
Ineke van Mackelenbergh
After reading Margaret George's novel “The Autobiography of Henry VIII” I concluded that my knowledge of the era of king Henry VIII was rather limited and delved into reading Alison Weir’s as well as David Starkey's biographies in tandem. No mean feat, taking into account the length of both books and the fact that I am essentially not a great fan of biographies...
In having done so, I would have to agree with the review given by the Sunday Times at the time of his book’s publication that David S...more
This book took me quite a long time to read, but was well worth it. It is full of information about all 6 of King Henry VIII's wives although the longer chapters are about his first wife Catherine and his second wife Anne Boleyn. The author did a lot of research before writing this book and it shows with all the details he provides about each woman. We learn about each womans family background, her likes and dislikes, her clothing preferences and he even provides us with detailed descriptions ab...more
I've read several books about King Henry VIII and some of his wives/mistresses (I.e. Catherine of Aragon, Anne and Mary Boleyn) but this is my first that covers all of the wives. I'm afraid it was pretty dull. I was put off immediately by the arrogant tone of the writing, David Starkey sounds like he things an awful lot of himself. The writing was peppered with little asides similar to 'all other historians think this, but they were wrong, here's what really happened'. As if Mr. Starkey was ther...more
Well, there's no doubt that Mr. Starkey is a very very thorough scholar. He finds mountains of detailed evidence of what went on with the queens. The problem is that he seems most focused on reporting every bit of all that detail, to the detriment of an overarching narrative. As a result, this book is difficult to follow. And that approach just doesn't give us as full a picture of Henry's court, of Henry, or even of the queens, that G. J. Meyers' The Tudors gives.

Then there's the arrogance. OK,...more
This book is quite the page-turner for a work of historical non-fiction. That's right, it is a page turner. I found this work quite fascinating and couldn't put it down. It goes into great detail about not only Henry and his prolific marriage rate, but ties each of his marriages to the political life of Tudor England. Starkey spends the first better than half of the book talking about Henry's first two wives, Catharine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. He does an outstanding job telling Catharine's sid...more
Dear "Six Wives" Book,

Our relationship together has been so...long. I can hardly remember a time when you weren't silently mocking me with your unread heft from my bedside table. Sure, I could have given you the ax when you bored me to tears with your in-depth descriptions and ponderous explanations of politico-religious maneuverings. Why did I get into this relationship in the first place? Oh yes, it was because reading The Other Boleyn Girl left me wanting to know about the facts behind the fi...more
Jennifer Locke
Probably one of the only non-fiction books I have read. Since I don't plan on writing non-fiction, I will be pointing out more of what won't be used in fiction writing. I found this book very interesting in the amount of research that David Starkey used to write the book. This must have taken years to pull the documents and decide what information to put in and what to leave out. The book chronicles the life of Henry VIII's lives and how he changed the course of English history by divorcing his...more
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Why did everyone hate Anne Boleyn? 23 178 Jun 15, 2014 07:53PM  
  • Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen
  • Henry VIII: The King and His Court
  • The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
  • Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation Of The Wives Of Henry VIII
  • Jane Seymour: Henry VIII's True Love
  • Edward VI: The Lost King of England
  • The King's Secret Matter (Tudor Saga, #4)
  • The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant
  • The Mistresses of Henry VIII
  • Mistress Anne
  • The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII
  • Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor
  • Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics
  • The Tudor Chronicles: 1485-1603
  • Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens
  • The Sisters of Henry VIII: The Tumultuous Lives of Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France
  • The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary"
  • Catherine of Aragon
David Robert Starkey, CBE, FSA is a British historian, a television and radio presenter, and a specialist in the Tudor period.
More about David Starkey...
Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne Henry: Virtuous Prince Monarchy: England and Her Rulers from the Tudors to the Windsors Crown and Country: A History of England Through the Monarchy Reign of Henry VIII: Personalities and Politics

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