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The Wives of Henry VIII

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  9,901 ratings  ·  269 reviews
The six wives of Henry VIII - Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr – have become defined in a popular sense not so much by their lives as by the way these lives ended. But, as Antonia Fraser conclusively proves, they were rich and feisty characters.

They may have been victims of Henry's obsession with a male he...more
Paperback, 482 pages
Published December 15th 1993 by Penguin Canada (first published 1992)
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While this would be a quality history by any standard, I've decided to judge it by exactly the standard that Antonia Fraser sets for herself right at the beginning of the book. She says that her mission is to rescue the six wives of Henry VIII from the sterotypes that have plagued them for centuries (not to mention the horrid singsong of "divorced, beheaded died..." etc). The stereotypes in question are, in order: "The Betrayed Wife, The Temptress, The Good Woman, the Ugly Sister, The Bad Girl,...more
Having read a book called the last queen The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner which details the life of queen Juana of Castile, the last queen of Spanish blood to inherit her country's throne, her sister Catherine of Argon was the first wife go King Henry VIII. I came across The Six Wives Of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser when it was reviewed by a Goodreads member I decided to give it a try as Tudor history has not been high my radar and I wanted to learn more about Catherine's time in England.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book as it is well written and well researched...more
Bette BookAddict
Jun 22, 2014 Bette BookAddict rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Recommended to Bette BookAddict by: All About Books group read

I read this non-fiction account of the six wives of Henry VIII because my interest was piqued by the television series The Tudors and the historical fiction novels Tudor Court by Philippa Gregory. Prior to these two sources, I had no real knowledge of the women Henry married; of course, I knew their fates were “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded and survived” as that little ditty goes although I had not heard that particular ditty. So where better to go to now than a non-fiction accoun...more
Alice Poon
This is a work of elaborate research into and objective recount of the lives and fates of the six queens of Henry VIII. Although I had to struggle with the innumerable and often confusing names and titles of the gargantuan cast in the presentation, this didn't thwart my desire to get to the end.

The stories of the women themselves are poignant, if not upsetting (upsetting because they are not fictitious but real people). Their fates are a direct result of the times they lived in, which was probab...more
Bette BookAddict
Jun 26, 2014 Bette BookAddict rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of historical facts
Recommended to Bette BookAddict by: AAB group read
Shelves: hist-biography

I read this non-fiction account of the six wives of Henry VIII because my interest was piqued by the television series The Tudors and the historical fiction novels Tudor Court by Philippa Gregory. Prior to these two sources, I had no real knowledge of the women Henry married; of course, I knew their fates were “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded and survived” as that little ditty goes although I had not heard that particular ditty.

So where better to go to now than a non-fiction account...more
"I have...attempted to deal with each woman in turn with the sympathy I feel they all deserve for having had the unenviable fate (to my way of thinking) of being married to Henry VIII. At the same time I have tried to practise the detachment which recognizes that this is an eminently modern judgement; not one of the King's six wives married him against her will. I have also hoped to practise that detachment towards the King himself: the gigantic Maypole at the centre of of all round which these...more
Some may think that having already read "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" by Alison Weir, that reading "The Wives of Henry VIII" would be Tudor over-kill and nothing more than repetition. However, Antonia Fraser manages to put her own spin on these famous wives and brings out details and facets of each woman that I hadn't previously contemplated. I am not sure I could choose a favorite between Weir and Fraser. If I remember correctly, Weir seemed to put a bit more focus on Anne Boleyn while Fraser l...more
I wanted to get a better overview of the whole series of wives of Henry VIII from the vantage of actual history, rather than historical fiction. I also wanted to get a better picture of what happened after Anne Boleyn. I enjoyed this book a great deal. Fraser creates a compelling narrative while retaining good scholarship. She does a good job of going over what information is hard fact, what is conjecture, what is rumor, what is likely or unlikely - she's honest about the reliability of the vari...more
Really, this book serves to illustrate that coitus interruptus can work out to be a reliable method of birth control, as it probably did for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn while they were waiting six long years for the king's divorce from Catherine of Aragon in order to be married. Which means whatever blushing nun taught me "sexual education" at my all girls' Catholic high school was lying to me. Immaculate Heart of Mary, my ass. Of course, when I pointed out that maybe this could be the story behi...more
Morgan Plant
I have been watching the Show Time series the Tudors. After reading Wolf Hall I needed to find something else to give me more history and this was the perfect book. I found that actually the film series is in many ways quite historically accurate and some of the remarks are almost verbatim, i.e. Anne Boylen's remarks before her beheading.
This is the first book that I ever read related to all six of Henry VIII’s wives. Before reading this book I had been souly focused on Anne Boleyn and her life, but through reading Fraser’s work I was able to extend my knowledge and begin a journey to learn not only about Anne, but also about Henry VIII’s other five wives. To learn who they were as woman and how they influenced one of the most famous King’s in English history.

Before I write anything else I have to admit that this is not my most...more
This was a hearty read - chock full of fascinating insights and information regarding all of Henry's wives. Even though I have already read several books about the Tudor dynasty, Fraser's research and use of primary sources provided facts and accounts of which I had never beforehand heard. Her analysis and descriptions of Catherine of Aragon, in particular, was highly enlightening. I had not previously realized that she had endured the loss of other babies, one of whom was a son, before the birt...more
Antonia Fraser is one of the most well-known historical biographers out there, and this is another of her thoroughly researched books. Each wife is given attention, but especially Catherine of Aragon, who was married to Henry for 24 years before he tossed her aside for Anne Boleyn. Fraser goes into each of the women's rise and fall from affection of Henry VIII, and how the women related to one another. Catherine of Aragon is portrayed as the most sympathetic of the wives, a woman who was devoted...more
Ben Bachelor
Unbearably dry. The author also assumed I had some knowledge of the events that were to come, especially when initially talking about any wife, so she would focus on some seemingly odd details and jump around in the timeline in an odd and slightly confusing manner. This would probably have been acceptable if I was reading this book rather than listening to it while half occupied with something else (namely driving).

This is a long and mostly boring story which, regardless of the author's claims,...more
This book was written about 10 years before Starkey's book and doesn't have the very latest research- (mostly documents which have recently come to light regarding Catherine of Aragon and her supposed virginity at the time of her marriage to Henry)- but otherwise all the relevant history is here as in the former. Fraser has a bit of a different tone in that we get a more initimate sense of the personalities and even more so of daily life at court. One such favorite bit of info: learning about th...more
Jan 05, 2009 Carroll marked it as to-read
I hated "The Other Boleyn Girl." But I'd love to revisit the era, and this would be a good place to start!
It looks like the review I added earlier did not save. Here goes (again). I'll keep it brief.

I enjoy reading Fraser's historical books because they at least provide me the impression that they are extremely well-researched. I especially enjoy the psychological viewpoints into the characters based on the supporting evidence. You feel like you come to know them.

That said, her books tend to be extremely dense and are not at all quick reads.

I was interested to discover that "The Tudors" television...more
King Henry the Eighth liked to have sex. Let’s just get that out of the way.


He thought himself the cat’s meow, a stud muffin, God’s gift to women even after his weight increased dramatically and a sore on his swollen leg reeked of disease. After all, he was King of England. But unlike other monarchs at the time whose spouses were selected from political standpoints and strategic alliances, King Henry in all cases but Anna of Cleves and even then he liked her picture, picked his own wife...more
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 i...more
Though Fraser’s book is expository from beginning to end, she writes beautifully and displays a keen wit when she weighs in on the character traits of her subjects. Her detailed and nuanced descriptions of the wives of Henry VIII, the king himself, and other people in their world made me forget all about the TV depictions of the Tudor court.

In the book, we meet short, plump Catherine of Aragon, the sophisticated Iberian royal who was married to Henry VIII for twenty-four years. We meet auburn-h...more
Terri Jacobson
This book takes a comprehensive look at the 6 wives of Henry VIII. The narrative is lively and interesting, with many period details. I'm always fascinated by historical accounts of how women were treated during various eras, and the power and condescension of men over women during this time was quite striking. All of the women Henry married were strong females in some sense, and this theme unites the book. The historical characters really came alive for me, and I very much enjoyed reading this...more
I love reading books on the Tudor period. This is my favorite, even over Starkey, because Antonia Fraser gives Katharine of Aragon the benefit of the doubt; more than that, she spells her name how Katharine spelled it, not how modern historians usually spell it (with a C).

Her style can be a bit scattered; if doing research, it is a bit difficult to work out an official timeline for any of the wives, because she tends to jump around a bit and expound on external matters within the court, but she...more
I am definitely a fan of Tudor History. As of this review, I've read about 20 books, fiction and non-ficiton, about the era. So needless to say, I can sometimes be hard to please when I pick up a Tudor book -- the book has to be coherent and fall along what I snobbily consider to be accepted historical lines, and yet it has to be innovative enough that I'm not bored.

Fraser's book does a GREAT job of this. Her research is impeccable, and I've read many of the stories recounted in this book before...more
Shelli McDowell
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in learning more about King Henry VIII and why he had so many wives (six to be precise). As someone who grew up with prolific references to this fascinating saga, I found this book to be both intriguing and informative. It was hard to put down, but more because I did not want to forget all of the characters and keeping all of my Mary's, Catherine's, Henry's, and Edward's clear in my head was a challenge. Having said that, Fraser was able to clearly...more
Jacob and I started reading this book out loud on a road trip to CA last summer...and just finished it on a road trip to CA this summer. What can I say? Who reads out loud, anyway? What I can say is that I unreservedly think Antonia Fraser is a treasure. Which is not the typical reaction I have to someone who uses at least one word per page that I don't know. She is delightfully British, delightfully clever, and sneakily snarky in a way I absolutely adore. Plus, this is one. juicy. story. Even i...more
Julia Boechat Machado
Muito interessante o contraponto que a autora faz das seis mulheres de Henrique VIII com seus estereótipos: Catarina de Aragão como A Esposa Traída, Ana Bolena como A Tentadora, Jane Seymour como A Boa Mulher, Ana de Clèves como A Irmã Feia, Catarina Howard como A Menina Má, Catarina Parr como A Figura de Mãe. Ou “divorciada, decapitada, morta, divorciada, decapitada, sobrevivente”.
Heather Smith
Excellent, well-written book and giving interesting detail on the lives of the wives. I prefer this version to the David Starkey book on the same subject as it is a bit more personal and not as bogged down in details of ceremonies and royal procedures.
Jul 28, 2014 Leslie marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, british
I found this too much like reading a textbook, so gave up after 90+ pages... Although Fraser clearly has researched her subject thoroughly, she failed to make at least Catherine of Aragon interesting.
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Fantastic writing, impecable research - Antonia Fraser really brought to life all of Henry VIII's six wives (and by that I mean that she did not ignore Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves and Katherine Howard, who usually get one chapter each). I really adore her writing style, it's informative without being dry, plus she adds little touches of sarcasm which are just delightful.

Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr are all analyzed in all a...more
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  • The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
  • Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII
  • Henry VIII: The King and His Court
  • Elizabeth I
  • Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation Of The Wives Of Henry VIII
  • Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics
  • Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Discarded Bride
  • The Sisters of Henry VIII: The Tumultuous Lives of Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France
  • Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII
  • The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII
  • Catherine of Aragon
  • The Tudor Chronicles: 1485-1603
  • Bess of Hardwick: First Lady of Chatsworth, 1527-1608
  • The Sisters Who Would Be Queen
  • Mistress Anne
  • Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr
  • Elizabeth the Great
  • Sovereign Ladies: The Six Reigning Queens of England
Lady Antonia Margaret Caroline Fraser, DBE (born 27 August 1932), née Pakenham, is a British author of history, novels, biographies and detective fiction. She is the widow of the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Literature, Harold Pinter (1930–2008), and prior to his death was also known as Antonia Pinter.

(from Wikipedia)
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“[In 16th century European society] Marriage was the triumphal arch through which women, almost without exception, had to pass in order to reach the public eye. And after marriage followed, in theory, the total self-abnegation of the woman.” 10 likes
“She might be furious at such things, jealous too on a purely human level; but she would never consider that the position of mistress could or would be converted into that of wife. That to Isabella – or her daughter – was quite unthinkable.” 0 likes
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