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The Six Wives of Henry VIII

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  60,111 ratings  ·  1,574 reviews
Weir has tirelessly made her way through the entire labyrinth of Tudor history to tell the collective story of the six wives of Henry VIII--a vivid, full-blooded portrait of six very different women--in a work of sound and brilliant scholarship. Illustrations.
Paperback, 643 pages
Published 1992 by Grove Press
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  60,111 ratings  ·  1,574 reviews

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Dec 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfictions
i have never before spent so long reading a book and having less to say about it at the end. before reading this book, what i knew about henry VIII came mostly from one pbs (week-long)special and the herman's hermits song, which turns out to be historically inaccurate and not actually about henry VIII at all. kids, don't get your historical information from novelty songs...

what i know: henry may be one of history's shittiest spouses - after reading this, i find myself able to cut warren zevon s
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A remarkable achievement by Alison Weir! A highly accurate historical fiction based on the wives of Henry the eighth.
Beginning with Katherine of Aragon, sent as wife to his elder brother Arthur, she was widowed after spending several months as the Princess of Wales. She was held for ransom by Henry the seventh in exchange for the remainder of her dowry. Her mother having died, King Ferdinand hadn't the money nor goods to fulfill his obligations. Henry VIII had promised marriage upon his age of m
Oct 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Watch "The Other Boleyn Girl." Then watch an episode of "The Tudors." Afterward, immediately go to confession for such shameful and useless acts. Do penance by reading "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" to save your soul lest ye go through life thinking that the Tudors were all about bad acting and awkwardly placed sex scenes. Be warned that ye may lose friends when someone tries to talk to you about an episode of "The Tudors" and you turn it into a teachable moment about what *really* happened becau ...more
May 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Extensively researched and fascinating - a must-read for anyone interested in the women behind Henry VIII, aka the patron saint of man-whores. (I just made that up on the spot, but it works so I'm keeping it)
Weir isn't completely unbiased in her description of Henry and his various women, but I can't blame her. With this family, it's hard not to take sides. This is especially clear when Weir describes the way Henry felt about Anne of Cleves, his wife for about ten minutes. Weir talks about how H
A Kirkus review I read ages and ages ago, back in those days when their reviews were reliable, i.e. before it had been purchased by a publishing company whose aim is to sell books, said the book was meticulously researched but a bit dry. So unfortunately, I put it off until now. I did not find it in the least dry! The book's content is based on meticulous research, but in that Alison Weir, author and historian of British Royalty, is so very knowledgeable in her field, she has the ability to ...more
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Where I got the book: purchased on Amazon UK.

Ah, I do enjoy an Alison Weir. I am not enough of a historian to have Opinions about history, so my comments are about the writing rather than historical merit, and the writing is good. Weir is always lively and entertaining, perfect for a recreational history reader like me, and I found myself zipping through this as if through a novel, even though I knew how each character's story ended!

It's strange, though, that my interest is always greatest up to
Oct 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
I’ve read some Phillipa Gregory and Hillary Mantel titles about Henry VIII and was totally entranced. Which is weird because I’m Afrikaans, live in South Africa, and never even had history at school. The only problem with the historical fiction titles, is that they only deal with one or two wives at a time, so I could never get a complete picture. I also wasn’t sure how much of the stories I’ve read was fictionalized. So I decided to try a non-fiction, and I was very impressed by Alison Weir. He ...more
Oct 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This prodigiious work on the wives of King Henry the 8th of England is so well written. It reads like a novel of suspense, passion, treachery, European History, betrayal, obedience, faith, God and love. It did what I really enjoy in books--made me want to read more about other characters mention such as Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Also to review maps and learn of the royalty of Spain, France, and Germany. Many words to be looked up to enhance your vocabulary as well. Learn about the fir ...more
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
I started this book rather late in May as part of my ‘Kings and Queens’ theme that month but didn’t end up reading very much of it for lack of time. Despite every intention of finishing it in June, I got caught up with challenge and group reads and didn’t pick this up at all but then again at the beginning of this month finally picked up from where I’d left off and completed it. Though I would have read it anyway, this also fit into my theme of this month—doorstoppers—at 600+ pages. This book, m ...more
Alexander Santiago
Mar 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Yes
Henry VIII, England's most famous and rougish king, takes somewhat of a back seat (though still figures prominently) while his six wives (their courtship, marriage, and their fate) are front and center by one of England's most preeminent storyteller of royal history. Intrigue, duplicity, executions, and, of course, Henry's marital infidelities that led to a major and cataclysmic reformation of religion in England, Weir weaves her spell that gives breath and personality to each of Henry's wives, ...more
Jan 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
This was a very lucidly written and entertaining history of Henry VIII's six wives. Weir's style is straightforward and factual, but her warm, wry tone come through occasionally in her word choice. This makes for a very conversational story, easy to follow, and engaging. In fact, it's what I had hoped Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France would be like.

Weir tries very hard to be balanced and manages for the most part not to pick sides between Protestant/Catholic/Church of England. Th
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own

May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
A solid and entertaining history of the lives of the women who had the good fortune and the bad luck to marry England’s most legendary and terrifying king.

This is a fascinating collection of seven intertwining biographies: six women and one man; not to mention the families and the powerful individuals fighting it out in the deathmatch that was politics in the age of the Tutors. This was a world that was still very much medieval in its flavor and outlook but we can see the changes beginning, the
Although the fact that Henry VIII had six wives is remarkable alone; even more interesting is the unique personalities and lives of these six women. Alison Weir opens the door to the marital ups and downs of Henry and his partners in, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”. Note: I initially read this book over a decade ago when I was less versed in Tudor history than I am now. Thus, this review is based on the impressions of one who has more knowledge on the topic during a second reading.

Alison Weir’s
I read most of this book for an essay years ago but decided now to read it in full and... I am conflicted. Alison Weir is one of the most well known and respected historians of Tudor England and yet I found so many issues with this book. It is a good introduction to the period, and it serves as a neat narrative of the six wives of Henry VIII. It offers exactly what it says on the tin and is pretty much successful in doing so.

However. This book is not perfect. There are no footnotes, making it pr
Ray Campbell
Jan 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2013
Excellent read. I have read several books that cover the lives of the Tudors and more specifically Elizabeth, Mary and Henry. However, none had done much with the wives of Henry VIII beyond Jane Seymour having been the mother of Edward VI. So I picked this one up and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Weir has written several first class histories on this period so there is much overlap. The first third of the book was not only familiar, but in some cases a direct re-tracing of steps. However, the details we
Apr 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I am notoriously slow reading non-fiction (I still have not finished John Adams). So I gave this book 5 stars as I could not put it down. I read it in a week (and it is a substantial size book). It reads as nicely as any fiction (much like I thought seabiscuit was).

I learned so much about stories that I was a little familiar with already -- I just had no idea that they were in reality even crazier than I learned. Politics, deception, ambition, religion, and a tad bit of "crazy" make for some of
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
A great book that I never would have attempted without audio nor without my book club. I had never read much about this time period and found it fascinating. If you are an audiobook listener like me, or an ebook reader, find a hardcopy and look at the pictures.
Scott Sheaffer
Sep 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
“Off with their Heads” . . . Oh wait that wasn’t Henry the VIII or was it? Find out why Henry had the heads of two of his wives lopped off. Was it that they were unfaithful or because they were not considerate of the French term Ménage à trios or was he simply looking for a way out of a bad relationship and couldn’t bring himself to tell them that “it was over”?

What motivated these women to marry Henry knowing that if they didn’t please him they could/would be killed? Was the last wife of Henry
The rhyme that has stuck with me since school is divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Which of course refers to the final outcome of each of Henry VIII wives.

This is a well reasserted book, packed full of details and anecdotes about the martial affairs of Henry VIII. Weir has gone into great depth, especially on the first two wives, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Bolyen. The book goes into detail on the character of the six ladies, and all the court intrigue and political postur
Brittany B.
4.5 stars!

5 stars for the narration

(Well, the internet page just closed, and I lost a review that I worked on for about an hour and a half.
So I am greatly peeved.)

The Six Wives of Henry VIII is an excellent, accessible nonfiction historical biography. Considering that this is my second time reading it, I can easily call this book a page-turner!! It unfolds like a carefully-crafted novel; a fabulous retelling of the allegorical Bluebeard. Thus, The Six Wives of Henry VIII definitely lends credib
Gunjan (NerdyBirdie)
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2019
Well… this was a lot more to take in than the 2007-2010 TV show about the Tudors.

Just a note here that I’m writing this review based on my personal enjoyment and how I felt the author combined storytelling with presenting facts.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII was not as easy a read as I thought it would be. It turned out to be quite the hefty book. The political mingling and the religious conflict that took time during Henry VIII’s reign was interesting to read about. After a while I was just so exh
Kiesha ~ 1Cheekylass
It's always fun re-visiting this book. So much great historical detail and perfect narration. Henry VIII was an ogre. The most interesting wives are of course the first 3.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, audiobook
Although quite long (22 hours, or nearly 600 pages in hardcover), The Six Wives of Henry VIII was consistently interesting. To the extent possible, Weir focused on each woman's personality, her actions, and her own words, and as a result "Henry VIII's wives" became intriguing people in their own right.

If you're unfamiliar with the fates of Henry's wives, the following six paragraphs could be considered spoilers.

Katherine of Aragon: she was hard done by, both before and after the height of her ma
Jun 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: history buffs, feminists
Recommended to Andrew by: Lori
Shelves: history
Well, that was a lot of history. This was a new genre for me: serious non-fiction (humor is what has made non-fiction palatable for me in the past). It was certainly a little dry, but the Tudor court adds spice. The introduction presents an overview of life in the Tudor court, particularly for women. I was hoping more of the book would be like that, and for some kind of conclusion that sums up the lives of the six wives. I'm not entirely sure why I was hoping for a sixth grade essay, but the boo ...more
Jan 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
I became interested in the reign of Henry VIII after watching the Showtime series, "The Tudors." After reading Alison's Weir's well-researched book about the six wives of Henry VIII, I can understand why so much has been written about the period and why it still fascinates more than 500 years later. King Henry was married to his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, by far the longest, and I'd always assumed it was simply his infatuation with Anne Boleyn that made him discard Katherine. Katherine was ...more
Mack Hayden
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world, history
What a wild ride this story was. Some historic books of this length tend to delve deep into their chosen time as a whole, for better or worse, but this one truly did feel like seven biographies focused pretty intently on the seven people portrayed—one for each of the wives and one for King Henry himself. It's a focused and nuanced set of portraits of six women and one man who are far more complex and sympathetic than high school history textbooks give them credit for. Don't get me wrong: there's ...more
Duffy Pratt
May 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I really liked this, and especially liked the fairly even handed treatment Weir gave to these people. But there is one notable exception. Compared with everyone else, Weir seemed to take delight in Thomas Cromwell's execution and even in the fact of the executioner botching the job and taking two swings of the axe to finally sever his neck. With others, Weir seems to see both sides of a person's character. But, for her, Cromwell was Henry's evil genius, and she seems to think ill of Cromwell eve ...more
Jul 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, library
If you have any interest in history and the Tudors then you need to buy this book, it is fantastic. I was so impressed by the attention to detail, it gives you such a great understanding of Henry VIII and the Tudor court and of course his six wives. It is not like reading a text book, it is biographical and therefor very interesting. I borrowed it from the library and had it on audio, I started listening to it but switched over to reading it. By the time I was half way through the book I had ord ...more
Jul 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: history geeks
Another Alison Weir, another book I loved. If you're looking to learn more about the Tudor period, this is a good way to do it. She presents the story of the wives in a pretty readable format, even for those who aren't usually into reading historical books for fun. :) Well researched, well put together, very informative. And not at all a struggle to read!
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Alison Weir is a British writer of history books for the general public, mostly in the form of biographies about British kings and queens, and of historical fiction. Before becoming an author, Weir worked as a teacher of children with special needs. She received her formal training in history at teacher training

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“Katherine of Aragon was a staunch but misguided woman of principle; Anne Boleyn an ambitious adventuress with a penchant for vengeance; Jane Seymour a strong-minded matriarch in the making; Anne of Cleves a good-humoured woman who jumped at the chance of independence; Katherine Howard an empty-headed wanton; and Katherine Parr a godly matron who was nevertheless all too human when it came to a handsome rogue.” 6 likes
“Since arriving in England, Katherine had come to know a freedom she had never dreamed of in Spain, where young women were kept in seclusion and forced to live almost like cloistered nuns. They wore clothes that camouflaged their bodies and veiled their faces in public. Etiquette at the Spanish court was rigid, and even smiling was frowned upon. But in England, unmarried women enjoyed much more freedom: their gowns were designed to attract, and when they were introduced to gentlemen they kissed them full upon the lips in greeting. They sang and danced when they pleased, went out in public as the fancy took them, and laughed when they felt merry.” 3 likes
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