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Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  1,284 ratings  ·  111 reviews
The women who wed Henry VIII are remembered mainly for the ways their royal marriages ended: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.

This book helps to restore full humanity to these six fascinating women by applying the insights of feminist scholarship. Here they appear not as stereotypes, not simply as victims, but as lively, intelligent noblewomen doing
Paperback, 231 pages
Published May 3rd 1995 by Da Capo Press (first published 1995)
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 ·  1,284 ratings  ·  111 reviews

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Apr 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
I was surprised when I looked back at my "Books Read" list. The only Tudor book I've read is "The Other Boleyn Girl" and that was historical fiction with factual liberties taken. The story of Henry VIII and his six wives had exhausted its appeal for me because of the many past TV shows I've watched - The Tudors, 2007, Showtime; The Six Wives of Henry VIII, 1970 BBC; and the film version of The Other Boleyn Girl with Scarlett Johansson. And then I ran across this book with the subtitle "A Feminis ...more
Jenn (Booksessed)
Jan 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Okay, I should preface by saying that I am a history junkie, and that Tudor England is my drug of choice. Seriously, it’s like my crack. I know all the major players, I know how most historians view each person, I know who participated in who’s downfall. I’m the person to go to for any Tudor related question. I’m also the person who loved the tv show The Tudors because of all the sexy men but grumbled about the historical accuracies, mostly due to the timeline. Also, I love the Spanish Ambasador ...more
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Carolyn Page
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Never have I read a book of Renaissance history with so much enjoyment. This is my favorite kind of non-fiction book--well researched and well told by an author who knows how to write without boring or resorting to sensationalism. A balanced, well-thought-out book on the wives and women surround Henry VIII.

While the book focuses mostly on his six wives, the first chapter is on his grandmother Margaret de Beaufort, whose machinations immensely contributed to Henry's family achieving and keeping t
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Eh. It's kind of interesting, but it was supposed to be some groundbreaking feminist take on the wives of Henry VIII...besides focusing on THEM rather than HIM, I didn't see anything in the book as a radical new feminist reinterpretation. ...more
Susan Liston
I've had this book since it came out, so over 25 years, and I FINALLY read it, how about that. I'm not really sure what "feminist reinterpretation" means in this case, except for the author adding some snarky remarks about Henry now and then, which is fine. It was very readable, and would be a great introduction to the topic if you don't know this story very well. ...more
Mar 25, 2008 rated it liked it
A good quick read for those interested in Henry VIII and English history. Most historical non-fiction is so long-winded that ones tends to forget almost anything they learned through the book, but the author kept her facts brief and had an interesting modern day spin on a lot of topics brought up. I do think her some of her interpretations were a bit far-fetched, but overall a quick and interesting read on those poor women who fell victim to Henry VIII.
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Do not be fooled. This is not a 'feminist reinterpretation' of anything. In fact, it is an insult to the feminist movement to call this a feminist reinterpretation. In truth it is a thinly veiled attempt to once again make Anne Boleyn a victim, and be wholly sympathetic to the emerging Protestant cause in the last years of Henry's reign (that being said, I myself am of a Protestant persuasion, so that in itself is not the problem. The i
Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it
I was hoping for more from this book. It had its great moments, like when she proposed that Anne Boleyn's situation (when she was a court lady in waiting to the queen and being pursued by the king) was not unlike sexual harassment in the workplace. Great idea that lets you imagine a third option besides "I'm going to marry the king because I want power over the man who spoiled my young love" or "I'm going to marry the king because I'm madly in love with him." Her hypothesis for why Henry decided ...more
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
If it deals with British history, I, like Ron Burgundy, will read absolutely anything that's put in front of me, so I know my shit when it comes to the Tudors. I picked this one up because it offered a new take on the traditional narrative on the six ladies unlucky enough to be Henry's bride.

Normally, I steer clear of modernist takes, especially feminist re-workings, as these often attribute modern attitudes and social norms on historic people and societies. That said, Lindsey's book had som
Sep 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
3.5 Stars.

A very interesting read, but I would have liked the chapters to be longer and to include more specific detail about each of the Queens than it did. That being said, it was a lot of fun to learn about the women around the Queens and the Tudor court at the time.
Christopher Saunders
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Karen Lindsey's Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII comes exactly as advertised: a short, caustic revisionist look at the Tudor monarch's life and times through the the women unlucky to marry him. Lindsey scrapes away centuries of stereotyping and slander behind the common narrative of Tudor England, depicting Henry as a world-class narcissist incapable of seeing anything outside his own gratification. This much isn't groundbreaking, though most b ...more
Actual rating: 3.75 stars.

This was a fun, fast read. Lindsey's style is lively, witty and ironic. The way she describes certain events is deeply amusing, and her snarky comments about Henry are especially delightful. She gives an objective overview of the six wives (although I got the feeling she doesn't much like Jane Seymour), and she even spends some time talking about other inspiring women of the time such as Mary Tudor, the French Queen, Catherine Willoughby and Anne Askew.

However, I think
Daisy Reeves
Apr 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A thoroughly enjoyably book. If Lindsey could ever be accused of lending a little too much leeway to the women in Henry's life, she is certainly the first to do so. Her account of the wives of Henry VIII offers credible insight which aligns more believably with concurrent narratives than has previously been offered, particularly with respect to the legacy of Anne of Cleves, the callously monikered 'Flanders Mare'.

Lindsey outlines in great detail the moral, political, and personal concerns of eac
I picked this up at the thrift store a couple weeks ago - I have a passing interest in Henry's wives (and a current love of the SIX soundtrack) so I thought I'd grab it and learn a bit more about these women. It was a wonderfully easy non-fiction book to read - the author deliberately did not use footnotes and it read very much like a story. Perhaps I'm not as up on my feminist literature as I should be, but the feminist lens was there but not the highlight. There was also a lot of names of peop ...more
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book has been sitting on our bookshelf for 10 years, since my daughter was assigned it in high school. After watching the Tudors series on TV I finally read the book to further my acquaintance with Henry's wives. Even though our politics are pretty rough right now, it could be so much worse, especially as a woman in King Henry VIII's court. This book cleared up a few things and filled in this history of Tudors.
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm still trying to figure out how Divorced, Beheaded, Survived is a feminist reinterpretation of the story of the 6 wives of Henry VIII. I feel fairly disappointed, as this book offered nothing new to the story of these women, and it definitely didn't offer a feminist reinterpretation.

Nevertheless, I still greatly enjoyed Divorced, Beheaded, Survived; Lindsey's book was well researched and she has the perfect writing style for nonfiction - factual but easy to read. As a matter of fact, for muc
I found this book ok but that is all. I didn't find out much new information, simply some reinterpretation of old information. I am not so sure that I completely buy that Henry VIII was an egotistical SOB and nothing else. He ruled a difficult country successfully for many decades and even this author admitted that people were genuinelly grieved by his death. Was he egotisitical? well, yes, of course. In his position, how could he not be egotistical, the most important person in the entire count ...more
Gareth Russell
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a short, witty, and well-researched account of Henry VIII's matrimonial misadventures. The author has an enjoyable turn of phrase, by turns sardonic and deeply moving. As the subtitle suggests, Lindsey is particularly interested in applying modern feminist scholarship to our understanding of Henry's consorts, which she does intelligently and clearly, without being overbearing or distorting the evidence. It is particularly well done in the sections on Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, and Cather ...more
Sep 28, 2007 rated it it was ok
This book was feminist claptrap. The author is not a trained historian and her feminist bias was obvious throughout this book. All the women were GOOD, and all the men were BAD, and Lindsey went to great lengths to show them as being this way all the time, and made up flimsy excuses when the women (rather than the men) behaved badly. She excused Catherine Howard's adultery on the grounds that her life would have been "unbearable" if she couldn't get all the sex she wanted. She also completely ig ...more
The more I thought about the content of this book, the less I liked it. It purports itself as a "feminist reinterpretation" of Henry VIII's collection of wives. However, because the author does not make more than a handful of references to source material, the reader does not feel the presence of Andrea Dworkin, Gloria Steinem or Adrienne Rich. We hear, instead, the voice of the author herself passing judgments that, though not all that controversial, do not ring of researched or informed rhetor ...more
Amber Woodward
Apr 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
This is a decent history, and I especially enjoyed reading about Henry's last 3 wives, who are lesser known and are delightfully brought to life by Lindsey. I did not, however, think it was particularly feminist or particularly reinterperative... as a title it's a bit misleading. Lindsey's feminist reinterpretation is largely in terms of speculation though she makes some good points with her reminders to step away from the traditional narrative of Tudor England and look again at the facts. Overa ...more
Apr 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
A well written book, even if its premise is a bit outdated now (though it certainly wasn’t when it was written). I would have liked to see more feminist theory applied to the wives, since Lindsey clearly used those sources as research. Much of the book is also devoted to Henry’s first two wives and Jane Seymour is badly neglected, although the last 3 wives are fairly well described. At some points the book seems more like a rehash of history than a new take on it. I did think the epilogue was ve ...more
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Read this book first before reading another book about Anne Boleyn. Very interesting narrative and tidbits about the wives. Don't believe I learned anything I didn't know before, but a nice read nevertheless. ...more
Oct 28, 2020 rated it liked it
This was okay. I learned a couple of new things, but I think this is better for an introductory to the topic vs being something revolutionary.
Nov 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
It has been some time since I read Karen Lindsey’s assessment of the six women who became the queens of Henry VIII, titled ‘Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: a Feminist Reinterpretation of the Six Wives of Henry VIII’.  Unfortunately, since that time I have also given away the book, so this review might be somewhat lacking.
Karen Lindsey makes it very clear from the start that her study is a thoroughly feminist assessment of the six very unique women that found themselves bound in matrimony to Henry ...more
May 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
The only thing that saved this book from a lower rating was the subject matter. This is supposed to be a “feminist reinterpretation”, but it reads like a trashy tabloid and reduces the incredibly complex people that played out their lives in the Tudor court down to tired archetypes. It’s understood that Henry VIII and his six wives all easily fall into their respective roles: the megalomaniac and the cast off princess, the seductress, the doormat, the ugly one, the whore, and the nurse...but I w ...more
Jill Dougher
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book was very interesting. If you have any interest in old English royalty, you have to read this. Henry VIII's reign was a soap opera. He married 6 times and died at 55. This book provides a history lesson for each of his wives. Now I will provide you a summary on my favorite wives, though all of them are bad ass in their own way.
Catherine of Aragon: She loved Henry and when he lost interest in her, he tried to have their marriage annulled. She refused to sign any sort of paper saying tha
Oct 07, 2019 rated it did not like it
Honestly, this book can be thrown in the trash. The only things that are actually reinterpreted are the spelling of Anne Boleyn's name and that Henry sexually harassed her into submission. Also, Katherine Howard's sexual exploits are laid out with reverence.
Here are a few of my problems with this book. There are no notes. The author decided for us that we are easily confused and can't handle the tiny number or asterisk at the end of a sentence. I think this is less to avoid confusion than it is
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, feminism
A breath of fresh air, this one is! This is without a doubt the best book I've read that covers the lives of all six of Henry VIII's wives. Karen Lindsey is an engaging writer who has written a compact, seamless narrative. It is so refreshing to read about these six very different women from a feminist perspective - Lindsay does not box each woman into the typical categories we see these women grouped into and instead fleshes them out into the real women they were. For once, Henry VII is not por ...more
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