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ysbel 09-07-2008 12:36 PM

"Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII" by David Starkey (2003)
I just found an electronic version of David Starkey's book, 'Six Wives:the Queens of Henry VIII' on Google Books.

I've just read a few pages but it seems fascinating. Starkey takes a less favorable view of Catherine of Aragon than other authors although its difficult for me to tell whether he actually claimed that Catherine lied when she said her first marriage wasn't consummated.

The detail of the letters and first hand accounts that he reports is simply fascinating to the royal enthusiast. The negotiations between Henry VII and Ferdinand of Aragon to bring Catherine of Aragon to England seemed tedious and fraught with all sorts of political interference and the description of Catherine's household and its warring factions among the two camps and how the household was received by the English gives an inside glimpse into the private lives of the royals.

As I mentioned above, he does not seem to like Catherine of Aragon. He takes pains to mention that when Catherine and her first husband, Arthur, seemed to spontaneously turn to the crowd after they were married that the crowds called out in cheer for Arthur and the King, not Catherine.

Starkey also hosted a TV program based on his books and they can be found on YouTube.

YouTube - Katherine of Aragon's marriage to Prince Arthur

YouTube - David Starkey on Anne Boleyn - Part One

YouTube - David Starkey on Anne Boleyn - Part Two

YouTube - David Starkey on Jane Seymour -- 1/2

YouTube - David Starkey on Jane Seymour -- 2/2

YouTube - David Starkey on Anne of Cleves -- 1/3

YouTube - David Starkey on Anne of Cleves - part 2/3

YouTube - David Starkey on Anne of Cleves -- part 3/3

YouTube - David Starkey on Katherine Howard - Part one

YouTube - David Starkey on Katherine Howard -- Part two

YouTube - David Starkey on Katherine Parr -- Part one

YouTube - David Starkey on Katherine Parr -- Part two

Warren 09-07-2008 12:48 PM

I finished reading this book just a few weeks ago and can heartily recommend it. It has some fine detail of Tudor royal ceremonial especially in regard to the wedding of Arthur and Catherine of Aragon. Starkey often displays an arch sense of humour and is at pains to document his sources and discuss where prevailing opinions originated. The bulk of the book concentrates on the Spanish Alliance, Catherine of Aragon, the machinations of the divorce proceedings and Anne Boleyn. The material on the other wives is a lot thinner, probably because they are less significant in historical terms and/or less is known about them.

Overall, a great introduction to the power of the Tudors and the Court of Henry VIII.

Empress 09-07-2008 12:52 PM

There was another book that I read years ago about the six wives of Henry VIII and for the life of me I can't remember who wrote it. I think though that on the recommendation of Warren I shall have to take myself off to amazon now... Much to my husbands displeasure I am sure... Good thing he has free shipping on amazon!

ysbel 09-07-2008 01:13 PM

Yes, well I may have to get the book also. The electronic version on Google Books is highly irritating because it leaves out certain pages.

I agree, Warren, on the splendid detail of Catherine of Aragon's first wedding. Most intriguing was that the Princess rode astride a horse sidesaddle on the opposite side than the English was accustomed to. They were not even accustomed to a lady riding in a procession on horseback. In her Spanish clothes, she must have looked an unusual and exotic creature.

Warren 09-07-2008 01:43 PM

What I didn't know about until reading Starkey was the existence of "The Royal Book" where all the fine points of royal ceremonial were laid out in detail. I understand the book survives (probably in Windsor Castle). Another revelation was the theatrical vision, planning, organisational and logistical skills of the courtiers when it came to putting on a grand show (which I've mentioned in the Tudor Wedding thread). We say today that the British have a great talent for ceremonial and it appears the Tudors had it down to a fine art.

The darker side is the utter ruthlessness of the power-plays at Court, when playing for power was playing for keeps, but always subject to the King's whim and the shifting sands of domestic politics and Continental alliances. Getting involved in this game was certainly not for the faint-hearted. Even the Pope, who we imagine to be a figure of some stature, had to be very careful who he offended, or who he could afford to offend the least, while trying to balance the competing pressures from various Kings and the Emperor.

Attaining Grace 09-15-2008 08:19 AM

Both Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser have written books on the six wives. I have the Starkey book because I was writing a novel about one of the wives! I am afraid that I just used it for research but I will certainly read it properly now. (My novel is not finished and, unfortunately, many people have had the same idea recently.)

Moonmaiden23 09-25-2008 04:40 PM

I didn't really enjoy Starkey's book OR his series...he basically paints Anne Boleyn as some kind of Protestant martyr(staunch defender of the Gospel) and in his book he accuses Catherine of Aragon of lying about her virginity when she married Henry VIII...which allowed Pope Julius to grant the dispensation for the marriage in the first place.

Where is the evidence for this? He is saying that this deeply religious woman who wore harsh wool under her regal finery as penance and who was a member of the Third Order of St Francis took communion and almost drove England to the brink of civil war based on a lie...that her famous impassioned plea to during the Blackfriars divorce hearing was nothing but theater??.

Antonia Fraser and Alison Weir's works on the wives of Henry VIII are far superior to Starkey's in my opinion.

Menarue 09-25-2008 04:51 PM

I believe that Catherine of Aragon was a truthful and devout woman and would never have lied.
Anne Boleyn was ambitious and was willing to sacrifice anyone who came near to thwarting this ambition, but she was executed for crimes she didnīt commit.

Moonmaiden23 09-26-2008 12:38 PM


Originally Posted by Menarue (Post 828662)
I believe that Catherine of Aragon was a truthful and devout woman and would never have lied.
Anne Boleyn was ambitious and was willing to sacrifice anyone who came near to thwarting this ambition, but she was executed for crimes she didnīt commit.

I completely agree. Anne Boleyn was a coldly ambitious woman who treated many people badly during her rise , but she was very badly treated at the end of her life. I don't believe for a minute that she was guilty of adultery or witchcraft and her courage at the end was remarkable.

I like and admire Catherine of Aragon more than Anne, but Anne did not deserve to die.

Grace Angel 04-03-2009 02:19 AM

I liked the book, the style he writes it in keeps you turning the page. It's my favorite of the joint bios on Henry's wives for that reason, although not neccasarily the author's views on Henry's wives. I thought that the book by Antonia Fraser on Henry's wives comes second to this book, and last of all I would put Weir's book on Henry's wives which I read last summer and found boring. Starkey's book is entertaining although quite long.

IloveCP 07-09-2011 02:03 AM

A very interesting book.I just bought it so Im still reading about Catherine of Aragon.

Kellydofc 07-10-2011 04:04 PM

This is one of my favorite books and am currently re-reading it for what seems to be the tenth time. I don't think that Starkey is against any one queen. What I think he is trying to do is break people out of their preconcieved notions about these women and look at them with fresh eyes. I think he did that wonderfully.

PrincessKaimi 11-19-2011 02:44 PM

But there is evidence that Anne Boleyn, before and after her marriage, gave the appearance of being very devout. She held little prayer and bible study sessions with her maids in waiting, and criticized one of them for writing something too frivolous in her book of prayers - so she intruded upon other people's religious lives in a pious way and tried to appear pious herself. Indeed, it's said that's why she denied Henry the full benefits of being his mistress for seven years.

I don't know about the rest of you, but as I was raised in a strictly religious community, I knew lots and lots of girls who lied about their virginity. They were terrified not to. That was in high school. Later, I would do the same thing. I think I was very convincing and that my parents never found out (I married the man in question and I married him precisely because I had to, out of religious scruples, having had sex with him - and having lied about it). I was penitent as well. Why else would a person be penitent? People don't just wear hair shirts for no reason. I think the evidence is equally convincing that Catherine did lie.

Does everyone truly believe she married Arthur Tudor and they did not consummate their marriage - probably on their wedding night - as was expected of every prince in Christendom? If they went for months without sex, then Arthur's character profile is very different than any other prince (he had taken no vow of chastity, he was the oldest son of a King, he knew his duty, he was male, he was young, he would have been easily aroused by a woman in his bed, etc. etc) Why did she deny him? If she did, she was breaking the rules of being a good wife.

No, she wanted to remain Queen and so she lied and both she and Henry knew it. (At least, that's a perfectly plausible explanation). Her piety made her very remorseful about this sin (lying) but as sins go, it was not the most terrible sin (she would have sought absolution for it, and then been given penitence to do, and probably imposed her own increased penitence upon herself). I really feel for her, I truly do, I just think it very unlikely that she came to Henry a virgin.

P.S. Thank you, Kelly, for your brief but intensely admiring review of the book, I'm trying to find the right book to read to figure out Anne Boleyn's downfall, this sounds like a place to start.

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