- Paperback: 496 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (November 30, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140132937
- ISBN-13: 978-0679730019
- ASIN: 067973001X
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Wives of Henry VIII Paperback – November 30, 1993
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When we think of the wives of Henry VIII, we tend to think of women who literally lost their heads. But Antonia Fraser opens the door to the political and cultural demands that shaped the destinies of the king and his royal wives. Romance, unfortunately, rarely had anything to do with it. And if you think the modern American media is too tough on political leadership, you oughta READ about the royal court in King Henry's day! That's one family you'd never want to marry into.
From Publishers Weekly
Fraser's scrupulously researched recuperative study of Henry VIII's six queens makes a major contribution to feminist scholarship. Illustrations.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
All this is not to say that Weir’s book isn’t worth reading. On the contrary, she brings each woman to life and includes as many details as she can get her hands on. In terms of reading enjoyment, it was wonderful and I actually enjoyed it more than Fraser’s. But I want a non-fiction book to be accurate, and on that count, I’m not confident about her conclusions, especially when they differ from academic opinion.
Getting back to Antonia Fraser, I do trust her presentation. She provides readers with a thorough study of each wife, portraying them as real, complex people rather than stereotypes or “tarot cards.” There is a certain degree of sympathy for these women that tugs at Fraser’s objectivity. As she herself says, they all had to put up with Henry! She does not judge her subjects, but still sees their flaws, such as Anne Boleyn’s tempestuous and jealous nature and Katherine Howard’s tragic naivete. Along the way, she considers various interpretations of events and discusses their merits and possibilities, making for thought-provoking reading.
In the end, both books are well worth reading. But asked to choose between them, I’d pick Fraser’s.
I've recently read several books from this period written by Alison Weir. While I found many of these to be revisionist and quite dry in their style, I thought Antonia Fraser did a superior job in detailing the history of the era in a style more friendly to the reader.
Most readers are familiar with the history of Henry's first two wives (Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn). Far more obscure are the backgrounds and life histories of the next four Queen consorts. As Fraser points out, each of the wives have been neatly pigeonholed, however the truth and the entire story is never as simple as the legend. Most interesting to me was the story of Anna of Cleves, Henry's fourth wife and the only one married for political advantage.
Divorced (Catherine of Aragon), beheaded (Anne Boleyn), died (Jane Seymore), divorced (Anna of Cleves), beheaded (Catherine Howard), survived (Catherine Parr) is the old school child rhyme utilized to keep the various queens straight. The story of each is fascinating in themselves and even more so when read through the prism of 16th century English politics and royal intrigue.