It has been said that history is written by the victors. History has also been written by men.
Henry VIII was the second King in the Tudor dynasty, ruling from 1509-1547. During his lifetime, he said “I do” to six different women. Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr all wore the Queen’s coronet at one point or another during Henry’s reign. Catherine Parr, his widow, was the only wife to be spared the fate of either divorce or death at the king’s hands.
In the new PBS miniseries, Secrets Of The Six Wives, historian Lucy Worsley takes the audience through the reign of Henry VIII through the eyes of his wives. Telling the story both in character (and in the background of Henry’s court) and in modern dress, Ms. Worsley allows the audience to see that world through the point of view of the six different women who were referred to as the Queen of England in the first half of the 16th century.
As a feminist and a history buff, this series is absolutely fascinating. To see this man’s world through a woman’s eyes, is still a concept that while it should not be radical in 2017, feels radical. Despite the fact that these women were Queens, their status was no different from any other woman in England at this time. Their job (especially at the higher levels of society) was to bring legitimate male heirs into the world. That was their only responsibility. Five of these women failed at this task. Jane Seymour (wife #3) was the only one who bore her husband a male heir. Unfortunately, the boy who would briefly reign as Edward VI died young. I’d like to think that history has a sense of humor. While Henry VIII married six women in an effort to bring a male heir in the world, his daughter Elizabeth I (by wife #2 Anne Boleyn) is remembered as one of the greatest rulers, male or female in the history of the human race.
I recommend it.
The Secret Of The Six Wives airs on PBS on Sunday night at 10PM.
Biopics, especially those revolving around those that are no longer with us are tricky. The movie has to be entertaining, but it also has to be truthful to the history and to the person who is the subject of the biopic.
In 1998, Elizabeth, the biopic of Elizabeth I of England was released. Born in 1533, no one expected Elizabeth to one day become Queen Of England. Her father, Henry VIII, had her mother, Anne Boleyn, executed so he could marry wife number three, Jane Seymour. The film focuses on Elizabeth’s early years on the throne and the bumpy path she would have to travel to become the beloved and respected Queen that we know her today to be.
Cate Blanchett is one the best performers of her generation for good reason. Elizabeth is one of her earliest introductions to the American film audience. Her performance is nuanced, powerful and human.
I absolutely recommend it.
Among the kings that ruled England, Henry VIII was unique. His appetites for everything were legendary. In his quest for a male heir, he would marry six times.
There is no shortage of dramatizations of Henry’s life.
In 1969, Richard Burton stepped into the shoes of the legendary king in Anne Of A Thousand Days. Playing opposite Richard was Genevieve Bujold as his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Henry has been married to Catherine Of Aragon for many years, but no son had come out of the marriage. Extremely eager to have a son and taken by Anne, Henry divorces Catherine to marry Anne. But the marriage is tumultuous and as history records, will be short lived.
I like this movie. Richard Burton, as a middle aged, slightly bloated and a little egotistical Henry was perfect. Genevieve Bujold as Anne, was young, passionate and more than a little eager to do whatever was necessary to secure her place as Queen Of England.
Nearly forty years later, another movie based on the lives of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was released. But this movie was from an entirely different point of view. The Other Boleyn Girl, based on the 2002 book of the same name by Phillipa Gregory was released into theaters in 2008. The story is of two sisters, Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary who are competing for the affection of Henry VIII. Mary (Scarlett Johansson) was one of Henry’s (Eric Bana) mistresses before she was discarded in favor of her sister, Anne (Natalie Portman).
I like this movie. Mary Boleyn, historically speaking, is not as well known as her sister. It’s nice to see her story told.
I recommend both.