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.