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.
This weekend, I was part of a group shown a preview of the upcoming movie Austenland.
Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) is a 30 something single American woman obsessed with Jane Austen and more specifically, the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries. On a whim, she spends her life savings on a Jane Austen theme park run by Mrs. Waddlesbrook (Jane Seymour), hoping to meet the perfect English gentleman. Joining her is Miss Elizabeth Charming (Jennifer Coolidge) and Lady Amelia Heartwright (Georgia King).
The gentleman are actors, paid to give participants the full Austen experience. Henry Nobley (JJ Feild), Martin (Bret McKenzie), Colonel Andrews (James Callis) and Captain George East (Ricky Whittle).
This movie is based on a book, which I have not read, but some of my friends have said the book is good.
As a rom-com based on Austen’s novels, it certainly appeals to the Janeite in me. Anyone who knews me to a certain degree or has read this blog knows that I am a very open and proud Janeite. But this movie creates stereotypes that are far from reality. As one of my friends put it, the first 15 minutes are extremely unrealistic. As much as I adore and appreciate the 1995 P&P miniseries, I do not have a life-size Colin Firth Mr. Darcy cutout in my home.
The bright spots in this movie are Jennifer Coolidge who has the funniest lines and JJ Feild who looks good (and I mean looks really, really good) in regency era clothes.
That being said, this movie is not good. It panders to the Janeite fandom community and to women in general, reducing what could have been a very good, very smart and very funny homage to Miss Austen into a predictable and stale rom com. The ending, even as predictable as it is, is too predictable. I’m glad I saw it before it comes to theaters, it is not worth going to the movies for.