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The Wives of Henry VIII

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The wives of Henry VIII have come down to us through history narrowly defined by the roles they played in the larger story of the King's life, and most commonly remembered for the manner in which each did - or did not - survive marriage to him. Now, in this richly dramatic and singularly illuminating study, Antonia Fraser uncovers the complex and fascinating individuals whose true characters have been shrouded for centuries by stereotype and legend. In a sweeping narrative and with her own enthralling amalgam of meticulous scholarship and the lively play of ideas, Fraser makes clear the remarkably high level of strength and intelligence displayed by these six women at a time when their sex traditionally possessed little of either. She brings to light, for example: the tenacious self-possession displayed by Catherine of Aragon when, toward the end of her twenty-four-year marriage, she met the King's demands for a divorce with steadfast refusal . . . Anne Boleyn's 'curiously modern' independence of mind - initially dazzling to the King (and shocking to most everyone else), but ultimately the cause of her gruesome demise . . . the circumspect wisdom that allowed Jane Seymour to emerge as an object of universal welcome and lasting admiration in a year that saw two other queens as well ... the touching dignity of Anna of Cleves - dubbed 'The Flanders Mare' by an insensitive court - during her bewilderingly short and demeaning tenure as consort . . . the naivete of Katherine Howard - not yet twenty when the King turned his eye toward her - whose indiscretions were more nearly the result of innocence than deviousness . . . the surprisingly subversive side of the otherwise submissive CatherineParr, one of only eight women whose writings were published during the sixty years of the first two Tudor reigns. The author traces the ascent and decline of each woman - and the linkages between them - delineating the cultural, familial, and political roots of the behavior and i
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About the Author

Antonia Fraser is the author of many internationally bestselling historical works, includingLove and Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, which was made into a film by Sofia Coppola, The Wives of Henry VIII, Mary Queen of Scots, Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot, and Perilous Question: Reform or Revolution? Britain on the Brink, 1832. She is also the author of Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter. She has received the Wolfson Prize for History, the 2000 Norton Medlicott Medal of Britain s Historical Association, and the Franco-British Society s Enid McLeod Literary Prize. She was made a Dame of the British Empire for services to Literature in 2011."


Fraser here attempts to provide a fuller view of the six women who unenviably danced around the maypole that was the corpulent King of England. Fraser, the distinguished author of many historical studies, including The Weaker Vessel ( LJ 8/84), portrays in fascinating detail the women who sought to be included in and were sometimes destroyed by the power structure of the times. Inevitably, more time is spent on Catherine of Aragon (after all, Catherine and Henry were married 24 years, whereas all five of his other marriages only totaled a little over ten years), and although Fraser claims to have tried to avoid any bias, she betrays a lingering sympathy for Henry's first queen. One cannot help but speculate, as the author does, what history would have been like if Catherine had provided Henry with a male heir. Not only were Henry's wives prisoners of their biology, but also Henry himself. Fraser's readable style, empathy for her subjects, and piquant use of historical details and anecdotes make this a satisfying addition to the history shelves. Recommended for all public and academic libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/92.-- Katherine Gillen, Denver P . L .

Fraser ( Mary, Queen of Scots ) here turns to the reign of Henry VIII, who ruled from 1509-1547, and the six women he married: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr. From her scrupulous research and informed interpretations of historical events, Fraser succeeds in presenting Henry's queens as complex and intelligent women who struggled to express themselves in a world where females were subservient to and ruled by men. Catherine of Aragon, married to Henry for 20 years, displayed cleverness and bravery when she fought her husband's attempts to divorce her. Anne Boleyn, a learned woman, was innocent of the adultery she was accused of, but was beheaded because she could not produce a son. Unlettered, 21-year-old Katherine Howard, queen for just 18 months when she was beheaded in 1542 for the ``violent presumption'' she had committed adultery, met death on the block where her cousin Anne Boleyn had died six years earlier. By firmly anchoring each woman's fate in Henry's failure to be philoprogenitive--most crucially in not producing male heirs--Fraser makes a major contribution to feminist scholarship. Illustations not seen by PW. 50,000 first printing; History Book Club and BOMC alternates. (Nov.)

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