The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've put off writing a review of this book because I'm sure that in attempting to do so, I would be divulging my inexperience at writing book reviews. Weir's book, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, is so rich in detail and history that this novice reviewer was too engrossed in it to even take notes!
What I can recall was the meticulous writing and research of Weir. That she is an excellent writer of fiction makes for a vivid and easy-to-read historical narrative. Not only does Weir include the public records to account for this biography, but unlike other biographers, Weir also includes a wealth of private letters and documents that attribute to a deeper understanding of the personalitites and characteristics of those within its pages.
The author did an excellent job of describing the political and religious expectations of those living in Tudor England, especially women. Women were to be seen, not heard, and certainly not heard with any opinions. Their sole value was determined according to the children they bore (heaven forbid if the bore only daughters). The fact that Henry's wives consistently produced female heirs and not his long-sought male heirs, I believe marked the actions of his entire reign. I think he would have been a very different king and husband if the stability he sought in both his family life and reign could have been secured by male issues.
From the annullments, beheadings, and setting aside of his wives to the Reformation and splitting from the Roman Catholic Church. Weir's book thoroughly covers the tumultuous reign of one of the most notable sovereigns of England's history.
More specifically, her book gives a concise and objective picture of the lives of each of these women, the challenges they faced, and the powers they were up against that formed their person and contributed to their actions. "From the cradle to the grave, the lives of Henry's Queens - and all women - were lived according to prescribed rules and conventions." Weir goes on to say that the perilous journey of the Queen was to "produce heirs for the succession" and to "set a high moral standard for court and kingdom by being a model of wifely dignity and virtue." Much to live up to, especially when during those times, childbirth was difficult and often led to death.
Overall, this biography read like a book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in history, fiction readers and non-fiction readers alike.
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