Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

I normally read Alison Weir's book quickly, but it took me a while to get into The Six Wives of Henry VIII. I think I was just Tudored out. I've read a lot of books about Anne Boleyn over the last two years, watched the Tudors and a bunch of movies, read about Catherine of Aragon. So it took me a while to get through the first part of the book, the part about Catherine and Anne because I wasn't learning anything new. I wanted to finish all of my books I'm in the process of reading before the new year. I'm setting a goal to only read two books at a time next year, so I wanted to wrap up everything I'm in the middle of now.
Once I got the part of the book about Jane Seymour, my interest renewed. I'm really not that familiar with his later wives, so I enjoyed reaading about them and later part of Henry's life. I especially enjoyed reading about Anne of Cleves and Katherine Parr.
Anne of Cleves was his fourth wife, and his luckiest one. He simply divorced her, rather than beheading her or imprisoning her. Henry actually gave her three homes and plenty of money as part of the divorce. Anne was able to live in comfort and freedom for the rest of her life. Henry apparently thought she was ugly and wanted to get rid of her, but she was so amiable and well liked he did it nicely. He had heard of her great beauty and by the time he met her it was too late to back out. Apparently being nice and unattractive comes in handy once in a while. The most beautiful of his wives didn't fare so well.
I liked Katherine Parr because she was considered his most intelligent wife, and one of the most intelligent women of the time. She was Henry's last wife, and she was lucky in that he died before tiring of her. She was a very good stepmother to Mary and Elizabeth, more of a friend to Mary really since they were the same age (although they had a falling out later over religion). Weir notes that two of the finest minds of the time were molded by Katherine - Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey. Katherine was also instrumental in making it preferable for women to be educated. She promoted learning and scholarly pursuits in her court.
It's also interesting that out of his six wives, three were named Catherine. Makes it a little easier to remember. And two were named Anne. And his other wife and two daughters rounded out the names available - Jane, Mary and Elizabeth. It seems like pretty much every female had one of those names. And all of the men were Henry, Edward, or James. Makes it a bit confusing. It must be difficult to learn history in England. We Americans just have a few hundred years to learn of our country's history. English schoolkids have to learn 1500 years of history just of their country, with hundreds of people with all of the same names. It must be hard to try to remember if it was Henry the IV or V that did such and such. It just makes it that much sadder that most Americans don't know our own history, when it's not even that much stuff.

No comments:

Post a Comment