The Six Wives of Henry VIII
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The Six Wives of Henry VIII

2001, History  -   34 Comments
Ratings: 7.89/10 from 45 users.

The Six Wives of Henry VIIIQueen, lover, mother, outcast, victim and survivor - this is how historian and series narrator David Starkey assigns the roles of the six wives of Britain's most famous monarch Henry VIII in the sexual intrigue and cut-throat power politics of his long reign from 1509 to 1547. The series The Six Wives of Henry VIII takes a fresh approach and presents each wife's story from her perspective.

Through the women's own words and powerful dramatizations, we learn that the wives were not pitiful victims or pawns but rather knowing players in a high-stakes game and remarkable individuals who managed to show great dignity even when facing exile and death.

Catherine of Aragon. The daughter of Spain's King Ferdinand and Isabella, Catherine was just 16 when she married Henry's older brother Arthur in 1501. When Arthur died shortly thereafter, Catherine was left stranded. It wasn't until seven years later that she was able to marry Henry, who had become king.

Anne Boleyn. Raised by aristocratic parents and schooled in the Netherlands in the court of Archduchess Margaret, Anne long aspired to play a significant role in the English court. Chic and flirtatious, Anne became a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, where she quickly caught the attention of the king.

Jane Seymour. Waiting in the wings when Anne died was Jane Seymour, a submissive woman of noble birth who seemed the perfect Tudor wife. Moreover, she was a devout Catholic, and the king's advisors hoped her religious beliefs would bring Henry back to his original religion.

Anne of Cleves. Henry's advisor Thomas Cromwell thought the West German princess Anne of Cleves was an excellent candidate because of her religious connections and prestigious family.

Catherine Howard. A promiscuous niece of the Duke of Norfolk, and a cousin of Anne Boleyn, Catherine caught the king's attention while serving as lady-in-waiting for Queen Anne.

Catherine Parr. The widow Catherine Parr was in love with Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of the late Queen Jane, when Henry became smitten with her. To eradicate the competition, the king assigned Seymour to a diplomatic post in Brussels, and proposed to Catherine.

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34 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Kora

    Where did these videos go? I used to watch them all of the time and now they've disappeared! Is there somewhere I can at least buy them?

  2. Sarah

    Anne used trickery and it backfired on her, but she was a women ahead of her time with her ideas and her ability to say what she wanted and go for it. Trickery always backfires and she did lose all she got. Her spirit though shines through in her daughter Elizabeth who became one of the best Monarch's England ever had.

  3. pazazzmoi616

    Boy I tell you these Tudors are interesting to learn about.

    1. Teddy Mcd

      So are four-doors.

  4. Amy Costello

    Where is the link to watch the documentary?

    1. Cirreh

      There's a Youtube clip there. Perhaps your internet browser is blocking it...?

  5. Steven Schroeder

    As I've read Alison Weir's book on King Henry's wives, I knew this story well already. The documentary however was compelling and gripping. It isn't hard to feel for most of these women, all but Boleyn and Howard I suppose. The number of miscarriages and young deaths was so very tragic. I'm also inclined not to place ALL of the blame on Henry insofar as his wives go. People and events certainly conspired around him.

  6. Godsclaws

    Great doc but the dude looks sooo angry when he's narrating, almost as if hes daring me to disbelieve what he's saying.
    Wow though, this guy had really cr@ppy marriages. Interestingly he married 3 Catherines and two Annes and the odd one out was the only one to give him a son. You'd think he would have picked up that pattern before he carked it.

    1. Darkstar

      Only Catherine of Aragon and Catherine Carr were the most mature out of the 3. Howard was the most immature (especially in the TV show The Tudors) and too young (in her late teens) to be Queen. I found that the most mature ones (Catherine of Aragon, Jane and Catharine Carr) should have stayed as queen longer than they did.

  7. Angela Velazquez

    I love David Starkey, he presents the history in a very absorbing way. This is a fascinating time in history,but it can be presented in a way to be boring, Mr. Starkey makes it come back to life

  8. athar rasool

    very absorbing film indeed....
    thanks a lot

  9. athar rasool


  10. Sistar & Friend

    Wonderful!!!! LOL

  11. tomregit

    To anyone looking at the comments section to see if this is worth viewing, a resounding YES from me. Thanks for bringing it here Vlatko. I first saw it on The Knowledge Network in BC, and I have watched the complete series again enjoying it every bit as much as the first time.

  12. Echo Gecko

    This is a wonderfully fascinating documentary, thanks for putting it up.

    And I agree with Christine, Catherine did suffer far more. I find that to be such a tragic, nightmarish story for anybody to live through, and from what was described here Catherine seemed like such a...classy lady, for lack of a better term.

    And it makes Anne's death pretty satisfying too.

    1. kizzy18

      You have to remember the context of the times...women had few rights and spent most of their lives subservient in order to survive. You are right Echo in saying Catherine was classy because she was real royalty...Anne Bolyne came from a minor noble family that were considered 'noveau riche'...we have to remember too that Henry VIII was only the second Tudor to be crowned....HIS throne wasn't as secure as he would have liked it either. Henry couldn't just divorce Anne...he had just divorced one (well loved) wife and had to split from the Catholic Church to marry Anne. A really big deal back then because when he was excummunicated so were all his subjects. Most of the country was still (secretly)Catholic and in order for him to avoid any civil unrest he had to end that marriage quickly. Henry wasn't much different than most other rulers of the time...just more notorious.

  13. Steve Howard

    According to family legend, my father's side of the family are descendents of Catherine Howard, though I've been able to figure out how those Howards went from English royalty to Texas bootleggers in less then 400 years:).

  14. Anne N. Muthaura

    Anne Boleyn was the most loved and yet suffered the most

    1. Christine Moeller

      I find that statement to be incorrect - first of all, it was Catherine of Aragon, not Anne Boleyn, who was loved the most at the time. In fact, Anne was extremely disliked and seen as a temptress and gold-digger, whereas Catherine was so loved by the people that she was even dubbed 'Catherine the Great'. It is only history which has remembered Anne the most fondly of all the wives.

      Secondly, I think it was Catherine of Aragon who arguably suffered the most. Catherine was shipped off to a foreign country as a teenager to marry a man she had never met (who she wasn't even able to speak to, as they had learned different pronunciations of Latin), only for him to die a few months later. Since Henry VII (Henry VIII's father) didn't want to have to return her dowry, he decided that she should marry his second son, Henry, once he was old enough, yet he procrastinated so much about the dowry that it was unsure if the marriage would ever take place. Until then, she lived in poverty and as a virtual prisoner in this hostile and alien country, at a place called Durham house, while she waited for this marriage which could potentially never happen. There are surviving letters from this period in which she complains to her father of her ill treatment at the hands of the English. During this period, she had to deal with the death of her mother, which significantly decreased her marriage value as well.

      After finally marrying Henry (five years her junior), she experienced multiple miscarriages, stillbirths, and infant deaths, for which she was blamed (as the woman always was in those days) by her husband and the entire English court, and, as a result, lost the renowned beauty of her youth and became fat and ugly. Her husband started to cheat on her, and even had an acknowledged son with one of his mistresses - something she wasn't able to give him. Then, on top of all this, she saw her husband, whom she loved and was devoted to, fall in love with a younger, sexier woman, who just happened to be one of her own trusted ladies-in-waiting, and her possessions, status, and the admiration of her husband and the court slowly given to this woman (Anne Boleyn) right in front of her eyes. She had to see Anne everyday in court, and put up with the humiliation of having everything that she owned and loved being gradually taken from her by her husband and given to Anne. She had to spend everyday looking at Anne wearing her jewelry, sitting in her place next to Henry, and receiving the honours and respect from the court that were rightfully hers to receive. And still she was expected to treat her husband and his new lover with respect and grace. It must have been extremely emotionally traumatic.

      Henry then annuled his marriage to Catherine stating that it was illegitimate, and only allowed her to testify against this in a trial in which the outcome had already been pre-determined. He married Anne Boleyn and sent Catherine, now stripped of her title, to live once again in poverty, in the cold, damp rooms of Kimbolton castle. To add to this ill-treatment, she was refused communication with Mary, and had to watch her daughter declared illegitimate, also stripped of her title and possessions, and forced to become a servant to Anne's daughter Elizabeth. She eventually died of cancer.

      In stark contrast to this, Anne had an enjoyable upbringing. She was well educated, served in the courts of both the Netherlands and France, and was well admired by her peers. While being wooed by Henry she was given considerable influence over the affairs of state, a truckload of gifts, and was treated as though she was royalty herself. She was given an elaborate coronation, and many more servants than Catherine ever was. Numerous palaces were renovated to suit her, she spent lavish amounts of money on material objects, and she ruled over a magnificent court.

      Her downfall was in her inability to give birth to a male heir, and she was unfairly accused of incest, adultery and witchcraft. However, unlike the slow, painful death experienced by Catherine, Anne was executed quickly using the most humane method of execution available at the time - a sharpened sword.

      Obviously, both women came to an unfair and untimely demise, but Anne did not suffer the string of tragic events and circumstances experienced by Catherine, nor did she suffer as painful an end.

    2. blahblahbob

      catherine the great was a russian empress.

    3. Christine Moeller

      That's true, but she came after Catherine of Aragon, and at the time of Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon was nicknamed 'Catherine the Great' by her people.

    4. blahblahbob

      your long ass explanation is cool and all, but all you did was restate everything stated in the first two episodes. a very long winded theft of ideas.

    5. Christine Moeller

      Haha, sorry I wrote it before I watched the episodes.

    6. Kendra Appleton

      Anne was the least loved of all his wives and documented well people from court to commoner disliked her. King Henry had to and or pay people to show up and yell in the streets for Anne's corination. Anne got what she wanted only because of the control she had over the king at the time, keeping it was harder than getting it. The problem Anne had is that she got a way with so much for so long that humbleness disappered along with understanding that mistress and queen were two different roles. Mistress may say what she likes no matter but queen represents the king and country! Women during those times were raised to be subservient to men. For Anne to have any opinion and then to act upon it WOW ballsy. What a remarkable person Anne must have been. Say what she said NO to the king novel idea she is plain, not very pretty, well mannered, gracious and very witty lets not forget skilled. As witnesses have discribed and that she had a growth on her neck which she covered with high collars as well as hidding her hands because of a sixth finger. Why would the king even look at someone that had those disfigurements knowing that those are a sign of witchery. ( I say propoganda ) a smearing tale of dislike. King Henry always up for a challenge must have met his match with Anne the thrill of the hunt.The unfortunate problem was that King gets what he wants when he wants eventually. Anne didn't practice the most important thing she was supposed to be queen which I'm sure the King found the most enticeing about her {not being subservient}.

    7. Shadowcasting

      I believe, although cannot be sure, that you misunderstood the statement. She meant loved by HENRY, not the country.

  15. Radhaya

    Time, place and circumstance, but much still rings true today. As in the days of yore, most will still sacrifice relative safety for advancement in terms of wealth, prestige and power. Why not? It is a game to be played. Most will play the game for the hope of bettering themselves and their family's fortune. But beware, "The closer to Caesar, the greater the fear!" The Showtime docu-drama, "The Tudors", will really flesh out all of the intrigue for those who are interested, although it is termed as "loosely historical". I did not find it so, after viewing this doc. Showtime adheres to actual events and brings this period of English history to life. It is quite entertaining and believable in its portrayal of Henry VIII's reign. Henry was only guilty of what most men are, sovereign or not; an overbidding obsession of having a male heir and his queens paid the price for not fulfilling his desire. Too bad that Henry did not know how successful his daughter, Elizabeth, would be. It may have tempered his actions against those he had loved, to some degree.

  16. Anthony Pirtle

    This is a great doc by one of my fav presenters.

  17. Epicurus

    lol Vlatko, two greats in a row! my girlfriend is going to LOVE you for this one!

  18. Ken Adams

    love it!

  19. Teddy Mcd

    Well, I am inclined to think that by the time they got to Jane - the girls would've caught on that something wasn't quite right with the fat dude.

    1. Guest

      His fortune was blinding them, as in our days!

    2. Yi Wen Qian

      Don't think she has much to say about it, I would assume it would a hard life to refused the king, if she keeps her life at all. That man just executed his last wife!

    3. patriotbill

      Believe me ,they all new the dangers.They thought the wealth and power outweighed the risk.Not unlike many women still do today.