Wednesday, November 12, 2014

(Review) The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women's Stories by Amy Licence

Publisher: Amberley Publishing, hardcover available in the US, November 19, 2014. The Kindle edition is available now.
Genre: Non-fiction, British History Reading Challenge 2014, Kings and Queens of England, Tudor History.
Format: pdf.
Pages: 416, with 75 illustrations.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.
Source: Free pdf copy from Amberley Publishing in exchange for a review.

The book is available at:
Amazon,
Waterstones.


Summary:
In my opinion, it is unfair how Henry VIII and his relationships have been depicted on the movie screen and in books. Because most of the time it is an inaccurate rendering. Accuracy is swept away and replaced with theatrics that titillate. What people do not realize is Henry's marriages and love affairs had more than enough drama, adding to the reality of what happened is unnecessary. I'm thankful Amy Licence has not sought to write another biography on Henry VIII. Instead, she has written a study on Henry's relationships with his wives and mistresses. Henry was married six times. He had several affairs. All of the relationships began and ended on his terms. I've never thought of Henry as man who was not in control. But death had the last dramatic session in his life. A legacy of Henry VIII is his lengthy list of wives, especially concerning the circumstances of each relationship. I have been curious to know what Henry's enticement had been for these women? What was Henry like as a lover? Was "it" all a game and Henry the master chess player?
Amy Licence defines, "three key phases of Henry's intimate relationships."

  1. 1509-1525. A young Henry.
  2. 1526-1537. The era dominated by a preoccupation for an heir. 
  3. 1537-1547. Henry's effort to "recreate the stability and happiness of a loving marriage."  

My Thoughts:
The best writers know and write for their targeted audience. The most clever writers have a particular skill they have mastered. In Amy Licence's case, her particular skill is the culture and society of Tudor women.
When I began reading The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII, I did not expect a Henry VIII biography. I expected and received a detailed study of Henry's love relationships.
I'm compelled to feel strong empathy for Henry's first two wives. Long suffering Catherine of Aragon. She had been Henry's wife at his best. She had been Henry's wife at his worst. Catherine of Aragon had been Henry's wife longer than his other wives, but when Henry was finished with her, she was regarded as dead to his life. Likewise, is Henry's second wife Anne Boleyn. She is a favorite historical figure among readers and lovers of Tudor history. I love reading historical books on Anne. To read either a fact or fictional work on Anne, brings her passionate and vivid personality to life.
Henry had wooed and coddled Anne for years, before marrying her after his divorce from Catherine, in which Henry had transpired and enacted.
Before reading The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII, I had read books on Henry's mistresses, Elizabeth Blount and Mary Boleyn. Licence reveals several more mistresses in Henry's list.
While reading the book, I wondered how Henry had time for a busy sex life? He was a powerful charismatic man. I also believe he "knew" women. I believe he made it a hobby to study women, at least for the benefit of his interests; and I believe this endeavor appealed to his large ego.
Pregnancy, miscarriage, and birthing during Tudor times is explained. I was most interested to read about superstitions in regard to diagnosing pregnancy.
A favorite quote from the book:
"The greater the love he felt for them, the greater the suffering he needed to inflict upon them"

Additional resources:
The Love Letters of Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn. The Kindle price is free. 
In Bed With The Tudors by Amy Licence.
Royal Babies: A History 1066-2013 by Amy Licence. 
From the Luminarium, The Six Wives of Henry VIII.  
From the The Anne Boleyn Files, Henry VIII's Love Letters to Anne Boleyn. 
From the Express, What Really Went on in Henry VIII's Bedroom? 

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