The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

Alison Weir is one of my favorite British historians. I’ve previously read a couple of her books, and she sold me instantly. The tales within her pages come to life. Weir is one of those gifted storytellers who can give you both the broad strokes and the details so as to help the reader easily navigate the political and emotional landscape of a subject matter as charged and as tangled as Tudor history.

With any book on Tudor history, I always recommend to the beginner to start with Henry VIII simply because his story is highly engaging and paints the clearer path backwards and forwards through this period. As such, this book is not one I’d automatically recommend for beginners, but I’d certainly recommend it as supplemental reading to Weir’s equally amazing Henry VIII biography. That said, this book’s focus keeps Henry at the forefront for obvious reasons, and so a beginner could easily start here too. The material is friendly to the novice despite bringing the queens to the spotlight.

For the more advanced student of Tudor history, it’s the details and how they weave together that makes this book a winner. The backgrounds, upbringings, emotional states, intellects, and spirituality of the queens are examined and put into context with their king and his ever-changing political machine. Preconceived notions and common misconceptions about each of them are challenged and clarified. The end result is that the reader walks away not only with a better understanding of who these great women were, but also of the circumstances that forged them into legends of history.

5 stars

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