Thursday, June 12, 2008

How Many Wives Will He Have?

The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir

Given how popular the Tudor court is in pop culture even today, it's easy to have preconceived notions about the different women, and Henry VIII himself. Weird did a good job of actually showing these women in all their complexity with the information available. She doesn't glamorize or villainize one wife over the other, even though people have at times. Anne Boleyn still may come off as the worst, simply because of how vengeful she could be, but this doesn't mean that Katherine of Aragon is glamorized in any way. Weir also takes issue with seeing Jane Seymour as a pious and modest woman, based simply on the fact that she had to have at least some ambition to be willing to let another, innocent woman be executed to advance herself.

Many of the political issues that were occurring at the time are touched on, but not discussed too deeply into since this is mainly a biography of Henry's wives. Weir touches on the reformation, wars with different countries, but the focus remains on the women.

She also takes a critical look at Henry and his relationships with his wives. While Henry definitely was willing to believe lies if it would get him what he wanted anyway, his casting off of Katherine really was about more than pure lust, and others certainly sympathized with his need for a heir, just not necessarily his choice of Anne Boleyn.

I recently ordered The Tudors, so at least now I'll know just how historically inaccurate it is before I start watching. Honestly, I'm expecting the show to be entertaining, but as far as accuracy, I have very low expectations. As attractive as Jonathan Rhys Meyers is, I'm not sure how good of a choice he was as Henry. He's too young, since by the time Anne was in the picture, Henry was in his 30s, and also starting to get a little heavier. Also, this might be a simple point, but they couldn't even get his hair color right - Henry had reddish-blondish hair ("golden boy") - after all, where do they think Elizabeth got her famous red hair from? Certainly not her mother. Of course, they made the same mistake in The Other Boleyn Girl by casting Eric Bana.

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