“Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived.” This six-word rhyme is often all anyone knows or remembers about the six wives of Henry VIII. It is also the starting point for the successful musical Six, on Broadway and touring the country. But as the musical makes clear, these six women were more than just a footnote in Tudor history. This class will look at the history of 16th century England, through the eyes of Catherine Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Katherine Parr. These women were instrumental in helping to solidify the Tudor dynasty, instigating and supporting the Protestant Reformation, and helping to usher in one of the most famous monarchs of early modern Europe (Elizabeth I). They deserve to be remembered for more than just how their lives ended.
Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII, by Karen Lindsey
Wolf Hall: A Novel, by Hilary Mantel
Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, by David Starkey
1. Why is there such a fascination with the Tudors, more so than with almost any other European royal family?
2. What impact do you think these women/marriages had on Henry’s children (and future monarchs), Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth I?
3. How important was religion, and the Reformation specifically, to the events affecting Henry’s wives?