DIVORCED, BEHEADED, SURVIVED by Karen Lindsey

DIVORCED, BEHEADED, SURVIVED

A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 How six resourceful women faced the perils of being married to King Henry VIII and managed to play an active role in the man's world of early 16th century England. Sex scandals and power politics interacted with the intellectual and religious ferment of the Renaissance and the Reformation. Conventional accounts of Henry VIII and his wives turn on the bizarre figure of the king, with his wives appearing as a backdrop and supporting cast as victims of his caprice. Lindsey (Women's Studies and Writing/Emerson College; Friends as Family, 1981, etc.) is part of a movement to correct this perspective. Prefacing her account with Margaret Beaufort, who brought her son, Henry VII, to the throne and thus ended the Wars of the Roses, the author offers sensitive and detailed portraits of Henry VIII's six wives, concluding her narrative with his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, who successively ruled the country in their own right. Lindsey, admitting to reinterpreting rather than disputing the accepted facts, claims that her book is an advance on the recent works by Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser, since she makes use of the ideas about women's lives advanced by feminists such as Gloria Steinem and Germaine Greer. Thus she holds that the image of Henry's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, remains tarnished because of our failure to accept female sexuality. Similarly, she takes seriously the religious integrity of both the Catholic Katharine of Aragon, Henry's first wife, and the Protestant Catherine Parr, who managed to outwit and to outlive Henry. Lindsey writes with a pleasing and elegant style, enlivened by flashes of ironic humor. Her brisk account teams with anecdotes and names, and to help the breathless reader, she provides a useful glossary. She has a special talent for exploring the feelings of all her characters, the men as well as the women. Entertaining and sensitive.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-201-60895-2
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994