And you thought the Mormons had it tough.
The 16th--century legend of King Henry VIII is turned on its crowned head as the dramatic stories of his six tumultuous marriages are told from the wives’ perspectives in Secrets of the Six Wives (PBS Distribution). The fascinating documentary will be available on DVD March 14; the program will also be available for digital download.
With extraordinary attention to detail–including actual first-person accounts pulled from historical records and secrets and stories from the women who surrounded each Queen–the program offers an ambitious approach to the oft-told tales.
Led by UK author and historian Lucy Worsley, who moves seamlessly from the present to the past and appears throughout the series as an observer and commenter on the happenings at court, the program gives history a new point of view. Worsley is the Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, and a face familiar to British audiences as a regular historical contributor to BBC, whose best-selling books bring new angles on centuries of British history.
The series’ three episodes follows the trajectory of a well-known British nursery rhyme used to teach children the order of the six wives, “Divorced, Beheaded, Died; Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.” Additional information about each of the episodes included on this DVD are below:
Young Henry is smitten with Spanish princess Katherine of Aragon, who became his first wife, until her “inability” to deliver a suitable heir destroyed their marriage. Henry’s wandering eye leads him to Mary Boleyn then to her sister, the infamous Anne Boleyn, as he begins divorcing his first wife.
Viewers learn that Anne Boleyn was not necessarily the “harlot” described by history, but instead a strong and intelligent woman. After Anne’s famous beheading, King Henry marries his professed “true love” Jane Seymour, who bore the King’s only son but died soon after the child’s birth.
Taking place in Henry’s later years and traces the failed marriages he had with Anne of Cleves, whom he divorced, but who got a very good settlement and ended up as one of the richest women in England, and Catherine Howard, a teenager who Lucy discovers was exploited by older men from a young age. She was also beheaded. Henry remained married to his sixth wife, Katherine Parr, until his death.
Whether as witness to, participant in, or wry commentator on the marital dramas as they unfold, Worsley shines an empathetic light on the featured women and, in doing so, delivers a new take on the legend of King Henry VIII.
Murray says the cast of Secrets of the Six Wives features mostly new faces from the U.K., helping to bring the story a contemporary feel. Starring as the six wives are Paola Bontempi (Katherine of Aragon); Claire Cooper (Anne Boleyn); Elly Condron (Jane Seymour); Rebecca Dyson Smith (Anne of Cleves); Lauren McQueen (Catherine Howard); and Alice Patten (Katherine Parr). Notable veteran actor Richard Ridings (who voices the character of Daddy in the popular children’s show Peppa Pig) appears as the older King Henry VIII in episode 3. Scott Arthur plays Young King Henry VIII in episodes 1 and 2.