The Queens' P.O.V: Books About How Henry VIII Got Past First Base

shelved under History

From the time I was a small child, I've been fascinated with England's Henry VIII and his much-marrying ways. Here's a list of my hardest-to-put-down books about the king and his six(!) queens.

Bonus: For you completists, I've also included a book which describes the denouement of Henry's reign.


Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII

by David Starkey

Fascinating, beautifully written, and an inexhaustible source of information. I consider Starkey's book the gold standard against which all other biographies of Henry and his wives are measured. I especially loved his section on Catherine of Aragon, who is too often underestimated regarding the political heft she brought to their union.


The Wives of Henry VIII

by Antonia Fraser

Another wonderful overview of the king and his queens. (Psst.... If you want to read about another tragic queen, I also recommend Fraser's Marie Antoinette: The Journey. Don't read before bedtime unless you want to be up for hours.)


Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen

by Joanna Denny

I know a lot of people have criticized this book for being too sympathetic to Anne Boleyn, but I loved it. Whether you agree with Denny's research or not, consider it a contrarian view of England's perhaps most divisive queen. Plus it's a fun read. The details of Anne's last hours will rend your heart.


The Boleyn Inheritance

by Philippa Gregory

History is great — but sometimes you just want to get caught up with the sheer over-the-top histrionics of it all. This pulpy novel is written from the point of view of several key players in Henry's court: fourth wife Anne of Cleves, fifth wife Catherine Howard, and lady-in-waiting Jane Boleyn. Whether you like this sort of thing or not, The Boleyn Inheritance is impossible to put down until the last head rolls.


The Children of Henry VIII

by Alison Weir

What happened to the Tudors after Henry finally kicked the bucket? This book gives a fascinating overview of the dynastic struggles which arose from Henry's complicated matrimonial history. I especially recommend The Children of Henry VIII because it includes Jane Grey, my favorite "doomed queen."


The King's Rose

by Alisa Libby

Another novel — and a revisionist one at that — about teen queen Catherine Howard. In most books, Catherine is usually described as the Lydia Bennett of Henry's wives: a frivolous teenager with loose ways and a taste for shiny baubles. In Libby's novel, Catherine takes on weight to become a thoughtful, tragic heroine caught between explosive familial expectations, romantic desires, and political plotting. Intense and haunting.