Imagine if historical figures could speak and tell you their true story, but through song. That’s the premise for Six the musical, which stars the six ex-wives of King Henry VIII of England. He’s well-known as the monarch who broke England away from Rome and the Catholic Church to set up the Church of England in 1534.
His wives are also a prominent part of him since he had so many and killed two of them by beheading. Their side of history is reshaped in Six, as they join a pop band together to decide which one of them had the worst time with Henry VIII. The songs are very catchy, but how much of that is true?
The cast of the West End production of ‘Six’ the musical singing at West End LIVE in London.
Did Catherine of Aragon become a nun?
King Henry VIII and Catherine married in 1509, and it was annulled by 1533. Part of Henry’s frustration with Catherine was her inability to give him a male heir, along with some other factors like Anne Boleyn.
In Catherine of Aragon’s song “No Way,” she sings, “If you thought it’d be funny to / Send me to a nunnery / Honey, there’s no way.” This line is accurate. Henry tried to force her to join a convent, and she fought back against that. Just like in the musical, Catherine refused to go anywhere and lived the rest of her days claiming to be the true, legitimate Queen of England. She was banished from the King’s court, isolated from their daughter Mary, and died in 1536 at 30.
Did Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII write notes to each other?
Anne Boleyn might be the most famous of Henry’s wives just because of her story of seduction, allure, and the fact that he split England from the Catholic Church (partly) because of her. It was common for the King to have affairs outside of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and he even bed Anne’s sister Mary.
Because of this, Anne used her charm and knowledge of seduction to entice King Henry VIII. She denied his sexual advances and wouldn’t become his mistress, which caused him to break away from Rome so he could marry her. “He wanted me, obviously / Messaging me like every day / Couldn’t be better then he sent me a letter.” Like the song “Don’t Lose Your Head” said, they did write love letters back and forth. But it’s safe to say that Anne didn’t write, “Xo, baby.”
Was Jane Seymour the only one Henry VIII truly loved?
According to Jillianne Hamilton, King Henry VIII loved each of his wives differently, whether for looks or what they could provide for him. With Anne, she was the only one he wrote notes to, even though he hated doing so for anyone else. With Catherine, he didn’t kill her for defying his new church.
So when she sings, “Jane Seymour, the only one he truly loved” in “Ex-Wives,” Jane isn’t genuinely telling the truth here. However, she did hold an exceptional place in his heart because she was the only wife to produce a male heir, Edward VI. Jane also sings, “But I know, without my son / Your love could disappear” in “Heart of Stone,” which is a better representation of Henry’s feelings for her. She died in childbirth and is the only one out of the six wives to receive a Queen’s funeral. She’s also the only one buried next to King Henry VIII.
Did Anne of Cleves’ portrait catfish Henry VIII?
Six devotes a whole separate song to the creation of Anne of Cleve’s portrait, the one that “catfished” the king. “When he saw my portrait he was like— Jaa / But I didn’t look as good / As I did in my pic,” Anne of Cleves sings in “Ex-Wives.” She mentions how it’s all anyone remembers of her, and that’s because it’s true.
“We must make sure the princesses look great / When their time comes for a Holbein portrait,” the wives sing in “Haus of Holbein,” which is all about making Anne of Cleves the best looking she can be. As Hamilton wrote, Hans Holbein painted Anne of Cleves’ portrait, and King Henry fell in love with it. They were betrothed before ever meeting, and therefore her lackluster appearance in the flesh made the king angry. He divorced her after six months.
Was Katherine Howard promiscuous?
In the musical, Katherin Howard comes across as lively and sultry, sleeping with men because she was seeking a sort of connection. If you listen to the lyrics in “All You Wanna Do,” it tells the story of a young woman who was taken advantage of but tried to play it off.
In real life, this is basically how it all went down. Katherine Howard was molested by her music teacher, Henry Manox, detailed in the song. She seems to enjoy their sexual rendezvous and the lessons he taught her outside of music. But considering she was 13 (or younger in real life) and he was in his 30s, this is a clear case of manipulation. “I thought this time was different… But it’s never, ever different,” she sings, coming to terms with all the men who used her for her body. She was beheaded in 1542, charged with adultery.
Was Catherine Parr madly in love with someone else before marrying King Henry?
Catherine Parr was the final of Henry’s six wives. Her song, “I Don’t Need Your Love,” outlines a woman who’s trying to convince herself that she’s not madly in love with someone that’s not Henry. She’s trying to convince herself to agree to marry Henry. “Oh, I love you, boy / I wish that I could stay with you / And keep the life I made with you,” she sings.
This side of her story is real. After her second husband, John Neville, died in 1543, she planned to marry Thomas Seymour, but then Henry proposed marriage. She took up the offer but suffered emotionally because of her true love for Thomas. They married in 1543. Later, King Henry VIII died in 1547. She was able to marry Thomas Seymour in 1547 and stayed with him until her death in 1548.
Things need to dramatization for an audience, but luckily Six, the musical, is catchy, well-written, and pretty historically accurate.