The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970)

TV Mini-Series  -   -  Drama | History | Romance
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A six-episode dramatization of Henry VIII's relationships with each of his six wives. Each episode is devoted to one wife, and is a complete play in itself.

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 6 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »



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Series cast summary:
Keith Michell ...
 Henry VIII (6 episodes, 1970)
 Narrator (6 episodes, 1970)
 Duke of Norfolk (5 episodes, 1970)
Bernard Hepton ...
 Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (4 episodes, 1970)
Sheila Burrell ...
 Lady Rochford (3 episodes, 1970)
Basil Dignam ...
 Bishop Gardiner (3 episodes, 1970)
Wolfe Morris ...
 Thomas Cromwell (3 episodes, 1970)
Angela Pleasence ...
 Catherine Howard (2 episodes, 1970)
Anne Stallybrass ...
 Jane Seymour (2 episodes, 1970)
Dorothy Tutin ...
 Anne Boleyn (2 episodes, 1970)
Daniel Moynihan ...
 Edward Seymour (Lord Hertford) (2 episodes, 1970)
John Ronane ...
 Thomas Seymour (2 episodes, 1970)
Howard Goorney ...
 Will Somers (2 episodes, 1970)
 Sir Thomas Wriothesley (2 episodes, 1970)
Alison Frazer ...
 Princess Mary (2 episodes, 1970)
Edward Atienza ...
 Eustache Chapuys (2 episodes, 1970)


A six-episode dramatization of Henry VIII's relationships with each of his six wives. Each episode is devoted to one wife, and is a complete play in itself.

Add Full Plot | Add Synopsis


The legendary, BAFTA award-winning BBC historical drama!


Drama | History | Romance





Release Date:

1 August 1971 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Henrik VIII:n kuusi vaimoa  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Unlike most programs that air on "Masterpiece Theatre", this miniseries aired on CBS (a commercial television network) when first presented in the U.S. It was only years later that "Masterpiece Theatre" showed it. See more »


In the courtroom scene in episode one, as Catherine of Aragon kneels before Henry VIII to beg him to accept the validity of their marriage, a microphone is visible at the bottom of the frame. See more »


Version of The Tower of London (1905) See more »

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User Reviews

Landmark Mini-Series; Good History; Strong Writing; Great Emotion
18 August 2005 | by See all my reviews

This is a fictionalized biography of England's interesting, overrated and matrimonially challenged monarch of the early sixteenth century. The Renaissance--secularism, self-assertion, democratic elections and the relegation of otherworldism--had been introduced as a set of ideas negative to church-worldly theocracy in 1470 by Edward IV. Henry VIII's era's nobles then followed a fashion set by him; female costume was thin, confining, geometric and dull. Henry's male costume was broad, fur-bearing, opulent and increasingly Italianate. His life and times became a struggle between Medieval statism and individualist Renaissance priorities. The series is titled for the "six wives" he married; but an equal amount of time is spent on Henry's stormy reign. The six wives are "Catherine of Aragon" (Annette Crosbie; "Anne Boleyn" (Dorothy Tutin); "Jane Seymour" (Anne Stallybrass); "Anne of Cleves" (Elvi Hale); "Catherine Howard" (Angela Pleasance, aka Angela Scoular); and "Catherine Parr" (Rosalie Crutchley). The assessment of a nine-hour-long series of such complexity as English history, examples of acting, directing, staging, writing, political theory and psychology is a difficult assignment. It is on the grounds of separate evaluations of these aspects that I say one must approach the series. Henry begins as a conformist but Renaissance-loving youth of unusual promise; by the end of the series he has become a bloated and totalitarian monster. He has wasted the kingdom's exchequer in continental wars and on Medieval-style pageants and tournaments; and his neglect of justice and bequeathing of his kingdom to Bloody Mary Tudor, a Catholic, nearly undoes his life's great achievement, the removal of Catholic influence and monastic structures from England, for good or ill. The presentation of events, personalities, ideas and history here I regard as above-average in sum; at times, one feels one is watching realpolitik coming to life before one's eyes. The physical production is above average though seldom either sumptuous or grand; the richest part of the series is its costumes. The directors bring good performances out of many actors; blocking of action, gestures and scenic elements are always quite high-level, I find. Psychologically, the difficulty in such a six-episode coherently-arranged ninety-minute-each mini-series is to try to make the motivations and reactions appeal to late twentieth-century viewers. The writers of the episodes had varying material to work with, and for the most part handled both historicity as well as psychology with requisite skill, I suggest. The dialogue about political as well as personal consequences in most cases remains interesting, and rather well-handled, by my standards. 1. Catherine of Aragon. This is a rather well-written story which telescopes years of time, from the early marriage of Henry, then a prince, to his brother's affianced wife after his death to the ending of their quarrel after early happiness when Henry divorces himself from her and Catholicism. Annette Crosbie is miscast as a Spanish noblewoman but acts rather creditably throughout the episode. 2. Anne Bolyen. Less time is covered in this episode than in the first, and some backtracking is necessary since the same events are covered from Anne Bolyen's point of view the second time. I find the dialogue and story-line and acting to be the best in this Nick McCarty script of all the series' entries. Dorothy Tutin and Wolfe Morris are excellent in this episode even though she is a bit too old for the part. The highlight is the trial scenes that end with Anne's unjust murder. 3. Jane Seymour. I consider this the weakest of the scripts, although Anne Stallybrass is an effectively tragic figure; Bernard Hepton as Cranmer comes to the fore in this episode as a most effective presence. 4. Anne of Cleves. This charming and very-well-reasoned episode presents Elvi Hale as a delightful and occasionally merry prospective bride for an aging Henry; she became a world-class presence due to this intelligently written part. 5. Catherine Howard. Anglela Pleasence is quite good in this part though neither quite beautiful nor highly-charismatic; she deserved more work off this interesting effort. The script is a strong one, especially in dialogue; and the viewer is given the sense from the beginning that this is a monarch of whom men dare not run afoul. A moving and complex piece of television writing and well-acted, the episode shows that even the mighty Howard family is not impervious to Henry's danger. 6. Catherine Parr. Another episode that telescopes time. Enorrmous by now and dangerous, Henry has become the shadow of what he was; one fears for Rosalie Crutchley, the kindly woman who brightens his last years, for a climate where truth cannot be uttered is no England for honest men, male or female. One must begin any evaluation of the series with with Keith Michell as Henry Tudor. His performance is extraordinarily good, much better than anyone else's in the part has been of which I have knowledge. By playing Henry straight, Michell gave him time to become deviant--in reasoning, willful blindness, denial, cruelty and injustice--by slow degrees. Among the many other actors involved, Sheila Burrell, Christopher Hancock, Patrick Troughton and Zienia Merton among others deserve mention. A landmark when it was produced, the series has only grown in stature since it was first presented.

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