May 23, 2020
The most important aspect of a musical are its songs because it turns an ordinary story into an extraordinary tale. This holds especially true for a musical called Six. The songs from Six are written specifically to tell the story of the six queens of Henry VIII. The musical is crafted in twenty-first century format so some parts might be modernized. Does this detract from the historical accuracy of the story? How can songs with a historical meaning be entertaining? Well, I’m here to tell you all about it.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this part of history, let’s take a quick look. Henry VIII was the king of England from 1509 all the way up until his death in 1547. While most kings are known for being kings, Henry VIII is best known for his six marriages. These women didn’t have the best lives, because they were divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived, in that exact order. University students Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss wrote a musical about Henry VIII and his wives, and that is how Six was born. Each wife has her own song in the musical to tell her story.
The first wife of Henry VIII was Catherine of Aragon. She was the king’s first wife and she was married to him for the longest- nearly 24 years. After 17 years, Henry’s eyes settled on another woman, Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn would later go on to become Henry’s second wife. Catherine didn’t want a divorce, so she took the matter to the courts to contest the annulment of her marriage. Catherine lost the battle, and her and Henry divorced after almost 24 years of marriage.
The song based off of Catherine’s story is called No Way. In this song we hear lyrics like ‘You wanna replace me, baby, there’s no no no no no no no way’ and ‘And if you think for a moment, I’d grant your annulment, just hold up, there’s no way’ that perfectly represents Catherine’s history. The line, ‘And even though you’ve had your fun, running around with some pretty young thing’ shows the affair Henry had with Anne Boleyn.
Anne Boleyn was a bit of a rebel. She got involved with Henry when he was still with Catherine, she wasn’t sweet or patient like Catherine, and she cheated on Henry. Cheating is what got her behead after almost 3 years of marriage. Anne’s rebellious side is very well shown in her song, with lines like ‘I didn’t know I would move in with his missus’, ‘Don’t wanna be some girl in a threesome’ and of course the title of the song ‘Don’t Lose Your Head’, which has the double meaning for don’t worry about it and the literal losing of her head.
Jane Seymour was Henry’s third wife. From the beginning of her relationship with Henry, she said that she would stay with him forever, because whatever he would do, she would always love him. Jane’s promise seemed like a reality when she gave Henry what he had truly wanted for all those years- a son. Jane died twelve days after giving birth, and that’s how the marriage ended after one year and four months. In her song, Heart Of Stone, there isn’t specifically a lot about her life, as she sings more about her feelings. ‘You came my way and I knew a storm could come too’. The lines ‘You’d lift me high or let me fall’ and ‘But I know, without my son your love could disappear’ show that Jane knew Henry could easily leave her.
Anna of Cleves was the fourth wife. She was hand picked by Henry to come all the way from Germany to England to marry him, because he saw a portrait of her that he really liked. Sadly, when he saw her in real life he didn’t like her as much anymore, and wanted to cancel the marriage. Kind of like a Tinder date gone wrong. Henry couldn’t get out of the marriage, so the pair got hitched. Their marriage didn’t work out and after six months they got divorced, but not without Anna keeping the whole castle, her position in court and all of the privileges she had when she was a queen. The lines ‘Sitting here all alone, on a throne, in a palace that I happen to own’ and ‘You, you said that I tricked ya, cause I, I didn’t look like my profile picture’ from her song Get Down give a good representation of her life with Henry.
Katherine Howard was Henry’s fifth and youngest wife. She had a pretty sad past. She had been sexually abused from age thirteen. She married Henry in the hopes of creating a better life for herself. It wasn’t, and she got a relationship with one of Henry’s courtiers, who sadly enough also abused her. Henry found out about the relationship, and decided that Katherine had to be beheaded. This was after one year and three months of marriage. Her song, All You Wanna Do, is a perfect representation of her life. With lines like ‘He plucked my strings all the way to G. Went from major to minor, C to D’ and ‘He cares so much he calls me “Love”. He says we have this connection, I guess it’s not so different’ this is made very clear.
Henry’s final wife was Catherine Parr. She didn’t exactly marry Henry by choice, in fact she already had a relationship with someone else before she decided to marry Henry. Seeing as rejecting a proposal from the king is unheard of, she went ahead with the marriage. She ended up being the one with the best outcome, because after three and a half years of marriage Henry died and Catherine went back to her old love. In her song I Don’t Need Your Love she writes a goodbye letter to her old love before going to Henry to marry him. This is shown with lines like ‘If Henry says ‘it’s you’ then it’s you’ and ‘But if, somehow, I had that choice. No holding back, I’d raise my voice’.
Well, here you have it guys: a brief analysis of the songs. I think they’re very accurate to the actual history, and besides that very well written and really catchy. They’re not only very entertaining, but also useful for learning history. That’s two birds with one stone.
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