How Accurate Is ‘Six’ the Musical When It Comes to the Wives of Henry VIII?

Imagine if historical figures could speak and tell you their true story through song. That’s the premise for Six the musical, which stars the six wives of King Henry VIII of England. He’s well-known as the monarch who broke England away from the Catholic Church to set up the Church of England in 1534

His wives are also a prominent part of his story, as he had so many and beheaded two of them. Their side of history is reshaped in Six. The wives form a pop group, singing to recount their stories and decide who 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.
The cast of ‘Six’ the musical perform live on stage at the West End LIVE in London. | Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Did Catherine of Aragon become a nun?

King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon married in 1509, and Henry had their marriage annulled in 1533. Part of Henry’s frustration with Catherine was her inability to give him a male heir, as well as his affair with 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 legitimate queen of England. She was banished from the king’s court, isolated from their daughter Mary, and died in 1536 at age 50. 

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, the fact that he split England from the Catholic Church (partly) because of her, and her later beheading. 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. Because the Catholic Church wouldn’t give Henry an annulment in his marriage to Catherine, he moved to break away from Rome to marry Anne.

“He wanted me, obviously, messaging me like every day. Couldn’t be better, then he sent me a letter,” Anne sings in Six. Like the song “Don’t Lose Your Head” says, they did write love letters back and forth. But it’s safe to say Anne didn’t write, “Xo, baby.” 

Was Jane Seymour the only one Henry VIII truly loved?

When she sings, “Jane Seymour, the only one he truly loved” in the song “Ex-Wives,” Jane might be making assumptions about the extent of Henry’s love. 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 song to the creation of Anne of Cleves’ 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.” Hans Holbein painted Anne of Cleves’ portrait, and King Henry fell in love with it. They were betrothed before ever meeting, but apparently the king just wasn’t that into her when they met in person. He divorced her after six months. 

Was Katherine Howard promiscuous?

In the musical, Katherine Howard comes across as lively and sultry, sleeping with men because she was seeking connection. But 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 was a victim of child sex abuse, which is addressed in the song. “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 who’s not 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. After Henry died in 1547, Catherine did end up marrying Thomas, though she died a year later in 1548 due to complications from childbirth. 

Musicals often need dramatization for an audience. But luckily Six is catchy, well-written, and pretty historically accurate.