Divorced, Beheaded, Died; Divorced, Beheaded, Survived

Six is an entertaining, must-see musical, highlighting and providing historical significance about the lives of Henry the Eighths six wives.


Six is an entertaining, must-see musical, highlighting and providing historical significance about the lives of Henry the Eighth’s six wives.

If you were in my AP European History Class last year, you probably know that I’m an unabashed history buff. Whether I’m analyzing the calves of certain historical figures such as King Louis XIV or threatening Alexander Hamilton in a mock Constitutional Debate, I can safely say that I immensely enjoy history. 

Every morning in December, I would listen to Magic 106.7, Boston’s Christmas Station. In between my karaoke performances of All I Want for Christmas Is You and The Grinch, there was always an ad for the critically acclaimed, popular musical known as Six. Six, written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, combines the English history of King Henry the Eighth’s wives with an edgy musical score. You can imagine how excited I was when on Christmas morning, artfully wrapped by Kris Kringle himself, there were a pair of tickets to go see a musical that would combine my love for musical theater with my devotion to all things history. 

When my family arrived at the Colonial Theatre in Boston’s theater district, we did not expect to be as excited and surprised at how amazing the performance actually was. With a perfect view of the performance from the dress circle, we waited. Over the loudspeaker, one of Henry’s wives came and cleverly said, “The show will begin in Six minutes.” It took everyone a second to understand the joke but afterward, the entire theater broke out into laughter. 

After those six minutes, a subtle yet deep beat began to drop in the theater. I felt as if I was at a New Year’s Eve Party rather than a musical theater production. The first line of the entire play, uttered in sequential order of each queen was, “Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.” This powerful line reflects the outcome each of these women had following their marriage to King Henry the Eighth. Whether you’re a history buff or not, many of us “think that we’ve heard” these stories and “know the names, the fame, and the faces” of these women. In this star-studded introduction, Henry’s six wives “switched up the flow as they added the prefix” and “revealed” the truth about their fame, fortune, and frustration. The clever plot centers on a competition to determine which of Henry’s wives had the most pitiful story. 

While I won’t give you summaries regarding the stories of these women, I will share one aspect of their history that they share in common: a disregard by not only the people of the past but also current historians. I know from personal experience how dense the AP European and U.S. History Textbooks can be. It’s a lot to absorb and analyze. With that said, there is crucial importance for each history student to not only read the information in the textbooks but also to consider its historical significance. While Henry the Eighth may be regarded by historians as a powerful, successful monarch who achieved not only political but also religious strides for the English government, his wives only knew him as a deceiving, power-hungry man who would stop at nothing to achieve whatever he pleased. All six of these women had valuable careers as mothers, writers, lyricists, and painters but were ostracized because of innocent acts of independence and confidence toward a man whom society thought was the “optimal ruler.” In this amazing musical, these six wives show their audiences that there was “so much more” to their lives and careers as strong, independent women. Although most of the time they are “lost in His-story,” Catherine, Anne, Jane, Anna, Katherine, and Catherine attempt to change “fixed” views by “raising their voices” and “not holding back,” two actions they would have never attempted before. 

While the general public tends to associate history with boring textbooks, information-filled, dull lectures, and dreadful stories about old, dead people, Six: The Musical enlightens the subject by putting a musical and historical spin on the unfortunate lives of King Henry The Eighth’s wives in the early 1500s. I hope that now, after reading this article, you are able to read and comprehend historical facts with a greater understanding of their significance and impact on the people involved. Whether you’ve seen the musical, heard its catchy tunes, or now are begging your parents to get tickets, Six: The Musical is a must-see musical that rewrites the history of these six women, captures the imagination of the audience, and reminds us that women throughout history have “untold stories” for us to discover as forensic students of history. 


By Kate Novack ’24, Co-Assistant Editor-in-Chief