Wednesday, 20 July 2016
449 The Six Wives of Henry VIII
First viewed : August 1980
This was a BBC2 repeat, a decade on, of one of the BBC drama department's greatest triumphs, a six part account of the fortunes of the six women unfortunate enough to marry the murderous despot. The series had gone all over the world and won numerous awards. In 1972 it was made into a Hollywood film which kept Keith Michell as Henry but re-cast all the wives. What was most remarkable was that it was comprised of six separate plays, each one with a different author. While it helped that the cast stayed the same, it's still a bit surprising that it hung together so well.
The timing was a bit curious. The series had already been repeated twice in 1971 and 1972 but hadn't been seen since so why now ? Could it have been related to Michell's unlikely appearance, earlier in the year, in the UK singles chart as the performer of Captain Beaky , a single released to promote an illustrated children's book but given airplay by Noel Edmunds on his wilfully perverse Sunday morning show ? The single made number 5 and Beaky and his arch-foe Hissing Sid the snake were all the rage in the early months of 1980 until a certain fictional oil executive copped some lead . Did some BBC2 executive catch a glimpse of Keith mugging away on Top of the Pops and think "oh yes, I know what we could use to fill out the holiday schedule" ?
I only dipped into this perhaps because having studied the Tudors at both primary and secondary school, the content was over-familiar. I do recall the last episode dealing with Catherine Parr both for her obvious horror that the bloated semi-invalid king was still going to want his oats with her and the often neglected truth that Henry , for all his ravages , still thought of himself as a Catholic and was under the influence of the Catholic Bishop Gardiner, presented here as a villain, in the last months of his reign.