Don’t Lose Ur Head: Six Post-Six Reads

Sorry not sorry, but people (including me) have been losing their heads over
Six, a new pop concert musical about the six wives of Henry VIII. After debuting at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Six began an open run in London’s West End. It also recently made its American premiere, opening at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, where its run has been extended until August 4. The show has quickly gained a robust internet fan base, and fans have been “getting down” to this reexamining of six infamous queens and how their entry into the historical canon has been shaped by ole Henry VIII.

Six invites viewers to dig deeper than the queens’ fates (which have been popularized by this mnemonic device: “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived”). And we bibliophiles know a hearty assortment of Tudor fiction doing the same, including books by Philippa Gregory, Jean Plaidy, and Alison Weir—and that’s just scratching the surface. Where else can you turn when “All You Wanna Do” is dive into a little revisionist history with a feminist bend and some extra wit? There’s “No Way” you’ll want to skip these reads . . . unless you have a “Heart of Stone.”

The Boleyn King, by Laura Andersen

What if Anne Boleyn hadn’t died? And what if she gave Henry a son? This trilogy features Elizabeth I, her brother, and their group of friends as they come of age. Andersen’s reimagined history is perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory and fans of the imagined happily ever afters in Six (though, *spoiler*, in this take, Anne Boleyn does not team up to write lyrics for Shakesy P).

Brazen, by Katherine Longshore

With books focusing on Katherine Howard and Anne Boleyn in her canon, Katherine Longshore is a formidable name in Tudor fiction for the YA market. While I recommend both titles highly, it’s Brazen that fits the idea of Six the closest. Following another Howard, Mary, as she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy (the son of Henry VIII, who is mentioned in Aragon’s “No Way”), Brazen offers us a clique of oft-forgotten young nobles and has the same energy of Boleyn’s “Don’t Lose Ur Head.”

The Dead Queens Club, by Hannah Capin

Maybe the closest direct comparison to Six (with its updated take on the famous Tudor queens), Dead Queen’s Club imagines the six wives of Henry VIII as six ex-girlfriends of hot quarterback Henry. Katherine Howard is a cheerleader. Catherine Parr is editor of the school paper. Anna of Cleves, who just moved from Cleveland, is Henry’s wingwoman. Mix in some Tudor history with a little John Tucker Must Die and we’ve got a good time. Also, my Hoosier heart appreciates the small-town Indiana setting.

The Fatal Throne, by M. T. Anderson, Jennifer Donnelly, Candace Fleming, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park, and Lisa Ann Sandell

“Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.” The popular rhyme serves as both an inspiration and throughline for Six. Like the song “Ex-Wives,” in which the Six cast delivers intros to each of the queens, this collection of short stories stars Henry’s six wives. Complete with a few interludes from Henry himself, Fatal Throne is an excellent overview of all the queens, written by some greats in YA historical fiction.

Maid of Secrets, by Jennifer McGowan

We’ll skip ahead to the iconic reign of the royal child mentioned the least in Six, Elizabeth I (like, really? Even Henry Fitzroy gets a lyrical shout out!) In Maid of Secrets, McGowan serves up
sixteenth-century London, but with a twist: what if Elizabeth had a secret spy ring of young women? This series starter not only presents a fun concept, but also imbues the usual conspiracies and romances of the period with awesome female agency.

My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

After the women of Six—and Henry—met their fates, the following generation dealt with the issue of succession. You know, with the crown going from Edward to Mary to Elizabeth. But, wait! What about Jane Grey? She, too, spent nine days as queen. My Lady Jane treats the tragic tale of Jane Grey with a whopping dose of irreverence as Jane grapples with a cousin who is king—and a husband who is sometimes a horse. This rollicking good time will have you giggling as much like the banter between Aragon, Boleyn, Seymour, Cleves, Howard, and Parr in Six.



About the Author:

Melody’s love of words has taken her on a variety of adventures, beyond the adventures on the page, including librarian, bookseller, literary intern, dramaturg, and script reader. Reading hundreds of books a year, she's constantly seeking that next literary fix.

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