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Classic TV Revisited: The Six Wives Of Henry VIII

Six Wives Of Henry VIII

The Six Wives Of Henry VIII was a slice of period drama that aired on BBC Two in 1970 and starred Keith Michell, Annette Crosbie, Dorothy Tutin, Anne Stallybrass, Anthony Quayle, Patrick Troughton.

Appearance?
Classic romp through the life and spouses of the larger than life Tudor monarch.

Why was it golden?
Its plot was all sex and lies on videotape, and it was about royalty, so how could it fail? The all-star cast headed by Keith Michell — later to become Captain Beaky — won a palace-full of awards.

Didn’t an Aussie play Henry VIII?
Yes Michell had been playing Henry in a West End play for three years.

Who played the queens?
Off with your head for not knowing that. Annette Crosbie was Catherine of Aragon; Dorothy Tutin, Anne Boleyn; Anne Stallybrass, Jane Seymour; Elvi Hales, Anne of Cleves; Angela Pleasence, Catherine Howard; and Rosalie Crutchley, Catherine Parr.

What was the score?
Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. It was narrated by Anthony Quayle and also starred ex-Dr Who Patrick Troughton.

Was it popular?
It won BBC2’s biggest audience at the time of 4m, went on to be repeated on BBC1 and was sold to 75 countries.

What about Keith Michell?
It was one of the high points of his career, along with a film version in 1973 in which he reprised his role as Henry.

What about the TV queens?
They were all axed in favour of the more glamorous Charlotte Rampling, Jane Asher and Lynne Frederick for the movie.

How did Keith Michell metamorphose from Henry into Captain Beaky?
Keith crooned his way into the Top 30 in 1971 and then resurrected his talents as Captain Beaky, who made No 5 in 1980.

How irritatingly catchy was it?
“The bravest animals in the land are Captain Beaky and his band…” The baddy was Hissing Sid the Snake and the band included Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, Petula Clarke, Noel Edmonds and Penelope Keith.

How does Keith Michell rate against other screen Henrys?
Very favourably as they include Robert Shaw, Charles Laughton and Sid James.

Missing Sid?
Aren’t we all. How can we forget Sid leering his way through Tudor times with characters such as Lord Hampton of Wick?

Dissing Sid?
While Sid’s lecherous performance may live longer in the memory, Michell was probably the best of the bunch.

Was Keith anything like Henry?
While Henry wed six times and was a glutton, Keith managed only one wife and loved health foods.

Distinguishing features?
A great guy with his chopper. Loads of doublet and hose with lashings of executions.

Do say:
“I’m ‘enery the Eighth, I am… I got married to the widow next door, she’d been married seven times before. Everyone was an ‘enery…” etc. (Apologies to Herman’s Hermits.)

Do not say:
“Anyone who annoys the Pope is no friend of mine.”

Not to be confused with:
Thierry Henry, Henry Cooper, Henry Fonda, First Wives Club, old wives’ tales, Phil Mitchell.