Review: Suzannah Lipscomb’s Wives of Henry VIII lecture

Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, right, after her Six Queens: The Wives of Henry VIII lecture at St George's Guildhall with reporter Rebekah Chilvers ANL-160726-165409001

Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, right, after her Six Queens: The Wives of Henry VIII lecture at St George's Guildhall with reporter Rebekah Chilvers ANL-160726-165409001

Despite the distraction of a medical emergency halfway through, Suzannah Lipscomb’s Six Queens: The Wives of Henry VIII lecture captivated an audience for an hour and a half on Saturday, July 23.

Kicking off at 3pm at Lynn’s St George’s Guildhall, Dr Lipscomb wound her way through the romantic life of Tudor King Henry, painting the importance that these six women had, not just on their husband, but on their kingdom too.

Lipscomb, who makes regular appearances on historical TV documentaries, spoke of the plight of the majority of the king’s wives when she said: “In some cases they did actually have lives after Henry.”

Highlighting significant visual cues using a powerpoint presentation meant that the audience could fully appreciate all of Lipscomb’s speech, but it’s important to say that this didn’t in any way distract from what she was saying.

At one such point, while discussing Catherine of Aragon’s split from Henry, she noted that a portrait of her exemplified her discontent with his decision. This was a portrait of her with a monkey which showed the animal pointing at the cross - to represent religion - on her dress rather than the coin in her hand. In other words, “even a monkey is clever enough to choose God instead of the King”.

It was easy to see Lipscomb’s passion for the subject and it was undoubtable that this was her forté (her twitter handle is @sixteenthCgirl after all), as she was often saying “but we’ll come back to that later” - where it became clear that she had so much to say but not that much time to say it.

And it was great to hear parts of this world-famous story with new bits intertwined.

In the case of Anne Boleyn, I had not realised that we do not know exactly when she was born or what she looked like, so that was fascinating to learn.

But we also heard Lipscomb’s own personal opinions on the theories which was important.

But the show came to an abrupt halt as a man passed out at about 3.45pm, after which an ambulance was called and St George’s Guildhall was evacuated.

Paramedics treated him at the scene where he regained consciousness and did not require transport to hospital.

After returning from a 30 minute break, Lipscomb acknowledged this and greeted the audience in the second half by saying: “You came back! Because if you wanted to leave, that was your chance!”

While some may have found it challenging to highlight the significance of these women in such a short space of time, Lipscomb did it flawlessly, with seamless transitions from one to the next.

What seemed particularly key was how she really humanised these famous names of 500 years ago, who can appear to be so distant from ourselves.