The Six Wives of Henry VIII

1 January 1970

Image: Annette Crosbie as Catherine of Aragon, Dorothy Tutin as Anne Boleyn Keith Michell as Henry VIII and Anne Stallybrass as Jane Seymour in a scene from the series The Six Wives Of Henry VIII.

The BBC began the 1970s with the colour costume drama The Six Wives of Henry VIII. The first episode, broadcast on 1 January, was devoted to Catherine of Aragon, played by Annette Crosbie. Subsequent weeks starred Dorothy Tutin as Anne Boleyn; Anne Stallybrass as Jane Seymour; Elvi Hale as Anne of Cleves; Angela Pleasence as Catherine Howard and Rosalie Crutchley as Catherine Parr.

Keith Michell's performance as Henry remains the definitive television portrayal of the Tudor king. He revealed Henry to be a more complex character than had been depicted before, cultured and refined as well as tyrannical and lusty. Michell had to age over the six programmes from the athletic young prince to the obese 56 year old. He was recognised for his efforts with an Emmy Award after the programme transmitted in the US.

The authentic appearance of the court costumes was achieved by the ingenuity of designer John Bloomfield, who used painted cheap fabrics, glass and household washers to achieve the sumptuous period effect. Such was the interest in the programme that the costumes went on tour. The period was further evoked by its authentic Tudor music assembled and produced by the early music pioneer David Munrow. The international success of The Six Wives of Henry VIII led to the making of Elizabeth R, and established the BBC's position as the pre-eminent producer of period drama.

Montage of images from the BBC Photographic Library, together with interviews with the cast and crew.

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