Actual living contemporary historians Suzannah Lipscomb and Dan Jones have revisited the Tudor King’s scandalous spousal timeline from the perspective of each of his six wives. The Six Queens of Henry VIII screams - "yeah, you GO (headless) girl!"
While literal decapitation at the onset of divorce is largely frowned upon, modern marriage hasn’t exactly adhered to the "til death do us part" part and still beckons the question – where were these people’s heads at?
Zsa Zsa Gabor – nine husbands
Gabor and ninth husband Frederic von Anhalt attend 54th Annual Golden Apple Awards on December 11, 1994.
The woman who reduced the bond of marriage to a succession of emasculating zingers while simultaneously battling patriarchal double standards (“I am a marvellous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house”), Eva’s more tabloid-worthy sister nearly married ten men— including, somewhat fittingly, Paris’ great grandfather and heir to the Hilton Empire—Conrad.
Mickey Rooney – eight wives
Influential actress Ava Garner and Mickey Rooney’s first wife claimed the Napoleonic manboy “went through the ladies like a hot knife through fudge”.
Fifty years after that marriage ended and seven additional ceremonies later, and Rooney was still pulling the old “My partners weren’t what we call in horse racing parlance routers. They were sprinters. They went out of the gate, but then they stopped. They couldn’t go the distance.” Classy.
Elizabeth Taylor – eight marriages, seven husbands
While many a pensioner would swear Liz Taylor deserved to churn through as many men as she liked, Taylor herself went on to claim that she had only ever slept with men she married, and asked “how many women can make that claim?”
On Liz’s list also sat Granddaddy Hilton, eventual US Secretary of the Navy, the (not-so) Honorable John Warner, and the man who said “I do” and “I do again” – two-time hubby Richard Burton.
Larry King – eight marriages, seven wives
Don’t let the radioman’s reptilian exterior fool you – Larry King knew how to get his wed on. In 1953, his first marriage was annulled after a year, and his most recent has lasted since 1997. In between, he managed to twice-marry Alene Akins.
Ironically, back when King boasted slightly more hair, he released the last book you’d buy from a seven-time divorcee – ‘How To Talk To Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication’.
Sure, Larry, sure.
Lana Turner – eight marriages, seven husbands
Famed wartime pin-up girl and star of Douglas Sirk’s classic version of Imitation of Life (1959), Turner was known for her sexual exploits, even after admitting that she was more of a glutton for romance.
Turner battled depression and alcoholism for much of her life – and attempted suicide after the end of her fourth marriage and second stillbirth. Her last marriage was to a shonky nightclub hypnotist, and she went on to famously summarise her romantic life with:
“My goal was to have one husband and seven children, but it turned out to be the other way around.”
Richard Pryor – eight marriages, six wives
This one came as a surprise to me, as Pryor never seemed like the marrying type. Turns out Pryor’s story is simultaneously sadder and happier than the above list – developing his attitude towards relationships through abuse and eventually living in his grandmother’s brothel.
While Pryor’s coke-fuelled days also fuelled his erratic use of the question 'will you marry me?'— including turning up to his 1981 marriage to Jennifer Lee hiding the fact he already wanted a divorce—Pyror ended up remarrying Lee and the two remained together until his 2005 death.
Rue McClanahan – six marriages
Best known as Blanche from The Golden Girls, Rue McClanahan’s litany of marriages suggest she wasn’t too far off her classic sitcom character — a woman with the attitude of an older (yet less in-your-face) Samantha from Sex and the City.
That suggestion isn’t totally accurate – as McClanahan was quite outspoken about her history, even writing a book and delivering intimate seminars on the topic. Her life ended as she lived, in control of what she wanted, as she divorced her last husband in the same year as her 2010 death.
Martin Scorsese and Billy Bob Thornton - five marriages apiece
It took five tries for Marty to settle down once and for all, when he married Helen Morris in 1999.
Supposedly, and oddly unsurprisingly, the legendary director was able to keep things amicable with his ex-wives, fathering children from three separate wives, and inspiring his second wife/collaborator to make a film about their divorce, starring their daughter, Domenica.
Billy Bob, on the other hand, was married three times before Angelina, yet it took him another decade to marry his most recent wife, in 2014. I would provide more information if I wasn’t scared that he’d track me down and beat me up.
Joseph Smith – 33 simultaneous wives
The 19th century founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, bucked the trend of legal marriage, only trying it once before living under his own authority – one that allowed him taking of as many wives as he liked.
So embarrassed were Smith’s ancestors that they attempted to rewrite history by claiming that the first Latter Day Saint lived up to his name and vehemently opposed polygamy, but the wide range of historical records were irrefutable.
Saleh Al-Sayeri – 58 wives
A Saudi businessman with a flippant attitude to the already flippant practice of polygamy, Al-Sayeri has allegedly forgotten the names of most of his wives, and has no earthly idea how many children he’s reared.
Despite the fact one of his marriages was to a 14-year-old girl, Saleh claims that his conscious is clear and he is “the happiest man in the world”.
Linda Wolfe – 24 marriages
We recommend you watch this video multiple times.
With her first marriage at age 16 and final divorce at 68, Linda Wolfe is famous solely for owning the world record for most successive marriages, even co-arranging the last one (to fellow male record-breaker Glynn Wolfe) as a publicity stunt to ensure her inclusion in the Guinness Book.
Get your head into The Six Queens of Henry VIII with episode one of four, premiering on Saturday, 9 July at 7:35pm on SBS.