OK, so she may not be the most popular, nor glamorous of Henry’s wives, and after Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, most people’s interests tend to wax and wane a little.
However, I am starting to warm to Anne of Cleves.
Sure she was a little different, slightly odd even, and her style was…lets say…as ‘mad as a brush’! Combine her oddness with the whirlwind Kitty Howard effect, there’s no wonder Henry’s eyes wandered.
But recently, I have come to wonder whether Henry ever regretted his divorce of Anne of Cleves?
Shoulda’, Woulda’, Coulda’
After his marriage to his ‘rose without thorns’(aka Katherine Howard) ended with her head in a basket, poor old Henry must have wondered how differently things could have been. For all he knew, Anne could have been one ripe ol’vessel, and could have birthed many a son for England! However, it would be a sad notion to think of England without our flame haired, virgin Queen, Elizabeth I. But still…you never know, we could have had a Henry IX!
Let us not beat around the bush about this fact…Anne of Cleves was sensible. At risk of sounding sexist…she knew when to ‘shut up and put up’! Of course, this trait was of paramount importance for anyone desiring to keep their head in Henry’s court…remember what happened to Anne Boleyn, Kitty Howard, Thomas Cromwell, John Fisher, Sir Thomas More…the list goes on! Anne sensibly consented to the Kings desire for a divorce and accepted his generous settlement on her. The settlement happened to include the beautiful Hever Castle, the childhood home of the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. I mean, I wouldn’t have turned THAT down either.
Many have said that Anne was ugly, including Henry himself. To be fair though, Henry was no oil painting when they married. At 49, he was fat and by all accounts, stunk to high heaven due to his gouty leg. Certainly no Jonathon Rhys-Meyers…! But looking at the portraits of Anne, even taking into account the apparently flattering painting by Hans Holbein, she looks rather attractive and not at all like a ‘Flanders Mare’!
Good With The Offspring
She was good with kids too, and the royal children had a warm affection for Anne. In many ways, she quite similar to Jane Seymour, and advocated the interests of Henry’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. Whilst Mary despised Katherine Howard (and who wouldn’t when your fathers wife was of a similar age to yourself!), she loved Anne, as did Elizabeth. Anne even rode in a chariot with the Princess Elizabeth during the coronation procession for Mary. Gotta love the royal favour!
I’m just going to take this time to quash some absolutely ridiculous rumours’ regarding our first class fraulein:
- She was NOT a lesbian…and certainly did not have a lesbian affair with Katherine Howard. However, to be fair, the saying does go ‘keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”!
- She was NOT half horse/half human. Now this one is stupid! No she wasn’t. She was just German.
- She WAS a virgin. Henry said that Anne had a looseness about her, which led him to believe she was not a virgin. However…he recanted, and later said that she was still a maid.
In The End…
In many ways, Anne had a lucky escape! Due to her compliance, and graciousness, she secured both wealth and the Kings respect as his ‘most-beloved sister’. Though she was released from her marital vows to the King, she remained in England until her death in 1557 out of a love and respect for the English people. She even managed to outlive the King!
Historical Honey 2013 ©