Moonday’s Heroic Hunk in History: Henry VIII & Anne of Cleves

     This Moonday’s Heroic Hunk in History will be short. Partly because it’s about the marriage of Henry VIII Tudor and his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, which was very brief and also because NaNoWriMo starts today and I’m in. At least, I’m in if I can sign up. Apparently, the site has crashed but is under repair, so there’s still hope.

Anne of Cleves

     If you’re a writer who needs motivation, you might want to consider NaNoWriMo. You commit to write 50,000 words in the month of November. It’s been around since 1999 and is loads of fun with local and national support. I finished last year and got stickers and smiley faces. I am proud to say my sister Sizzler, sfcatty, however, got her NaNoWriMo book published AND finished hers a week before the deadline of Nov 30th. I could gripe but won’t because you can’t expect editors to be clairvoyant and I never submitted it to a publisher. Dare I chance rejection? This year, I will do better—that is, if I finish.
     Getting back to Henry and Anne. Henry had divorced his first wife (Katherine of Aragon), beheaded his second (Anne Boleyn), and his third wife (Jane Seymour) had died after giving him his son Edward in 1537. By 1539, Henry was approaching 50 years old and desired another wife, one which would bring him valuable political connections. Thomas Cromwell pushed the Protestant Germanic alliance with the Duke of Cleves (actually Julich-Cleves-Berg but that’s too much of a mouthful). The Duke’s first sister had married the Elector of Saxony which left Anne.
     Henry who was very conscious of his prospective bride-to-be’s appearance sent court painter Hans Holbein to paint Anne’s portrait (There was an Elder and Younger Hans, but we’re talking the Younger who came to England recommended by Erasmus.) . He painted her personality into the portrait and was much too generous with her physical appearance. When Henry met his bride who was in her early twenties, he was extremely disappointed with her and let everyone know it.
     Henry married Anne anyway but their marriage was never consummated. Henry told Cromwell that “I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse.” Anne who was very pleasant but not well-educated and certainly ignorant of marital matters thought that everything was OK. When told that it was not, she considered how he had treated her predecessors and graciously accepted the annulment on the grounds of non-consummation and a previous contract . Henry, who thought he was still a hunk even though fat and bloated with a festering leg ulcer, was surprised by her acquiescence and treated her well. She received lands and was treated as the “King’s Beloved Sister.” Their marriage had lasted only six months and Henry’s eye had turned to Anne’s (Shall we say it together?) lady-in-waiting who was 18-years-old and the first cousin of one of his previous wives.
     Anne became friends with the King and made a respected place for herself at Court. She enjoyed managing her properties (including Hever Castle-Anne Boleyn’s family home and Richmond Palace.) and got along well with the royal princesses. She survived Henry and his other wives. She died in July, 1557 and is buried in Westminster Abbey. Next week, Henry and Catherine Howard. Rita Bay

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2 Responses

  1. She may not have been educated, but it sounds as if Anne of Cleves had plenty of common sense when it came to escaping marriage to Henry intact. She certainly had examples of how not to do it!

    Personally, I believe I’d have feared even friendship with him. Probably would have feared being a lady in waiting more!

    Your skill amazes me, Rita. Another beautifully encapsulated bit of history!

  2. Thanks for the shout out, Rita. I’m excited to have sold that story.

    As to Anne of Cleves- good for her for being savvy even if she wasn’t educated. I like that in a woman- street smarts.

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