| ABOUT THE BOOK |
Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to insure the royal succession. Now forty-six, overweight and unwell, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe’s most eligible princesses, but Anna of Kleve—a small German duchy—is twenty-four and eager to wed.
Henry requests Anna’s portrait from his court painter, who enhances her looks, painting her straight-on in order not to emphasize her rather long nose. Henry is entranced by the lovely image, only to be bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England and he sees her in the flesh. She is pleasant looking, just not the lady that Henry had expected.
What follows is a fascinating story of this awkward royal union that had to somehow be terminated tactfully. Alison Weir takes a fresh and surprising look at this remarkable royal marriage by describing it from the point of view of Queen Anna, a young woman with hopes and dreams of her own, alone in a royal court that rejected her from the day she arrived.
| MY THOUGHTS |
The Six Tudor Queens series continues with the fourth of Henry VIII’s wives, Anna of Kleve. This is one I’d been looking forward to, happy to move even further away from the Great Matter, and also because I didn’t know much about Anna herself.
Anna hailed from Germany and to all intents and purposes seemed to have lived quite the sheltered life under the watchful eye of her mother. Until the day Henry VIII, King of England, decides he needs another wife and preferably another heir. With Spain and France joining forces against him, an alliance with the Duke of Kleve would be quite an advantage. Henry asks his court painter for a portrait of Anna. He likes what he sees. Until Anna finally arrives in England. Despite the marriage going ahead, it quickly becomes clear Henry isn’t happy and when Henry isn’t happy, heads roll. But will it be Anna’s?
There is quite the controversial storyline running through Anna of Kleve. As always, Alison Weir takes facts and builds her story around those. In this case, the reasons Henry listed for his marriage to Anna to remain unconsummated. By that time, he was nearing 50, massively overweight and unfit, and quite possibly impotent. But of course, that’s not something he would ever have admitted. In his attempts to have his marriage to Anna annulled, Henry shows a side of himself we’ve not really seen before. At times he managed to come across as likeable even.
Now imagine Anna. A young woman sent off to England to marry a King. She spoke no English, knew nothing of the culture or customs but did know the stories about what happened to Henry’s previous wives. How incredibly frightening is that? Unable to please Henry, through no fault of her own, her life at the court must have been spent in sheer fear and anxiety.
I mentioned the controversial path Alison Weir takes with this story. Up to a certain point, I was quite willing to follow it. It explained a lot, it made sense while keeping Henry’s words in the back of my mind. But as the years went on, I must admit that that particular fictional part of the story lost me a little bit. I’m being deliberately vague here because I want the readers to experience this for themselves. If you do read this novel, and you definitely should, I’d be incredibly interested in knowing your thoughts.
I absolutely adore the Six Tudor Queens series and boy, do those hardcovers look amazing on my bookshelf. As always, Alison Weir’s research is immaculate and her descriptions are fabulously vivid. From the various palaces and their furnishings to the food served to the gorgeous clothes, she brings this era to life like no other. While I enjoyed Anna of Kleve, it wasn’t my favourite of the series though. It’s a bit hard to explain but for the first time in this series, I really felt like I was reading fiction. Which it is for the most part, of course, but some of it just didn’t quite work for me. Nevertheless, putting those misgivings aside, Anna of Kleve is another fantastic addition to this series and I can’t wait for the next one.
Anna of Kleve : Queen of Secrets is available to buy in ebook and hardcover.