Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Nancy Bilyeau on Anne of Cleves, the Real Survivor

Author of The Crown and The Chalice, Nancy Bilyeau presents seven surprising facts about Henry VIII's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, including this one:

Hans Holbein painted her accurately. The question of Anne’s appearance continues to baffle modern minds. In portraits she looks attractive, certainly prettier than Jane Seymour.  A French ambassador who saw her in Cleves said she was “of middling beauty and of very assured and resolute countenance.”

It is still unclear how hard Thomas Cromwell pushed for this marriage, but certainly he was not stupid enough to trick his volatile king into wedding someone hideous. The famous Hans Holbein was told to paint truthful portraits of Anne and her sister Amelia. After looking at them, Henry VIII chose Anne. Later the king blamed people for overpraising her beauty but he did not blame or punish Holbein. The portrait captures her true appearance. While we don't find her repulsive, Henry did.

And even though Thomas Cromwell had arranged this marriage with the Duchy of Cleves for a diplomatic alliance with one of the Protestant powers on the Continent:

Anne was born a Catholic and died a Catholic. Her mother, Princess Maria of Julich-Berg, had traditional religious values and brought up her daughters as Catholics, no matter what Martin Luther said. Their brother, Duke William, was an avowed Protestant, and the family seems to have moved in that direction when he succeeded to his father’s title.

Anne was accommodating when it came to religion. She did not hesitate to follow the lead of her husband Henry VIII, who was head of the Church of England. But in 1553, when her step-daughter Mary took the throne, she asked that Anne become a Catholic. Anne agreed. When she was dying, she requested that she have “the suffrages of the holy church according to the Catholic faith.”

Read the rest here.

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