Anne of Cleves ,not as bad as shes painted

The Lady seems to have had a bad press ,Henry’s wives tend to be used to embody almost every female stereotype that exists ,The faithful ,longsuffering wife,, Catherine of Aragon ,,the adventuress and other woman ,,Ann Bolyne, the  chaste ,gentle and quiet loved and tragically  lost young mother ,Jane Seymour ,the ugly ,stupid frumpy ,Ann ,the young silly strumpet,Catherine Howard ,the good  wise  older woman /stepmother Katherine Parr. The labels are usually wrong based on Victorian writers or hearsay and when  occasionally accurate tell nothing like the whole story ,,For example Henry VIII is supposed to have loved  the  virtuouos  and shy  Jane Seymour , yet Jane was quite old by Tudor standards,, well over 25  and a woman that’s very probably jane is caught sat on Henry’s  knee while hes still married to Ann ,which doesnt seem very maiden like behavior. Likewise Henry is supposed to have  been devoted to Jane ,yet when  he saw Janes newly arrived Ladies in waiting he was heard to say that had he seen them before he would never have married Jane ,within months of their marriage he had taken a mistress and though he was certainly extremely upset by her death  and actually wore mourning for several months ,the letters sent out to inform ambassadors of Jane’s death also mentioned he was inline for another wife .

In this light we should therefore reassess Ann.The first portrait we always see of Ann is the longer version of a miniature painted by Hans Holbein

The smaller miniature in its pretty ivory box seen here was part of a number of mail order bride portraits Henry commissioned so asses the merits of potential brides.

The miniature was enough to persuade Henry to send Holbein off to paint an expensive full length portrait of Ann and the full length version sold Henry on Ann as his next bride.Interestingly no one even Henry complained the portrait was inaccurate and Holbein remained Henry VIII and the courts painter of choice.The mystery may be partly solved by a side view image of Ann.

The features that look regular and attractive front on do seem rather sharp and angular side on and its been suggested Anns nose was much longer and the painting may have been retouched.Even so to me at least she still doesn’t seem that bad,She seems to be prettier than her predessor Jane Seymour.

and not unlike her successor the pretty Katherine Howard as far as facial features go.

In fact to me this portrait above seems more likely to be Anne than Catherine ,the attribution of the portrait as one of Catherine is based mostly on the fact the lady is wearing royal jewels and yet this portrait is nothing like almost every other portrait thats linked to Catherine or has in the past been said to be her.Other potential portraits of Catherine are always in the same basic style and shes always wearing the same style of clothing

I think it not impossible therefore that the minture portrait of the lady with a rich jewelled hood and the queens jewels  is  one of Ann .We think of Anne as always dressed in the highwaisted Flemish style but she quickly adjusted to English court life and did not continue to wear Flemish clothing long after her arrival but soon adopted English fashions.The lady in the miniature portrait is quite curvey as is Ann and has a similar stance and facial features ,she also seems older than the very young Catherine Howard who was almost certainly a teenager when Henry met her and may have been in her late teens as queen .

Its uncertain why Henry found Ann unattractive , when Henry remarried there were a number of occasions when both Ann and hes new wife Catherine were together at events,sometimes dancing together and Several ambassadors remarked that Catherine was not as pretty as Ann who Henry thought ugly.(when she took to wearing English dress for the first time after the wedding, one contemporary remarked that the fashion ‘set forth her beauty and good visage that every creature rejoyced to behold her’)( quote compliments of Ms sunydale)The problem Henry had with Ann appears to be less black and white than the Flanders Mare comments suggests.

Its likely that one thing Henry really disliked was her figure ,he singles it out for complaint in his comments to courtiers and she is far more buxom than his other wives ,Henry seems to have liked small breasted petite built ladies and Ann is always shown as curvy.Likewise her succesor Katherine was extreemly petite

It’s also  likely it was her lack of English ,social skills and “elegant accomplishments” that most soured the relationship.They certainly got off to a bad start as Henry who liked to play games of courtly love appeared to Ann on her arrival “in disguise “,Ann didn’t recognise him ,treated him rather coldly and when he tried to kiss her ,its possible she may have slapped him ,,not what Henry would have expected.Ann was probably never likely to make up ground from this first meeting .

Unknown woman at the court of Henry VIII suggested as either Ann or her sister Amelia

Despite being discarded I can’t help feeling of all Henrys wives Anne was the most fortunate ,,She spent very little time living with him,He was so nice to her while they were together she thought everything was fine more or less up to the point where she was “dumped”She got along ok with Henry but doesnt seem to have been in love with him unlike his unforunate first wives and she got a very handsome settlement during Henry life, a high position when at court and enjoyed a great deal of liberty not given to most women at that time and certainly more than she would have had in cleves.She also seems to have avoided Henrys amorous attentions which considering his vast build ,stinking leg ulcer and bad breadth was probably not a bad thing .While her fortunes were less good under his successors ,she survived both Henry and his other wives and apart from a slight run in with Henrys secret service was usualy left in peace .

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About hathawaysofhaworth

I am a Historian and author living in the north
This entry was posted in 16thc/17thc, Hathaways of Haworth, history, Tudors, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Anne of Cleves ,not as bad as shes painted

  1. Hey! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you
    I truly enjoy reading your articles. Can you recommend any other
    blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects?
    Thanks for your time!

    • Hello
      Yes certainly ,theres te Excellent Anne Bolyen files which has much more specilist knowledge than myself ,for Georgian things theres the American duchess blog spot ,for all things Regency or Austen ,theres the Jane Austen blog spot ,for costuming there a brilliant site but I cant rmember its name ,however the blogger is called Kendra ,lastly fof Italina renaissance and pre renaissance theres the realm of Venus and for Bronte blogs there the Bronte sisters blog by Geri Mefhta and the Bronte blog ,plus Les soeurs Bronte ,and of course the Bronte parsonage museum which has an excellent online catalogue

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