Anna of Kleve – A German Princess with a guilty secret
[ About the Book ]
The King is in love with Anna’s portrait, but she has none of the accomplishments he seeks in a new bride.
She prays she will please Henry, for the balance of power in Europe rests on this marriage alliance. But Anna’s past is never far from her thoughts, and the rumours rife at court could be her downfall. Everyone knows the King won’t stand for a problem queen.
ANNA OF KLEVE
THE FOURTH OF HENRY’S QUEENS
Acclaimed, bestselling historian Alison Weir draws on new evidence to conjure a startling image of Anna as you’ve never seen her before. A charming, spirited woman, she was loved by all who knew her – and even, ultimately, by the King who rejected her.
History tells us she was never crowned
But her story does nor end there.
[ My Review ]
Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets, is the fourth novel in the Six Tudor Queens series by renowned historian Alison Weir and was recently published, on May 2nd, with Headline Review. ‘Anna is often said to be the luckiest of Henry’s queens, the one that got away and did very well out of it – but is that true?’ Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets will shock and surprise many historians and I’m not so sure that all will agree on Alison Weir’s rather startling tale! Alison Weir does an enormous amount of research when writing these novels and it was a discovery of words apparently spoken by Henry VIII that directed her to this fascinating story-line.
Henry VIII was traumatised by the death of his beloved Jane Seymour. Now left with an infant son to care for, he needs to wed again and soon. Henry, at forty-six years of age, is suffering from ill health, with his weight causing him major difficulties. Europe is very unsettled, as the major powers look to increase their strengths through marriage and wars, so Henry needs to make a vital alliance fast.
It is brought to his attention, by Cromwell, that there is a German Princess, Anna of Kleve, who is available to wed. Her family seek an accord with the King and are extremely earnest that this marriage take place. Anna is very aware of the past wives of Henry VIII and has also heard the many rumours of his temper and his demands. Anna, initially, is very much against this marriage, as she always hoped that she would marry for love, with a head full of romance and a heart crying out for affection. But Anna has no choice. A portrait of her likeness is sent to Henry VIII and, following months of negotiations, it is agreed that Anna will become the fourth wife of King Henry VIII.
Alas for Anna, her married life was over before it ever began. On arrival to England, she was met with great fanfare and rejoice, but on meeting Henry VIII, Anna felt something was amiss from the very beginning. Anna was brought up according to the Germanic traditions. Speaking very little English, Anna dressed in a very different fashion, she could not dance, was unable to play an instrument and was educated to a different standard than Henry would have liked. Although he was more often very polite to Anna, it was soon very obvious that their marriage was in difficulty. It is well noted that their marriage was never consummated, with Henry claiming that ‘I have left her as good a maid as I found her’ and after six months their marriage was all but over.
It is documented that Anna of Kleve and Henry VIII had a very good relationship, but only, it seems, as friends. He looked after her following the dissolution of their marriage, giving Anna a number of homes and a financial settlement, as long as she remained in England.
Anna of Kleve is a very intriguing person. As Alison Weir reveals, Anna had many accusations thrown at her, more than once making her fear for her life. The court was a nest of vipers, and following Henry VIII’s death, Anna lost her protector, making her situation is England very shaky indeed.
Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets is a tome of a read, at over 500 pages. The attention to detail is phenomenal and, at times, my head was reeling with all the facts and the names of the characters involved. The book does contain a reference for the reader, a Dramatis Personae, highlighting which names are fictional, which is a very convenient addition to the novel. It really is very difficult to fathom the extent of research undertaken by Alison Weir in writing this novel, and the previous three books, in this extraordinary series. I have now read three, each providing me with an incredible insight into the life and times of the remarkable and powerful man that was Henry VIII.
These books are not ones you approach expecting an easy read, as the content can be quite overpowering at times, but they are, most very definitely, an exciting addition to the book shelves of any with an interest in Henry VIII and his many wives. While reading this book I did consider the true possibility of what Alison Weir suggests happened, which was the first time I have done this in this series. It will raise controversy among certain circles but in many ways that can only be a good thing. Is this book fact or fiction? Was Anna of Kleve the lucky one? Does history remember her as she really was? Was she unfairly treated by Henry VIII? What really did cause the break-up of their marriage after such a short spell? Alison Weir attempts to make sense of all these questions, raising many possibilities. Whether you are inclined to agree or disagree with Alison Weir’s version doesn’t take from the fact that Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets is a very compelling and expressive tale.
Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets, is a significant addition to this series that is slowly unraveling the many secrets of the court of Henry VIII, in a fashion unique to Alison Weir. These women, these wives of Henry VIII, all have their story to tell and Alison Weir is giving them a voice, a platform to do so, as she continues to bring us the stories of the SIX TUDOR QUEENS.
[ Bio ]
Alison Weir is the top-selling female historian (and the fifth-bestselling historian overall) in the United Kingdom, and has sold over 2.7 million books worldwide. She has published eighteen history books, including her most recent non-fiction book, Queens of the Conquest, the first in her England’s Medieval Queens quartet.
Alison has also published several historical novels, including Innocent Traitor and The Lady Elizabeth. Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets is Alison Weir’s ninth published novel and the fourth in the Six Tudor Queens series about the wives of Henry VIII, which was launched in 2016 to great critical acclaim.
The first three books in the series – Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen, Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession and Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen were all Sunday Times bestsellers.
Alison is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an honorary life patron of Historic Royal Palaces.
( Bio and image courtesy of Headline Books)