Alice’s Restaurant

June 5, 2007

The Tudor Follies: “Next!”

Filed under: Henry VIII, History with Mr. Al, Research — aliceaudrey @ 12:07 am

Mr. Al returns with the next segment from the life and times of Henry the VIII.  Next up, Anne of Cleves.


 It was decided that a nice Protestant princess would fit the bill. A good looking one with large breasts if it could be managed. For the men around Henry, political and foreign relations were paramount. Especially from Cromwell’s perspective. Things weren’t looking good in Europe and England needed an ally to balance against any rapprochement that might spring up between King Francis and Charles. A princess from a German state would be good. Someone who would keep the Catholics looking over their shoulders. Would she be good looking and have big hooters? Cromwell didn’t care. He should have. Henry cared and Henry was the boy-o getting married. He was also, thanks to Cromwell, the king who had acquired a taste for judicial homicide.

Bridehunters were sent forth to scour the duchies, landgreves, principalities, dukedoms, fiefdoms, bishoprics, boltholes and backwaters of the convoluted mess that would, in just a few short centuries, become modern Germany. These fellows finally settled on the Dukedom of Cleves. Where is/was Cleves? I’m not sure. It may have been near Flanders, unless it wasn’t. But the Duke of Cleves had a couple of unmarried daughters and a perpetual need for cash. And here comes Henry Tudor! A king who’s just rolling in it! An impoverished duke could do a heck of a lot worse for a son in law.

Negotiations were started. The eldest daughter, Anne, seemed the best bet. Henry wanted to see the girl for himself. This idea was put aside as being too insulting. Henry sent a couple of trusted fellows to do some reconnaissance and report back on the, um…lay of the land, as it were. While this was going on, the duke had passed away and his eldest son was handling the matter. A very strict Protestant, this guy thought the whole idea of judging a woman by her appearance was, if not outright sinful, then in very poor taste. He wasn’t going to let his sister be subjected to THAT.

 When Henry’s boys arrived for the interview, Anne was waiting for them. God alone knows what she was thinking because she wasn’t allowed to speak. And did she “stack” up? That question remained unanswered because she was wearing the sixteenth century German Protestant equivalent of a burka. All that could be made out was the color of her eyes. What were they going to tell Henry? Whatever the hell Cromwell told them to tell him! Cromwell wanted a treaty with a German Protestant state that would keep Francis and Charles off balance! He had international politics to worry about and Henry was after him about hooters and is she hot and when can I see her. Jeez!

At one point Henry sent the court painter Hans Holbein to Cleves to paint Anne’s portrait. Not a big one or anything, a nice miniature. Just to give him some idea of what she looked like. A full frontal if he could manage it. From the chest up if it wasn’t too much trouble. The portrait still exists today. The woman in it certainly conveys a sense of what many people noticed about her when they met her. She had an air of peace and serenity about her. Of regal detachment. Of being above it all without being stuffy or aloof. She made a very positive first impression on most people she met. But then, of all the people she met, only one was going to marry her. People familiar with both Anne and the portrait agreed, Mister Holbein took rather a bit too much artistic license in making Anne look good. He couldn’t be blamed, he did what Cromwell ordered him to do.

Henry didn’t blame Holbein. He was an artist; artists paint idealized portraits sometimes. He captured her inner beauty, Henry gave him that. The bitter truth of the matter was that Anne of Cleves was not, as far as Henry was concerned, even okay looking. Henry thought she was ugly. To add insult to injury, she wasn’t very bright. Anne had received very little formal education. Such things were unbecoming in a princess who’s main function in life was to be a baby factory to whomever her dad told her to marry.

Henry very much enjoyed learned conversation and expected his wives to be able to keep up with him in that department. Anne spoke only German, had no interest in sports, gambling, hunting or anything else Henry loved. At one point Henry had admitted that sometimes a king had to marry someone who was less than perfect for the sake of the realm. Sometimes. But this wasn’t one of those times. There was one other problem with Anne.
To quote Henry, “I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse! She is nothing fair, and have very evil smells about her. I took her to be no maid by reason of the looseness of her breasts and other tokens, which, when I felt them, strake me to the heart, that I had neither will nor courage to prove the rest. I can have none appetite for displeasent airs. I have left her as good a maid as I found her.”
He wrote this the morning after his wedding night.


Geesh, what a love match.

Thank you Mr. Al.  You say this one doesn’t lose her head over Henry?  Do tell.



  1. I’m going to have to put all of these tudor postings together in a document for future reference.

    Comment by Bev — June 5, 2007 @ 8:37 am

  2. Hmmmm. . .now I gotta go google her picture.

    Evil smells?. . . wonder if Henry ever sniffed his own underarms!

    Comment by Ericka Scott — June 5, 2007 @ 8:58 am

  3. Mr. Al, you have a gift. I am so glad you continue to share it. I love history! At least your version of it, anyway.

    Comment by sashacat — June 5, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

  4. Fascinating Mr. Al! I got here late today, but I couldn’t go to sleep without my weekly shot. Tks again!!!

    Comment by Anastasia — June 5, 2007 @ 5:49 pm

  5. Thank you for your comments.Anne does come off better than some of Henry’s unfortunate spouses. Not that it was clear sailing. You’ll see. Just keep reading.

    Comment by Mr Al — June 8, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

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