About the Book…
Anne of Cleves left her homeland in 1539 to marry the king of England. She was not brought up to be a queen, yet out of many possible choices, she was the bride Henry VIII chose as his fourth wife. But, from their first meeting, the king decided he liked her not and sought an immediate divorce. After just six months their marriage was annulled, leaving Anne one of the wealthiest women in England. This is the story of Anne’s marriage to Henry, how the daughter of Cleves survived him and her life afterwards.
While she might not have the name recognition of Anne Boleyn or Catherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves has always been one of my favourites when it comes to the six wives of Henry VII. Part of me feels sorry for her, for the way Henry treated her – deciding as soon as he saw her that he didn’t (and couldn’t) love her. Part of me is slightly in awe of how she handled herself once Henry decided he didn’t want her for a wife, navigating as she did the difficult and often deadly life in the Tudor Court to outlive not just Henry but the rest of his wives too.
Probably because of her lack of star power when it comes to Henry’s wives, I haven’t ever been able to find much about her in the history books – her marriage and subsequent life always seems to be rushed in favour of the wife number five (Katerine Howard, who cheated on Henry and was executed as a result). Thankfully, this has now been rectified by Sarah-Beth Watkins who breathes life into a somewhat forgotten queen.
She paints a picture of a shy girl, struggling to get to grips with a world where courtly love was more important than propriety at times and where not being able to speak the language was a huge hindrance for her and her understanding of the world in which she found herself. She also tells the story of a woman who found her own way in the world and her own voice, which was a powerful one (well, as powerful as a woman’s voice could be at the time). I liked seeing her growth as a person.
My only criticism is that the book felt too short to me: it’s only 176 pages. I got to the end and didn’t think I had learned enough. Still, it was more than enough to fill the gaps in my knowledge of Henry VII’s forgotten queen – though now I want to know more.
Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.