Anne of Cleves ControversiesThis is a featured page

Anne of Cleves
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Anne of Cleves

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Was Anne of Cleves really Ugly?

" News daily reached the King of his bride's approach, whilst he remained consumed with impatience at Greenwich. At each successive stage of her journey forward supple courtiers had written to Henry glowing accounts of the beauty and elegance of the bride. Fitzwilliam from Calais had been especially emphatic, and the King's curiosity was piqued to see the paragon he was to marry. At length, when he knew that Anne was on the way from Sittingbourne to Rochester, and would arrive there on New Year's Eve, he told Cromwell that he himself, with an escort of eight gentlemen clad in grey, would ride to Rochester incognito to get early sight of his bride, " whom he sorely desired to see." He went, he said, " to nourish love " ; and full of hopeful anticipation, Henry on a great courser ambled over Gad's Hill from Gravesend to Rochester soon after dawn on New Year's Day 1540, with Sir Anthony Browne, his Master of the Horse, on one side, and Sir John Russell on the other. It was in accordance with the chivalrous tradition that this should be done, and that the lady should pretend to be extremely surprised
when she was informed who her visitor was ; so that Anne must have made a fair guess as to what was coming when Sir Anthony Browne, riding a few hundred yards ahead of his master, entered her presence, and, kneeling, told her that he had brought a New Year's gift for her. When the courtier raised his eyes and looked critically upon
the lady before him, experienced as he was in Henry's tastes, " he was never more dismayed in his life to see her so far unlike that which was reported." (Deposition of Sir A. Browne. - Calendar Henry VIII., vol. 14, 2.)

Anne was about twenty-four years of age, but looked older, and her frame was large, bony, and masculine, which in the facial portraits that had been sent to Henry was not indicated, and her large, low -German features, deeply pitted with the ravages of smallpox, were, as Browne knew, the very opposite of the type of beauty which would be likely to stimulate a gross, unwholesome voluptuary of nearly fifty.

So, with a sinking heart, he went back to his master, not daring to prepare him for what was before him by any hint of disparagement of the bride. As soon as Henry entered with Russell and Browne and saw for himself, his countenance fell, and he made a wry face, which those who knew him understood too well ; and they trembled in their shoes at what was to come of it. He nevertheless greeted the lady politely, raising her from the kneeling position she had assumed, and kissed her upon the cheek, passing a few minutes in conversation with her about her long journey. He had brought with him some rich presents of sables and other furs ; but he was " so marvellously astonished and abashed " that he had not the heart to give them to her, but sent them the next morning with a cold message by Sir Anthony Browne.

In the night the royal barge had been brought round from Gravesend to Rochester, and the King returned to Greenwich in the morning by water. He had hardly passed another word with Anne since the first meeting, though they had supped together, and it was with a sulky, frowning face that he took his place in the shelter of his galley.
Turning to Russell, he asked, " Do you think this woman so fair or of such beauty as report has made her ? " Russell, courtier-like, fenced with the question by feigning to misunderstand it. "I should hardly take her to be fair," he replied, " but of brown complexion' " Alas ! " continued the King, " whom should men trust ? I promise you I see no such thing in her as hath been showed unto me of her, and am ashamed that men have so praised her as they have done. I like her not." To Browne he was quite as outspoken. " I see nothing in this woman as men report of her," he said angrily, " and I am surprised that wise men should make such reports as they have done." Whereat Browne, who knew that his brother- in-law, Fitz william, was one of the " wise men " referred to, scented danger and was silent. The English ladies, too, who had accompanied Anne on the road began to whisper in confidence to their spouses that Anne's manners were coarse, and that she would never suit the King's fastidious taste.

But he who had most to lose and most to fear was Cromwell. It was he who had drawn and driven his master into the Protestant friendship against the Emperor and the Pope, of which the marriage was to be the pledge, and he had repeated eagerly for months the inflated praises of Anne's beauty sent by his agents and friends in order to
pique Henry to the union. He knew that vigilant enemies of himself and his policy were around him, watching for their opportunity, Norfolk and the older nobles, the Pope's bishops, and, above all, able, ambitious Stephen Gardiner, now sulking at Winchester, determined to supplant him if he could. When, on Friday the 2nd January, Henry entered his working closet at Greenwich after his water journey from Rochester, Cromwell asked him " how
he liked the Lady Anne."
The King answered gloomily, " Nothing so well as she was spoken of," adding that if he had known before as much as he knew then, she should never have come within his realm. In the grievous self-pity usual with him in his perplexity, he turned to Cromwell, the man hitherto so fertile in expedients, and wailed, " What is the remedy ? " l Cromwell, for once at a loss, could only express his grief, and say he knew of none. In very truth it was too late now to stop the state reception ; for preparations had been ordered for such a pageant as had rarely
been seen in England. Cromwell had intended it for his own triumph, and as marking the completeness of his victory over his opponents. Once more ambition overleaped itself, and the day that was to establish Cromwell's supremacy sealed his doom.


[Source: The Wives of Henry the Eighth and the parts they played in history by Martin Hume]

DURING her few months of incomplete wedlock with the King, Anne had felt uneasily the strange anomaly of her position. She accompanied Henry in his daily life at bed and board, and shared with him the various festivities held in celebration of the marriage ; the last of which was a splendid tournament given by the bachelor courtiers at
Durham House on May -day. She had studied English diligently, and tried to please her husband in a hundred well-meant but ungainly ways. She had by her jovial manner and real kindness of heart become very popular with those around her ; but yet she got no nearer to the glum, bloated man by her side. In truth she was no fit companion for him, either physically or mentally. Her lack of the softer feminine charms, her homely manners,
her lack of learning and of musical talent,
on which Henry set so much store, were not counterbalanced
by strong will or commanding ability which might have enabled her to dominate him, or by feminine craft by which he might have been captivated.

She was a woman, however, and could not fail to know that her repudiation in some form was in the air. It was one of the accusations against Cromwell that he had divulged to her what the King had said about the marriage ; but, so far from doing so, he had steadily avoided compliance with her oft-repeated requests for an interview with him. Shortly before Cromwell's fall, Henry had complained to him that Anne's temper was becoming tart ; and then Cromwell thought well to warn her through her Chamberlain that she should try to please the King more. The poor
woman, desirous of doing right, tactlessly flew to the other extreme, and her cloying fondness aroused Henry's suspicion that Cromwell had informed her of his intention to get rid of her...........The true reason why Anne was sent away was Henry's invariable cowardice, that made him afraid to face a person whom he was wronging. Bishop Stephen Gardiner had promptly done what Cromwell had been ruined for not doing, and had submitted to the King within a few days of the arrest of his rival a complete plan by which Anne might be repudiated.
Was it Anne's fault that the marriage wasn't consummated?
‘The king’s annulment from Anne of Cleves in July 1540 greatly relied on the depositions with fictional information. Especially significant to Anne of Cleves’s life story is the one signed by three of her ladies-in-waiting. The critical evidence Crown attorneys needed to support the king’s case was Anne’s confirmation of his failure to consummate their marriage. Asking Anne, who still mainly spoke German, about her evenings with the king to get legal evidence to end the union that she hoped to preserve would have proved awkward at best. Instead, three of Anne’s ladies signed a deposition detailing some conversations with her that supposedly took place but without an interpreter present. Her alleged innocent responses to their questions about whether or not she was pregnant provided evidence of her complete misunderstanding of how conception occurs. Writers who have validated the details of this deposition have not only ignored the problem of language barriers that would have prevented these conversations from occurring – at least as they were reported – but also other references that indicate that Anne was quite aware of what a woman’s “bodily integrity” was. In fact, in January 1540, shortly after her marriage to Henry, she had attempted on several occasions to converse privately with Cromwell about her marital problems, but he had refused her requests. Since knowledge of Henry’s incapacity is largely based on letters Cromwell later addressed to him, it would certainly have been interesting to the details of Anne of Cleves’s life if Cromwell had discussed with her those trying times with the king’ ~ Retha Warnicke - ‘Reshaping Tudor Biography: Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves’, in Lloyd E. Ambrosius (ed.), Writing Biography: Historians & Their Craft (Nebraska, 2004).

SOURCES:
  • The Wives of Henry the Eighth and the parts they played in history by Martin Hume
  • The Marrying of Anne of Cleves: Royal Protocol in Tudor England (Cambridge, 2000). by Retha Warnicke









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ElizabethRegina In Defense of Anne of Cleves (page: 1 2) 24 Jul 22 2011, 5:28 PM EDT by MsSquirrly
Thread started: Dec 28 2009, 3:59 AM EST  Watch
Anne of Cleves got the last laugh, didn't she? She survived a marriage to Henry VIII, stayed involved in the lives of her stepchildren (she rode next to Princess Elizabeth at Mary I's coronation, and was a guest of honor at many family events) and received an annual income from the king, living in splendor in England. This "ugly duckling" also had a panache for commissioning fancy dresses!
Yet, all that anyone ever learns about her pertains to her appearance! The "Flander's Mare" comment probably came after her time, and was not contemporary, though it is true that Henry was less than pleased with her.
Anne was not an "English Beauty", but then again, many of England's own women did not naturally look like the English ideal of beauty, so they strived to achieve it through cosmetic means, etc. Many of Englands most beautiful would not have been appealing in Germany, and so on...
I have a portrait Replica of Anne hanging in the stairwell of my house: It reminds me that luck, modesty and brains have a lot more to do with success than beauty and other peoples opinions of you!
Here's to Anne of Cleves, the "Flander's Mare" having the last laugh!
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