Part 5: Anne of Cleves
At forty-six and after the loss of three wives, Henry was not an
attractive proposition. He commented that he needed a 'big wife',
but when put forward to Mary de Guise she replied that she might be
a big woman but she had a very little neck.
A young princess of the West German Duchy of Cleve (or Kleve)
was attractive to Thomas Cromwell because of her religious
connections and to Henry for her family relations, but he would
commit himself only if he could be persuaded that he would find her
Court painter Hans Holbein made a portrait of Anne of Cleves and
Henry's ambassadors raved about the beauty of her face and body.
Cromwell worked hard on Henry to choose Anne. The marriage would
protect England from the Catholic threat of Spain and France and it
would enable Cromwell to attack his Catholic enemies at home.
Anne could not sing or dance, or speak foreign languages, but
the Holbein portrait left her face as a dreamy mask. Henry saw what
he wanted – an ideal wife.
When the two met it was a different story. He is quoted as
saying: 'I see no such thing in her as hath been showed me. I like
her not.' Henry, in private, raged against Cromwell, thinking he had
tricked him into the match for political reasons, while he
desperately searched for a way out.
In public, Henry behaved politely and Anne had no idea of his
opinion of her. Reluctantly Henry submitted to the marriage for the
sake of the country. But he found her so repugnant that lovemaking