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My Lady of Cleves: A Novel of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves    by Margaret Campbell Barnes order for
My Lady of Cleves
by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Order:  USA  Can
Sourcebooks, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Joan Burton

My Lady of Cleves is the story of Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's fourth wife. Rich in history it gives the reader a look into the lives of past aristocrats and royalty.

Anne of Cleves never dreamed she would be Queen of England one day. At twenty-four she was well educated in domestic skills but was not very intellectual. A plain, bigger built woman, she always thought her sister Amelia would marry first. Even though most of England was Catholic, Henry's influential advisor Thomas Cromwell wanted England to ally itself with a Protestant nation. Henry's marrying Anne of Cleves would openly ally England with a Protestant duchy. King Henry sent his court painter, Hans Holbein, to Germany to paint a miniature portrait of Anne and return to England. Henry would then decide if he would marry Anne. Hans fell in love with Anne while painting her. He grew to love her inner beauty and painted that rather than her physical likeness. When King Henry saw the painting he agreed to the marriage and Anne arrived in England in December 1539.

When Anne met King Henry Vlll, both were disappointed but the contract could not be broken. The King enjoyed his women blonde and petite and Anne was dark and a large woman. The King felt that he was betrayed. Anne did not like the size of the King as he was very obese. In January 1540 they were married but soon Henry was dissatisfied and looking at other women. Anne was left on her own for long periods of time and was very lonely. She was trying to learn the English language. She was well liked by the people of England and the royal staff. She became close to Henry's children from previous marriages and longed to have her own children and give the King a son.

Anne was shocked when Henry came to her and announced he wanted out of the marriage.. He felt he could not do his husbandly duties because Anne did not appeal to him physically. He claimed he would have the marriage annulled. After six short months the marriage was over. King Henry stipulated Anne could never remarry or leave England while he was alive, and he would refer to her as his good sister. Anne received a good settlement of cash and estates by agreeing to Henry's wishes.

On her own Anne found peace and contentment. She entertained friends, the King's children, and even took care of orphans. At times she was visited by Henry and they settled into a comfortable friendship. She was also invited back to the royal castle as a guest of Henry and his new wife. In 1547 Henry died and Anne was free to leave England and return to her homeland of Germany. She chose to live out her life in England and in 1557 passed away at forty-one years old. She was buried in Westminster Abbey. Overall My Lady of Cleves is an informative and entertaining read.

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