My Lady of Cleves
The story of Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, is eloquently told in this reissue from the late English novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes. With the urging of Thomas Cromwell, Hans Holbein, court painter for Henry VIII, is sent to Cleves to paint the portraits of the two sisters who are prospective brides for Henry’s fourth marriage. Hans is immediately taken with Anne. He does his best to portray her faithfully in his portrait while letting her soul and personality shine through. Anne’s life dramatically changes when it is she that Henry chooses for his next wife. With feelings of disbelief and fear, Anne is escorted across the sea to begin her new life in England, leaving the comforts of her home behind for good.
Anne makes unfortunate mistakes early on once she arrives in England and is treated poorly by the English maids in her household. Henry begins to push her away, and soon his eye turns toward one of Anne’s maids-in-waiting, Katherine Howard. Despite Henry’s aversion to her, Anne wins over the English people, something his second wife, Anne Boleyn, failed to do—though Anne of Cleves could not win over Henry’s heart enough to save their marriage. Within six months’ time, the marriage is annulled and Henry marries Katherine Howard. It is not until after their marriage ends that Henry and Anne become friends.
Immediately readers are drawn into the story, captivated by Anne’s down-to-earth nature and her incredible attitude through adversity. Barnes does an excellent job of portraying the intricate relationship between Anne and Hans Holbein. This novel is rich in detail and flows beautifully, letting readers escape into Anne’s court and country life. It is a must read for those who love exploring the dynamic relationships of Henry VIII and his wives.