This is the truth.
Henry never really wanted to marry Anna von Kleefes in the first place. He was cajoled and coaxed into it by his council. He was, after all, a king and his marriage ought to bring some benefit his kingdom. Henry whined about it. he even tried to get other nations to send their princesses so he could look them over in person before deciding, something that would cause deep personal embarrassment to the women rejected and to their kingdoms, but Henry thought he should be an exception to a thousand years of royal marriage traditions.
Their first meeting was a disaster of epic proportion. He wouldn’t wait for Anna’s party to arrive and for them to be formally introduced. He was impatient to meet her and wanted to “nurture love” by getting to know her before she reached London. He decided to play one of the pranks of his youth, the games he used to play with Katharine of Aragon. In those long-ago days, he would dress up as a highwayman and invade Katharine’s chamber, demanding to dance with the queen. Katharine always pretended to be surprised when he took off his disguise.
Henry dressed himself in a “mottled,” or ragged, cloak and hood, and went to Rochester. He called aside her steward and announced he had come to meet his new wife. Henry may have been remembering the romantic stories of French and early English monarchs who had first checked out their brides while in disguise and then revealed themselves to them. The romantic outcome was that the princess was supposed to fall in love with the “stranger” because their hearts would know one another, even if their eyes were fooled.
Did anyone tell the king it might not be a good idea to “introduce” himself in such a way to a girl who came from a far away land that didn’t have the same courtly traditions, and hadn’t read the same romances he had? If they did, it didn’t deter him.
Anna was in her chamber, gazing out her window, watching a bear-baiting outside staged for her amusement. Henry entered and announced he had a gift for her from the king. With that, he grabbed her into his arms and kissed her.
Anna was shocked at being manhandled by this obese, uncouth peasant. It’s not hard to imagine she had a look of disgust on her face as she recoiled. She turned away from him and stared out the window, likely unsettled and unsure of what to do.
It was probably the only time Henry had ever seen a look of repulsion aimed in his direction. He was surrounded at all times by trained courtiers who gazed at him in adoration and assured him he still was the most handsome prince in Christendom. Anna brutally shattered that illusion in a single moment. She did not swoon and fall instantly in love with him. She did not pretend coy delight. She showed him – stripped of courtly pretense or artifice – what she thought of him, and it wasn’t flattering.
What must Anna have been thinking? It must have been bewildering and frightening to her. She was a royal princess who had just been assaulted in her new homeland, and no one was doing anything about it. Her servants hadn’t thrown out the stranger. Was this the kind of lack of respect she would have to learn to expect here?
Henry left the room and returned dressed in his kingly robes. Anna was deeply embarrassed; Henry probably was, too. But he played his part.And when the lords and knights saw his grace they did him reverence…. and then her grace humbled herself lowly to the king’s majesty, and his grace saluted [kissed] her again, and they talked together lovingly…
Behind the scenes, Henry was fuming. His pride had suffered a brutal blow, and as Henry usually did when hurt or angry, he deflected it on others. Anna was the one who was repulsive, not him!“I like her not! … She is nothing as well as she was spoken of.”
Henry had a litany of complaints about his new bride. She looked old. She smelled bad. Her clothes were terrible. He added darkly, “I am not well handled.”
He began to blame those who had “deceived” him into marrying her, and as his courtiers usually did, they hastened to agree with him that Anna was hideous. However, disinterested parties such as the French diplomat, Charles de Marillac, described Anna as beaulté moyenne, “medium beauty,“ which is better than he rated Katheryn Howard, who Henry thought was a knock-out.
Henry tried to wriggle out of the marriage, scrambling to find reasons why it might be invalid. But nothing could be uncovered. All of her paperwork was in order. Henry whined:“Is there no other remedy, but that I must needs, against my will, put my neck in the yoke?”
Henry was deeply resentful when forced to do anything, but in this case, there was no escaping it. To annul the proxy marriage that had already taken place when she reached English shores and eject Anna from England would be to alienate his new German allies, whom he needed desperately since the Emperor was now allied with the French. Another way would have to be found to rid himself of her.
Oddly, he never blamed the portrait’s artist, Hans Holbein, or said the portrait was inaccurate. Henry continued to give him commissions. It was Cromwell who would bear the brunt of the king’s displeasure.
I always wondered why he wasn’t angry at Holbein! That is so odd! I mean if it was truly an inaccurate depiction you’d think that’s who he’d be angry with, not Cromwell.
Oh, Henry did even worse than that. He also said, and I`m not kidding, that her breasts were so saggy that he didn`t believe she was a virgin.
WTF, Henry VIII? You disgust me beyond words.
Yeah seriously! And no one mentioned what she thought of him, i mean whatever he found wrong with her, she had it a LOT worse than he did!
Yes. At least she had manners.
Like I just said – I edited my response just now – somehow I wish Margaret Beauford would still have been alive when that happened. I can just about imagine her reaction.
And Henry`s mama wouldn`t have been pleased either.
It`s bad enough he divorced her for such ridiculous reasons – and completely selfish reasons at that – but that he had to be so absurdly offensive about it! Imagine poor Anna – suddenly everyone was discussing intimate details, calling her ugly, smelly etc.
Oh, he got even MORE uncouth than that. After he told his doctors he hadn’t consummated his marriage because her breasts were saggy and there were “other tokens” that made him doubt her virginity, he got a little nervous lest someone think he wasn’t “up to the task,” so to speak. Henry was VERY touchy where his virility was concerned.
He could do it, he assured them, just not with Anna. He told his doctors that he had not just one, but two wet dreams that night while he lay next to his untouched bride.
Anna may have heard the king was casting aspersions on her chastity, so she decided to subtly fight back and defend her reputation. When Jane Parker, Lady Rochford, asked her about the possibility of an heir, Anna said that the king came to her every night and kissed her hand before going to sleep. Wasn’t that enough?
It’s doubtful Anna was actually ignorant of how babies are made. (Unlike the Victorians, people of the Tudor era didn’t equate sexual ignorance with sexual innocence.) Anna was pointedly saying, “I’m such a virgin, I don’t even know what sex is.” This became important later in the annulment proceedings, because Anna had to be untouched if the king was going to claim non-consummation. And so Jane’s recollection of the conversation was included in the records.
Henry probably regretted those nasty comments about Anna’s droopy breasts when it came time to annul the marriage.
Anna did have manners, and more importantly, she had brains. When the commissioners came to her with the annulment papers, she fell into a dead faint, likely terrified it was a warrant for her arrest. When she found out what the king was proposing, she pretended reluctance to lose such an awesome husband, but agreed to his terms. Henry was flattered, and so he was generous to her afterwards. She kept his favor, and he actually turned to her for advice on a few occasions, so impressed with her grasp of European politics that he said he wished he could make her a council member.
After Katheryn Howard was executed, Anna pretended to want to become Henry’s wife again, going as far as to encourage some ambassadors to approach the king about it. She made sure that her “interest” in remarrying Henry was public. It was so well known that a pamphlet was printed on the Continent, bemoaning Anna’s sad and lonely fate of being without her husband.
Henry rejected her again, of course, but his ego had been stroked, the benefits of which outweighed any embarrassment Anna might have had at this very public second rejection. She remained firmly in the king’s favor, which was the important part. After that, she retreated from court to her new estates where she had a jolly good time, by all reports. She was well-liked, had many friends, and was financially independent. In the end, Anna was the most fortunate of Henry’s wives.