Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait

Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait

Bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir tells the little-known story of Henry VIII’s fourth wife, as a grieving king chooses a bride sight unseen in the fourth novel in the epic and intrigue-filled Six Tudor Queens series.Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to insure the royal succession. Now forty-six, over...

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Title:Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait
Author:Alison Weir
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Edition Language:English

Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait Reviews

  • Betty

    Another excellent book in the

    series! I absolutely loved it!

    Full review coming closer to publication date.

  • Kate

    I love this series and this one, the one I've been looking forward to the most, is, in my opinion, the best. Perhaps the least well known of Henry's six wives, Anna is presented here in such a compelling way. And she is so relatable. She made the best of a situation that could have proved very bad indeed. But she also, as shown here, dealt with some of the other constraints that were made on women at the time. Much of this can only be speculation but it makes for a very good story and an appeali

    I love this series and this one, the one I've been looking forward to the most, is, in my opinion, the best. Perhaps the least well known of Henry's six wives, Anna is presented here in such a compelling way. And she is so relatable. She made the best of a situation that could have proved very bad indeed. But she also, as shown here, dealt with some of the other constraints that were made on women at the time. Much of this can only be speculation but it makes for a very good story and an appealing and very human heroine. I cared for her and tears were shed. The tantalising glimpse we're given of Katherine Howard makes me look forward to the next book more than ever! Review to follow closer to publication on For Winter Nights.

  • Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum

    is another brilliant addition to the Six Tudor Queens series by historian Alison Weir. This is the fourth historical fiction novel in the series and is the story of Anna of Kleve, or Anne of Cleves as most of us know her.

    The Author's Note is quick to inform the reader that Anne of Cleves actually signed her name 'Anna'. She also tells us that Henry VIII came to refer to her Anna, informing her decision to refer to her as Anna in this novel. Furthermore, Kleve is

    is another brilliant addition to the Six Tudor Queens series by historian Alison Weir. This is the fourth historical fiction novel in the series and is the story of Anna of Kleve, or Anne of Cleves as most of us know her.

    The Author's Note is quick to inform the reader that Anne of Cleves actually signed her name 'Anna'. She also tells us that Henry VIII came to refer to her Anna, informing her decision to refer to her as Anna in this novel. Furthermore, Kleve is the German name of her town and Duchy, while Cleves is the anglicised form. Therefore, in order to be historically accurate, Anna should be referred to as Anna von Kleve. Who knew?

    In this historical fiction imagining of her life in the 1500s, Weir has provided an alternate history for Anna of Kleve and I predict it will be a polarising one for fans of Tudor history. I was open to an alternate storyline and wasn't scandalised by what the author has proposed here. Besides, historians can't be 100% sure about the secrets of a life lived in the 1500s - especially when it comes to women - as so little was recorded and much less has survived the ravages of time.

    What is agreed, is that there has been much speculation that at the time of wedding Anna of Kleve, King Henry VIII was suffering from impotence. It has been posited that the reason the King didn't consummate their marriage is that he couldn't muster the will.

    My favourite episode from

    TV show is the night after King Henry is supposed to have consummated his marriage with Anna of Kleve. Cromwell asks the King:

    He replies:

    In the Author's Note, Alison Weir tells us more about what was actually said, and it wasn't much different.

    On the morning after his wedding night, the King told Thomas Cromwell:

    For weeks afterwards, he made similar complaints to others, saying he

    Page 488

    Of course, much has also been made of the portrait of Anna of Kleve painted by Hans Holbein and whether it was a true representation or not. This is also covered in the novel, as is the possibility King Henry didn't find Anna attractive as she wasn't skilled in dancing or playing music, which was much desired in a lady of her status at an English court.

    Prior to reading

    , my knowledge extended only as far as the King having their arranged marriage annulled and Anna being known from then on as the King's Beloved Sister. I've always admired that Anna seemed to deem it safer to acquiesce to King Henry's demands than to protest.

    In

    , we stay with her beyond this turning point in her life all the way through until King Henry's death in 1547 and her own death a decade later in 1557. I enjoyed reading and learning about the rest of her life, which I hadn't explored in fiction until now.

    The proposed love affair between Anna and her cousin is bound to cause controversy, however the author makes a good argument for the relationship in her Author's Note.

    I'm thoroughly enjoying this series and am already looking forward to the next one. No doubt it'll be the story of Catherine Howard and I know I'll be in Alison Weir's expert hands once again.

    * Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

  • Matt

    Alison Weir returns with yet another novel in her Six Tudor Queens series, turning the attention to one of the lesser known (and seemingly, least scandalous) queens. Anna of Kleve served a brief time on the Tudor throne, but much about her differed greatly from the other wives of Henry VIII. Anna grew up in the House of La Marck, part of Germany, and was tied to the Duchy of Kleve. Her family ruled the region effectively and ensured that the princess had all she could want. A chance encounter wi

    Alison Weir returns with yet another novel in her Six Tudor Queens series, turning the attention to one of the lesser known (and seemingly, least scandalous) queens. Anna of Kleve served a brief time on the Tudor throne, but much about her differed greatly from the other wives of Henry VIII. Anna grew up in the House of La Marck, part of Germany, and was tied to the Duchy of Kleve. Her family ruled the region effectively and ensured that the princess had all she could want. A chance encounter with a cousin led to a scandalous event in the early 1530s, one about which only a few were aware, though it marked Anna deeply. As the years passed, Anna could not help but wonder what might come of her life, though she did have a loose betrothal to a local prince, but nothing was ever solidified. When news arrived from England that King Henry VIII was looking to make strong political ties with Kleve, which could include a wedding, Anna was a likely candidate to secure the union. Sending a miniature portrait to secure the king’s favour, Anna waited to see if she would be invited to Court and potentially made the new wife in the Tudor realm. A delayed arrival in England saw Anna accepted, though neither Princess Anna nor King Henry seemed ready for what was to come. Her wedding delayed for political reasons—said to be tied to her potential betrothal back in Germany—and then a wedding night that proved disastrous, Anna was left to wonder if this was a huge mistake. However, she sought to bring forth children for the king, in hopes of not ending up like his past wives. Health and seeming impotence impeded any marital congress, which turned out to be the out King Henry sought to annul the marriage. Anna was left shocked and completely beside herself, but was not sent off or scorned by Henry. Rather, she was given all the amenities that one might expect of a dear family member and given the title of ‘Sister of the Queen’. However, there were still issues, particularly with her small retinue, as she was no longer respected. Henry had moved on to a new (and spritely) wife, leaving Anna to bide her time and turn to those she knew back in Kleve to provide much needed attention. In the final years of her life, Anna saw significant changes to the House of Tudor and of England’s foundation, which would dramatically flavour the path forward. By the end of her life, Anna had shown herself as a respected member of the English Court, even if she was not active in affairs. Recounting many little-known facts about Anna and her years after being queen, Weir dazzles the reader with stories, some factual and others completed fabricated, to tell of the most unique—read: bizarre— of the six wives. A stellar piece of work that will keep the reader enthralled throughout. Recommended to all those who love Weir’s work and especially those who enjoy all things Tudor!

    It is always a pleasure to see a new piece by Alison Weir, as I am permitted the chance to learn something while being entertained. This Six Tudor Queens series has proven helpful in fuelling my passion for all things Tudor while also introducing me to a great deal more information about which I had no idea. Anna of Kleve is the queen about whom I know the least, though Weir made sure to fill the book with much that left me wondering and racing for the ‘author’s historical note’. Anna began life as a naive princess, overcome by the wiles of an older relative, but still kept the secret in order not to stain her family. Her use as a pawn in the England-Kleve political alliance seems not to have soured her resolve to make the most of her responsibility, as she knowingly and voluntarily loved Henry VIII as best she could. Tossed into quite the quagmire, Anna was left to fend for herself when demeaned by Henry and his advisors, but did not become a shrinking violet (rose?) for the latter years of her life. Seeking to move on, she grew in personality and resolve, as Weir depicts throughout. There are the usual characters who fill the pages of the novel effectively, from King Henry through to the lowest servants, all of whom add a flavour to this fourth novel in the series. The reader is even able to see ahead, looking at the final two queens chosen after Anna was tossed to the side. The premise of the story is intriguing, offering up some interesting facts that I knew nothing about before, including in the opening chapters of the book. Weir is one who always spins a tale, adding fiction into her factual findings and creates an effective final product that will keep the reader wondering. I cannot wait to see what else is to come, with two queens yet to receive their own novels. I know Weir will keep her readers enthralled, though I will have to wait until next spring for the next instalment.

    Kudos, Madam Weir, for another wonderful novel. I thoroughly enjoy your writing and all you bring to the story.

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  • Vicki

    I first became familiar with Alison Weir by reading her historical biographies which are far from dry and boring, but are instead entertaining, engaging, and read like novels. When she ventured into historical fiction, I did not hesitate to follow her along on that transition. I have yet to be disappointed. In Weir’s most recent novel, “Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait,” Weir weaves an intriguing story about Henry VIII’s fourth wife.

    Anna of Kleve was an enigmatic individual. Of the f

    I first became familiar with Alison Weir by reading her historical biographies which are far from dry and boring, but are instead entertaining, engaging, and read like novels. When she ventured into historical fiction, I did not hesitate to follow her along on that transition. I have yet to be disappointed. In Weir’s most recent novel, “Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait,” Weir weaves an intriguing story about Henry VIII’s fourth wife.

    Anna of Kleve was an enigmatic individual. Of the four wives whose marriages ended at the King’s whim, Anna’s story was the least tragic and the most unusual. The King didn’t like her from their first meeting, but he married her anyway and quickly regretted it. Henry then came up with a weak excuse for a divorce and set out to convince Anna to accept his terms. If Anna would agree to end the marriage, Henry vowed to thereafter consider and treat her as his dear sister. Anna was no fool—this was a far better offer than being exiled or executed, so she agreed to the divorce. Henry was true to his word. He bestowed upon Anna various properties, provided her an income, allowed her to retain a retinue of advisors and household staff members for the rest of her life, and did indeed treat her as a beloved sister.

    Those were the historical facts that appear in Weir’s novel, but Anna of Kleve’s life was not as well documented as some of Henry’s other wives. Weir uses that lack of recorded information to create an interesting backstory for Anna, beginning with her early teen years and the mistakes of youthful innocence. Those mistakes are used to define and explain Anna’s behavior and personality into adulthood, particularly during her brief tenure as Queen and her much longer tenure as “sister” of the King. Weir weaves a plausible and believable story and does it in a way that keeps you turning the pages to the very end. This is a “must read” for anyone who loves Tudor-era historical fiction.

    Thank you to Netgalley, Ballantine Books, and the author for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  • Sue

    While I have read some of Alison Weir’s non-fiction, history, in the past, Anna of Kleve is my first foray into her historical fiction and it has been a pleasurable, positive experience. I am an advocate of well executed historical fiction, where the factual basis is apparent and the fictional overlay allows greater access to the story, opening up the details of everyday life long ago in service to plot.

    After his third wife died, Henry found himself in need of another wife and in a struggle to f

    While I have read some of Alison Weir’s non-fiction, history, in the past, Anna of Kleve is my first foray into her historical fiction and it has been a pleasurable, positive experience. I am an advocate of well executed historical fiction, where the factual basis is apparent and the fictional overlay allows greater access to the story, opening up the details of everyday life long ago in service to plot.

    After his third wife died, Henry found himself in need of another wife and in a struggle to find a suitable mate. We read here of all the machinations from the point of view of the duchy of Kleve and princess Anna. There are the political and religious aspects, the current and anticipated future power plays, and, of course, Henry’s probable wish for another son. He only knows Anna through Holbein’s portrait.

    This novel begins with a young Anna, with a hypothetical story that may not have happened as written but for which Weir provides background and some possible evidence. Some suspension of disbelief is required to fully enjoy this aspect of the story. But remember—this is historical fiction, not history.

    What sets Weir apart in all of her writing is her attention to detail and her ability to incorporate it into a very readable text. I recognize the descriptions of wedding gifts and parade/displays from her history writing. Her descriptions of Anna’s travels and travails in England after her separation from Henry give such strong signs of reality (and the type of petty notes that were retained for centuries).

    Through Anna of Kleve, we have a bird’s eye view of some of the major events of English history which Alison Weir has blended skillfully into this work of historical fiction. She also provides an afterword which summarizes her decision making in writing of Anna and the genesis of various plot elements.

    All in all, I enjoyed the story of Anna very much. And I greatly appreciate Weir’s ability to use her extensive knowledge in this way. As I said above, I find historical fiction to be valuable when well done. This is valuable.

    A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  • *TUDOR^QUEEN*

    Thank you to Random House Publishing Group- Ballantine who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley.

    There is an extremely shocking event that occurs in the beginning of this book that really blindsided me. As a passionate Tudor History lover, 4th wife Anna of Kleve is a bit of a mystery in comparison to some of King Henry VIII's more notorious wives. Alison Weir is an icon of British history authors, but has recently travelled the path of poetic license while presenting these historical fic

    Thank you to Random House Publishing Group- Ballantine who provided an advance reader copy via NetGalley.

    There is an extremely shocking event that occurs in the beginning of this book that really blindsided me. As a passionate Tudor History lover, 4th wife Anna of Kleve is a bit of a mystery in comparison to some of King Henry VIII's more notorious wives. Alison Weir is an icon of British history authors, but has recently travelled the path of poetic license while presenting these historical fiction novels of King Henry VIII's six wives. She explains the leaps she took based on research materials in an "Author's Note" at the end of the book. The irony of the fact that information is scanty regarding this wife is that this book is an arduous almost 500 pages! I felt hard pressed to get through it as I neared the end, which isn't a good sign. I think this book would have done well to have been whittled down considerably.

    After marrying for love on three previous occasions, all ending in disaster, King Henry VIII is urged to marry for political alliance purposes. Anna of Kleve in Germany is suggested by Thomas Cromwell, chief minister to the King. The King sends his master painter Hans Holbein to paint a portrait of Anna so he can judge her likeness. In scores of historical documentaries and books over the centuries, it is said that perhaps Holbein painted her too favorably from the front, concealing her long nose and chin. In addition, as legend has it, on the marriage night when the King and Anna took to bed, he was turned off by her smell, sagging breasts and belly. He couldn't bring himself to consummate the marriage, which lasted just six months. Physical failings put aside, Anna was known for an even temperament, a patient, thoughtful and sensible character, and these favorable traits served her well when Henry put her aside. Upon their divorce, Anna was to be known as the King's "sister" and was provided several handsome estates in England and a generous income. She wasn't banished to unhealthy houses and ignored to die, wasn't beheaded, and didn't die post childbirth like Henry's previous wives. Because of her level-headedness and plain smarts, I always held a high regard for this wife that was never crowned. I was rather looking forward to the ride Alison Weir would take me on, but was sadly disappointed.

    I asked myself if I was jaded from reading so many Tudor books over the decades. The endless minute details of Anna's windswept, rainy journey from Germany to England, as well as the various progresses she would take being introduced to the English public bored the hell out of me. Another thing that turned me off was hearing about all the elaborate homes Anna was given upon her divorce, much of which had belonged to people that were executed by order of the King, and some that used to be Catholic religious houses until Henry closed them all. I just kept thinking about the incredible waste of life.. moving every so often among these homes with staff to wait upon you... Perhaps I've just become cynical about all this.

    I guess in summation my gripe with this book was it should have been at least 200 pages less. The author fleshed out what we know already about Anna of Kleve with another storyline that exploded at the beginning of the book. That initial spark really got my attention, but the endless political maneuvering at court, especially at the end of the book, had me skimming through the pages.

  • BAM The Bibliomaniac

    I honestly don’t know what to think about this book. My review will be posted later as this is an ARC, but I admit to being dissatisfied with the historical accuracy.

  • Erin

    Find this and other reviews at:

    I think it fair to say I’m not the right reader for Alison Weir’s Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait. The book seems to have tickled the fancy of many, but I was not enthralled by the author’s creative choices and admit my attention wandered on more than one occasion.

    While I identified no historical anachronisms, Weir took the story in directions I struggled to wrap my head around. I consequently spent more time qu

    Find this and other reviews at:

    I think it fair to say I’m not the right reader for Alison Weir’s Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait. The book seems to have tickled the fancy of many, but I was not enthralled by the author’s creative choices and admit my attention wandered on more than one occasion.

    While I identified no historical anachronisms, Weir took the story in directions I struggled to wrap my head around. I consequently spent more time questioning the author’s choices than I did with the narrative which is a reality that severely hindered my ability to lose myself between these pages.

    Weir is a scholar of Tudor history and her interpretation of Anna is likely a byproduct of years spent with the material. I can and do respect that, but the idea of Anna as a gentle and naïve romantic bored me to no end. Perhaps I don’t know enough to understand what prompted Weir to characterize Anna as she did, but I wanted more depth and substance than this story suggested and was challenged by the disparity that exists between my imagination and the text.

  • Lois

    This was extremely detailed and reads almost more like a biography enhanced with dialogue. This just drags mostly from overly descriptive narrative of palaces, staff, horses, dresses, banquets, etc.

    This was dull and boring in tone.

    I really wish that Queen Anna had lived her life as described in this novel. I like to think of her having a secret lover and child.

    At the same time much of the gossip about Anna comes from Chapuys' letters to the Emporer. Chapuys was not a reliable or unbiased source

    This was extremely detailed and reads almost more like a biography enhanced with dialogue. This just drags mostly from overly descriptive narrative of palaces, staff, horses, dresses, banquets, etc.

    This was dull and boring in tone.

    I really wish that Queen Anna had lived her life as described in this novel. I like to think of her having a secret lover and child.

    At the same time much of the gossip about Anna comes from Chapuys' letters to the Emporer. Chapuys was not a reliable or unbiased source, he was quite a gossip as well. Sexism allows many of the wives of Henry VIII to be seen as stereotypes. In fact Henry was the jerk and there was nothing wrong with any of his wives. Even the one caught cheating, after all he was famously and flagrantly unfaithful to *all* of his wives. He murdered his cousins, 2 of his wives, his old tutor, old friends and threatened to kill his daughter Mary AFTER he cut off Anne Boleyn's head. This man was never okay.

    Like every other tyrant in history he blamed and slandered his victims.

    Anne Boleyn wasn't unfaithful and certainly wasn't cheating with her brother. Half of the dates given that she was accused on she wasn't physically where she was accused of being unfaithful. Henry lied and I don't understand why historians continue to treat his blatant lies as possible facts.

    It's highly doubtful that Anna of Kleve wasn't a virgin when she married Henry. She came from a very conservative court and it was not uncommon not to speak of sexual matters to unwed women. The discussion that's given as proof that Henry never slept with her, based on testimony from her English ladies is dubious at best as she didn't have the vocabulary in English at that time to discuss such matters.

    Finally virginity is a made up concept that really only supports patriarchy. The author must be aware that some folks born with vaginas don't have a hymen at all. Or that the hymen can be broken jumping, dancing, riding, etc.

    Also tons of people who haven't had children have loose bellies, saggy breasts and stretch marks. I find it hard to believe someone as educated as herself doesn't know this.

    I have no issue with her adding this storyline to this fictional book, just her attempting to make it seem plausible in the Author's Notes section.

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