AlisonWeir.org.uk Logo



Number 4 on the Sunday Times bestsellers list (12th May 2019).



BOOK FOUR in the SIX TUDOR QUEENS series



 

She is a German princess. A king has fallen in love with her portrait. She has none of the accomplishments he admires in women – and she lives with a guilty secret.

   Anna awaits her bridegroom. She prays that she will please him. She knows she is no beauty… It is the most disastrous of beginnings.

   On her wedding night, she is tense with fear.  If she does not please the King, will it be divorce – or the headsman’s sword?

   ANNA OF KLEVE – the fourth of Henry VIII’s queens.

   Alison Weir reveals a charming, spirited woman loved by all who knew her – and even, ultimately, by the King who rejected her.

   But her story does not end there.




Why am I calling my next novel in the Six Tudor Queens series Anna of Kleve? Why not Anne of Cleves, as its subject is usually known? Firstly, I had decided from at the outset that she was to be Anna, to distinguish her from Anne Boleyn and avoid confusion. For the same reason, I am using different spellings of Katherine for the three queens with that name: Katherine of Aragon, Katheryn Howard and Katharine Parr (I did suggest Kateryne Parr, as she herself spelt it, but felt it was too archaic).
   But Anne of Cleves was actually called Anna; even Henry VIII wrote her name that way. And, if you google Cleves, you will get Kleve (pronounced Klayva), which is the correct spelling. I wanted to set Anna in an authentic German context and, as the novel is written from her viewpoint, it seemed only right that she would think of her homeland as Kleve, rather than Cleves.
   There are some surprises in the novel - and the first chapters may be startling, but I have built them on a new thread of research. It was something Henry VIII said that gave me my storyline - but I did not expect to find what could be construed as corroborating evidence! 


  

REVIEWS



"To say my expectations were high would be an understatement; to say that this wonderful book exceeded them would be even more so.  I absolutely loved it and was quite bereft when I reached the end. It is a tour de force. In this vivid and beautifully crafted portrayal, Alison Weir transforms Henry VIII's much-maligned fourth wife into a woman of passion, courage and mystery.  Utterly gripping and endlessly surprising, this novel captivates from the first page to the last.  It is like meeting Anna of Kleve for the very first time.  A masterpiece." (Tracy Borman, author of Thomas Cromwell and The Private Lives of the Tudors)

‘There is an Anne of Cleves we all think we know – the dumpy fourth wife so uninspiring that Henry VIII couldn’t even consummate their marriage. Alison Weir gives us a radically different ‘Anna of Kleve’ – one who is definitely hiding some secrets under her thick, unbecoming German gown. It takes a writer of Weir’s skill to make us believe her fantasia on the established story. But more importantly, it takes a historian of Weir’s experience – her familiarity with the sources, and the period detail – to use this compelling fiction to cast a revealing fresh light on the real historical figure.’ (Sarah Gristwood, author of Blood Sisters and Game of Queens)

"The latest novel in this evocative chronicle of Henry’s wives offers an unusual perspective on the King. His relationship with Anna is surprisingly touching, giving her moments of happiness in an unfulfilled life." (S Magazine, The Sunday Express)

"I am absolutely gripped! Breathtaking, she is amazing! What an absolute triumph." (Kate Williams)

"One of the best historical fiction books that I have read, I really enjoyed it - it's my favourite of your Six Wives series so far!" (Elizabeth Norton, author of Anne of Cleves)

"An outstanding addition to Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens series." (queenanneboleyn.com)

"Weir does a thorough job of creating a rounded, interesting portrait of the one who outlived the other wives." (The Times)



"I was enthralled with Alison’s book. We were all taught ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived’ as a means of remembering Henry VIII’s six wives and their fates. In that school day recital of Tudor history, Anna of Kleve always came out as the ‘poor relation’. Alison Weir is doing something no other author has successfully undertaken: gifting us their individual, heart-warming, heart-rending stories—fictionalised granted—but with the queens' own voices and histories at the court of Henry VIII. Each book in this series is tackled with such care and compassion, with a deep and abiding understanding of the period's movers and shakers, and of course the man (or monster) at its heart. Anna of Kleve comes alive on the page in surprising and mysterious ways that only an author of Weir’s superb finesse can achieve. I always thought Anna was the most clever of Henry’s discarded wives, but Weir has put quite a twist to her tale that I utterly buy into and applaud. Well done!" (Susan Ronald, author of the Elizabethan books: The Pirate Queen and Heretic Queen)

"This well researched, beautifully crafted book offers an emotional insight into [Henry VIII's] fourth wife, drawing on new evidence to create a startling new image of Anna.' (Candis magazine)

"Okay, so let's just take a deep breath a moment and allow me to process the entire glory and majesty that is this story. I have loved every second of it! I really liked how Alison Weir has written Anna of Kleve in this Six Tudor Queens series as a feisty, strong, brave but also compassionate and kind lady rather than just being labelled the ugly queen the king didn't like and leaving it at that. She gave her personality such depth that I actually felt I knew her as an acquaintance and maybe even a friend. For me personally, the mix of rumours and facts is spot on perfection and I wouldn't have this story any other way. The ending choked me. I am left with a wholesome warm feeling in my chest which I usually get only after I have finished a thoroughly good book that had meaning to me. I have always been a fan of Alison Weir's Tudor writings as I feel she brings the stories to life in such an amazing way you can almost touch the cloth of gold or silks that make up their dresses and smell the green grass being brushed aside as horses canter past. I enjoyed this book so so much and I can't wait for the next one!" (Excitable Sugar Scribbles)

"The fourth book in this mesmerising series is a corker. The author is a master storyteller and creates a fascinating tale of love in all its guises." (The Sun)

"Alison Weir creates a stunning portrait of a highly intelligent and beloved royal queen. Meticulously researched, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening account of a woman whose name is known to most, but whose character remains a mystery." (Woman's Weekly)


"In the fourth book of her groundbreaking sequence of novels featuring the six wives of Henry VIII, Alison Weir uses her vast historical knowledge, in-depth research, and a tantalising slice of artistic licence to bring us a fascinating and compelling account of Anna of Kleve. Brimming with the kind of rich period detail that has made Weir as much loved for her historical novels as her illuminating non-fiction books, this is an enthralling story that fuses a large helping of real history with one particularly intriguing flight of imagination, a twist which adds a thrilling sense of tension to the life of the woman whose quiet intelligence and pragmatism helped her to survive against the odds. Weir’s fresh and exciting perspective on Henry’s much-maligned fourth wife – and one of the most awkward royal unions in history – is a captivating read, harnessing immaculate research with an enchanting portrait of the mysterious Anna. This riveting new chapter in the life of the forgotten queen finally lifts her out of the shadows and into the spotlight." (Lancashire Post)

"Alison Weir imparts some fascinating royal revelations." (Choice magazine)

"This well-researched, beautifully crafted book... A startling new image of Anna'. (Candis magazine)

"This is an outstanding novel, the most intriguing so far in Weir’s ‘Six Queens’ series. Weir tells her story with passion, a strong emotional pulse and an excellent knowledge base, creating a novel which will keep her readers page-turning." (Historical Novels Review)

 "Alison Weir presents us with a different view of this young woman who saw the opportunity to live an independent life and took it. The love story that runs through the plot is the twist in the tale, and it was a very satisfying one. Anna is a complicated, intelligent individual who appreciated the severity of the predicament she found herself in. This is beautifully brought out by Weir. It is good to see history look kindly on Anna of Kleve, and I thought it was a beautiful novel." (The Bookbag)

'A new, original view of Henry VIII's fourth wife... A richly satisfying portrait.' (Booklist)

"The title of Weir's perceptive latest entry in her acclaimed Six Tudor Queens series signals a new, original view of Henry VIII's fourth wife. A richly satisfying portrait of a woman who made the best of limited choices." (Publishers Weekly)


"Weir’s clever plot reimagines Anna’s deliciously scandalous maidenhood, sacrifices, and yearning for love. This riveting historical resonates long after the last page is devoured."





Above: UK limited-edition bound proof review copy.


HISTORIA INTERVIEWS ALISON WEIR http://www.historiamag.com/historia-interviews-alison-weir-2019/

ANNA OF KLEVE’S EVIL GENIUS http://queenanneboleyn.com/2019/05/02/anna-kleves-evil-genius-alison-weir/

Renaissance History Podcast: ALISON WEIR ON ANNE OF CLEVES https://www.englandcast.com/2019/05/episode-121-alison-weir-on-anne-of-cleves/ 

TALKING TUDORS with Natalie Grueninger, On the Tudor Trail https://talkingtudors.podbean.com/https://talkingtudors.podbean.com/


Was Anna of Kleve an innocent, sheltered princess who had no idea that her unconsummated marriage to Henry VIII was failing? Or was she clever at dissembling?  The King’s own, oft-repeated testimony may well reveal the truth.

Was there some scandal locked away in Anna’s past?

Looking at Anna primarily as a princess of Kleve offers a new perspective.

It’s a myth that Anna was a Lutheran – so how did this most Catholic of brides come to be associated with the Protestant cause?

Anna is often said to be the luckiest of Henry’s queens, the one that got away and did very well out of it – but is that true?

Henry VIII, the man who repudiated Anna, became her greatest friend.

What was the truth behind the rumours that Anna bore, not just one, but two bastard children after her divorce? Why did those spreading the gossip refuse to reveal their sources?

After Henry’s death, Anna’s life was overshadowed by penury and strife, and she came into the orbit of a very dangerous man.

Anna was even implicated in Wyatt’s rebellion, the worst crisis of Mary I’s reign – and came close to being imprisoned in the Tower.

Into this turbulent tale, Alison Weir has woven a poignant love story.



Out on 4th April 2019, THE CURSE OF THE HUNGERFORDS, will be the first of two e-shorts to complement ANNA OF KLEVE. The second e-short, THE KING'S PAINTER, will be published on 19th September.




THE CURSE OF THE HUNGERFORDS

Each sunset, as I go to the chapel, I find myself looking for her. I look for details. What she is wearing, some clue to her identity. But she fades away if I look at her directly. I can just glimpse the blur of a hood, or a widow's wimple, and those sad eyes, staring at something – or someone – I cannot see.
 
Anne Basset served four of Henry VIII's queens, yet the King himself once pledged to serve her. Had fate not decreed otherwise, she might have been his wife – and Queen of England.
 
But now, far from court and heavy with her husband's child, Anne prays in the Hungerford chapel, and awaits the ghostly figure she knows will come. This is her story, one that entwines with the fate of another Lady Hungerford from not so many years before. They say there's a curse on this family...
 
Featuring the first chapter of Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets.
 
THE KING'S PAINTER

'There are certain matters that are better handled by ladies than by ministers or ambassadors. King Henry VIII is set to marry a woman he's never met and has questions he wants answered. He sends Susanna Gilman, a trusted royal painter, to Kleve to find out more about his chosen bride.

Before long, Susanna is returning to England with the Princess Anna, assuring the King she is a suitable match. But the King is disappointed - Anna is not as beautiful as her portrait.

Susanna is called upon once again to use her position as confidante to the new Queen to find out more about her past, and free the King from his marriage. But will she be able to put her blossoming friendship with Anna to one side to fulfil her duty to the King?

Featuring the first chapter of Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets.






SIX TUDOR QUEENS. SIX NOVELS. SIX YEARS.


Most people think of Anna of Cleves – or Anna of Kleve, as she should be known – as the luckiest of Henry VIII’s wives. Having re-researched her story in depth for Anna of Kleve: Queens of Secrets, the fourth novel in my Six Tudor Queens series, I am not so sure that is true. Anna should have had it all: a crown, a great marriage to a powerful king, wealth, influence and popularity. But it was all snatched from her, for reasons that are still not fully clear.
   When, within a month of Jane Seymour’s death, Henry VIII was ‘framing his mind’ to marry a fourth time, for the good of his realm, there was a long search for a suitable bride. At length Henry decided upon a German princess, Anna of Kleve, of whose beauty he was assured.  He sent his court painter, Hans Holbein, to paint her portrait. An ambassador vouched that it was a good likeness, but Anna had no talent for any of the courtly accomplishments that Henry admired in women. Yet he was enchanted by her portrait and pressed ahead eagerly with the marriage negotiations. Her arrival in England was delayed by storms, fuelling the King’s impatience. Learning of her coming, the ardent suitor rode through the winter night to Rochester to meet his bride, to nourish love, as he told everyone. 
   All the world has heard how Henry, seeing Anna for the first time, felt a deep aversion to her. Few, however, have paused to wonder what Anna thought of Henry… It was the most disastrous of beginnings. 
   Preparations for the marriage went ahead.  The King showed Anna every courtesy, while doing his best to wriggle out of the marriage contract, but it was seemingly watertight, and he ‘needs must put his neck in the yoke’, as he gloweringly put it. The marriage took place in January 1540, but was not consummated. On the wedding night Henry pawed Anna’s breasts and belly, but ventured no further, for, 'by their looseness and other tokens', he was to declare many times, she was no virgin. Has anyone ever wondered what he might have meant?
   Was Anna an innocent, outraged by the King’s treatment of her person? She told her ladies how the King came to bed, kissed her and bade her, ‘Good night, sweetheart’, and how in the morning he kissed her and said, ‘Farewell, darling.’ There had to be more than this, they told her, if there was to be a prince in due season. But Anna was perhaps less innocent than she liked to make out. My research revealed a thread of evidence which might suggest that this was a lady with secrets – one who had a past. 
   Lucky? I don’t think so.  


IS THIS ANNA OF KLEVE?



This hitherto-unknown portrait, which once hung at Hever Castle, may possibly be of Anne of Cleves. This image was sent to me by a descendant of the Meade-Waldo family, with scans of other portraits that were also at Hever. The Meade-Waldos inherited the castle in 1841 from the Waldegraves, who bought Hever in 1557, on Anne of Cleves' death, when the castle reverted to the Crown. Sir Edward Waldegrave, a member of Mary Tudor's Council, had been appointed one of the Commissioners for the sale of Crown land and promptly assigned himself the Castle and estate of Hever. The deed of sale signed by Mary I is still owned by the descendants of the Meade Waldos. The family sold Hever to Lord Astor in 1903, and their descendants own these portraits today. Thus there could be a direct line of provenance back to Anne of Cleves' ownership of Hever.
   Anne of Cleves owned Hever from 1540 until her death in 1557. If this portrait does depict her, it would be of some historical importance, as it is an image otherwise unknown to historians. 
   The portrait is inscribed 'Anna Regina, 1534' - which identifies it as Anne Boleyn, although there are problems with that identification. I discussed the painting with an art expert, Linda Collins. We both think that the face and hands - the Wertinger portrait of Anne of Cleves (below, left) sold in 1926 shows her with large mannered hands - were painted by different artists, and that possibly the face was over-painted at some later date.



   It puzzled me to see a Netherlandish/Flemish beguin headdress on a portrait that looked as if it dated from the 1550s, so I looked again at the costume, zooming in to get as clear a view of the black gown as possible, and realised that what I thought were sleeves puffed at the top is actually a wide partlet, which dates the costume earlier. Anne of Cleves wears wide partlets in the German style in a portrait at Trinity College, Cambridge (above, right). She also wears a girdle and pomander chain of gold links, as in this portrait.  
   It is highly unlikely that Anne Boleyn would have worn a beguin headdress. I have never come across a portrait of an English sitter wearing one.
   The rich chair suggests very high status. Only those of high rank sat on chairs - lesser people sat on stools or stood.
   What is striking is the plainness of the sitter's attire, but the black gown and the gloves are signs of status and wealth too. The lack of jewellery may not be significant - or, given the black gown, it may indicate mourning - perhaps for Henry VIII?  
  The inscription could date to any time between the 1530s to later in the 16th century or even the 17th, and was probably painted on later, in the belief that the sitter was Anne Boleyn. Without forensic analysis of the portrait, it's hard to say. It's possible that we have a later copy of an earlier portrait.
  I think that a good case can be made for identifying the lady as Anne of Cleves, for the following reasons:
 
1. Its provenance at Hever - the Meade-Waldos inherited Hever from the Waldegraves, who bought Hever - and possibly its contents - immediately after Anne of Cleves died. 
2. The fact that the sitter is seated in a high-status chair and wears high-status clothing.
3. The dating of the costume and the northern-European beguin hood. 

  It's the headdress and the chair - more than anything else - that make me think this could be Anne of Cleves. But this is as far as I can go without a proper study of the portrait, dating of the panel and the inscription, and paint analysis.



GERDA'S STORY

In the interests of reducing the length of the novel, this passage was edited out, but my editor and I would like you to have the chance to read it here. The tower really exists - this is a picture of it.




One night, late in February, as thel three women sat by the stove, with the wind screeching outside, Gerda told Anna and Mother Lowe the story of the white horses. She had heard it from a pedlar who had travelled the thirty miles north from Cologne.
   ‘A hundred years ago,’ she began, ‘there was a great and terrifying plague in Germany. One of those who died in Cologne was a lady called Richmodis, who had been much loved by her husband; his name was Sir Menginus von Aducht. He was in great grief, as you would expect. When they wed, he had given her a costly ring, and this he had buried with her in the family tomb. But the sexton who had closed up the coffin was determined to steal it, and when night fell, he and his cronies opened the tomb and prised off the coffin lid. But the ring was stuck to Richmodis’s finger. However hard they tried, they could not pull it off, so the sexton decided to cut off her finger, and took out his knife. But then –‘ Gerda paused for dramatic effect – ‘what do you think happened, my ladies?’       
   Mother Lowe shook her head.

   ‘Tell us!’ Anna urged.
   ‘Richmodis sat up! She gave a ghastly sigh, and her dead eyes opened. Well, as you might guess, the thieves fled. But Richmodis was not dead. She had been in such a deep stupor that everyone had thought she was. Now, she realised that she had been buried alive.’
   ‘Oh, how horrible!’ Anna cried.
   ‘She called for help, but no one came, for it was midnight. In the end, she resolved to gather her strength and go to her husband. She climbed out of the tomb and struggled home through the stormy night. When she reached her house, she knocked at the door, again and again. Her husband looked out of the window, thinking it was ruffians playing a prank, but then he saw what he thought was his dead wife looking up at him, beseeching him to open the door. “No, I will not believe it!” he said, for he thought she was a ghost. “I would as soon expect my horses to leave their stable and climb upstairs, as believe that my Richmodis had returned to me.” And what do you think he heard, the very next minute? Hoofs clattering up the stairs!’ They all laughed.
   ‘And he saw his horses’ heads leaning out of the next window,’ Gerda added. ‘Of course, he had to believe that Richmodis was alive, and so he rushed downstairs and took her in his arms, and they lived happily ever after. And, in honour of his having his wife restored to him, Sir Menginus had wooden horses' heads made and hung on the tower of his house. The pedlar said he had seen them. So the story must be true.’
   ‘Of course it’s not true,’ Mother Lowe snorted. ‘It’s a myth.’ But she had lapped it up, all the same.