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! 


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

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.

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.  


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.


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.


Out in May 2019