|Six Tudor Queens: Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ruth Wilson|
|Summary: This is the beautiful story of a young woman who was clever enough to learn the lessons taught to her by history and escape from a dangerous marriage. Anna wishes desperately to please the King but when it becomes clear that she doesn't she must decide to fight for the crown or bow out gracefully and hope for the best. Granted money, lands and the King's friendship will Anna finally find a way to be free?|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 528||Date: May 2019|
|Publisher: Headline Review|
|External links: Author's website|
Poor, frumpy Anne of Cleaves always gets a raw deal by history, of all the wives of Henry VIII she is the one who is known for being rejected. Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard were the sexy ones, Jane the dutiful one who delivered a son, Katherine of Aragon clung on to her crown and Katharine Parr clung on to her life but poor frumpy Anne of Cleaves just rolled over and moved along. Not any more! Alison Weir presents us with a different view of this young woman who saw the opportunity to live an independent life and took it.
Historical fiction is only ever as good as its author is accurate; the reader is aware that a degree of what is being read is fiction but that is woven into a basis of accurate historical context. Given that Alison Weir is the top selling female historian in the UK it is safe to say her context is reliable. In addition to this, Weir goes on to explain in her Author's Note which parts were pure fiction and which parts were pieced together from historical facts. The result is a well-rounded, human portrayal of a young woman far away from home.
Anna of Kleve (pronounced, we are told, to rhyme with 'waver') was raised in a strict, German, Catholic household. The story begins in 1530 when, at fourteen; she meets Otho von Wylich, and in the way of young cloistered girls, falls in love with the dashing young man. The love story that runs through the plot is the twist in the tale, and it was a very satisfying one. My only criticism is that this loyalty to her love can make her seem a little staid at times especially when, after her divorce she got something of a reputation for being free with her favors when she had imbibed too much wine. It was still satisfying to see Anna being able to enjoy life and live a little free from overbearing brothers and husbands. She was, perhaps, the most liberated it was possible for a woman to be at that time.
Anna is portrayed as personable and well-liked by all who meet her, at all stages of her life, even the King seems to like her. Anna is a complicated, intelligent individual who appreciated the severity of the predicament she found herself in. This is beautifully brought out by Weir, who makes Anna very aware that everything around her has come from those who have been punished because they displeased the King. Anna owns Hever Castle, taken from Anne Boleyn, The More from Cardinal Wolsey, furnishings from Thomas Cromwell and Blenchingly from the Duke of Buckingham, all dead at Henry's hand. When the Council arrive asking for her permission to seek a divorce she has a physical reminder of what she could lose if she is difficult, both property and life.
History often records very little about women, as they had very little power in the eyes of men but the beauty of novels like this is that they show the power of the lives of women in how they affect others. The number of lives Anna touched was incredible, through the number of tenants and households she ran, she outlived all of Henry's wives, and Henry himself, she outlived his son King Edward and died only a year before Queen Mary. The scale of gifts in her Will showed how many people were important to her, and she named Queen Mary as her executor.
This novel is not fast paced, nor is it action packed. It lacks the sex and drama that make some of the other Queens so appealing but this is a story about a woman who is surprisingly modern in her determination to live a single independent lifestyle when such a thing was almost unheard of. Whilst we will never know the absolute truth about any of these women, it is good to see history look kindly on Anna of Kleve and I thought it was a beautiful novel. For something similar, you could try The Turn of Midnight by Minette Walters. This series begins with Katherine of Aragon. You can read more book reviews or buy Six Tudor Queens: Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Six Tudor Queens: Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir at Amazon.com.
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