I have been fascinated with Tudor history for years. And while I’ve focused a bit more on Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I (what can I say, they’re fascinating), I’ve always been curious about the rest of Henry VIII’s wives. And I am thoroughly enjoying learning all about them via Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens series. I knew very little about Anna of Kleve (or Anne of Cleves), so I was very much looking forward to the newest installment in this series.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) Newly widowed and the father of an infant son, Henry VIII realizes he must marry again to insure the royal succession. Now forty-six, overweight and unwell, Henry is soundly rejected by some of Europe’s most eligible princesses, but Anna of Kleve—a small German duchy—is twenty-four and eager to wed. Henry requests Anna’s portrait from his court painter, who enhances her looks, painting her straight-on in order not to emphasize her rather long nose. Henry is entranced by the lovely image, only to be bitterly surprised when Anna arrives in England and he sees her in the flesh. She is pleasant looking, just not the lady that Henry had expected.
What follows is a fascinating story of this awkward royal union that had to somehow be terminated tactfully. Alison Weir takes a fresh and surprising look at this remarkable royal marriage by describing it from the point of view of Queen Anna, a young woman with hopes and dreams of her own, alone in a royal court that rejected her from the day she arrived.
I’m a huge fan of the Six Tudor Queens series overall. I love the way Alison Weir focuses on each queen separately and really makes them the heroine of their own story. That said, I was the tiniest bit disappointed with Anna of Kleve. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great book. I just had very high expectations going in since the previous three books in this series were so good.
I think the reason I didn’t love this novel quite as much as I was hoping to is simply that Anna of Kleve didn’t really have a lot going on. Compared to Anne Boleyn, her life was downright boring. I don’t think this had anything to do with Weir’s writing or research abilities, I just think she didn’t have a lot to work with here. However, this book is a whopping 496 pages and I think it could have been much shorter. I had a hard time caring about all of the property disputes – of which there were many – and it felt the majority of this book dragged on.
Anna’s marriage to King Henry was the least exciting part of the book, because almost nothing happens. But I did really enjoy the beginning and the end of this novel, which is more about Anna’s personal life outside of her marriage (exciting stuff). Being the history nerd I am, I spent a lot of time Googling after finishing this book, and was disappointed to find very little evidence of the events/relationship Weir recounts in this novel. Weir states in the author’s note that she essentially fabricated some of the story, but found historical evidence that may support it. Still, this is a fictionalized story of real historical figures, so it is up to the author how to tell that story. And Weir is an experienced historian, so I trust her to be as faithful to history as she feels is necessary.
While I do wish this book was a bit more compact – too much of it felt far too slow, especially looking back at how fast I flew through the first three books in this series – I do think it is a great novel. I did enjoy the story, regardless of whether or not it is 100% historically accurate. Because, really, what we know for sure about Anna’s life would not have made a very engaging novel, and I’m glad Weir brought some excitement to the story.
★★★★☆ – While Anna of Kleve is my least favorite of the series so far, I did enjoy it a lot. I just love how Alison Weir makes history engaging, and I am really looking forward to the rest of this series.
Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait will be available in bookstores May 14. If you’re interested, you can order a copy on Amazon now.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Anna of Kleve as one of your two free books.
This book was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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