Finally a novel that illuminates the life of a much maligned and misrepresented Queen, more widely known as Anne of Cleaves or the “Flanders Mare”. I remember as a child wondering at this nickname as it seemed so undeserved but ultimately Anne accomplished the near impossible – she rid herself of a ruthless husband and kept her head. Not only that but she gained the near impossible in Tudor England and became an independent woman of means, the King’s most beloved sister.
The image of Anne that has been recorded and for the most part accepted since the moment Henry set eyes on her is that of a frumpy, saggy, smelly woman who was thought to be simple minded and honestly those descriptions are sugar coated.
Refreshingly, Margaret Campbell Barnes turns all that on its head with this novel.
Whenever the relationship between Henry and Anne was doomed she did manage in her short reign to forge a bond with prince Edward, Elizabeth and Mary who no doubt needed affection and nurturing desperately. Even this late in life Henry was ruled by lust over all else and he was already hot on the heels of silly Catherine Howard. However, following her annulment she made a life, and from all outward appearances a happy one. Even Henry visited Richmond to see for himself the extraordinary person his most loved sister had become. Even more interesting is that these two developed a relationship of trust and candidness much like that of natural siblings.
While Margaret Campbell Barnes’s tells a story of a romance between Anne and Hans Holbein that is sweet, but has no future. And while Anne would have loved to have her own children she contented herself by making the children of the orphanages her babies. Within this novel Anne of Cleves matures into a remarkable woman and a women whom it seems one would easily like and treasure as a friend. She truly lived a remarkable life for the time and she lived on her own terms. The freedom she enjoyed must have been exhilarating in itself. I highly recommend this novel for insight into misunderstood and maligned queen who truly deserves much more notice.