After spending centuries on the dusty neglected shelf labelled “Henry VIII’s most boring wife”, Anne of Cleves is finally getting her moment in the sun. In the last year alone, Anne (or Anna) has been the featured player in several books, both fiction and non. This particular book happens to be one of the best.
Sarah-Beth Watkins takes us on a journey, from Anne’s earliest days on the continent as a cherished daughter of the Duke of Cleves through her unexpected marriage to the King of England and disappointing (if not bitter) divorce from the same man, in the engaging style I’ve come to expect from her.
There isn’t much out there on this oft-ignored wife of Henry VIII, so when her life is explored, the narrative tends to be padded with general information on the wider Tudor Court. While some of that is important, there is a fine balance to be maintained to keep it from feeling bogged down. Watkins holds that line beautifully. We get just enough information to put Anne’s life in context, keeping the focus exactly where it needs to be.
Having written several enjoyable biographies on English luminaries, Watkins demonstrates a true gift for these vignettes of life. Rich in detail, Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII’s Unwanted Wife, is a bio you won’t want to miss!