Anne of Cleves was Henry VIII's fourth and by far the luckiest of his six wives. Anne got the best deal of all, not only because she managed to keep her head, but also because she was given income and several properties in the divorce settlement. (One of these properties included Anne Boleyn's childhood home, Hever Castle) Unfortunately, her reputation did not escape unharmed. Anne is forever remembered as the wife who looked like a horse.
Two years after the death of his third wife, Jane Seymour, Henry's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell began shopping for a new Mrs. Tudor to fill the role of queen. It was not an easy task. By now, good old Hank had a bit of a reputation for being a lady killer. When the beautiful Christina of Milan was considered as a candidate, she was rumored to reply,
"if I had two heads, one should be at the King of England's disposal." This rumor surfaced in the 17th century so it is doubtful that she made the famed comment but it does harbor a certain truth....Henry had become the marriage pariah of the 16th century.
Cromwell also had to choose a bride that would strengthen England's religious position. He wanted a Protestant heiress that would reject the pope's authority and stand against the looming threat of England's Catholic enemies
- Spain and France.
And then there was also the problem of Henry's pickiness. He was not willing to settle for any old hag with a dowry. In fact, just like modern day blind dates, Henry's first question was always, "is she hot?" But the only way to reliably answer this question was to look at a small painting called a portrait miniature. So Henry sent his court painter, Hans Holbein trotting around the globe to paint portraits of all the nubile young ladies. On his journeys, Holbein painted miniatures of two German princesses, Amelia and Anne of Cleves. When Henry saw both portraits, he chose Anne as his wife. She not only passed the portrait test, but she was also from a protestant duchy. Bingo. Beauty and the right religion. Could this be Henry's one true love?
Henry had decided to meet his new bride for the first time in disguise so he dressed up in his servant's cloak and greeted her with a big fat... kiss. Anne, being shy, was a little taken back by this greeting, and didn't exactly warm up to what she thought was affection from her husband's servant (and a hefty servant too!). Later, Henry came back and revealed himself as the King of England. Anne immediately showed Henry the proper reverence, but the damage was done. Henry's ego had been bruised. When Cromwell asked Henry how he liked his new queen, Henry said, "
'I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse." Even meaner, legend has it that Anne looked more like a “Flanders mare” then Holbein’s painting. Did Henry's fourth wife really have a horse face? Or was she just not Henry's type? Read the full story and decide for yourself >>