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English Queen. Source: Kathy / Adobe Stock.

Was Anne of Cleves Too Ugly for King Henry VIII? (Video)


Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of King Henry VIII, has been historically portrayed as the wife who was too ugly for the king. But was she really that unattractive, or is this just a case of historical slander? Born into a time of great change, Anne was betrothed at a young age to a French Duke, but her family's close ties with the Schmalkaldic League made her an attractive candidate for suitors all over Europe who were looking to forge a Protestant alliance. It was Thomas Cromwell who persuaded Henry to consider Anne as a potential wife, and despite exaggerated descriptions of her beauty, the king agreed to the match. However, their meeting did not go as planned, and Henry blamed Anne's looks for the failure of their marriage. Nevertheless, Anne remained humble and gracious, and her settlement after the annulment made her one of the richest women in England overnight. The woman who was considered too ugly for King Henry may have been the only one to truly beat him at his own game.

Despite being born into a family that was not particularly notable, Anne of Cleves rose to prominence as one of the most important women of her time. She may have been portrayed as unattractive, but she was described as kind, eager to please, and curious about English culture and traditions. After her marriage to Henry was annulled, Anne remained dignified and gracious, and her settlement made her one of the richest women in England. She went on to become an honorary member of the royal family and was referred to as the king's beloved sister. In a world where women had little agency, Anne of Cleves proved to be a shrewd and savvy player, and her story is a testament to the fact that even those who are overlooked and underestimated can rise to great heights.

Top image: English Queen. Source: Kathy / Adobe Stock.

By Joanna Gillan

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Joanna Gillan is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. 

Joanna completed a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree in Australia and published research in the field of Educational Psychology. She has a rich and varied career, ranging from teaching... Read More

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