Alison Weir produces the most fascinating story surrounding the life of Henry VIII’s fourth wife.
When it comes to Henry VIII’s wives, most historical fiction novels that I seem to read usually focus on the stronger female queens – particularly Anne Boleyn, which is why it is fascinating to read a novel about a queen who is kept in the shadows a lot of the time.
Anna of Kleve is predominantly known for having been discarded by Henry VIII for not being beautiful or intelligent enough to be queen (of course that was just one of many reasons why he wished for a quick annulment). But what Alison Weir does with this is breathe new life into this character and offers an alternative take on her life – offering her love, family and independence where perhaps in reality it was lonely particularly after her divorce from the King.
Yes perhaps there is more fiction than reality to be found – but thanks to the notes included after the conclusion of the book, the reader gets a sense that there is perhaps a small possibility of some of what happens here could have been true. Much of what is said for example the fact that she had a secret child may be speculation but here actually adds depth and understanding to her increasingly uncertain future with King and her later relationships with Mary and Edward.
Throughout this novel, the author expertly interweaves fact with fiction to create an entirely plausible history for this much neglected queen. In particular, hearing about Anna’s early life and her life after the death of King Henry are two important sections of the book that really enhance the reader’s interest in the character. There is danger, intrigue and even romance that make this a well rounded and detailed read.
Every element of Anna’s life is described with great vibrancy, capturing the author’s attention to important historical details whether it is the characters themselves or the surroundings with which Anna finds herself as she adjusts to life in King Henry’s England.
It has to be said that this is perhaps my favourite in Alison Weir’s series examining the six Tudor Queens so far as it offers plenty of reasons to speculate and challenge the history as we know it.
By Emma Clarendon
Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets is available to buy now.