Thursday, January 6, 2011

On This Day in Tudor History

On January 6, 1540, King Henry VIII married Anna of Cleves. The marriage was never consummated, and she was not crowned queen consort.

Hans Holbein the Younger was dispatched to paint portraits of Anne and her younger sister, Amalia, both of whom Henry was considering as his fourth wife. Henry required the artist to be as accurate as possible, not to flatter the sisters. Sir Thomas Cromwell pushed for the union and oversaw the negotiations.

Henry valued education and cultural sophistication in women, but Anne lacked these. She could read and write, but only in German. Anne was dark haired, with a rather swarthy complexion, appeared solemn by English standards, and looked old for her age. Holbein painted her with high forehead, heavy-lidded eyes and a pointed chin.

Henry was not pleased with his fiancee, railing that she was nothing that was described to him and that he "Likes her not!"

Henry urged Cromwell to find a legal way to avoid the marriage but, by this point, doing so was impossible without endangering the vital alliance with the Germans. Despite Henry's very vocal misgivings, the two were married on January 6, 1540 at the royal Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, London by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The couple's first night as husband and wife was not a happy one. Henry confided to Cromwell that he had not consummated the marriage, saying, "I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse".

Anna was commanded to leave the court on June 24th and the marriage was annulled on July 9, 1540 on the grounds of non-consummation and her pre-contract to Francis of Lorraine.

For not fighting the arrangement, Henry gave Anna a generous settlement which included the Palace at Richmond, Anne Boleyn's family home at Hever, and the title: "the King's Beloved Sister."

Save Queen Anne Boleyn! (the portrait)

While scanning my usual sources for Tudor news I stumbled upon a very upsetting update from the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The most famous painting of Queen Anne Boleyn (see below) is in extremely unstable condition and in desperate need of restoration. The Gallery has removed it from public display until it can be repaired. (See the NPG explanation below)

I barely took a moment to think about it before I clicked the link to donate to this restoration effort. Seeing that portrait in person on my visit in 2008 was an event I will never forget. There are so few (verified) physical representations of Anne left in this world, I couldn't live with myself if I didn't contribute to saving this important piece of history. If you are a fan of Anne, art, or just preserving history, I hope you'll contribute too.

From the NPG website:

Help support the conservation work on the portrait of Anne Boleyn

This important portrait of Anne Boleyn is in urgent need of conservation treatment. It is in a particularly vulnerable and unstable condition as a result of structural problems with the wooden panel. Vertical cracking has occurred across the picture causing minor paint loss where the wood has split (see the photograph taken in raking light below).

We need to act now as the damage is being caused by the long term effects of an unsuitable cradle (an applied wooden panel support) which must be removed. Therefore this important and much loved painting needs urgent conservation treatment to ensure it can be put back on public display.

The Gallery hopes to raise £4,000 for conservation work on this picture, and with your help we very much hope to be able to undertake this work in early 2011.