i am not well handled

I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse. I am not well handled, Cromwell.  ~Henry VIII on Anne of Cleves, Fourth Wife~


Cromwell, you’re so gonna get it.

I have been a passionate fan of Tudor history for as long as I can remember,  so you can imagine my absolute delight when Showtime brought the Tudor story to life in their cable show, aptly called ‘The Tudors’. 

We are now nearing the end of the third season of ‘The Tudors’.  Katherine of Aragon has died a cast-aside, broken woman.  Anne Boleyn is minus a head which, of course, renders her quite dead as well.  And third-wife, Jane Seymour, has tragically died from complications of childbirth, just days after giving birth to Henry’s first and only (legitimate) male heir, Edward.

Enter stage right Anne of Cleves, the proposed fourth wife of Henry VIII.  Now here’s a woman for whom you really must feel more than a bit of empathy. 

Y’all do. 

Let me explain.

At this point in his life, Henry VIII does not exactly have a gossamer reputation in the world as, shall we say, particularly promising husband material.  

When Henry tired of his first wife, Katherine, who couldn’t give him a male heir, he hooks up with the vivacious and cunning Anne Boleyn.  When the Roman Catholic Church won’t permit Henry to divorce Katherine of Aragon to make it legal with Anne, he breaks England off from the Catholic Church and set himself up as Supreme Ruler of the Church of England. 

And grants himself the divorce.  Clever.

Anne must have been a real hottie, yes?


Apparently having less than ideal karma, Anne first gives Henry a daughter, whom we will eventually come to know as Queen Elizabeth I.   Beyond that, no boys in Anne’s future. 

Well.  Okay.  That’s not entirely accurate. 

Because at one point Anne does give birth to a stillborn male child.  However. Said baby was described by court physicians as grossly deformed, which leads Henry VIII to suspect that he’s being cursed by his marriage to Anne.  This sets Henry’s Chief Minister, Thomas Cromwell, on a mission to dig up some dirt on Anne so she, too, can be properly set aside.

Y’all see a pattern here? 

Jewels and opulence notwithstanding, a wife of Henry VIII probably lived in mortal fear 99.9% of her married life. I’m guessing it wouldn’t be a position for the faint-hearted.


Thomas Cromwell, the sneaky bastard, not only tells Henry that Anne is having an affair but elaborates that it’s multiple affairs.  And.  That Anne is allegedly sleeping with her brother. 


Based on heresy, because y’all know Cromwell has a tidy little agenda of his own to put said atrocities into play, Henry has Anne’s head neatly removed from her person.  Oh.  And then Henry seals the deal by also executing Anne’s brother, father, and a gaggle of other persons in her inner circle. 

Now.  So far, does this sound like a man you’d be jumping at the chance to share the rest of your (possibly short) life with? 

Methinks not.

Third-wife Jane Seymour is a quiet, demure, and relatively innocuous woman who was reputed to be the salt of the earth.  Probably because she didn’t cross him. 

Oh.  Sorry.  I didn’t realize I said that out loud. 

And a male baby in the form of Edward would certainly seemed to have enhanced the king’s professed undying love for her.  So when Jane dies just days after giving birth to Edward, the king is reported to be utterly devastated.

Which brings us to his choice of his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.

After Saint Jane’s death, Thomas Cromwell starts scouring the world to find a suitable match for his king.  Unfortunately, you now have Spain, France, and Italy … all Catholic nations …  can we be blunt here? Well.  They’re really pissed off at England’s break from the Catholic Church.  So.  They’re not inclined to offer up any of their eligible Catholic women.  Cromwell, who was part and parcel of the Church reformation, wants Henry to marry a Protestant and create an alliance with the Lutheran League.

And there you have it.  Germany.  His answer is Anne of Cleves from what is now known as Germany.  A quiet, little Protestant country.

Cromwell has famous artist, Holbein, traipse over to the Court of Cleves and paint Anne in a manner which seemingly made her … ummm … a whole lot more attractive than she really was.  Henry gets the professional portrait, likes what he sees, and demands she be brought to him ‘with much haste’.  Chop chop!

Oh.  Poor choice of words, Henry thinks hearkening back to the ‘other’ Anne.


But it is a bewildered Anne of Cleves, who speaks scant English and is in no way schooled in the politics of the English court who arrives before the king.  The king, ever the gentleman (cough), meets Anne of Cleves … and immediately sets his lawyers to the assignment of breaking the engagement.  He deems Anne to be akin to a ‘Flanders mare’.  

And folks, he ain’t the least bit happy about it.


Because ya’ll know at this time in his life King Henry VIII himself is quite the stud.  Being grossly overweight and with an ulcerated leg that makes him perpetually ‘smell of pus and blood’, his rather checkered past with the ladies, and the fact he’s just flat-out cantankerous and more often than not, irrational … why, he should expect only the best for his next choice of wife, right? 

‘Damn that Flanders mare!’, says the tubby, smelly, nasty-ass King Henry VIII.

Okay.  This brings me to my conclusion that the producers of ‘The Tudors’ got Anne of Cleves way wrong.


So wrong that I want to start a petition to fire their casting people.  Yeah.  If I were smelly and mean myself, I would. 

Now that y’all know the history … please pay attention because this blog is nearing an end … would you ever, in a million years, cast singer Joss Stone as Anne of Cleves? 

I mean, REALLY. 

Maybe if you were on some really bad acid, it would seem logical.  But sober and alert, it just seems … dumb?  Far-fetched.  Ridiculous.  Absurd.  Folks, I have a thesaurus and could go on ad naseum with a plethora of  other adjectives. 

But I think you get the point.

I watched the second-to-last episode of this season of ‘The Tudors’ last night and I literally could not stop shaking my head. 

Joss Stone.  JOSS STONE.

You just can’t ugly that girl up. 

It is so implausible to believe the scene with Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Joss Stone in the marital bed where he repeatedly turns away from her in disgust, unable to consumate the marriage.  Honestly?  If those two historical figures looked like the actors in real life, Henry would have only turned away from Anne if he were gay.

I’m just sayin’.

Or conversely.  If he were impotent.  Ah ha.  Which, my friends, is what some scholars believe to be the truth of the matter.


I understand making ‘The Tudors’ sexy enough to make history interesting to people who don’t particularly ‘get into’ history.  I simply don’t understand them making the show so sexy as to be foolish.

See?  Told you I had a thesaurus.


6 thoughts on “i am not well handled

  1. I have to confess that I hated history classes in school. Did I say hate? I really meant *loathed*. Perhaps in all my grades, I never had a good history teacher. Or perhaps, it’s just not my thing.

    I’m sure that if I had to take a history test right now, I’d probably get every question wrong. If it was multiple choice, I might get a few correct, simply by chance. I don’t remember how I managed to pass my classes but I must have because I graduated both high school and college. I can only guess that I must have cheated.

    So, when I saw your blog, I did think about passing it by. But, I know how witty and enjoyable your blogs are so I kept reading. I’m glad I did. Even with a subject like ‘history’, which I find incredibly boring, I wanted to keep reading to see what happened next. If you had been my history teacher, I might have a totally different view of history today. Your blog is almost enough to make me want to delve into some history books and learn a little. But I fear that any book I pick up might be like sitting in a classroom, listening to that old man teacher, with the monotone voice, who put me sleep in school.

    So here’s my idea: You need to write a “History For Dummies” type book, full of your humor and wit, for people like me. I would be the first in line to buy it. Really. And then maybe I wouldn’t feel so stupid when I watch “Jeopardy” …. or “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader”.

  2. Oooh Lori, now you got the wheels turning in my head. 🙂

    Based on your kind comment (for which said check shall be mailed on Tuesday thankyouverramuch) I’ve added another ‘tag’ about history to my category choices and I do think I’ll be blogging a bit more about it in the future.

    I find history so enthralling because I find historical people so incredibly fascinating. There’s nothing like going to an historical place and actually touching something that was used by someone hundreds of years ago. That is, until the museum guard hacks off your hand. Not so fun. 😉

    My favorite history topics are Tudor history, Native American, Civil War (ie. slavery), and Mary Queen of Scots. I also enjoy reading about Thomas Jefferson as it relates to his life outside of politics (ie his hidden relationship with Sally Hemmings).

    C’mon. We’ll learn together. 😉

    PS: And maybe you can teach me math. Because as much as you loathe history, I loathe math. *blech*

  3. I don’t watch the Tudors because I don’t have the station is is on (Showtime, is it?). However, when I heard that Joss Stone was cast as Anne of Cleaves, I actually said to someone something like ‘what are they thinking, Anee of Cleaves was not at all good looking’. The producers were certainly exercising their dramatic license when they chose Joss Stone for the role. But then, haven’t they kept Henry rather svelt, too? Or is whats-his-name padded for the role now?

  4. The season ended last week so keep your eyes peeled! Although I have to admit this season wasn’t as good as the previous seasons. I think because Anne Boleyn, of all the wives, was the ‘most interesting’. What can you say about meek Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves? 😉

  5. I loved watching the Tudors and what a crazy and fascinating time in English history. Great thoughts on the show and I too struggled with why he’s have issues with that version of Anne of Cleaves. She hardly had a “face of a horse” as Henry put it 😉 You mentioned that Anne Boleyns father Thomas was executed along with Anne and her brother. He was actually spared Probably because he publicly approved of the execution of his daughter and son to save his own bacon. So he left court in disgrace stripped of his title of Lord Privy Seal and died a few years later with his Earldom going to someone outside the family after his death. Carma! Anne of Cleves seemed to be the only wife who profited from the marriage. Anyway, enjoyed your thoughts. I loved that series.

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