First of all, as I think it is important to point out, Anne of Cleves was liked by many people, and spoken very highly of, both by her native German people and the English. As Ralph Holinshed said of her, she was a "lady of right commendable regard, courteous, gentle, a good housekeeper & very bountiful to her servants." It was also reported that the English considered her as one of the "most sweet, gracious, and humane queens they have had."
It is also interesting to note that, although she was deemed "unattractive" by the King, and that is how she is remembered today, there are actually reports from her contemporaries claiming that she was just as handsome as other women at court. Some say that it was her strange German apparel and her shyness that caused the King to deem her as "ugly," though there is actually no evidence that he called her a "flander's mare," as we hear so often, since the phrase was not known until about a century later. This title, like so many other Tudor myths, seems to be one that has implanted itself so forcefully into people's heads that it will likely be taken as fact for a long time.
It's amazing to me that the one wife who is so often passed-over and ignored, is really the greatest example of the ideal 16th-century woman. She was more obedient and humble than any other Tudor woman was (at least that we can see clearly), and she adapted exactly how the King wanted her to. One can expect that Henry probably wasn't anticipating his wife to agree so readily, and it must have been a pleasant surprise after dealing with Katherine's and Anne Boleyn's stubbornness.
As part of Anne of Cleves' generous divorce settlement, she received various lands and houses, including the former home of the Boleyn family, Hever Castle, where she lived out her days. She also received a yearly salary of 3,000-4,000 pounds, and was given precedence over every woman in England, save the King's daughters and future wives. She happily accepted this agreement and stole away to her private life - now an independently wealthy 16th-century woman, having escaped not only the bed of the aging, fat and diseased King, but the block and axe as well!
Henry continued to keep a loving friendship between himself and his fourth wife, frequently visiting her during his marriage to Katherine Howard - (though not sleeping with her, as The Tudors shows - at least, not that we know of). Anne never remarried either, which I think is something to admire in a 16th-century woman. After being controlled by men her entire life, and then being thrust into an unwanted marriage with an unloving King, I think Anne's desire for marriage and love was virtually nonexistant. She also considered herself a mother to the King's daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, who both frequently visited her during the remainder of her life. Because of this, she reportedly felt no need to marry and have children of her own. By all accounts, she seemed to be a very happy and satisfied woman.
So, I'd like to make an apology to one of the least-appreciated Tudor women in history, Anne of Cleves - who, although did not please the King in that way, was beloved in her own way and lived out her days happily, wealthy, and liked by virtually everyone, including the King himself, who regarded her as his sister.
What are your thoughts about Anne of Cleves? Does anyone know of any good books about her?