The Six Wives of Henry VIII Series (1970) Review – Anne of Cleves Episode

This episode I wasn’t looking forward to as much, I wasn’t sure how they could make the short marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves last 90 minutes. It starts of with Henry talking to Cromwell, Cromwell tries to talk Henry into marriage again but he still doesn’t want to. We find out that 2 years has passed since the death of Jane Seymour. They talk about the fact that Cromwell wants Henry to marry a Protestant wife and that there is only one son. We know that Henry needed two to be completely secure, he himself was the second child as his brother Arthur died.

We see Anne for the first time and she is practicing right ‘AR’, Anne Regina, which means Anne the Queen. Holbein goes to paint her but the Duke of Cleves is reluctant to show him Anne and her sister. She doesn’t look very ugly as we are lead to believe by Henry VIII in real life, although historians do doubt nowadays that she was actually ugly anyway. She was different, dressed in a not very flattering fashion and ended up offending the King.

Anne and Holbein talk about England as he does her portrait. They even dance together and seem to be quite close. Although I don’t know what it was really like. It is however accurate in the outfit she is wearing, she is wearing the same one that she did in the original painting. Her brother, the Duke of Cleves, tells her off for dancing and saying that it is no use to her. The English court was very different, however, and enjoyed dancing.

Cranmer and Cromwell talk next, saying that Henry is pleased with the portrait and what he has heard about Anne. They do mention the Duke of Norfolk and how he has hoped that a ‘pretty Howard girl’ will take to the King’s liking. This is obviously Catherine Howard but Cromwell is not worried.

Soon we see how bad Henry VIII’s leg has become. His servants are bandaging it for him while he is eating and so we can also see how much bigger he has become. He starts to tell Cromwell of his plans to surprise Anne, disguising himself as a messenger. I am glad that they are going to use what happened in real life as some shows, like The Tudors, don’t show it. He did not realise how different he is now compared to when he was younger. Anne, not knowing English traditions and how Henry liked to play ‘the lover’, did not greet him like he wanted. She just saw him as a grotesque, intruding messenger, not as the King. She was so embarrassed when she found out, horrified at how he looked, and they showed it perfectly in this episode. The King then said his famous line: “I like her not!”

After they are married, Anne does whatever she can to put off having to sleep with Henry. I do not believe that this actually happened. From what I have heard, she just stayed still and Henry tried to but couldn’t. She did not run around the room, trying to avoid him. She also didn’t convince him not to consummate the marriage for political reasons, as she did in this.

The people conspiring against Cromwell soon discover that the marriage has not been consummated. They also figure out that if they want to bring down Cromwell they need to bring down the marriage and the German alliance. We know that Norfolk was trying to get Catherine Howard to become queen as well as bringing down Cromwell, so he may have had spies as he suggested. One of them was actually mentioned as being a spy for Norfolk in the book The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory.

In this, Cromwell goes to Anne of Cleves and tries to get her to stay as queen. Again, I don’t think this would have happened as she didn’t deliberately not consummate the marriage and she did want it to go well. Cromwell did not try to conspire with her.

To be honest, after a while I do start to lose concentration with this episode. After the historical inaccuracies and a particularly long scene with a man telling a story to Henry, Anne and Cromwell, it just seems that the episode is being drawn out to make it 90 minutes. I really enjoyed the first part but after an hour it just started to get boring.

Anne eventually convinces Henry to divorce her. She admits that she won’t argue like Catherine of Aragon, she will go quietly. They seem like great friends now, that is the only thing historically accurate about this scene. It ends with her telling him that she could call herself his sister, with no mention of Catherine Howard and doesn’t show Cromwell’s fate. The two Anne episodes have been my least favourite so far, I disliked this one more than the Anne Boleyn one though.

Rating 3.5/5


My edit of the Anne of Cleves episode.



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