Anne of Cleves (9/22/1515 –7/16/1557), Henry VIII’s fourth wife, was the luckiest of all six. Escaping both sex and scalpel, her six-month-long marriage was annulled without consummation and she lived to see the coronation of Queen Mary, unlike the other dead, decapitated, or divorced queens.
Anne, the little girl from Dusseldorf, was last on everyone’s list. Women throughout the world had heard about Henry’s marital problems and his drastic solutions. No one could spare a neck, thank you, no. Henry’s advisor, Cromwell, convinced him to give Germany a go. Germany would make an excellent alliance, what with all those Protestants, and Henry and Rome being edgy friends. Henry agreed, but requested that his wingman-painter, Holbein, paint Anne…and her sisters. Henry probably picked Anne because the painter left out the small pox scars.
They met face-to-face in 1540. King Henry thought it would be great fun to wear a disguise. It had always been a kick, when ladies pretended not to notice the towering fat man with the bodyguards. So Henry waddled in and planted a sloppy kiss on her cheek. Anne shrieked like the Pope reading Luther’s graffiti, and cussed him out in German.
Henry lost interest after that. He thought she looked like a fat horse and claimed she smelled terrible which, in 1540, and coming from a man with an open sore on his leg, must have been something particularly fragrant. But a contract’s a contract. Luckily, she agreed to a divorce and he rewarded her handsomely.
So Anne might have been the blind date gone bad; the chick whose brother swears has a “great personality” and you’ll really dig her. She likes to gamble and drink beer, what can go wrong? Anne’s the girl in the bar at 2am when the boys have their booze goggles on. They wake up the next day and give her their wallet, really, no, here you go, take a cab, I’ll call you. But Anne laughs and skips merrily to the bank.
Anne got the house and the car and the bling.
Anne went on to win Miss Congeniality of the Court. Should the replacement Queen lose her head in errors of judgment, Anne promised to come back, pump the keg, and play a few rounds of five-card stud with Henry. Which she did. She was kind to his daughters, came and went as she pleased. She wasn’t an evil Step Mother nor a Trophy Wife. Anne was so solid, she was the block on which the trophy wife later sat, and, eventually, rested her neck.
Anne lived, most of all.
Coming in last isn’t always a bad thing.