Friday, 20 May 2022

Learning about Anne of Kleve

Alison Weir
Henley town hall

THERE wasn’t much room in the town hall, even on a wet Tuesday afternoon, as it was full of avid Alison Weir fans. Historical fiction is obviously a very popular genre in Henley.

The afternoon wasn’t in the usual literary festival format either — there was no cosy chat with interviewer and interviewee, talking about the author’s latest book.

Instead, we were given a lecture on “Anna of Kleve” (pronounced “Klaver”) or as she is more commonly known, Anne of Cleves.

Anna of Kleve being the title of Alison Weir’s latest novel and it was for sale at the back of the room, ready for the obligatory book-signing session.

Alison is the best-selling female historian in the UK. She has written over 20 books and has sold over three million copies, the majority of those in the USA, where she is very popular.

Alison has published both fiction and non-fiction, and her historical knowledge was demonstrated to us via a very articulate lecture.

She gave us an hour-long talk with presentation slides on Anna of Kleve, Anna’s life with Henry VIII and Tudor Britain. It was informative and amusing, we all learnt a lot.

The majority of her books are about the Tudor period, so she has done extensive research on Henry VIII and his six wives.

She said that Anne of Cleves was Henry’s luckiest wife and she went on to tell us that Henry and Anne were still friends after they divorced, even though their marriage was never consummated. In fact, Henry helped Anne out financially for the rest of his life — he even gave her several palaces!

Anne also got on well with Catherine Howard, her successor, although Anne’s position did decline after Henry’s death. Luckily, Queen Mary allowed Anne to stay at a Royal Palace until her own death in July 1557.

Alison read us an extract from her book, and it went down well with the audience. It seemed well written and well researched, and it grabbed our attention immediately.

There were many questions from the floor afterwards, which Alison answered honestly and with humour. She is obviously passionate about her novels and that time period. She likes to write from the woman’s perspective and told us all that we need much more HERstory not HIStory!

Nicola Liddon-Horncastle

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