Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Question from Guy - Returning a prospective royal bride

Henry VIII allegedly wanted to send Anne of Cleves back after he met her. Had this ever happened before?

1 comment:

  1. In the 12th century, Philip II Augustus of France wanted to send back Ingeborg of Denmark after he first slept with her, but he seems not to have objected to her appearance at their first meeting.

    There are examples later in history, though. George IV blenched and called for brandy upon meeting Caroline of Brunswick, but since payment of his debts was contingent on the marriage, he had to go through with it.

    In Poland, there is almost an exact parallel to Henry's initial encounter with Anne. The 17th-century king Wladyslaw IV, having lost his Austrian wife, was induced to marry Marie-Louise de Gonzague by report of the lady's immense wealth and a portrait he had seen of her seven years before. The French eagerly sent along a more current portrait, even more fabulously beautiful, and a French ambassador who described Marie-Louise's attractions in hyperbolic terms.

    Unfortunately, at their first meeting in Warsaw, Wladyslaw took a page from Henry. According to her sympathetic lady-in-waiting, Madame de Guebriant:

    "She was received in Warsaw with little fanfare, because this prince was old, burdened with gout and weight, and being sickly and grieving, he wished no ceremony upon her arrival. He found her not at all as beautiful as the portraits, and displayed no admiration of her person." Apparently he didn't even get up from his chair. "He turned to Bregy [the French ambassador] and said very loudly, 'Is this the great beauty, of whom you have so often told me?’"

    Marie Louise was in her thirties at this point and De Guebriant points out that the rigors of travel had done her no favors. What's interesting is that in this account, she retired that night and wondered if she should return to France, rather than stay with such an awful barbarian – instead of waiting meekly for him to make the decision. Bolstered by her 700,000 pounds in French gold and the leverage it represented, as well as the confidence that came from being French (the most important and cultivated society in the world!) and her years spent intriguing against Richelieu, Marie-Louise possessed the agency that Anne of Cleves lacked.

    (She stayed. As well as a queen, she was a French political agent charged with keeping the Austrians out of Poland, and she saw fertile scope in the country for both her money and her busy clever mind. The king eventually settled down and although never enthusiastic, he put up with her; when he died she married his half-brother, who did seem to fancy both her and the French alliance, and became Queen of Poland for the second time – combining elements of both Anne of Cleves and Catherine of Aragon in her career.)


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