c.1536. Oil on wood. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid, Spain. Read Note.
Henry VIII (1491-1547), second son of Henry VII, King of England from 1509. Outstanding political and military figure, he was also remembered in history for his multiple and unsuccessful marriages. In 1509, he married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon. In 1533, Anne Boleyn became his second wife. In 1536, the Queen Catherine died and Anne Boleyn was accused of infidelity and executed. The day after her execution Henry married Jane Seymore.
Jane Seymore, the eldest daughter of Sir John Seymour, was lady-in-waiting, first to Catherine of Aragon, then to Anne Boleyn. 20 May, 1536, only one day after Anne’s execution, she became Henry’s 3rd wife. She died after giving birth to her husband’s desperately hoped-for male heir, later Edward VI (ruled in 1547-53).
Anne of Cleves (1515-1557) German princess, daughter of John, Duke of Cleves, a noted champion of Protestantism in Germany, was chosen as his forth wife, first of all for political reasons. But there was also one more reason and this is where Holbein lost the King’s favor. Holbein was sent as a painter-ambassador to execute the portrait of Anne. It was a difficult task, in fact, he found himself between a rock and a hard place. Henry VIII liked the portrait, but when his bride arrived to the marriage ceremony in 1540 he found her more like a ‘fat Flanders mare’. This cost Holbein dearly in prestige. The marriage was annuled by parliament six months later. Anne of Cleves obtained a handsome settlement from Henry and lived in quiet comfort in England until 1555.
Henry’s two subsequent wives were English.
See: Hans Holbein. Portrait of Henry VIII. Portrait of Jane Seymour. Portrait of Anne of Cleves. Portrait of Henry VIII.