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Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King's 'Beloved Sister' by [Heather R.  Darsie]

Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King's 'Beloved Sister' Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 54 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Heather Darsie works as an attorney, runs the website, and contributes to and She is studying for her Master’s in Early Modern History through Northern Illinois University.
--This text refers to the paperback edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07PNQKR77
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Amberley Publishing (April 15, 2019)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ April 15, 2019
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 3954 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 54 ratings

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
54 global ratings
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Reviewed in the United States on July 5, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on August 4, 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on September 3, 2019
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3.0 out of 5 stars ANNA DUCHESS (?) of CLEVES. Approached properly, but failed due to the author's own point of view
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 3, 2019
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3.0 out of 5 stars ANNA DUCHESS (?) of CLEVES. Approached properly, but failed due to the author's own point of view
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 3, 2019
Heather R. Darsie is a young amateur historian living in the USA. As she expresses in her self-portrait, the focus of her interest in history has been for about 10 years on Tudor figures and the Holy Roman Empire. As a bibliophile, she turned her attention to illuminated manuscripts.

Heather studied abroad, e.g. in France with visits in Germany, and got a Bachelor of Arts in German Languages and Literature, and a Juris Doctorate. All this, as she says, has helped her gain perspective as to the political world stage during the Renaissance - and to Anna of Cleves. She researched Anna's life from the German perspective, which fleshes out her life story and her family history.

Anna’s life has been reviewed mostly from a perspective of foreign observers using English or American sources. Anna piqued Heather's interest back in 2012, and she set out to read any book on her that she could find. They all told the same, basic story of the second half of her life since the selection of King Henry VIII had fallen on her as his fourth wife in the autumn of 1539.

The book features new and forgotten portraits of Anna and her family. It is supposed to satisfy the demand to get to know her true life with descriptions of what was going on in her real life at home from 1515 to 1539 leading up to her fateful marriage with Henry VIII. The biography seeks to better understand what exactly happened during her marriage to Henry VIII and her subsequent place in society after July 1540.

That's what Heather herself has set as a claim. Does Heather fulfill this claim? In the reviewer's perception unfortunately only quite limited, and that is disappointing! As almost expected, her attempt has largely failed! Why?

There are a few main reasons for this failure. Firstly Heather has shown courage and, based on her academic education and her special interest in Renaissance figures, believed she could write and publish a biography of Anna von Cleve. This deserves respect and recognition because Anna is a challenge of a special kind.

In the reviewer's opinion, the shortcoming lies in Heather's too focussed 'juris view' that has guided her differently. Heather seems too much like a prisoner of her 'Juris Doctorate' - mind with thinking in legal, hierarchical and power-political-dynastic categories top-down views to Anna's world. But that wasn't Anna's world - just circumstances of her political influenced life! Heather just hasn't been in the middle of Anna's life.

Not dynastic-political life circumstances, rather quite simple social, real life in everyday life relations as of every common person (friends, not authorities) was important for Anna! Instead, we read too many superfluous things about many feuds and inheritance disputes & wars. Heather presents to her readers at best the well-known figures of public life. But who were her friends at home and in England, who did she trust, who were her closest confidants who lived by her side?

Anna is and remains an unknown being who has not allowed herself to be looked into the interior and has written or left behind almost nothing in writing. We know practically nothing about her real life. But we can approach her indirectly! Only how?

The motto must be: Show me the people of your social interactions, and I will tell you who you are! Who were Anna's friends and the friends of Anna's family? What social relationships existed at all? Were there family sorrows and health problems?

Heather tried something, and it would have been more knowledgeable possible for her, because she must have had in the archives nearly everything of relevance in front of her eyes. For example: Anna's family suffered from massive health problems since generations with severe hereditary diseases (men and women: severe deformation of the vertebral column, men: idiocy), which have repeatedly extinguished the male lines of Jülich-Berg. Anna's entire family was affected by these diseases. Forensic and psychiatric reports were publicly available for Heather. We read nothing about delights and sufferings in the midst of Anna's family & friends!

Anna has always remained modest and has not exalted herself: 'Anna, the daughter of Cleves' and not born as 'Anna, Duchess of Cleves', like Heather's more than incomprehensible title figure. That's a formal phrase that is factually wrong. At no time was Anna a duchess! And also not born as a daughter of a 'Duchess of Cleves' or 'Duke of Cleves' - at the time of her birth her mother was 'Duchess of Jülich-Berg' and her father was 'Duke of Jülich-Berg' (iure uxoris).

Heather has Anna's family origin and social lifetime too much neglected or imperfect described and explained. 'Anna of La Marck' - this must be well explained by the origin of 'Mark', beause 'The House of La Marck' refers to completely different family branches in France. And why is Anna called 'von Cleve' and not 'von der Mark'? Simple reader questions, but not easy to answer. Anna also did not get her name from her aunt of the same name, but from her maternal great-grandmother 'Anna of Saxony' (died 1512). At that time the Catholic customs did not provide for an aunt or godmother to give her name to the baptismal child, rather one of the grandmothers or exceptionally greatgrandmothers.

Instead Heather is going the long way of complicated trains of thought that go back a long way in the history of her paternal family by missing completely her maternal ancestors and hardly accessible to readers without any previous knowledge. A paternal family tree of the 'von der Mark' and and a maternal from the 'Houses of Jülich-Berg' would have been more helpful than the two well known genealogical tables shown (Edward I and House of (Cleves-)Burgundy').

Due to her intensive research, Heather actually had to perceive them all, but she presents us a poor effort! Why all these figures in words and images that had nothing to do with Anna's real life (Erasmus, Jeanne d'Albret, Marguerite d'Angoulême, Houses of Aragon and Denmark etc).

Hardly anyone gets to know some of these important people of her life at home as Konrad Heresbach (Master graduate of Erasmus and well known with Henry VIII), Lady Ketler alias von Nesselrode (Anna's Great Honorary Lady of her wedding) and her children at Anna's childhood, her closest friend and private court master Otto van Wylich and their friends like Jasper and Gertrude Brockhuizen and others.

Anna's closest contact person from the beginning of her England adventure was Lady Gilman alias Susanna Horenbout. Susanna was highly respected by artist Friedrich Dürer and was a well famous minaturist at Henry's Court like her high ranked brother Lucas, both better paid as Hans Holbein. Susanna became her First court lady in the Queens household.

Her closest English friends in her happiest lifetime in Blechtingley were Sir William Howard (1st Baron of Effingham) and his family in Reigate. Anna has known their famous son, the later Lord High Admiral Charles Howard of Queen Elizabeth I, since his childhood. These close friends of Anna are just a small selection to exemplify what Heather could have done to meet her own and readers expectations. No chance!

Last but not least, the entire structure of the so-called biography is not convincing: a clear structure is not recognizable and makes understanding for readers quite difficult!

Heather has gone to a meta-level where the people with their formal power up there over Anna's head make their politics and we learn almost nothing about the real life in Anna's everyday life. A biography must do justice to Anna as a human being with her impressive lifetime achievement and not as an impersonal object of marriage policy.

Nevertheless, reading the book is recommended, but neither for beginners in the history of the United Duchies of Cleves-Mark, Jülich-Berg-Ravensberg and the Duchy of Guelders (1538-1543) nor for advanced readers with a good knowledge of the origins and fate of the 'Anna von Cleve'.
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9 people found this helpful
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Annals of Lorsch
4.0 out of 5 stars Anna The King's Beloved Sister
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 18, 2019
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4 people found this helpful
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4.0 out of 5 stars Anna von Kleve Steps Forward
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 1, 2019
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Tom Webster
5.0 out of 5 stars Through the eyes of the German side
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 24, 2021
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 21, 2019
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