I’m obsessed with Tudor history. Not in the “OMG I LOVE PHILIPPA GREGORY” kind of way. I mean that I read nonfiction about them, I pretty much died of joy when I went to London (and the trip to France my sister and I contemplated for my 30th birthday next year is pretty much scotched in favor of going to London again), I got to teach a class on Tudor England last week and it was one of the high points in my life…you get the picture.
In any case, I’ve debated getting a tattoo for a while, but I wanted one with historical significance, and one with significance to me. I have an idea, and I’m trying to feel it out.
Anne of Cleves was the fourth wife of Henry VIII (he of the six wives). They were married in January of 1540 and were annulled (not divorced) six months later, in June. Henry was reportedly displeased with Anne’s physical appearance and moved to dissolve the marriage on the grounds of non-consumation. Anne, seeing before her eyes the examples of what happened to Henry’s former queens when they defied his wishes — the first, Katherine of Aragon, was banished to die alone in misery, and the second, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded — quickly capitulated, and agreed to the dissolution of the marriage. Henry, pleased with her agreeable nature, gave her a generous pension and three lovely properties, so long as she remained in England, and gave her the rank of first lady of the court behind any subsequent Queens, as well as the title of “King’s Beloved Sister” (Henry was just a tad odd).
Rather than return to Cleves (an insignificant German duchy) under the thumb of her severe brother, the Duke, Anne chose to remain in wealthy splendor in England. A return to Cleves would consign Anne to a place in the European “marriage market” as an acceptable bride, to be married off to an eligible suitor according to her brother’s will and not her own. Anne chose to control her own fate, which she could only do if she remained in England. Free to choose her own husband, Anne remained single to the end of her days. She spent her time at one of her three residences, learned to dance and play cards, kept an impressive retinue of cooks (her table was renowned in England at the time) and kept good relations with the King, his subsequent wives, and his three children, especially Princess Elizabeth, whom she regarded as a sort of adopted daughter. She attended court for holidays and coronations, and was always very much admired. Alison Weir, the British historian, says that she was “certainly the luckiest” of Henry VIII’s wives, and perhaps the wisest.
What does this have to do with a tattoo?
I admit that I always felt a little sad for Anne of Cleves when I read about her. Poor thing, unwanted by her husband, controlled by her family, her only outlet to live by herself, unmarried and alone. But I will admit, for all it’s inaccuracies, I loved The Tudors’ depiction of Anne. Not so much in Season 3, when she’s frightened and alone and worried she’s going to be decapitated. But Joss Stone as Anne in Season 4! Magnificent. She’s happy. She loves her life, she loves how far she’s come and what she has. She’s beautiful and confident and radiant…and happy in herself.
She is…fabulous. And it’s not about “I DON’T NEED A MAN, I’M BETTER OFF, WOMAN POWERRRRRR!” It’s about being happy with yourself. Loving yourself for who you are, not for what someone else makes you. And that’s something to embrace, both single and married.
And I thought about it, and I thought maybe I would just get…a tiny Roman numeral four. No idea where, probably on my foot, just the side, a tiny four. For fourth wife, for Anne of Cleves, for all she stands for. Loving life, being happy with what you have, embracing yourself.
Opinions? Am I crazy? Would this just be weird? Sometimes it’s difficult for me to tell. I am a crazy history freak.