Kiana Daniele in 'Six The Musical' Australia © 2020

Six – The History Behind the Hit: Anna of Cleves

After a hit season on West End, ‘Six’ recently debuted in Australia and Broadway. A historically inspired musical, ‘Six’ reimagines Henry VIII’s wives as a pop group, exploring their humorous yet equally heart-wrenching stories through song. In this series, discover more about the real-life figures behind the show, with “Six Facts” for each of the Six Queens.

The fourth Queen, and Henry VIII’s fourth wife, is Anna of Cleves. 

Anna of Cleves

“Ich bin Anna of Cleves – when he saw my portrait he was like Ja! But I didn’t look as good as I did in my pic…”
(Anna of Cleves in the musical ‘Six’)

Anna was a Princess from Cleves and her wedding to Henry was intended to ally the German Protestant League with England. Unfortunately, the King disliked her on sight and refused to consummate their marriage, citing a number of excuses including her supposed ugliness, poor hygiene and promiscuity. He divorced her months later in order to marry Katherine Howard while Anna was left to live off the king’s lands and royal income.

Anna of Cleves - Six
Left: Brittney Mack as Anna of Cleves from Six The Musical Broadway © 2020 / Right: Portrait of Anna of Cleves by Hans Holbein the Younger.
Fact 1 – Anna of Cleves wasn’t ugly

While Henry claimed that Anna was ugly, this excuse is not supported by an unbiased historical record. Many contemporaries actually praised her appearance. Henry’s supposed nickname for her, ‘the Flanders Mare’, was actually invented more than a century after her death.

Fact 2 – Wasn’t Protestant

Despite her marriage being intended to bring England towards Protestantism, Anna herself was not especially fixed in religion. She was raised Roman Catholic by her mother but with Protestant influence from her brother and was later converted to the Church of England upon her marriage. Anna then became Catholic following the ascension of Queen Mary I.

Fact 3 – Humiliated the King

Henry tried to surprise Anna by meeting her in disguise and attempting to embrace her, no doubt expecting the Princess to recognise him and immediately fall in love. Instead, the modestly raised Anna was disgusted and pushed away the obese and ageing King, earning his permanent hatred.

Fact 4 – Became Henry’s Sister

After Anna acquiesced to a divorce, Henry was fairly generous in providing a settlement. Not only did she receive multiple castles, land and a substantial income, but she was titled ‘The King’s Beloved Sister’, giving her precedence over every woman in court, apart from the Queen and Princesses.

Fact 5 – Made a Deadly Match

Although Anna of Cleves survived her short marriage to Henry; her matchmaker was not so lucky. The King hated Anna and blamed his advisor Thomas Cromwell, who arranged the wedding in order to encourage Reformation. Henry had him executed within weeks of the divorce.

Fact 6 – Wanted to be the Sixth Wife

After the execution of Katherine Howard, Anna hoped to marry Henry and become Queen of England again. Although her brother the Duke sent ambassadors to negotiate, the King was too proud to contradict himself and married Katherine Parr instead.

The Show

In ‘Six’, Anna is a proud and fierce woman who is glad to be rid of Henry. She lives alone and in charge of her own estate, basking in her freedom after the divorce.

 ‘Get Down’ is a flex of her new status. She declares herself ‘The Queen of the Castle’, bragging about her independence and riches. Check out the Studio Cast Recording featuring Genesis Lynea on Spotify.

PURE JOY, and that is what you would see every night on stage. I am blessed to have these humans by my side.”
(Kiana Daniele

Kiana Daniele is playing Anna of Cleves in the currently postponed Australian Tour of ‘Six’. She graduated in 2018 from the Music Theatre program at VCA, where she performed in concerts with Arts Centre Melbourne and several musicals, including as Amy in ‘Company’ and cover Trix/ensemble in ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’. Kiana made her professional debut in the ensemble of ‘The Boy from Oz’ with The Production Company, closely followed by ‘Nine’ with StageArt. She was most recently seen at Flemington Racecourse and the Domain as the lead role of Baby in Immersive Cinema’s ‘Dirty Dancing’ and also on Channel 7 in ‘Secret Bridesmaids’ Business’.

Kiana Daniele in 'Six The Musical' Australia © 2020
Kiana Daniele in ‘Six The Musical’ Australia © 2020

For more on ‘Six’, you can follow the musical on Facebook and Instagram, listen to the cast recording on Spotify or see the National Tour in Melbourne, Adelaide or Wellington, which will recommence at an unconfirmed date. To learn about Anna of Cleves, check out the historical fiction novels ‘Anna of Kleve: Queen of Secrets’ by Alison Weir and ‘The Boleyn Inheritance’ by Philippa Gregory, as well as the television series ‘The Tudors’.

Photos sourced via Facebook and the Daily Art Magazine.

Read more about Henry VIII’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon, his second wife, Anne Boleyn or even his third wife, Jane Seymour

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