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"Portrait of Anne of Cleavage"

Hans Wholebean

The fourth wife of Henry the Eighth, like the sixth wife of Henry the Fifth and the third wife of Henry the Fourth, was born in Flanders, and Wholebean, talented fifth son of an influential Flemish coffee importer, was chosen to paint her royal portrait. Anne, second daughter of the fourth Earl of Cleavage, had a difficult time fitting in to life at the English court. She insisted on wearing the very revealing Flemish formal dresses that clashed with the more chaste style of Henry's court, and on more than one occasion put Sir Thomas Cromwell, the third Earl of Essex and later the sixth Duke of Earl, completely out of countenance with her deep curtseys, which, as Cromwell once remarked to his wife, the fifth Lady Forth, "did recall to him why Flanders was head of the European Dairy Association."

Sir Thomas More, author of Utopia and First Chancellor, was even more daring, once remarking that "while His Majesty did indeed command the globe, Her Majesty commanded two, and fairer territory I had never wished to explore." Henry was so amused at his Chancellor's wit that he had him sent to the Tower, where his head was forcibly removed from his body.

Wholebean himself survived only a few weeks longer. The King was affronted by the portrait when it was presented, asking the artist how he dared display the Queen in such a state of déshabille. Flustered by the challenge, Wholebean blurted out that he had a hard enough time getting Her Majesty to keep her clothes on at all once the studio door was closed. Further questioning on the rack revealed the presence of an additional 132 portraits of the Queen au naturel, some in the company of the Head Groom or the twin Swedish stableboys. The final straw was Wholebean's unfortunate "Self-Portrait with Queen and Monster Boner", for which Henry had him handed over to the Royal College of Surgeons for anatomy practice. Anne wisely retreated to a convent before the King discovered that she had sold most of the portraits to bordellos on the Continent to support her cocaine habit.


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