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7 Images That Changed Royal History

May 15, 2018 in History

By Hadley Meares

Portrait of Anne of Cleves, by Hans Holbein. (Credit: De Agostini/UIG/Everett)

Throughout history, royal families have carefully crafted their images, using artists and photographers to portray them in a majestic and iconic light. Sometimes these images had serious consequences—whether they were the ones intended or not. Here are the stories of some of the most powerful images in royal history.

Portrait of Anne of Cleves, by Hans Holbein. (Credit: De Agostini/UIG/Everett)

The Portrait of Anne of Cleves

Legendary painter Hans Holbein was in a difficult situation. In 1539, he was sent by Henry VIII of England to paint the unmarried Anne of Cleves, whose family was an important strategic ally of Britain. The temperamental Henry, with three wives already under his large belt, had been assured of Anne’s beauty. “Every man praiseth the beauty of the same lady as well for the face as for the whole body,” he was told by adviser Thomas Cromwell, “she excelleth as far the duchess [of Milan] as the golden sun excelleth the silver moon.”

Holbein’s painting was to serve as confirmation of these verbal reports. With Cleve’s court officials looking over his shoulder, Holbein was expected to paint Anne in a way that was both flattering and realistic. The resulting painting presented a pleasant, docile looking woman—and it seems Henry was cheered by what he saw. Two copies were made: one is now at the Louvre in Paris, and the other at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Although scholars debate how important Holbein’s work was in Henry’s decision making process, it is doubtful he would have agreed to marry her without having viewed the flattering portrait.

Unfortunately, upon their meeting on New Year’s Day, 1540, Henry was immediately repulsed by Anne’s actual appearance, shouting to advisors, “I like her not.” Their marriage lasted only six months, and their subsequent divorce would lead to two more marriages for Henry—and one more beheading—before his death in 1547. Fortunately, Anne would survive both Henry and all his other wives, and live a relatively happy and tyrant-free life in England.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie shortly before their assassination, and a page from Le Petit Journal, illustrating the assassination. (Credit: Henry Guttmann/Getty Images & Popperfoto/Getty Images)

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg

On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir presumptive of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and his wife, Sophie, were fatally …read more


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