Together at last: the Tudor ex-wives' club

Holbein's portraits of four of Henry VIII's Queens are being exhibited in one show for the first time
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The Independent Online

The executioner made sure they didn't get together in their own lifetimes, but now four of Henry VIII's wives are to be united.

Portraits by Hans Holbein, the King's favoured artist, are to be brought together next week for the first time since they were painted 500 years ago. The 16th-century ex-wives' club will be assembled at Tate Britain in a major show dedicated to the man considered to be Britain's first great artist, who created the images while working as Henry's court painter.

Holbein also acted as the King's eyes by travelling around Europe to sketch and report back on prospective wives.Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, was approved after Holbein painted her in 1539. But the King soon decided that the artwork was more flattering than the reality, branding her a "Flanders mare". The painting of Anne will be shown along with those of three other wives, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard.

Catherine of Aragon, Henry's first wife, had been banished by the time German-born Holbein arrived on the scene, and no paintings of his final wife, Catherine Parr, have survived.

The exhibition also includes portraits of Henry himself and of his son, Edward VI.

'Holbein in England' opens on Thursday and runs to 7 January

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