Henry VIII's powerful minister, Thomas Cromwell, endeavoring to strengthen England's ties to Protestant Europe, conspired to persuade the king to take the Flemish Anne of Cleves as his fourth wife. Hans Holbein was engaged to paint an entrancing portrait of the princess and the king, as hoped, anticipated meeting his new bride with lustful jubilation.
When she finally arrived, however, the princess turned out to be rather more homely than the portrait suggested. "You have sent me," the disappointed king exclaimed, "a Flanders mare!"
[This incident marked the end for Cromwell; Henry soon thereafter had him executed on trumped-up charges of treason.]