Tudor Series: Anne of Cleves


Born: 22nd September 1515, Holy Roman Empire

Daughter of John III, Duke of Cleves and Maria of Jülich- Berg

Married: Henry VIII of England, 6th January 1540 – 9th July 1540 (annulled)

Died: 16th July 1557

Anne of Cleves is the wife of Henry who has intrigued me the most. The three wives before her endured tough times begin married to the tyrannical Henry. One humiliated and forced into a shaming divorce. The second, beheaded over vicious rumours and the third, died due to complications after child-birth – something that was very common. To chose to marry following these examples, was a brave move and one that ultimately benefited Anne.

Born in Dusseldorf into a wealthy and politically well respected family, Anne was used to being used as a political pawn for marriage. At the age of 11 she had been betrothed to Francois, heir to the duchy of Lorraine, however this did not last, and she was back to being free for political advancement. An alliance was made by Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell and marriage negotiations began. The famous artist, Hans Holbein was sent to paint a portrait of Anne and her sister Amelia, for Henry to pick his bride. The finished portrait of Anne (as shown above) was considered to be very flattering and Henry felt enchanted by her doe-like-eyes.

Henry was immediately disappointed on meeting Anne. He famously described her as a ‘Flanders mere’ and pressured his advisers into preventing the marriage from taking place. However the wedding went ahead but it was not consummated. Much of Henry’s dislike of Anne has been debated by historians. Her physical appearance did indeed disappoint him, but so did he to her! At 46, the King was not ageing well and rather repulsed the 24-year-old.

The marriage was not positive for either of them and an annulment was declared only six months after the wedding. It was allowed on the grounds of it being unconsummated. Anne was by far the luckiest of Henry’s wives. She received a generous settlement from Henry which included several properties. In addition to this she was also provided a sizable allowance and remained in England until her death in very comfortable means. Most surprising of all, she remained on very good terms with Henry. Anne was even invited to Hampton Court for Christmas.

Anne died in July 1557 in Chelsea. She was the last of Henry’s wives to die, and was buried in Westminster Abbey – the only one given this honor.


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