Anne of Cleves was the fourth wife of King Henry VIII. The marriage was annulled as unconsummated within the first year. The wedding took place on the morning of January 6, 1540 but didn’t take long before it was dissolved. The union wasn’t a happy one.
King Henry VIII was reported saying “My Lord, if it were not to satisfy the world, and my realm, I would not do that I must do this day for none earthly thing” to Thomas Cromwell on his wedding day to Anne of Cleves. In a letter she penned on July 11th, 1540 provides a huge insight into her character. Little is known about Anne’s history except that this ill-fated betrothal played a huge part in the downfall of Thomas Cromwell.
In an article titled Anne Of Cleves: History Facts & Biography, the authors explain in great detail what the young new bride was like and describes her arrival to the English court.
“Anne was 24 years old, and had spent most of her life at the ducal court of Dusseldorf. She was well-educated in domestic skills but she was neither intellectual or flirtatious, both qualities the king admired. She had no musical skills, and music was one of Henry’s passions, and no interest in books. On the trip to England, her escort (perhaps sensing disaster ahead) tried to teach her the king’s favorite card games but Anne found them hopeless. It was not her fault, nor that of Henry VIII, but she was raised in a different country and, as things turned out, was not given time to acclimatize herself before the king rejected her. …. ‘So she came to Greenwich that night, and was received as queen. And the next day, being Sunday, the king’s grace kept a great court at Greenwich, where his grace with the queen offered at mass, richly dressed. And on Twelfth Night, which was Tuesday, the king’s majesty was married to the said queen Anne solemnly, in her closet at Greenwich, and his grace and she went publicly in procession that day, she having a rich coronet of stone and pearls set with rosemary on her hair, and a gown of rich cloth of silver, richly hung with stones and pearls, with all her ladies and gentlewomen following her, which was a goodly sight to behold.”
A disastrous and quickly ended marriage would have usually been devastating especially for a woman born from a foreign country but seemly not true in Anne’s specific circumstances. Life remained stable and proper for the displaced Queen due to her agreeable nature as proven in the letter she wrote Henry below.
Anne remained living in England as a loyal subject to the monarchy until her death at her London home called Chelsea Manor on July 16th, 1557. The freedom’s and financial support she received as Henry’s “beloved sister” allowed for a comfortable life for a woman with Anne’s noble bloodline. In a biography written by EWB titled Queen Anne of Cleves Consort of Henry Viii King, depict what life was like after the annulment of her marriage and how Anne of Cleves spent her remaining time after leaving Henry‘s court.
“Settling into life after her annulment, Anne of Cleves possessed a degree of freedom remarkable for women of her day. Although Anne was technically free to remarry, as her previous marriage had never existed in the eyes of the church or the court, she did not do so. She became friends with her previous stepdaughter, Princess Mary—later Queen—and lived briefly again at court during Mary’s reign. The remainder of Anne’s life was a pleasant one; she survived Henry as well as his other five wives, dying in London on July 16, 1557. Anne received a royal funeral and was buried in an inconspicuous spot in Westminster Abbey.”
LETTER FROM ANNE TO HENRY:
Pleaseth your most excellent majesty to understand that, whereas, at sundry times heretofore, I have been informed and perceived by certain lords and others your grace’s council, of the doubts and questions which have been moved and found in our marriage; and how hath petition thereupon been made to your highness by your nobles and commons, that the same might be examined and determined by the holy clergy of this realm; to testify to your highness by my writing, that which I have before promised by my word and will, that is to say, that the matter should be examined and determined by the said clergy; it may please your majesty to know that, though this case must needs be most hard and sorrowful unto me, for the great love which I bear to your most noble person, yet, having more regard to God and his truth than to any worldly affection, as it beseemed me, at the beginning, to submit me to such examination and determination of the said clergy, whom I have and do accept for judges competent in that behalf.
So now being ascertained how the same clergy hath therein given their judgment and sentence, I acknowledge myself hereby to accept and approve the same, wholly and entirely putting myself, for my state and condition, to your highness’ goodness and pleasure; most humbly beseeching your majesty that, though it be determined that the pretended matrimony between us is void and of none effect.
whereby I neither can nor will repute myself for your grace’s wife, considering this sentence (whereunto I stand) and your majesty’s clean and pure living with me, yet it will please you to take me for one of your humble servants, and so determine of me, as I may sometimes have the fruition of your most noble presence; which as I shall esteem for a great benefit, so, my lords and others of your majesty’s council, now being with me, have put me in comfort thereof; and that your highness will take me for your sister; for the which I most humbly thank you accordingly.
Thus, most gracious prince, I beseech our Lord God to send your majesty long life and good health, to God’s glory, your own honor, and the wealth of this noble realm.
From Richmond, the 11th day of July, the 32nd year of your majesty’s most noble reign.
Your majesty’s most humble sister and servant, Anne the daughter of Cleves.
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- Letter of Anne of Cleves to King Henry VIII 11 July 1540. (2015, March 19). Retrieved from https://englishhistory.net/tudor/letter-of-anne-of-cleves-to-her-husband-king-henry-viii-11-july-1540/
- Anne of Cleves: Facts, Information, Biography & Portraits. (2015, March 19). Retrieved from https://englishhistory.net/tudor/monarchs/anne-of-cleves/
- Queen Anne of Cleves Consort of Henry Viii King Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.notablebiographies.com/supp/Supplement-A-Bu-and-Obituaries/Anne-of-Cleves-Queen-Consort-of-Henry-VIII-King.html