Anne of Cleves

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Nov 17, 2023

Table of Content


Anne of Cleves (not earlier than 21 September 1515 and not later than 22 September 1515, or not earlier than 28 June 1515 and not later than 1 July 1515, Dusseldorf - 16 July 1557 or 17 July 1557, London) was the fourth wife of King Henry VIII of England.

A member of the ancient aristocratic German house of Lamarck. The King of England arranged this marriage for political reasons, with no warm feelings for his wife. Legend has it that Henry was greatly disappointed that Anne did not live up to her portrait painted by Holbein. He never entered into a conjugal relationship with her. On July 9, just seven months after their marriage, they were divorced.

After the annulment, Anne remained in England and was granted a generous allowance and the unofficial title of "the King's Beloved Sister. She was generous in her charity work and bequeathed her fortune to the poor. With Henry and his family after the divorce she maintained a warm friendship, which was not the case during the period when she was his wife. She died in 1557 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Princess Anne was born on 22 September 1515 in Düsseldorf and was the second child of Duke Johann III of Cleves and Maria von Julich-Berg. On her father's side she belonged to the ancient Lamarck family.

Little is known of the princess's childhood and youth. In addition to her there were two other daughters, Sybilla and Amelia, and a son, Wilhelm. It is known that Anne was very close to her mother, Duchess Maria.

Anna, like her sisters, was brought up by her mother, and her education was kept to a bare minimum. She could read and write German, but she was not taught Latin or French, nor could she sing, dance, or play musical instruments, "for they reproach ladies in Germany for frivolity if they know music. an occasion of lightnesse that great Ladyes... have enye knowledge of music). Among her virtues were only her meek disposition and her capacity for needlework.

In 1527, at the age of 12, Anne was betrothed to François I, Duke of Lorraine, son and heir of Antoine the Good. The boy was only 10 years old at the time, and the engagement was informal and was called off in 1535.

As for the family's religious position, it could hardly be called unified. Wilhelm, Anna's brother, was a Lutheran, while Duchess Maria was characterized as a "staunch Catholic. Anne's father was sympathetic to the Reformation and was one of the supporters of the Schmalkalden League, led by Johannes the Magnificent, the husband of Sibylla, and opposed Emperor Charles V and his religious policies.

Searching for a Bride

Almost immediately after Jane Seymour's death, Henry VIII was anxious to find a new wife. Despite having a hereditary Prince Edward, the fortunes of the dynasty were still precarious, and he needed sons to ensure continuity. Unwilling to reassociate himself with the Spanish monarchs, he decided to look for a French wife. King Francis had a daughter in marriage, Marguerite, and the Duc de Guise had René, Louise and Marie. Through Castillon, the French ambassador to the English court, Henry notified Francis of his desire to meet the noble maidens at Calais to choose the most worthy of them. Francis declined the offer, noting that it was not customary for Frenchwomen to be displayed "like trotters at the fair.

Having failed with French brides, Henry turned his attention to the recently widowed Duchess Christina of Milan. In March 1538, he sent the court painter Hans Holbein to Brussels with the commission to paint a portrait of the Duchess, which Henry was delighted to receive. But Christina replied to the king's envoys that she was by no means eager to marry Henry, for "his Majesty was so quickly disposed of by former queens ... that her advisers believe her great-aunt was poisoned and her second wife innocently executed, and the third lost her life through improper afterbirth care," and added that if she had two heads, "she would leave one to his Grace."

Because of his scandalous personal life, Henry acquired such a sinister reputation on the continent that no European sovereign was willing to marry him off as a daughter or sister. According to legend, one of the potential brides, Marie de Guise, responded to Henry's proposal by declaring that although she was tall, her neck was short.

Alliance with Protestants

By 1538 the English kingdom's relations with the Catholic European powers had deteriorated considerably, especially after the massacre of Cardinal Reginald Pole's relatives suspected of conspiring against the king. They were all in favor of restoring Catholicism in England. The pope once again announced Henry's excommunication, and his supporters planned an invasion of England.

The King, encouraged by Thomas Cromwell, intended, through marriage, to gain the support of a Protestant state. Earlier John Hutton, the English ambassador to Brussels, had reported that the Duke of Cleves had a daughter, but he had "heard no particular praise for her disposition or beauty. It soon turned out that the Duke had two unmarried daughters: Anne and Amelia.

In January 1539, Charles V and Francis I signed a treaty of alliance at Toledo, which led Henry to hasten the matchmaking and send Nicholas Wotton and Robert Barnes, both staunch Protestants, to Duke Johannes' court to begin negotiations for an engagement to Anne or Amelia.

By the time Henry's envoys arrived, William, son of the recently deceased Johannes, had become Duke of Cleves. The new duke had very strict notions about female modesty, and when the princesses were formally introduced to Wotton and Barnes, they wore dresses and headdresses so bulky that they could not see the girls' appearance. To Wotton's remark, William replied, "Do you want to see them naked?" When this was reported to Cromwell, he immediately sent Hans Holbein to the Continent to paint portraits of the sisters, and informed the king:

All praise the beauty of the Lady Anne, for both her face and figure are admirable. She far surpasses the Duchess of Saxony, as the golden sun surpasses the silver moon. All praise her virtue and honesty, together with the modesty which is clearly visible in her appearance.

William of Cleves, at first unenthusiastic about the undertaking, soon changed his mind when he was told that Henry was ready to marry one of his sisters without demanding a dowry, provided he liked the portrait. Seeing the result of Holbein's work, the king ordered the negotiations to continue, although he was somewhat discouraged when he learned from Wotton's report that Anne knew neither foreign languages nor secular talents. Nevertheless, Wotton noted that the princess was intelligent and capable, and assured the king that she was quite capable of quickly learning English.

Shortly before the negotiations were concluded, William reported that Anne had once been engaged to the Duke of Lorraine, and that this earlier arrangement might have prevented a new marriage. However, no evidence of a marriage contract was found, and the duke soon declared that "Lady Anne is not bound by any obligation ... and yet is at her free liberty to marry where ever she pleases" (but ever hathe ben and yet is at her free liberty to marry.).

When they learned of the marriage, Protestant followers in England and beyond believed that Henry, under the influence of his new wife, would consolidate the position of that religion in the kingdom. Henry had no intention of indulging the Protestants in any way and expected that, in marriage, Anne would be content to worship according to the Catholic rite. Afterwards Anne took no part in Protestant movements and, as a result of her friendship with Lady Mary, began to lean towards Catholicism.

Meeting and Wedding

On September 4, 1539, the marriage contract was signed. Anne's dowry amounted to 100,000 florins, 40,000 of which Henry received on the wedding day, while another 60,000 were paid over the next year. Soon Anne, accompanied by 263 men and 283 horses, set out for England. On 11 December, Anne and her entourage arrived at Calais, where they were greeted by a royal delegation led by the Duke of Suffolk, Henry VIII's favorite and son-in-law. One of the nobles who greeted her, Admiral Southampton, wrote to Henry that the princess was very pretty and that the king had made a worthy choice. Lady Lyle, in a letter to her daughter Anne Bassett, reported that the future queen "is very noble and good, and it will be a pleasure to serve her. On December 31, Anne and her companions arrived in Rochester.

The introduction of the bride and groom took place on January 1, 1540. Henry arrived in Rochester as a private citizen, eager to see what his future wife looked like and to "nurture love in his heart. At the time, Anne did not know a word of English. The king and the princess were alone for almost the entire meeting, and as they left Anne, Henry said:

I see nothing of what was presented to me in the pictures and in the reports. I am ashamed that people have praised her so much-and I don't like her at all!

Back at Greenwich, the king vented his anger on Cromwell, unflatteringly referring to the bride as "a great Flanders mare. The latter, in turn, tried to put the blame on Southampton:

When the admiral found that the princess differed from the picture and the descriptions made of her, he should have detained her at Calais until the king was notified that she was not as good as imagined.

During the few days remaining before the wedding, the king's lawyers looked for a way to annul the engagement. Nevertheless, on January 6, 1540, the wedding was performed. Cromwell convinced Henry that the marriage was all but consummated, and it would be most imprudent to send the princess back. The move threatened trouble with Anne's brother, and it also left England without allies in the event of a possible Spanish or French attack.

Failed Marriage

On the morning after the wedding night, the king declared at the top of his voice:

She's not nice at all, and she smells bad. I left her as she was before I lay with her.

In private conversations with Cromwell, Henry continually complained that Anne was not at all suitable wife for him. Meanwhile, Anne herself held herself with dignity, gradually mastered the English language and refined manners and was sympathetic to many, with the exception of her own husband. She became a good stepmother to Prince Edward and Lady Elizabeth, and even Lady Mary, at first regarded with contempt for the Protestant, soon became friends with her father's new wife. The queen liked life at the English court: she loved music and dancing, had a pet parrot, and spent her days playing cards with her ladies-in-waiting and trying on fancy clothes. Still, she could not help but notice the King's indifference to her and, mindful of the fate of his previous wives, began to fear that she might suffer the fate of Anne Boleyn.


By the spring of 1540, the alliance with the Duke of Cleves had lost its relevance. The Franco-Spanish alliance had cracked, and Henry was going to try to win back the trust of Emperor Charles. In March, at a meeting of the Privy Council, Henry declared his doubts about the legitimacy of his marriage to Anne because of her earlier engagement to the Duke of Lorraine, and that this obstacle prevented him from consummating his marriage. The ministers reassured the king by saying that the failure to fulfill marital obligations was a good enough reason to annul the marriage.

Some courtiers who were supporters of Catholicism, among them Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, sought to get rid of Anne of Cleves, who was perceived by English reformists as a symbol of support for Protestantism. Cromwell and his entourage represented the opposition to Norfolk's conservative-Catholic party. Norfolk, taking advantage of the king's distaste for Anne, contributed to Cromwell's disgrace as the main culprit behind the failed royal marriage. The duke had put his young niece, Lady Catherine Howard, who had served as Anne's maid of honor and was favored by Henry, in the queen's place.

In June 1540, Thomas Cromwell was arrested on charges of high treason and sent to the Tower. Anne was sent back to Richmond on June 24, allegedly because of an approaching plague epidemic. Parliament hastily resolved the question of dissolution of marriage. Formal causes for the divorce included Anne's first engagement to the Duke of Lorraine, the king's claim that "he was married against his will" and the failure to produce heirs because of Henry's inability to be intimate with his wife. No claims were made against Anne herself; the king's intention was only to divorce her in order to marry Catherine Howard.

When, on July 6, 1540, the Duke of Suffolk and the Bishop of Winchester came to the queen to persuade her to agree to an annulment, she gave in unreservedly to all demands. The king, delighted by Anne's compliant attitude, thanked her by naming her his "beloved sister," gave her a substantial annual pension of four thousand pounds and granted her several rich estates, including Richmond Palace and, once owned by Anne Boleyn's family, Hever Castle, with the insistence that the former queen must remain in England. On July 9, 1540, the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves was declared null and void.

The King's Favorite Sister

After the divorce, the king left Anne in his family circle. She was now, as his "beloved sister," one of the first ladies at court after Queen Katherine and Henry's daughters. In addition, her "loving brother" allowed her to remarry if she wished. Anne responded by letting him control her correspondence with her family. At his request, she sent a letter to Duke William, informing him that she was perfectly happy and content with her status as "the king's kinswoman.

Anne celebrated the new year of 1541 with her newly acquired family at Hampton Court. Henry, not long ago unable to bear Anne as his wife, now welcomed her warmly as "sister. The court loved her for her good naturedness, and after Katherine Howard's execution many hoped the king would marry Anne again. But the Duke of Cleves' envoys, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who petitioned the king to marry her again, replied that this was out of the question.

Despite the royal permission to marry anyone, Anne neglected this privilege. She was quite satisfied with her position in society and the fact that she did not depend on anyone but Henry, with whom she had developed an amicable relationship. For a woman of her time she was the possessor of unprecedented freedom and was clearly unwilling to give it up.

On July 12, 1543, Anne was invited to the wedding of Henry and Catharine Parr as one of the witnesses, and in 1553, with Lady Elizabeth, she attended the coronation of Queen Mary.

After Henry's death, Anne's financial situation deteriorated greatly. The new King Edward drastically reduced her income. She wanted to return to Germany, but she was not allowed to do so either.

Anne outlived both her ex-husband Henry VIII and his son Edward VI. Shortly before her death, with Mary's permission, she moved to an estate in Chelsea, London, once owned by Catharine Parr. There she died on 17 July 1557. In her will she mentioned gifts for all her servants and friends, while specifying that the "best jewel" was for the queen. Elizabeth also received a piece of jewelry and a request to take "poor girl Dorothy Curzon" as her servant.

Anne of Cleves was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Anne of Cleves is the heroine of a number of historical novels about the era of Henry VIII:

Several portraits and engravings of Anne of Cleves have survived.


  1. Anne of Cleves
  2. Анна Клевская
  3. Кардинал Реджинальд Поул (1500—1558) — убеждённый католик, один из потомков Плантагенетов. Генрих объявил его предателем и государственным преступником, после того, как Поул раскритиковал его религиозную политику, а также резко высказался относительно развода короля с Екатериной Арагонской. Поскольку сам кардинал находился за пределами Англии, король выместил свой гнев на его родственниках, приказав арестовать почти всю семью Поула. В 1539 году был казнён его старший брат — Генри, а в 1541 году его мать — леди Маргарет Поул[12].
  4. Кромвель процитировал королю строчки из доклада одного из своих агентов, Кристофера Монта[15].
  5. Придворная группировка, возглавляемая Томасом Говардом, 3-м герцогом Норфолком, и епископом Стивеном Гардинером, в церковной политике придерживалась принципа «католицизма без папы». Они приветствовали централизацию власти и провозглашения короля верховным главой церкви, но при этом не желали полного отхода от доктрин католичества[30].
  6. ^ Heather R. Darsie Historian,
  7. ^ Weir, p. 155.
  8. ^ Norton, p. 7.
  9. ^ Weir 2007, p. 424.
  10. ^ a b c Weir 2002, p. 155.
  11. ^ Norton 2009, p. 107.
  12. En aquella época la región pertenecía al Ducado de Berg.
  13. Antonia Fraser "Las esposas de Enrique VIII", p. 298 de la edición inglesa
  14. "de corps haute et gresle, de beaulté moyenne et de contenance fort asseurée et résolue." John Schofield, The Rise & Fall of Thomas Cromwell, Stroud (UK): The History Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7524-4604-2, p. 240.
  15. Antonia Fraser Las esposas de Enrique VIII, p. 306

Please Disable Ddblocker

We are sorry, but it looks like you have an dblocker enabled.

Our only way to maintain this website is by serving a minimum ammount of ads

Please disable your adblocker in order to continue.

Dafato needs your help!

Dafato is a non-profit website that aims to record and present historical events without bias.

The continuous and uninterrupted operation of the site relies on donations from generous readers like you.

Your donation, no matter the size will help to continue providing articles to readers like you.

Will you consider making a donation today?