16 July 1557 – The Death of Anne of Cleves, the King’s Right Dear and Right Entirely Beloved Sister

Anne of Cleves miniatureOn 16 July 1557, Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife, died at Chelsea Old Manor after a few months of illness. Her body was embalmed and placed in a coffin covered with a cloth bearing her arms. Tapers were lit around her coffin and prayers said on a daily basis.

On 4 August 1557, she was buried in Westminster Abbey with Catholic rites, with Elizabeth, Marchioness of Winchester, acting as chief mourner. The officers of Anne’s household broke their staves of office and threw them into her tomb. Visitors to Westminster Abbey can pay their respects to Anne of Cleves. Her tomb is “on the south side of the High Altar and her monument is a low stone structure of three sections with carvings showing her initials AC with a crown, lions’ heads and skulls and crossed bones (symbols of mortality).”

In her will, Anne left her jewellery to her stepdaughters, Mary I and Princess Elizabeth.

Although the inscription on her tomb reads “Anne of Cleves Queen of England. Born 1515. Died 1557.”, this was not added until the 1970s and Anne lost her title of queen when her marriage to Henry VIII was annulled in July 1540. The King took Anne as his “dearest sister by adoption” and it was agreed that she would “have precedence over all ladies in England, after the Queen and the King’s children”. Anne agreed to the annulment, signing herself as “Your Majesty’s most humble sister and servant Anne” and Henry replied, addressing her as “Right dear and right entirely beloved sister” and promising that if she continued in her conformity then she would find him “a perfect friend, content to repute you as our dearest sister.”

Anne outlived the King by over ten years, living through Edward VI’s reign and a large part of Mary I’s.

You can read more about Anne in the following articles:

If you want a book on Anne of Cleves then I’d recommend The Marrying of Anne of Cleves by Retha Warnicke and Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII’s Discarded Bride by Elizabeth Norton.

Notes and Sources

  • Anne [Anne of Cleves] (1515–1557), queen of England, fourth consort of Henry VIII by Retha M. Warnicke, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII’s Discarded Bride by Elizabeth Norton
  • ‘Diary: 1557 (July – Dec)’, The Diary of Henry Machyn: Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London (1550-1563) (1848), pp. 141-162 – see http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45520
  • LP xv. 898, 899, 925.
  • Anne of Cleves, 4th Wife of Henry VIII, at http://www.westminster-abbey.org/

Related Post

16 thoughts on “16 July 1557 – The Death of Anne of Cleves, the King’s Right Dear and Right Entirely Beloved Sister”
  1. Maybe the folks who put the plaque up in the 1970s were thinking of Anne’s status during her marriage to Henry. After all, isn’t there now a plaque near Katharine of Aragon’s grave, marking her as Queen of England, even though Henry divorced her so nastily, and had her buried as Princess Dowager of Wales?

    1. Yes, definitely, just like the memorial plaques in St Peter ad Vincula too. Sorry I wasn’t criticising the Abbey, I just wanted to draw attention to the fact that Henry gave her the title of “King’s sister”, which is interesting for a former wife!

  2. Ironically enough, I always thought Anne of Cleves was the prettiest of Henry’s wives (based on her portrait). It seems he did not agree.

    1. Yes: I think she’s the most attractive of the lot. And I much prefer the German style of dress, too. It’s a pity there aren’t any Cranach portraits of her: he did some good ones of her sister.

  3. Mary made sure that Anne of Cleves had a great funeral of state and Anne had been present at her coronation. The ladies fell out when Wyatt had a rebellion, but Mary always treated her with respect. Both Mary and Elizabeth were close to Anne of Cleves and considering she was divorced from Henry VIII she did reasonably well with two palaces including Richmond and houses at Hever and Chelsea, Westhope and elsewhere. She was present with the King and his new wife Katherine Howard for the New Year and she was treated well by the King during his lifetime. Anne did have some trouble with the Edwardian Council and was forced to swap Hever for another home later on, but on the whole she was well off for most of her life. Anne shared a carriage with Princess Elizabeth at the coronation of Queen Mary Tudor. I am glad that she was given a magnificent tomb and that it is in a grand position in Westminster Abbey. I have seen it some years ago and it really is beautiful and colourful.

      1. There is a picture of the lower part of the tomb as the upper decoration was not completed, like so many elaborate designs at the time.. You can find the photo, at the Westminster Abbey home page, under royals, famous people or by putting her name into the library search engine. I also found a drawing showing the ornaments and decorations from a book by J C Neale in 1767, on a website, http://www.oldcuriosity.com. When I went a special reconstruction had been done, but I cannot find a photo, I have looked.

  4. I find His Majesty Henry’s relationship with Anne of Cleve’s to be (if historical accounts are true) his best relationship. Although he did not find her attractive, he respected her, and had a wonderful relationship with her (as did his children). She was well maintained and cared for, and they became personal friends. How interesting that the stallion’s true friendship was given to a ‘mare’. (No disrespect to either intended).

  5. Anne of Cleves made sure she kept her head. she must have looked on with horror at what happened to a wife before her and a wife soon after her and made sure she did whatever it took to keep Henry on side. I doubt she liked him at all. he was a bully and had tried to humiliate her. She was very clever and its clear she treated the princesses in a way that they forever respected her and buried her with great honour. Unlike Henrys grave.

  6. I love the irony of Henry’s Will where he imagined masses would be said for him every day until the end of the world. He is buried under a floor while his wives and daughters have lovely tombs.

  7. The lucky wife ! She was the lucky one ! She got to keep her head on her shoulders ….she got a nice house …..a nice establishment ….lived a peaceful life and did not have to go to bed wih Henry the VIII !

    1. Although her father was one of the “Lutheran Princes”, Anne was brought up by her Catholic mother and it is unclear what ‘flavour’ her personal faith actually was.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *