16 July 1557 – Death of Anne of Cleves, Fourth Wife of Henry VIII

Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein the YoungerOn the 16th July 1557, Anne of Cleves died at Chelsea Old Manor after a few months of illness. On the same day, 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 the 3rd August, according to diarist Henry Machyn, her coffin was moved from Chelsea to Westminster in preparation for her burial the next day. Anne was buried on the 4th August with Elizabeth, Marchioness of Winchester, acting as chief mourner. The officers of her household broke their staves of office and threw them into her tomb. It was the end of a woman who had survived marriage to Henry VIII and who had outlived him and all of his other wives.

In her will, Anne left her jewellery to her stepdaughters, Mary and Elizabeth, showing her love for them.

You can read more about Anne of Cleves in the following articles:

Also on this day in history…

  • 1517 – Birth of Frances Grey (née Brandon), Duchess of Suffolk, at Hatfield. She was born on St Francis’s Day and was the eldest daughter of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and Mary Tudor, widow of Louis XII and sister of Henry VIII.

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. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=45520 Date accessed: 16 July 2012

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17 thoughts on “16 July 1557 – Death of Anne of Cleves, Fourth Wife of Henry VIII”
  1. Claire ,What a touching read Anne of Cleves in my eyes was such a kind gentle women,as well as smart, to out live her husband Henry V111,and her brother Henry King of England.I don’t know any women that has ever done thats, amazing.!!! I wonder if she was in a way was happy to out live Henry, after what he did to his wives,as the only reason she did servived this was Henry did not want to tick off the Germans,as I am sure thats why he made her his sister.I truly think, that had she not made that move she to would have meant a untimely death,Just a very amazing women all the way around. R. I. P. Anne Of Cleves

    1. I do think it’s sad that Anne never married or had children of her own, but good that she was able to stay friends with her stepdaughters. I think she was a pragmatist and did what she needed to survive. Yes, an amazing woman!

      1. Claire, QA was it that Anne of Cleves could not marry or just never found the right man?? Did she need permission from the King or maybe she was just content with her life alone??

        1. Convocation’s judgement, published on the 9th July 1540, stated:

          “The clergy of both provinces have received the King’s commission (recited), dated Westm., 6 July 32 Hen. VIII. After mature deliberation, they have found the marriage null by reason of a precontract between lady Anne and the marquis of Lorraine, that it was unwillingly entered into and never consummated, and that the King is at liberty to marry another woman, and likewise the lady Anne free to marry. Westm., 9 July 1540.” (LP xv. 860)

          So it appears that Anne was not prevented from marrying again. However, I believe that Anne considered herself to still be married to Henry and felt just like Catherine of Aragon had, that she was still Henry’s wife in the eyes of God.

  2. To me Anne of Cleves represents quiet strength and great sacrifice. She left her homeland and all she knew to marry a man known to have wives who met bad endings; she survived the English court; and she ‘survived’ her husband!
    I can’t imagine the pain of living through such a public rejection, but she handled it with her easy, quiet grace and in doing so lived to see another day.

    I loved the historical novel My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes, it really brought this woman to life for me!

  3. I love the fantasy put forth in “The Private Life of Henry VIII” that the wily Anne, played wonderfully by Elsa Lanchester, was only too happy to remain in Britain and enjoy her nice new manors and dresses and allowance–and the handsome Englishman she fell for during her crossing from Germany.

    1. I loved that portrayal too, it was entertaining to see Anne of Cleves presented from a different angle than the “flanders mare” angle that film makers usually take. If I remember correctly, Jane Seymour was presented differently also.

  4. I’m curious about the time span between the time she died and the time she was buried. What was going on during all of that time? Was that length of time between death and burial customary? Did people come to view the coffin? Just curious about the customs surrounding death in the Tudor court.

    1. It was traditional for a body to ‘rest’ while prayers were said, hence monarchs ‘lying in state’. While researching Tudor personalities, I have been shocked to find that months could pass between death and burial! There doesn’t seem to have been a customary length of time, with some being buried in days and others being left months.

      1. Claire,QAs Why was Anne Of Cleves coverd with only her arms showing??Was her coffin closed, as the body would start to decay,thats such along time ?? Could it have been customery in Germany, as she was from Germany??

  5. Even though Anne never re-married and had her own children, (maybe once bitten, twice shy after her ‘run in’ with Henry), I think she enjoyed her life in England, she had seen,and experienced the wonders and excitement of the Henry’s court and had decided to stay, from what I have read the life she had left was very dull and very strict,here she had her own houses and servants to do virtually as she pleased.
    I think I am right, but was she told that if she went back home she would have to return her settlement she received for agreeing to the annulment back to the Crown. I wonder if that also applied if she remarried?
    I think she was very wise in staying unmarried after Henry as she didn’t have to give her wealth or freedom to another man.
    I think we ought to celebrate Anne today, and raise a glass to ‘The One That Got Away’. To a very astute Lady, well done ….. 🙂

  6. Claire
    I think Anne of cleves went thru so much in her earlier life including the humiliation of her annulment but in the long run I believe she found the peace she never would have had she not come to England. She really was a great lady and I think King Henry knew that and that was why they were such good friends after they parted. I believe they both admired and respected each other mutually.
    God Bless The Queen

  7. Claire,Thank you for the info on Anne Of Cleves!! I know that most people had to have permision from the King if you were a noble at court,I know there was a fury about Mary and Carey ,not gettinng the Royal ok.But I offten wonder if Henry wanted Mary out of the way as she was with child and maybe ,could have been the Kings. Which would have really put a damper on his plans, to marry Queen Anne Boleyn.Your facs on Anne of Cleves makes sense,I think she was still in love with Henry. THX Baroness x

  8. I dont know if I really want to believe that Anne of Cleves loved Henry VIII. They did not exactly have a wooing period. Henry pretty much was done with her the day they met. I think Anne never re-married (or married for the first time-respect to you and your way of thinking Henry) because she knew she would be under her husbands rule the second she did. Her brother was very strict with her and from scources that I have read, it does not seem like she was allowed much freedom back home. Then being pawned off to the King of England where your every move is watched and what you say and when you say it is reported to everyone whom you dont want it reported to.(that is if the court understood what she was saying in the beginning ;)) I bet she had heard about Anne Boleyn and KOA and figured out for herself that going against what King Henry wanted did not fair well for anyone. I think once she became the King’s sister with her estates and pension and household where she was invited to court and in the mean time basically able to do waht she pleased, she was happy. She was her own woman. I want to think she did not miss Henry at all.

  9. Anne was just as eager to separate from Henry as he was her. Remember, he was old, very crotchety, and eager for another heir, as insurance for the sickly Prince Edward. The fact that there was no chemistry between them (Henry was repulsed by her) and Anne knew that her future depended on her quiet consent to a divorce. Her only concern was being sent back to Germany where she would most likely never contract a profitable marriage, thus being totally depended on her brother the duke. Imagine her surprise and excitement upon learning of Henry’s gratitude for her easy acceptance of the divorce and not dragging it out. She was awarded a pension of 3000 pounds a year – big money in those days – several homes, and having precedence over every woman in England except for the King’s wife and kin. She lived the easy life of an aristocrat, totally independent which was unheard of in the 16th century – why would she want to remarry? She enjoyed invitations to court as the “King’s sister” and died happy in her adopted country. And it is ironic that to 21st century eyes she is the best-looking of all of Henry’s wives. You go girl!

  10. Apparently Anne of Cleves resented Catherine Parr, is there much evidence to support that idea? I remember reading that Anne was affronted because she believed that Catherine wasn’t as pretty as she was? She also petitioned to be recognised as the Queen dowager after Henry’s death. Do you think that had anything to do with her Catholic faith, and she felt the same about divorce as Catherine of Aragon did? It might be that she believed she was his real wife and his last two marriages weren’t valid. In any case, it’s just an interesting point to consider.

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