20 Interesting Facts about Anne of Cleves

Apr24,2021 #Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves has rather unfairly gone down in history as “The Flanders Mare”, the wife Henry VIII just wasn’t attracted to, but she’s a fascinating Tudor lady. In fact, she’s my second favourite of Henry VIII’s wives.

Find out some interesting Anne of Cleves facts in this video:

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  1. The powers of attraction are indeed a mystery and one mans meat maybe another mans poison, but most who met Anna all agreed she was pleasant looking, was tall and slender and had a queenly disposition about her, her portrait by Hans Holbein shows a young woman with a somewhat angular face, sweet looking with downcast doe like eyes, well defined brows and her image seems to represent that of humble docility, certainly she was eager to please, and she was well loved by those who served her in the years to come, studying her portrait her complexion appears a bit dark maybe it was slightly sallow, of course Anne Boleyn was said to have had a rather sallow complexion which does not sound flattering, today we call it olive and it is the type of skin which tans easily, to the envy of those of us who are fair skinned, but it is very very hard to see in Anne’s portrait what the king found so disagreeable, this was the first marriage Henry V111 had made for political reasons, of course he had married his first wife because it was practical to do so, but he had been in love with her to, with his second queen he had fallen passionately in love and he had married his third queen, because he had been enchanted by her calm pleasant demeanour, and had been devastated when she died, now his chief minister Cromwell wanted a pact with the Low Countries but it seems Henry was not that fussed, because his first two choices Marie de Guise and Christina of Milan were both catholic, but Cromwell pressed on and which was to be his undoing, he arranged the doomed marriage with the lady from Cleves, and so Anna left her home to be the fourth wife of England’s Bluebeard, she had learnt a little English but was maybe a little unprepared for her debut at the English court, which after all was considered one of the finest renaissance courts in the world, her own court was said to be somewhat dull, and she had had no dancing or singing lessons, which every noble young girl in Europe had learnt from very young, but she had a quick mind and it was said she took to playing cards easily, she particularly wanted to learn the kings favourite game, as well as to the language and other English pursuits which shows a rather touching and charming eager to please personality, she obviously wished to please her husband and it is sad to consider that she failed so miserably in that respect, their first meeting was disastrous and Henry was left feeling embarrassed and disappointed, he had gone in disguise to meet her and she had not realised it was the king, yet how could she? She knew nothing of his boyish delight in dressing up, it seems things went from bad to worse and the wedding night effectively ended all hopes of the ill matched couple living in marital bliss together, Henry complained she stunk and her body was flabby, he declared she could be no maid, of course he did not consider the effects his image may have had on hers, however we have to also consider that including her husband Anne had not enchanted everyone, one contemporary at Henry’s court after seeing her, did not think the king would like her all that much, the French ambassador Marillac found her rather ugly and her ladies even worse, he said their clothes also were hideous, which to the elegant Frenchman used to the stylish fashions of his own court is understandable, it was said also the English ladies found their new queens style of dress very unattractive, looking at her portrait we can understand the criticism, the German style of dress was ugly, high collared with strange bands across the bodice and an odd looking hat piece, not very flattering! There is a portrait however of her sister Marie and it is a world away from Anna’s, this young woman is wearing her hair loose and it tumbles over her shoulders and down her back, of a glorious reddish gold hue, she has a fair little oval face with large eyes and had Henry married the sister, he may have been much happier, Henry treated Anna disgracefully and chose to ignore her much of the day, he was closeted with his lawyers trying to entangle himself out of this disagreeable marriage, he then had noticed a young lady at court whose face and figure had enchanted him, which made him all the more impatient to get rid of his German sow, the video is interesting, I had no idea Anna had been keen on cookery, it seems she was a most domesticated lady, she was living by now in Anne Boleyn’s old home of Hever Castle, the Boleyn’s themselves having long departed, and yet she must have pondered on the fate of her ex husbands second queen, she must also have considered herself extremely lucky, but Anna would not have gone the same way of her tragic namesake, she was a noble lady born of foreign blood, however Anna herself when still married to him, tentatively asked if she displeased the king would he have her killed? We have to remember both the Duchess of Milan and Marie de Guise had refused his offers of marriage, and Anna herself must have had some qualms when she was told the king had decided he wanted her for his bride, no wonder she showed herself compliant to his wishes, she agreed to the annulment and lived happily at Hever and other residences with a nice pension, one can see her in the still room pounding herbs with her pestle and mortar, and making pastry in the laundry room, she also enjoyed fish and had a pond installed where she kept carp and other varieties, we can assume her life was pleasant, and she must have enjoyed herself with her ladies, taking long walks in the warm weather and horse riding, needlework and maybe dancing in the long gallery, she probably entertained sometimes, she was also invited to court now and then as Henry’s beloved sister and her former lady in waiting was now the queen, instead of her, not a very agreeable situation but her acceptance of her new position was admirable and as the video explains, there was much more to her than the short married abandoned fourth wife of Henry V111, he himself came to like and respect her, as most men do with women who do not give them any trouble! And theirs was a most amiable friendship, Anna was content to live her life in England yet sadly she died quite young at the age of forty two, it is not known what she died of, but her servants were bereft at her loss and always remembered her as being a most kind and benevolent mistress, she left bequests in her will to her two stepdaughters, who she was very fond of and they her, also to her friend the Duchess of Suffolk, by now Henry V111 was dead and Queen Mary arranged a splendid funeral for her in Westminster Abbey, she had survived her royal husband really through his enmity to her, unlike his deep love for his second and fifth wives they both paid the price and were buried in traitors graves, today Anna is remembered in her home town of Cleves by the baking of a delicious gateau cake, simply called, ‘Anna of Cleves’, she is also remembered in her adopted country as being a most fortunate lady, most of Henry V111’s disparaging remarks about her were not shared by many, no one else ever said she smelt, after a time she adopted English dress and learnt to dance and became quite English in her manners, Catherine Howard was fond of her by presenting her with a little dog that the king had given her, whatever envy she felt towards the young beauty who had supplanted her, must have turned to great pity when she heard of her plight and her dreadful death, it is easy to say she shed some tears for her, sadly Anna was not allowed to marry because of her former betrothal to the Duke Lorraine, which was the reason her marriage to the king had ended, but she probably enjoyed her single status anyway, certainly she enjoyed the rustic life, she was of royal English descent as well as French, and like the royal houses of Europe, so much intermarrying had gone on, that many English and European royalty were related, all of Henry’s wives were descended from the Plantagenet monarchs therefore they were all distant cousins, when Edward ascended the throne he reduced her pension which must have been unwelcome, it seems the young king found his fathers ex wife a bit of a financial burden, but she still lived comfortably as befitting her status, all in all she had been rather fortunate.

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