20 June 1540 – Anne of Cleves knows about Henry VIII and Catherine Howard

Posted By on June 20, 2015

Anne_of_Cleves,_miniature_by_Hans_Holbein_the_YoungerAccording to Carl Harst, the Cleves ambassador and advisor to Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife, it was on 20th June 1540 that Anne complained to him about her husband’s interest in Catherine Howard, one of her maids of honour. Harst tried to reassure the Queen that it was just a “light romance” and that soon she and the king would be on their summer progress, but Harst had actually known of the King’s interest in Catherine for months.1

There were also rumours going around about the King wanting to divorce Anne. London merchant Richard Hilles recorded what he’d heard about the King, Anne and Catherine Howard in a letter to Heinrich Bullinger:

“Before St. John Baptist’s day [24th June] it was whispered the King intended to divorce his queen Anne, sister of the duke of Gelderland, whom he had married publicly at Epiphany after last Christmas. Courtiers first observed that he was much taken with another young lady, very small of stature, whom he now has, and whom he was seen crossing the Thames to visit, often in the day time and sometimes at night. The bp. of Winchester provided feastings for them in his palace, but it was looked upon as a sign of adultery, not of divorce.”2

On 22nd June, Harst was able to report that Anne had cheered up, which historian Retha Warnicke puts down to Catherine Howard having left court, but her happiness was shortlived.3 On 24th June 1540 Anne reported to Harst that she was being sent away from court to Richmond Palace and that she’d be leaving on 25th. It was said that she was being sent there to avoid the Plague and that the King would join her, but there was no plague and she never saw the King again as his wife. On 9th July 1540, Anne’s marriage to Henry VIII was declared 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” and on 28th July 1540 Henry married Catherine Howard.4

You can read more about Anne of Cleves in my article Anne of Cleves – Flanders Mare? and more about the end of her marriage in Henry VIII Divorces Anne of Cleves.

Also on this day in history…

  • 1565 – Margaret Douglas sent to the Tower of London by Elizabeth I after the announcement of the betrothal of Mary, Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley, Margaret’s son. She was released after Darnley’s murder in February 1567.
  • 1567 – The Discovery of the Casket Letters. Click here for more information.

Notes and Sources

  1. Warnicke, Retha (2012) Wicked Women of Tudor England: Queens, Aristocrats, Commoners p62.
  2. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume XVI: 578, and Robinson, Hastings (1847) Original letters relative to the English Reformation written during the reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI and Queen Mary, chiefly from the archives of Zurich, p201.
  3. Warnicke, Retha (2000) The Marrying of Anne of Cleves: Royal Protocol in Early Modern England, p183.
  4. LP xv.860 – see LP xv. 860 and 861 for the full records of the meetings of convocation in July 1540.
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