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

Anne of ClevesOn 20th June 1540, Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, complained to Karl Harst, her brother’s ambassador, about Henry VIII’s attraction to one of her maids of honour, a young woman named Catherine Howard.1 Anne was not the only one to have noticed her husband’s behaviour, Richard Hilles recorded in a letter to Henry 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 24th June 1540, Anne was sent away from court to Richmond Palace. It was said that she had been 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.3 It was the end of a marriage which had only begun on 6th January 1540 but this wife would survive her fall and go on to outlive her husband.

You can read more about her in my article Anne of Cleves – Flanders Mare?

Notes and Sources

  1. Warnicke, Retha (2000) The Marrying of Anne of Cleves: Royal Protocol in Early Modern England, p183
  2. LP 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. LP xv. 848

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8 thoughts on “20 June 1540 – Anne of Cleves worries about Henry VIII and Catherine Howard”
  1. Anne did see the king again. She was known as his sister and met with the king following the end of their marriage.

  2. There is so much about THIS Anne of which we do not know or understand, either!

    I like to think when she realized Henry was not interested in her as a husband should be interested in a wife, she decided to come up with an exit strategy, which included filing a “complaint” with her brother’s ambassador, so Henry would know she was just as interested in getting out of this farce of a marriage as he was, except she was not as blatant or rude about it.

    Flanders Mare – harumph!

    Of Henry’s Queens, Katharine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and Anne of Cleves are the ones I would LOVE to sit down with (separately, of course!) and have a good, long chat about themselves and the twit they found themselves married to.

  3. Elizabeth Norton in her great recent biography about Anne of Cleves: the Discarded Bride points out that Anne herself did not regard the divorce as being any fault of hers and that the Queen blamed Henry’s infatuation with her maid of honour Catherine Howard for the failure of her marriage. Anne regarded herself as the true wife of Henry VIII and was very hurt when he married Katherine Parr: she had hoped, somewhat foolishly for a reconciliation with Henry. When her finances were cut by the council of Edward VI she tried a new tack to get her dower lands as the widow of Henry VIII to make her life more comfortable. It is said that the council did not take her claim seriously.

    Henry obviously had to annul his marriage to Anne of Cleves as he did not find her attractive and what she thought of him we can only guess. The flirtation with Catheine in June as above it seems was just seen as a sign that Henry was being unfaithful, many did not see it as him wanting a new wife in Catherine. Norfolk and his family of course were placing Catherine in front of the King and promoted his interest in the young woman. Catherine was about 17/18 and was definately attractive: Henry found himself captivated by her, at first as an antidote to Anne, but then he had a genuine interest in her. He was now thinking of her as a future wife, even though Hurst did not think so. Henry wanted the divorce from Anne put through very quickly as he had not consumated the marriage and his lawyers were working on Cromwell to get this done.

    Poor Anne she certainly had reason to be concerned. Henry may be treating her with courtesy but he loathed any contact with her. Henry was simply not able to consumate the marriage and had no wish to do so. Anne, somehow was kept ignorent of this fact. She was also afraid for she believed that if she did not please the King he would have her killed. Now I wonder where the poor lass got that idea from? I do not think Henry would execute a woman just because she did not please him in bed, but someone must have put this crazy notion in her head as she asked the question of one of Henry’s advisors.

    Anne was sent to Richmond for her health as she was told, but in reality it was to get her out of the way while the divorce papers were drawn up and the annullment policy brought to her. Anne seems to have been pleased to have gone and thanked Henry for his consideration. She must have been shocked when the truth was revealled and Suffolk and the others brought her the news, first that Henry asked for her consent and then that she was in fact divorced. According to David Starkey she also put up something or a resistance by asking for the papers on the Lorraine contract to be sent to her. She did not receive them and at length agreed, saying that she had only a wish to please the King her Lord and sending her marriage band back to him to crush : as a thing of no value. Sad!

    Anne was a very popular lady and she remained close to Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth and accepted her situation with grace. She also got a good deal. But after the death of Henry her circumstances were rejoiced but she fought to get back some of her rights and under Mary she regained her status. She died in 1557, and was given a royal funeral in Westminster Abbey: her tomb is quite ornate.

  4. Me thinks this lady was very lucky! Just agree to everything seems to be the key if you want to keep on living!

  5. Divorced, Beheaded, Died.
    Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.

    If you discount Katherine of Aragon (because I believe once she was banished from court it was only a manner of time before ill health would claim her since Henry made sure she was sent to places that were unhealthy) only Anne of Cleaves and Katherine Parr were able to survive their marriages to Henry and come away from them not only with their lives but with enough financial support to live a rather comfortable life. Not an easy thing to do! These two ladies were smart enough to know that you do not poke a dragon; you stroke him and give him whatever he wants, even if it means your keeping your mouth shut and putting up with a series of mistresses. These were two very smart ladies; I wish we knew much more about them or that they had left something behind so we could know exactly what they were thinking (besides “How do I get out of this alive?”).

    If Anne of Cleaves portrait was not painted to resemble her real features; I can understand Henry’s statement about her looking like a horse. But if it does show her as she looked then, I believe he already had his eyes on someone, maybe not Jane Seymour but I doubt if he were ever satisfied with anyone woman. I married a man like Henry; men like that have to have the thrill of the chase to feel like they are a man. Manhood is not measured by heroic deeds or kindness, nor in how good a provider he is,; they measure manhood by the number of woman they get both in and out of marriage. They are sad little boys.

    1. Hello Shoshana,
      I’m not sure what you are refering to in your last paragraph:
      I believe he already had his eyes on someone, maybe not Jane Seymour

      Jane seymour was already dead when Anne of Cleves came to England so i would think it rather strange if Henry had his eyes on her again!

      I think the Holbien portrait did resemble Anne. The Duke of Suffolk more or less told everyone Anne of Cleves was really pretty. In fact only Henry was the only one who seemed to find Anne unattractive, perhaps they got off on the wrong foot. Or maybe the story about Henry meeting Anne in disguise and her rejection of him really hurt his ego!!


  6. Poor Anne, it would be hard to tell what was going through her mind, if whether she felt hurt, relief or fear.

    Hurt, at the King tiring of her so quick,
    Relief, that she was glad to see the back of him, as her feelings towards him may have been the same as his towards her, or
    Fear because she knew of what happened to the other Anne when his fancy fell on Jane.

    It must have been a very confusing and upsetting time for her.

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