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