22 September 1515 – Birth of Anna von Jülich-Kleve-Berg, known commonly as Anne of Cleves

Anne of ClevesOn this day in history, the 22nd September 1515, Anna von Jülich-Kleve-Berg, or Anne of Cleves, was born near Düsseldorf. She was the second daughter of John III, Duke of Jülich, Cleves and Berg, an important German ruler, and Maria of Jülich-Berg. Anne had royal blood; not only was she descended from Edward I, she was also, on her father’s side, closely related to Louis XII of France and the Duke of Burgundy.

In 1526 Anne’s elder sister, Sybille, married John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony and Head of the Protestant Confederation of Germany, and in 1527, Anne’s father arranged for Anne to marry Francis, the heir of the Duke of Lorraine. This betrothal was broken when Anne’s brother, who became Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg on the death of his father in 1538, refused to give up the territory of Guelders to the Duke of Lorraine in 1539.

The Schmalkaldic League, an alliance of Lutheran Princes established by Anne’s brother-in-law, John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, had been trying to establish a relationship with England in the late 1520s, and in 1531 sent ambassadors to Henry VIII. The Duke of Cleves, Anne’s father, had also been involved with marriage negotiations with England in 1530, although Henry had chosen to marry Anne Boleyn. These marriage negotiations were resurrected in January 1539 when Henry was looking for a fourth wife, following the death of Jane Seymour (1537). Henry’s chief advisor, Thomas Cromwell, was keen to build links with the Schmalkaldic League, and when Henry saw that Francis I of France and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, were becoming friendly, he too looked towards Germany for support.

By the end of September 1539, a marriage treaty between England and Cleves had been agreed upon, and preparations were made for Anne to travel to Calais and then on to England. Anne arrived in England on the 27th December 1539, and the royal couple were married on the 6th January 1540, at Greenwich Palace. It was not to be a happy marriage, and just over 6 months later the marriage was annulled, and Henry VIII married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. Anne became known as the King’s sister, and was rewarded for her acquiescence with £4000 per year and houses at Richmond, Bletchingley and Lewes. She was also given Hever Castle, jewels, plate, hangings and furniture. She kept her head and became a wealthy woman.

Anne of Cleves outlived Henry VIII and all of his other wives, dying on 15th July 1557, aged 41.

(Extract taken from On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway)

See The Schwanenburg, Castle of the Dukes of Cleves for Elena Homburg’s beautiful photos of Swan Castle (the Schwanenburg), the former home of the Dukes of Cleves, the family of Anne of Cleves, and where Anne lived before she travelled to England to marry henry VIII.

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5 thoughts on “22 September 1515 – Birth of Anna von Jülich-Kleve-Berg, known commonly as Anne of Cleves”
  1. Wow, I never knew the Duke of Cleves had started marriage negotiations with England before. Interesting, had Anne Boleyn not been Henry’s obsession, Anne of Cleves might have been Queen of England in 1530. I wonder how things would have turned out for Anne of Cleves at an earlier point in her life. Would she have produced the male heir Henry desired so desperately? Would he have found her a “Great Flanders Mare” had she become the mother of his son or sons?

    Anne of Cleves, despite the lack of formal education that Katharine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr all had, always struck me as the smartest of Henry’s wives, because she didn’t pay the awful price the well educated wives did. Maybe it was actually wisdom in dealing with a dangerous man.

  2. The first thing that strikes me is the full title of Anna of Cleves, revealling the full extent of her brother,s territories going far beyond Cleves, partly coming from her mother, and showing that Cleves was not a mere bit player in European politics as is sometimes believed, nor just a small duchy, but a real power broker in Franco/German/Anglo relations. Like England the League had a destiny of its own and was seen as a rival both to be courted and feared or desired at the will of the Empire. Charles V wanted the Duchy to submit to his authority, but he was also keenly aware that should a foreign power come courting, the three sisters were valuable assets in the power broking alliance market of Europe. Sybella, probably the sister blessed with her mothers looks, shown in paintings as beautiful and fair, was married to the Elector of Saxony, one of the largest semi independent territories in Germany. He had power and wealth and was an ally that could provide mussel if needed. Cleves was a buffer between the rivals and England could add her navy and army to help against the demands of the Empire, Cleves may well have needed England, as it was made out that England needed Cleves.

    Anna was not unintelligent, her education was limited but that of a rich Princess from any European royal family. She may have led a sheltered life in the one area that was needed for a bride to know, but she would have the proper breeding and grace; the things needed to be a royal or noble wife; the people who saw her said that she was charming and kind and she probably had some gifts that Henry could not see. Her upbringing would have been strict and conventional, but she comes across as being smart in how she perceives things and reads people. Anna was diplomatic; she was raised in a court where formal etequete demanded that the girls were protected and kept away from prying eyes. She was raised in a strict religious background, but there is some debate as to which branch of the Christian Church she actually favoured. The Duke may have been a member of the Protestant League and a Protestant himself, but her mother was a Catholic. Anna seems to have been perfectly prepared to accept and to blend in with the conservative religion of England. She was also gracious to the less than discrete Katherine Howard on presentation to her when the former was Queen at New Year 1541, kneeling to address her former maid of honour and to present gifts to her. In England she clearly learned to dance and to play musical instruments as well as to become a good card player. She seems to have been fond of Henry’s younger children and to have made a friend of Princess Mary.

    I think the approach to Henry by Cleves in 1531 interesting, but of course Henry had eyes for a different Anne at the time. May-be had things not been so rushed and he actually gotten to know Anne a bit better; their first meeting may not have been so much of a disaster. An impatient and over weignt King with a bad temper and perhaps problems of a sexual nature who met her in 1540 was repelled by her and could not persist with the attempts to make the marriage a success, but a younger, more vigerous Henry, before the accident of 1536, before the disasterous marriage to Anne Boleyn, before the Pilgrimage of Grace; may have proceeded more slowly and with more tact. He may have seen beyond how she may or may not have seemed and actually found he liked her enough to at least comsumate the marriage and have a son. Who Knows, but nothing came of it so we cannot second guess history. On the other hand; the same reaction may have resulted.

    There is one thing that I have always been curious about: the flanders mere myth! In none of the contemporary records that I have seen can I find that he actually called her a flanders mere. I have read that it was a seventeenth century invention by Hume, but apart from stating that he liked her not; do we have the actual source that shows he called her a horse or a flanders mere, please. I would love to know the answer to this question. But I think it is a myth.

    1. You’re right, there is no contemporary source for Henry VIII calling Anne of Cleves a “Flanders Mare”. Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury, wrote in his 1679 book that Henry “swore they had brought over a Flanders mare to him”, but that is him saying that Henry VIII uttered those words.

      1. Thanks Claire, have always been curious about the source as it is the favourite of every drama and novel. I think mares and horses in general to be beautiful graceful creatures, but if Henry thought this of her, her impression of him cannot be great either. By divorcing after six months both partners did the best thing for their peace and sanity and were able to get on well afterwards.

  3. Dear Claire,
    I have just read your latest comments on Anne of Cleves and the interesting responds to it from Elena & Banditqueen. It too makes me sad when thinking how she was wrongfully judged & called by others throughout centuries, how rumours spread about her, but how little is really known about her person till today. So hopefully to fill this gap I would like to add some historical aspects which might be of any interest to you or others interested in Anne of Cleves, her origins and the background of her family.

    Although its hard to find some good information about her before she moved to England, our family did a lot of historical research within the last 45 years, because we are descendents from the House of Berg through my late fathers family side, like Anne’s mother Maria von Jülich-Berg was, too. Our family is living in the Rhinelande near Cologne for more than 1000 years in the exact geographical area where the House of Berg originally came from and in the same territory which was governed & later ruled by them for many centuries. This is nothing special because nearly 90 % of people with the name BERG live in the Rhinelande or Westphalia and are related to the House of Berg. You can check this via internet showing a map of Germany & in which parts your family name occurs. Regions marked in red have an overpopulation of your name. If you give in our name, only the area of North-Rhine-Westphalia and then again especially our region around Cologne is totally marked in red.

    But now back to Anna von Jülich-Kleve-Berg or the so called Anne of Cleves.
    To find Anne’s true origins, we have to go far back into the early Middleages of the 8th century, where her family roots lie. This leads us to the person of Karl der Große (Charles the Great), Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and founder of the great ‘Karolingian Dynasty’. Charles was married 4 times and fathered many children. After his death and the early passing of his son and male heir Ludwig der Fromme (Louis the Pious), the Karolingian Empire was divided into parts between Louis’ three sons: Karl/Charles (West Frankonia), Lothar (Lotharingia-today Rhinelande, Luxemburg, Northeast of France) and Ludwig/Louis (East Frankonia). When Lothar died too, his territory was again divided between his two remaining brothers. Charles put western Lotharingia to his territory (today France) while Louis, called the German, took the East (today Germany). Louis the German’s daughter Gisela married Ehrenfried (in short form Ezzo) from Upper Lotharingia, a man of High Nobility & a kinsman to Louis, who governed the northern parts of the East Frankonian territory for him. Their marriage laid the foundation for a new dynasty named ‘Ezzonen’ after Ezzo, who then ruled the Upper Lotharingian territory, today known as the Rhinelande. One offspring of Gisela & Ezzo was their grandson Hermann Pusillus, who was Archbishop of Cologne with the right to possess and rule over a large territory south of Cologne on both sides of the Rhine. A second grandson married into an uprising Knights family called Kleve, who were too related to Charles the Great and who possessed a territory north of Cologne. Finally a third grandson is mentioned about 970 AD as Adolphus de Mons or Adolf of Berg, Palatine & Governor of the eastfrankonian territories on the left side of the Rhine. At this time, towns like BERG, BERGheim, SaffenBERG and MONSau were established in that area, also abbeys and castles were built by the House of Berg. In 1000 AD, a son of this Adolf is mentioned in chronicles for the first time with a noble title as Adolf, Count of Berg. From then on this title is inherited by every first born son of the House of Berg. Also the throne and territory of the Archbishop of Cologne is occupied by every second born son & shortly after, the Counts gain the privilege to become political advisors
    of the Holy Roman Emperor and stay next to him. When Emperor Otto II. died, the Counts of Berg acted as Lord Protectors for his son Otto III.till he reached full age.There still exists a painting showing Otto III. on his coronation day in Aachen sitting on the coronation throne, crowned with the large crown of the Holy Roman Empire on his head and the heavy Holy sceptre holding in both hands, looking so weak, tired & exhausted. But he is guarded & protected by two men standing upright to both sides of his throne. The younger of them is carrying the Sword of the Holy Roman Empire in his hand while the older One is holding the sacred Holy Lance to heaven. These two are Adolf II. Count of Berg and his eldest son Adolf, supporting the poor child and caring for him.
    Another Adolf, IV., Count of Berg, was a close friend of Friedrich Barbarossa and 1st man of state to govern the whole Empire during his abscence. Yet another, Adolf V. of Berg, was not only in the same position under Emperor Friedrich II. but was a loving godfather of his son, too. Finally Adolf VI. Count of Berg led his troups in 1288 AD into the cruelest & greatest medieval battle ever taken place in Central Europe.The Dukes and Earls of Brabant, Burgund, Limburg, Cleves, Jülich and the citizens of the Holy City of Cologne fighting for their own freedom were all involved in that conflict. After a slaughtering and butchering for many days, lots of men had left their lives a horrible way. The Cologne troops then recognized that they were going to loose this battle & their freedom, when they suddenly heard someone singing in far distance. It was Adolf, VI. Count of Berg leading his countrymen, most of them workers and farmers of his ruling territory called “Bergisches Land”, from his castle “Schloss Burg” on the right side of the Rhine, 40 km by feet to the battlefield of Worringen near Cologne. To encourage his men, Adolf had not stopped to sing a special song the whole way “Oh brave people of the beautiful, most honourable, victorious Earldom of Berg”. He needed days to gather his men and days to march to the battlefield. They finally arrived at the last moment, but with the help of Adolf & his countrymen, the battle was won & the people of Cologne kept their freedom.This battle is known as “Battle of Worringen”. When Engelbert II. of Berg, Archbishop of Cologne and last male heir to the House of Berg was murdered in 1325, there was still a female line to inherit both earldom and title. So the female line was married to Wilhelm, eldest son of the Duke of Jülich, whose family was related to the same ancestors Gisela & Ehrenfried, with their Dukedom situated right next to Berg, only divided by the River Rhine. For this reason, the title Earldom/Counts of Berg changed in to the new title Dukedom/Dukes of Jülich-Berg, which was inherited the first time by the first born son of the eldest daughter of the Dynasty of Berg. Later he became Wilhelm, Duke of Jülich-Berg. Through this marriage strategies, territories and power of the House of Berg stretched. When Anne of Cleves mother Maria of Jülich-Berg was betrothed to the heir of Cleves at Schloss Burg in the Bergisches Land, the three branches of the Ezzonian dynasty – and the early roots of the House of Berg were united again.

    By the way, also the Boleyns are descendents of Charles the Great, because their ancestors have been the Counts of Boulogne, who were related to the Karolingian dynasty through another offspring of Charles the Great, which makes Anne of Cleves a far relative of Anne Boleyn. Its so crazy that not only both of them had the same first name and where married to one of mankinds greatest psychopaths, but they both lived at Hever Castle, which they dearly loved and cared so much for young Elizabeth. One could think, that Cromwell was a willing tool to plot the murder of the first Anne, destiny gave her justice through the second Anne, who was the reason of Cromwell’s fall from grace.

    Lastly I would like to mark two things about Anne of Cleves. It is true that her brother Duke Wilhelm of Jülich-Cleves-Berg resided at Swan Castle because it had been the formal seat of the Dukes of Cleves for centuries. We can also assume that Anne has stayed there several times or often, too. But she did not grew up there. She grew up, lived & was educated at her mothers former home Schloss Burg, the seat of the Dukes of Berg in the Bergisches Land. It was from there that she started her journey to England with heavy hearts.

    The “Flanders mare” story:
    I am not sure if anyone ever named Anne that way. But what I am sure about is that if someone called her Flanders mare, it must have been a person with absolutly no education and knowledge of Europes countries & geographical regions. Anne came from Germany and was therefore German. She did not come from Flanders which is a part of Belgium & was part of the Habsburgs Spanish Netherlands during Annes lifetime. Nevertheless another Anne has lived in Flanders for a short period of time but her name was Anne Boleyn.

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