27 December 1539 – Anne of Cleves Arrives in England

Dec27,2013 #Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves VintageAt 5pm on 27th December 1539, Anne of Cleves landed at Deal, on the Kent coast, and was met by Sir Thomas Cheyne who escorted her to Deal Castle.

Anne had travelled to England to become the fourth wife and queen of King Henry VIII after their marriage had been agreed upon by treaty in September 1539.

You can read more about Anne’s arrival, and subsequent events, in my previous article Anne of Cleves Arrives in England and you can read more about the marriage treaty in my article 4 September 1539 – The Duke of Cleves Promises Anne of Cleves in Marriage to Henry VIII.

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15 thoughts on “27 December 1539 – Anne of Cleves Arrives in England”
  1. From what pictures I could find, Anne of Cleaves was not an ugly woman, in fact she seemed more attractive than the Kings other women yet he found her ugly. Back than there are only paintings and really how accurate are they? I have yet to find a painting that shows Anne Boleyn as pretty? ???

      1. I would agree on the ‘pretty’ comment, I cant say any of his wives could be called that, but attractive in different degrees certainly, each in their own way when combined with their personalities, something an artist can’t truly capture.

        The famous portraits that are meant/said to be Anne are not contemporary, so it is difficult to say what she really did look like, there are written descriptions, but that depends on who is writing it, friend or foe…the only likeness that can be relied on is the one on the coin, which is damaged, or perhaps the cheques ring.
        I would assume that the portrait of Anne of Cleeves would be fairly accurate because she sat for it.

        I don’t really think Henry though Anne of Cleeves was ugly, but instead was completely enraged and humiliated by her response towards him when he sprung his surprize visit.
        He was behaving like a spiteful, spoilt brat that had made up his mind he hated her because of that one meeting, and had no intension of getting to know her.
        His Majesty didn’t want to ‘play’ anymore, so he made and looked for every reason in his power to get rid…his loss was definitely her gain, I’d say.

        1. I think Anne was a very wise woman. Even though it must have been humiliating for her to be cast aside, she made the right decision to accept Henry’s terms. She was lucky that she was a foreighner and it would have caused an international scandal had she been treated more harshly. I wonder did she have someone with her from Cleeves to advise her. She seems to have been a kind and likeable person and Henry could have been happy with her if he had given her a chance to settle in and adapt to English ways.

  2. Anne was not an unattractive woman by our current standards but was most likely in her day. I tconsider her the one wife of Henry XIII that got lucky by him rejecting her.

  3. Poor Anne! At the end of the road trip from hell, waited the blind date from hell, better known to the rest of the world as Henry VIII.

  4. In the portraits I have seen she looks quite attractive.I think Henry rejected her because when he went to meet her for the first time he was disguised and Anne didn’t recognize him when he approached her.So then Henry felt rejected and I’m sure that didn’t happen much to him.He then decided he didn’t want her anymore and proceeded to make excuses about why he should get rid of her.I usually end up feeling a little sorry for her because from what I’ve read she seemed like she would have been a good queen.She just wasn’t given a fair chance.

  5. I always think that Anne got the best deal. She didnt have to sleep with the disgusting, smelly old bloater, got several houses and a nonourary title of “Kings sister” Apparently Henry and she became very good friends once the marriage was no longer na issue. Which sas a lot for her intellect, whatever else, with te exceptiion of Catherine Howard, and possibly Jane, Henry liked smart women.. he was also given the optionm to return home, where she had been an impoverished minor Royal, or stay where she was in ralative Comfort, she tool the beneficial option. I often womder if iKatherine of Aragon may have got treated the same way if she had not been so odurate. Katherine of couree, was a diferente character and we could muse all day on why she behaved as she did, but now is not the place. I do find it interesting that the wives who escaped wiith their lives were both foreigners ( Katherine Parr doesnt really count, she survived by Henry dying I think, she had a very lucky escape previously and how long would it have been before Henry found another reason to find a fatal (for her) fault in her?) Henry may have been a megolomaniac despot, but even he had enough sense not to mix it with powerful foreign monarchs who cpuld have made it very nasty for hm. He certainly didnt want to upset Katherineof Aragons relatives too much, and didnt Annes brother had friends in High Places?

  6. It always seems to me that the rumour that Anne was ugly was a basic supposition and conclusion by others at the time (and though history) drawn from the King’s rejection and dislike of her, but in truth it is possible Anne’s lack of knowledge in the game of ‘courtly love’ that started the problem Henry had with her. By not recognising Henry and feigning an instant Great Love for him when he surprized her, kicked him straight in his huge ego, nothing at all to do with her physical appearance.
    After that it appears everything about her annoyed him, and all those things were put together to bring about a case for annulment, topped by him being unable consummate the marriage apparently because of her ‘body being in such disorder’ and did not ‘provoke any lust’ in him, this I believe was possibly more to do with the state of his own body and health, not to mention a massive bruised ego, that were the major factors here.
    I don’t think that Holbein would have got off scot-free either if he had used too much ‘Artistic licence’ in his depiction of Anne, the King was far to dangerous a man to upset!

    Anne wised up very quickly in the ways of the English court and it’s King, and turned out to be one smart lady, she kept her head, got a very good settlement (Hever Castle as one of her homes) which would be forfeited only if she went back home, was thought of with affection by Henry from then on and invited to court on occasions.
    She had the wealth, the prestige, and most of all the freedom to govern and enjoy her own life as she willed…very rare that for a women in those times. And it seems she enjoyed her life too.

  7. The fact is we do not really know much about how Anne of Cleves really looked as Hans Holbein painted her full faced forward, obscuring certain aspects of her profile and her features. The pale white face is almost like a blank canvass; the viewer could project what they wanted onto it. Some of her other portraits show she did have a large nose but other than that she was reasonably attractive. None of the wives were that beautiful; Anne was an ordinary looking woman, but had beautiful eyes, Jane was said to be plain but attractive; small but pleasent and charming; Katherine Howard had something of a sexy beauty about her and Katherine Parr was mature but still attractive in her thirties and Katherine of Aragon was lovely. We judge beauty in a false way. Henry obviously looked for personality and the attraction of the charm behind the woman, looked for brains and for general attractive features. We have a different standard of beauty than they had in Tudor times and we may not find many women of the time as beautiful or even the so called men called handsome as being so. But as I said we have a false image of beauty and do not look behind the outward appearance. In the case of Anne of Cleves we see that she has grace and charm because on her arrival when she moved from Dover to London and so on the people who saw her reported her as such. Unfortunately Henry in this case did not see beyond her appearence. Truth is we really do not know why as we only have what Henry himself told his council and ambassadors as the evidence for his not being attracted. He made all sorts of excuses, many of which do not make any sense at all. When he attempted to make love for the first time with her her found it difficult; either because of impotancy due to his age; quite natural for a man in his mid to late 40s as we now accept; or because he was put off for some reason. He claimed that it was due to the fact that she was not a virgin; off course she was a virgin and that he did not find her breasts attractive, so he may have liked a certain type of woman; although we do not have any evidence that there was anything wrong with her breasts or her figure.

    One theory always trotted out by many authors is that it was her heavy German clothing that made her unattractive; but surely Anne would have adopted more generic styles of English styles over her time in England? Henry does not mention her clothes so this is not the best theory in the world. One thing that Henry did mention was that she had unnatural smells; she also later commented that she found his ulcers on his legs to smell and not be very pleasent. Not a very nice prospect I am sure if both of them smelled! I am convinced that Henry did all he could to shield others from the smell from his leg, but he was also no longer athletic and attractive and was grossly over-weight so he was not bride groom of the year.

    Another possible clue is that the shock of Henry’s arrival on New Years Day so took the poor woman, recovering from a dreadful Channel crossing and a long overland journey; that she may not have been at her best. Henry, still the romantic idiot he had always been decided to arrive totally unannounced and surprise the lady with a gift, him in disguise. Anne was meant to see through the disguise and recognise Henry and fall into his arms in delight. As she did neither; Henry was upset and he was not very impressed. The first meeting went badly and they do not seem to have had any chemistry at all. Despite this, unlike the popular myth of drama; reports show that he did spend some time with the lady and spoke with her for several hours; he did not just rush off as in the Tudors. He also left her the gift as it would not be polite to do otherwise.

    Whatever the reason Henry simply did not find the poor lady attractive and wanted out of the marriage. Had he built up an image in his mind; fallen in love with the Holbein and reports of her charm and beauty? Did he think back to that other Anne with whom he had been in love at one time and had such a passion for? Did he imagine it would be love at first sight for some reason? Was he in love with her name? Had he so built up his expectations of Anne in his mind that the set himself up for disappointment when the first meeting did not go as he hoped?

    Now the excuses followed: she looks like a horse; she has bad breathe; she is not attractive; I like her not; she is not as people reported her; she is not a virgin, and so on. Henry was sure in a mood, and somehow he still managed to put it all aside and welcome the lady to England forrmally. He made Anne of Cleves welcome and she was treated with great respect and care. Yes, Henry wanted out of the marriage as soon as possible having been forced to go through with it, but then I feel that Anne was not too much against the idea either. There were things about his appearence that she did not like, although she called him a gracious and kind Lord and he most certainly was to her in public. One thing I must point out is that Henry VIII did not call her a Flanders Mare: that was made up for a drama about her in the 17th century.

    After the divorce, Anne and Henry were to find that they did like each other’s company at least and she spent a lot of time at court. Anne saw herself as a true Queen and was disappointed that she did not remarry Henry after the execution of Katherine Howard. She maintained that she was his true wife in private and even saw herself as a true widow of the King according to Elizabeth Norton in her biograthy of Queen Anne of Cleves. She seems to have also been a wise woman in agreeing to the divorce as she did very well from the settlement and was treated well for most of the rest of her days. She did have some trouble in the reign of Edward over her dower lands and her settlement, being forced to exchange houses from time to time. But generally Anne of Cleves was the luckiest of Henry’s wives.

  8. Well, I think every women would have been too beautiful for him once he became an old, obese asshole with a disgusting stinky leg. He should have been glad that any woman was actually willing to marry him after what he did to Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn (I love the quote that Christina of Denmark was supposed to have said about only having one head, but if she had two, one should be at Henry’s disposal, even though it’s not known if she actually stated this).
    I highly doubt that Anne of Cleves was ugly. Judging from the portraits, and of course from today’s standards, I dare say that to me Jane Seymour was the least attractive of all of his wives. (That’s why up to this day I believe that it was her demure, virtuous and meek demeanor in stark contrast to Anne Boleyn’s fierceness that appealed to him, rather than her looks.)
    So, as other’s said, I think it was more a matter of Henry’s bruised ego than anything else. But I think we can still consider her as perhaps the luckiest of his wives. After she agreed to the divorce she had a fairly good live. Just imagine what would have happened if Henry somehow met Katherine Howard whilst married to Anne of Cleves. Who knows, maybe she would have lost her head, too. Or suffered in silence like Katherine of Aragon.

    1. Katherine Howard was one of Anne of Cleeves Lady’s-in-waiting Selina, and it was at this time that she apparently caught the King’s eye, perhaps another reason why to get rid of Anne as soon as possible….so she was clever to agree to an annulment, otherwise the out come could have been a lot harsher as you said.

  9. I actually wrote a college paper about the portraits Henry commissioned of his potential brides. Holbein was encouraged by Cromwell to make Anne of Cleves appear more attractive in her portrait than in life. Henry was misled by that portrait and was quite surprised when Anne was not the beauty of her portrait. Holbein was not punished for misleading the king as he was an extremely valued and irreplaceable painter. Cromwell, however, was punished.

    1. Yes Holbein I think flattered her a bit, she does look nice in her portrait but she is described as having pitted skin, the after affects of smallpox, and BO, that with her ugly German outfits and odd looking headgear and her rather harsh accent probably did turn Henry off her, after all he was used to fresh faced English roses, to be honest after Anne’s execution I think he was lucky that Anne had agreed to marry him but then she probably didn’t have any offers herself if she was as bad as they said she was so I think it was a case of two desperadoes agreeing to have the other ha ha.

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