27 December 1539 – The Arrival of Anne of Cleves

Dec27,2014 #Anne of Cleves

Anne_of_Cleves,_miniature_by_Hans_Holbein_the_YoungerOn 27th December 1539, at 5pm, Anne of Cleves landed at Deal on the Kent coast, where she was met by Sir Thomas Cheyne and taken to Deal Castle to rest after her long journey.

Anne was to be Henry VIII’s fourth wife and their marriage had been agreed upon by a treaty in September 1539. Henry had never laid eyes on Anne but instead, had commissioned his court artist, Hans Holbein, to paint her. The portrait was described as a good likeness of Anne and Henry was happy to commit to the marriage, which would see England forming an alliance with the Schmalkaldic League.

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. You may also enjoy my article Anne of Cleves – Flanders Mare?

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5 thoughts on “27 December 1539 – The Arrival of Anne of Cleves”
  1. She looks pleasant enough in her portrait, obviously it was meant to flatter her as Henry was so disappointed when he met her in the flesh, by then his marital engagements must have become the most talked about subject in Europe, he must have been furious with Holbein who had made her out to be much prettier than she was, and we all know what he thought of Cromwell…

  2. Everyone always says how lucky she was to escape Henry and she was to a point but I think Katherine Parr survived him with her reputation in tact and probably could have still married very well had she not gotten involved with Seymour.I always question how her life would have turned out had she done something different.I don’t think Anne of Cleeves was left with too many options after Henry other than living a peaceful life.

  3. From the point of view of an artist, the portrait is almost a blank canvass, cleverly done full face and with a white complexion which allows the beholder to see what they wish in the picture. Holbein was not trying to deceive Henry or to flatter Anne, and actually I doubt she was that bad looking in any event; he was allowing the King to see Anne as he wished; the portrait to speak for itself. The use of the fashionable white face was a method used by painters to hide facial features and expressions and to convey more of the subject through the eyes. Anne’s portrait may flatter her, but it also is believed to have been a reasonable likeness. We only get a few hints of what Henry saw from his first meeting which was anything but a success; and there is little to suggest it was actually her face that he did not like. For one thing we are told that he said that she had strange smells about her; there are other people who later stated that it was her strange clothing and manner that put him off; her German clothes where heavy and may have appeared cumbersome; may-be she was not as graceful as expected; although this does not seem to have been the case.

    I believe that Anne was taken by surprise when Henry, acting the romantic fool, turned up unannounced on New Years Eve and was dressed in a disguise. Henry expected Anne to see through this, faint and swoon and identify him and she did not. She only recognised him when he changed and returned to give her gifts. Henry was also forward, embracing and kissing the poor girl who had led a very sheltered life and was not used to such manners. Henry was upset that she did not see through his dressing up and was not delighted by him; he was put out of sorts. This first meeting formed a very bad first impression, one that did not get any better by a lack of rapport on the wedding night. Henry was gracious enough to welcome Anne and not to make her feel it was her fault; taking his anger out on Cromwell, his friends and council. Anne was left in ignorance as to how she had offended him.

    There is no evidence that Henry called her a flanders mare; this was a 17th century story. He most certainly did not say she looked like a horse although he did make some unflattering remarks about her. But then again Anne could not have been impressed by Henry at first either. Although regal and finely dressed, the King now was a man mountain; he was grossly obesse, (although aparently not as fat as Queen Victoria); he was martyr to poor legs and ulcers and was not in the best of health. He may not have been as overweight as he was to get later but he was well on the way. Anne later complained that the puss from Henry’s leg smelled; so Henry was not the only one with smells to complain about. The wedding night was a complete disaster; the rapport had been killed; Henry did not want the marriage; he was miserable and Anne did not know what to do. Henry says that he felt her breasts and they were heavy and loose; he also felt below and she was dry; he had no desire for sex; she was not ready either. Two more failed nights and the couple gave up. Ironically, after that they seemed to get on much better. Clearly neither party wanted to remain in the marriage; annullment was best for both of them. It is strange, however; that after the divorce or annullment that Anne and Henry became so close that there were rumurs that they would remarry. Anne regarded herself as Henry’s true wife and was angry when he married Katherine Parr and not her after he executed Katherine Howard.

  4. The part of him feeling her breasts is w
    in writing in the British Museum, also that they played cards all night and she took all his money.

    1. Yes we have original documents about their night together and they may or may not have played cards, there is no record. I doubt think she took his money as she only learned to play cards in England. Later on she became proficient in cards, a card sharp in fact, she became proficient in music, dancing and enjoying herself as well.

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