4 August 1557 – Anne of Cleves’ funeral

Aug4,2018 #Anne of Cleves

On this day in history, 4th August 1557, there was a requiem mass for Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of the late King Henry VIII, at Westminster Abbey.

After the mass and a “godly sermon”, Anne was buried in a tomb at the abbey. Her tomb is decorated with carvings of a crown and her initials, AC, skulls and crossed bones, and a lion’s head.

Merchant-taylor and diarist Henry Machyn recorded Anne’s funeral in his diary. I have modernised the spelling:

“The 4th day of August was the mass of requiem for my lady princess of Cleves, and daughter to [William] duke of Cleves; and there my lord abbot of Westminster made a godly sermon as ever was made, and [then] . . . the bishop of London sang mass in his mitre; [and after] mass my lord bishop and my lord abbot mitred did [cense] the corpse; and afterward she was carried to her tomb, [where] she lies with a hearse-cloth of gold, the which lies [over her]; and there all her head officers broke their staves, [and all] her hussars broke their rods, and all they cast them into her tomb; the which was covered her corps with black, and all the lords and ladies and knights and gentlemen and gentlewomen did offer, and after mass a great [dinner] at my lord (abbot’s); and my lady of Winchester was the chief [mourner,] and my lord admiral and my lord Darcy went of either side of my lady of Winchester, and so they went in order to dinner.”


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15 thoughts on “4 August 1557 – Anne of Cleves’ funeral”
  1. I am learning so much. For instance I didn’t know that Anne’s tomb wasn’t finished at the time of her interment.

    I was surprised to see on the Westminster Abbey site Henry’s supposed ‘flanders mare’ comment which in my understanding was made by someone but probably not Henry.

    1. You are correct Michael, there was more work to do on the tomb but for money and other reasons, although Mary left orders it was changed. Yes, the remark comes from the seventeenth century although I can’t remember who wrote it.

  2. O-oh, am surprised by that Michael, as you are, because in her post of 2011, ‘Anne of Cleves Flander’s Mare?”, Claire says the remark came from Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury, who had written in 1679 that Henry swore they had brought over a Flander’s Mare to him.” Anne, Claire points out, was not from Flanders.
    Trawling through stuff online today, I learned that a Flander’s Mare was a warhorse, big and strong, of course, and somewhat unwieldy.
    Someone else thought that by the time Henry clapped eyes on Anne, he had already seen young Catherine Howard. What do you think of that?

    1. Hmm, that is a possibility I had not considered. If true his reaction makes a little more sense ad he may have been setting up a reason to stop the marriage before it happened when he met Anne and not just acting like a jerk.

  3. Thank you BQ and Christine. After reading your current posts it reminded me that I got that info from something Clair had written. Seeing how the comment was made over 100yrs later I can’t see why Westminster is continuing with that meme that it was spoken by Henry VIII.

      1. Thanks Globerose, yes Gilbert Burnet wrote this huge history of the Reformation and is generally accepted as a reasonable source of information, but of course he didn’t get everything correct, probably because earlier sources were biased or missing and an unreliable rumour could easily have become history. Another version of the story is that Henry called her a hackney which was London talk for a horse but that was nonsense. I believe the tome is on line at Archive.com as are many old texts. We had a copy in our rare book collection in the University Reading Rooms, which can be viewed on appointment. It is a number of volumes I believe. It’s quite amazing just what becomes history and then because it is never challenged everyone accepts it and we have to really scrutinise the original texts for evidence of its origins. It’s like historians saying Anne Boleyn or Elizabeth I came into the Tower by Traitors Gate, the name not existing until the Tower was opened to tourists in the early nineteenth century. The Great Gate at the warf that leads up to the Royal Apartments from the thirteenth century has a huge grand stairs and arch and large portcullus, one of the largest in the country and yes, sometimes important prisoners coming by river came here, but more often they came in by the other main gate, across the bridge at the main steps. The other entrance was a private Royal entrance and built also for defence, not for people accused of treason normally. Some important state prisoners were brought via the steps from the river but the entrance was only called Traitors Gate to attract visitors in guide books in the 1800s. Yet, many teachers and historians prattle the myth of how Elizabeth came via Traitors Gate or worse Jane Grey which is even odder as she was already residing there since she had been declared Queen, repeating other historians without going back to the sources. We try to do things differently now, but there are always some people who follow the odd myth. Of course it is always in the movies Henry calling Anne of Cleves a horse or that she looks like a mare because it makes good drama but it was only a myth.

        The tomb even though it wasn’t finished still was quite splendid and work has been done on sketches of how it looked eventually and the plans before it was obscured by later tombs as it is now and it was very magnificent. There was a proper alter in front of it and a decorated screen above it and the heraldic symbols and decorations all fresh in gold. It must have really stood out. Mary obviously wanted to ensure Anne was remembered and that she was treated as a Queen in death as well as life and although she was a Princess and deserved a Royal funeral for a Princess, she had also ruled briefly as Queen and Mary wanted her buried as a Queen. Yes, she had briefly believed Anne had contacted some of the rebels in 1554 but then she was under pressure to save her realm from uproar and her life was in danger, yet again. Mary overall though did maintain good relations with Anne of Cleves, regarding her as a dear friend. She praised her honour and dignity. I would imagine that she felt her loss keenly.

        RIP Anne of Cleves, the sensible Queen of Henry Viii. Amen.

        1. That is true the traitors gate did not exist in the 16th c, the beefeaters at the Tower do regale vivid stories about the prisoners to make them more dramatic, hence Annes story and that of Jane Greys, yet they all as part of their job description do have to learn the history of the Tower and their tragic occupants, however they do sidetrack a little, Jane Greys hair was said to turn white when she saw the axe but is this true, can hair actually turn white with shock? The Flanders mare story I learnt from history lessons at school yet as Claire says that is a myth attributed to Gilbert Burnet in the 17th c over a hundred years later, when we consider the actual things Henry did say about his fourth wife Flanders mare pales in comparison, saggy breasts and belly, body odour etc, of course he did not mean to sound ungallant, his disparaging comments stemmed from a very real disappointment, Anne herself must have been somewhat disappointed with Henry, overweight with thinning red hair and a bandaged leg hardly the handsomest prince in Christendom as he had been called twenty years earlier, yet she quite possibly had not expected much unlike Henry, and had been more excited about the prospect of being queen than his wife, she was honoured more in death than in life proof that Henrys love was more dangerous than hate.

  4. Hi Claire!

    This is only tangentially related to this post (which is great, as alway), but I have a question and I thought who better to ask 🙂

    I often see people refer to the account book of Mary I (from when she was a princess in particular and after), but where do they find it?

    Do you have a link? To the book if I have buy it, or the National Archives, or anything?

    Thank you in advance 🙂

    1. I think the sources that you might be thinking of are available in electronic format and for download at Archive.org.

      It is called “The Privy Purse Expenses of the Princess Mary, daughter of King Henry the Eighth afterwards Queen Mary, with a memoir of the Princess with notes put together by Frederick Maddox. I am not 100% certain but I believe this might be what you are looking for. It is interesting anyway. Hope you enjoy.

  5. “Henry’s love was more dangerous than hate” yes that is a good way to put it. Henry was as dangerous as a tiger (lions are less dangerous) but if handled well, as happy as a contented cat. He was a good husband when he wanted to be but oh boy if he didn’t, he went full out against women he professed to love. Some men who kill their lives and or lovers in a jealous rage profess to and probably did love them. No wonder the French call it a crime of passion. Henry might not quite fall into this category, because he used the legal process to rid himself of an undesirable wife. Henry was the law but his Parliament made the law and he could legally argue that he had followed the law. His love was certainly dangerous for Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard and almost as fatal for Katherine Parr. I don’t believe he hated Katherine of Aragon, but his behaviour certainly made it look as if he did. I read recently that a number of historians believe Katherine of Aragon was the only one of his wives that he truly loved. Given that love and hate are said to be two sides of the same coin, that Henry treated Katherine badly out of frustration and desperation, it is highly probable. She was his wife longer than the other five ladies put together, more than 24 years, she was the bride of his youth whom he chose, she had been through many of his troubles and triumphs, she was crowned at his side and he had long been her knight in shining armour and he would have remained her husband for life if she had been blessed with a healthy son. Yet, he struck out at Katherine when she refused to leave him out of her love and devotion to him and her belief in the total legitimacy of her marriage and Queenship. Henry couldn’t get what he wanted and he tried to force the most stubborn woman in England to accept something which wasn’t true. Considering he had been married to Katherine all those years he really didn’t know her very well, did he?

    His actual remarks about Anne of Cleves were indeed far worse than the myth of the Flanders Mare. Anne was called not a Virgin, her body was insulted and he blamed her for his lack of performance in the bedroom. Henry was unable to consummate the marriage but the blame most likely lay with him rather than her. He also met and took a fancy to Katherine Howard early in their marriage and he was reluctant to enter into the marriage before hand due to a lack of attraction on his part. I believe his embarrassment got the better of him after she didn’t recognise him at New Year in Rochford Castle. The whole thing was one excuse after another and Henry knew it. He and Anne of Cleves shared a bed every night, save later on when he sent her to Richmond Palace out of concern for her. Then afterwards they got on like a house on fire, to the extent that Henry had to suppress rumours of Anne carrying his child and reassure his distressed young bride, Katherine Howard, that he was not going to leave her and return to Anne C.

    You are right, she was treated with more honour in death than at times during her life.

    1. I do not believe he ever hated Katherine his first wife either, more than likely he was a little flattered that she tried so hard to keep him, it’s true she was his chosen bride his first love, and there is always a soft spot in the heart for a first love, they had been through so much together, Katherines story is so very sad because had she been able to give Henry a prince who grew to manhood she would not have been set aside, Henrys passion for Anne however did I think unbalance him a little, one foreign ambassador said of him God alone can abate his madness, certainly with her he acted like a lovesick teenager and it must have been heartbreaking for Katherine to watch her much loved husband cast sheeps eyes at her lady in waiting, had Anne been willing to sleep with Henry in the first place we can assume that like her sister and others before her, she would have just been a footnote in history, there would have been no reformation no Church of England, Henry would maybe have been known to history as the King who did nothing particularly remarkable but married a Spanish princess had a daughter Mary and a son who became King after his death, as it was he happened to fall for a woman who was a calculating minx and she turned his love for her to her full advantage, but at the beginning she had not welcomed his attentions, she could have been I think a little insulted that he expected her to fall on her back for him, Anne was proud she had been schooled in her early years by Margaret of Austria, she was aware of her self worth and did not want to be just another used and discarded mistress, as she herself recalled many years later, ‘i never sought to choose the King in my heart’, her commitment to him was made I think out of the fact that none other could have her because the King had chosen her for his own, somehow she was trapped, like the deer between the wolves, people who condemned her failed to realise she was as much a victim of Henrys passion as he was the victim of his own for her, theirs was such a turbulent stormy relationship that his schoolboy crush for Katherine years later must have seemed like ripples in a calm ocean, with his third wife Jane I doubt there was any real love or passion there, it was more a sense of hearty gratitude that she had given him his much sought after prince.

    2. “I believe his embarrassment got the better of him after she didn’t recognise him at New Year in Rochford Castle. The whole thing was one excuse after another and Henry knew it.”

      I agree with this 100 %.

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