4 August 1557 – The burial of Anne of Cleves

Aug4,2017 #Anne of Cleves

On this day in history, 4th August 1557, Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of King Henry VIII, was laid to rest at Westminster Abbey. She had died on 16th July 1557 at her home, Chelsea Manor.

The requiem mass was led by the Lord Abbot of Westminster and the chief mourner at the funeral was Elizabeth, Marchioness of Winchester and wife of William Paulet, Marquess of Winchester and Lord High Treasurer. Anne was buried on the south side of the High Altar and her tomb can still be seen today.

In her Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Anne of Cleves, Retha Warnicke writes of how Thomas Becon, Archbishop Cranmer’s chaplain, dedicated his work The Pomander of Prayer to Anne and I thought I’d share his dedication with you today, in memory of Anne of Cleves:

To the most honourable and virtuous Lady Anne of Cleve, Her Grace, sister to the high and mighty Prince William, Duke of Cleve, &c., Thomas Becon wisheth the favour of God, long life, and continual health.

Among many other godly and noble virtues, which God by his holy Spirit hath grafFed in your grace’s breast, most honourable lady, the fervent affection and continual desire of praying unto the Lord our God hath neither the last nor the least place in you. And as God hath wrought in you by the Holy Ghost this godly mind to call upon his holy name with diligent prayer, so likewise doth your grace stir up and confirm that spiritual motion with the exercise of daily prayer, lest that godly affection should be quenched, which the Holy Ghost bath kindled in your heart.

For your grace doth right well consider, that God delighteth in nothing more than in the invocation of his blessed name, and in the sacrifice of thanksgiving for his benefits. Where the name of God is diligently called upon, and most humble and hearty thanks given unto him for his fatherly and friendly gifts, there is his blessing, grace, arid favour plenteous; there is the Holy Ghost present, there is a merry conscience; there all things prosper, there wanteth no good thing. Continue therefore, most honourable lady, as ye have godly begun, both you and all your faithful family, to call for the glorious name of the Lord our God with fervent prayer, and forget not to be thankful unto him for his benefits, wherewith above many other he hath richly endued your grace. So shall he be your loving Lord and gracious God, your favourable Father and strong shield. So shall he make your grace to prosper in all your doings, and bless you both with long life and much honour.

And that your grace may have at hand convenient prayers to pray unto the Lord our God, I thought it good, considering your grace’s manifold virtues, to give unto you this my Pomander of Prayer, wherein are briefly contained such godly prayers as are most meet in this our age to be used of all degrees and estates, most humbly beseeching your grace to take in good part this my rude and bold enterprise, according to your accustomed gentleness.

God, whose glory you heartily love, whose word you joyfully embrace, whose name you earnestly call upon, mought vouchsafe to preserve your grace in continual health and increase of honour! Amen.

Your grace’s most humble and faithful orator, Thomas Becon.”

Becon obviously held Anne of Cleves in high esteem.

You can click here to read a primary source account of Anne’s burial.

Notes and Sources

  • Warnicke, Retha M.. “Anne [Anne of Cleves] (1515–1557).” Retha M. Warnicke In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., edited by David Cannadine. Oxford: OUP, 2004.
  • ed. Nichols, J.G. (1848) The Diary of Henry Machyn: Citizen and Merchant-Taylor of London (1550-1563), p141-162.
  • Becon, Thomas, chaplain to Archbishop Cranmer, Prebendary of Canterbury, Prayers and other pieces of Thomas Becon, edited for the Parker Society by the Rev. John Ayre, p. 74.

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5 thoughts on “4 August 1557 – The burial of Anne of Cleves”
  1. This discarded queen of Henry V111’s had a beautiful funeral service and the epitaph Becon wrote in her honour does indeed sum up what effect she had on many in her lifetime, most noble and godly virtues he had said, this lady was all that and yet she had had to suffer the humiliation of knowing that her husband found her quite distasteful and she was put out to grass whilst he married her young maid of honour, she is famous for being the wife whom Henry disliked on sight whilst her predecessor is famous for being the wife who lost her head, in fact all six are famous in their own way, and Catherine Howard who although she was fond of, must have felt envy towards her though didn’t turn out so fortunate after all, she had loved her adopted country and was delighted to remain even though she was then just the king’s beloved sister and not his wife, little did she realise that Catherine Parr would almost certainly want to change places with her after he married her, that all her step children were fond of her speaks volumes about her easy going nature, she was not an arrogant woman, a trait which is very unattractive and brings enemies, indeed maybe being the wise woman she was, she realised she had nothing to be arrogant about, she knew her brother had been glad to get her off his back and she had quite possibly be glad to go, then her newly wedded husband had been trying to get rid of her to, she was in a position where she had to comply and keep her mouth shut or stir up a whole lot of trouble, her marriage had been made because Cromwell wanted a German alliance and both he and Henry daren’t upset her brother, by finding a pre contract was a clever move as Cromwell then could say legally she couldn’t be Henrys wife, thus avoiding the Duke of Cleves enmity and still keeping the German alliance, both him and Anne saved face and she was given some fine homes, a nice pension and known as the king’s sister, not bad really there was winners all round, yet I feel Anne was disappointed although she kept Henrys friendship and he came to like and respect her as did many, she alone out of all Henry V111s wives lies buried in Westminster Abbey, she had a grand funeral unlike both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard who had a bloodthirsty death and whose names were blackened, Catherine Parr died a lonely death and was buried in Peterborough Cathedral, her husband did not mourn her and she lies in a place she did not want to be buried in, she wished to lie in the monastery of the observant Friars,although this would have been difficult as there were hardly any left after the destruction, so her final wishes sadly were not met, Jane Seymour has the bespoke honour of lying next to Englands much married monarch in St. Georges Chapel Windsor and his sixth wife in the chapel at Sudely, which after many centuries was destroyed so really Anne Of Cleves who was rejected so blatantly by Englands King, yet now keeps illustrious company amongst her other king’s and queens, a fitting end to a rather special lady I believe.

    1. Hi Christine, I think you mean Katherine of Aragon died a lonely death and is buried in Peterborough Cathedral. As far as I know Catherine Parr is buried in the chapel or church at her home in Sudely Castle after a Protestant funeral. When you think Anne of Cleves was the shortest married of Henry’s six wives and was rejected as Queen it’s rather poetic justice that she is the only one other than Jane who got the full bells and whistles state funeral. Anne’s tomb can still be seen but it had a bit of a hard time. Unlike the official story which followed under Elizabeth, a few years after it was completed, the monks didn’t steal the jewellery from the tomb. Mary paid for the tomb and funeral and always treated Anne of Cleves like a Queen. However, the finished tomb was not as elaborate as planned as Mary died the following year and the plans were scaled back. The tomb was still decorated but with less finery as Mary wished, even though the money was set aside. The top half of the tomb had more gilt than it does now and there was a screen above with an alter. However, the Abbey has had several facelifts over the years and in the eighteenth century the area in which Anne’s tomb is became more of a building site than chapel. Anne’s tomb was covered by two others. In the nineteenth century the tombs were restored. Anne’s tomb became visible again and was restored with some of the original decorative plaques and symbols. The gilt has since been restored. Only part of the upper screens were restored and the lower part of her tomb is what we see today. There is a drawing from the seventeenth century I remember years ago and from the restoration detailing the original much more elaborate tomb plans. I have a confession, though, I am glad Katherine of Aragon wasn’t buried in Westminster Abbey as I rather enjoyed visiting her at Peterborough rather than Westminster with the crowds, restricted opening hours and £16.95 price tag back in 2009.

      1. Hi Bq yes I meant Katherine Of Aragon, I would love to visit her tomb but live quite a way from Peterborough, I’m glad Queen Mary in was it the 19th or 20th century? decided to have the sign put above her tomb with the title ‘Katherine Queen Of England’, it was after all what she deserved. Saying that I find the prices to enter these historic buildings are way over the top, I visited Windsor Castle with my mum many years ago, must be about twenty now, and it was £10 then, and we had to pay an extra £2 to see the famous dolls house, these days out to see what is after all our heritage can be very very costly.

        1. Yes the prices are outrageous. We had a ticket which covered six palaces for two years so we saved a lot of money, plus disabled and carer discounts come in handy. I find it cheaper to join Nat Trust or English Heritage than pay individual prices. In Wales it was great as all CADWY properties, which is practically everything let you in free if you class yourself as disabled and your companion goes in free as a carer. The funny thing was they kept putting me down as disabled when it’s Steve who has a disability card, and him down as the carer because I have a stick. We found it quite funny. It’s well worth taking advantage of any discounts you can get. Imagine if you have a couple of kids and two adults. Even a family ticket can cost a fortune. Windsor may need a lot to keep clean but since the royal family actually live there most of the time these days, a contribution from them to reduce entrance fee would be nice.

          Queen Mary certainly did make sure Katherine of Aragon’s tomb place was made nice with those railings and Katherine the Queen. Queen Mary of Scots was originally buried in Peterborough. They spot is marked by the plinth and a display. I don’t mind paying something to go into places and we always pay full for these small voluntary independent places as they wouldn’t exist without a small fee, plus it’s usually coppers, but I have gasped at some prices. Limited funds should not mean limited fun, but sadly it does.

  2. This is a beautiful and wonderful dedication to Queen Anna of Kleves and really captured her grace and graciousness. She was highly thought of wherever she went and even Henry was forced to accept that in the end. It is most fitting that she was buried as Queen with full honours, on the orders and at the expense of her stepdaughter, Queen Mary I in Westminster Abbey. RIP YNWA.

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