6 January 1540 – The Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves

Jan6,2013 #Anne of Cleves

On 6th January 1540, Epiphany, Henry VIII married Anna von Jülich-Kleve-Berg, or Anne of Cleves, in the Queen’s Closet at Greenwich Palace.

Henry had been trying desperately to get out of the marriage, since meeting Anne and deciding that he didn’t like her. There was, however, no easy way to get out of it and he knew that a cancelled wedding might drive the bride’s brother, who was now Duke of Cleves, “into the hands of the emperowre”.

Chronicler Edward Hall describes the bride’s outfit that day:

“Then the Lordes went to fetche the Ladye Anne, whiche was apparelled in a gowne of ryche cloth of gold set full of large flowers of great & Orient Pearle, made after the Dutche fassion rownde, her here hangyng downe, whych was fayre, yelowe and long: On her head a Coronall of gold replenished with great stone, and set about full of braunches of Rosemary, about her necke and middle, luelles of great valew & estirnacion.”1

And the King was also suitably attired, wearing “a gowne of ryche Tyssue [cloth of gold] lyned with Crymosyn”.

Hall records that Anne curtsied to the King three times and then the couple were married by Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Anne’s wedding ring was engraved with the words “GOD SEND ME WEL TO KEPE”.

After the ceremony, the bride, groom and guests enjoyed the usual wine and spices, followed by “Bankettes, Maskes, and dyuerse dvsportes, tyll the tyme came that it pleased the Kyng and her to take their rest”, i.e. to consummate the marriage. This never happened, apparently because the King was so disgusted by his bride’s body:

“Surely, as ye know, I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse. For I have felt her belly and her breast, and thereby, as I can judge, she should be no maid… [The] which struck me so to the heart when I felt them that I had neither will nor courage to proceed any further in other matters… I have left her as good a maid as I found her.”2

However, it may have been down to Henry VIII’s impotence problems, we just don’t know. What we do know is that the marriage was ended in July 1540 and Henry VIII married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. You can read all about the end of the Cleves marriage in my article “Henry VIII Divorces Anne of Cleves”.

Notes and Sources

  1. Hall’s Chronicle, Edward Hall
  2. Burnet, Vol II, p. lxxxvi, quoted in “Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Minister”, Robert Hutchinson, Chapter 10.

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