60 second history – Anne of Cleves

It’s the turn of Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife, for my 60-second history treatment.

As I’ve explained before, the idea of this 60-second history series is to give information about Tudor history in easy-to-digest 60-second chunks. Die-hard Tudor history fans don’t, of course, need these videos, but I hope they act as introductions to newbies or students.

My first seven videos were on the Tudor dynasty and Tudor monarchs, and then I moved on to queen consorts, covering Elizabeth of York, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour. You can catch them on the 60 Second History playlist of the Anne Boleyn Files YouTube channel.

Here is the latest video. I hope you enjoy it.

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11 thoughts on “60 second history – Anne of Cleves”
    1. I have little felt dolls of Henry and his six wives and then I have Peggy Nisbet dolls of Henry, his six wives, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I. I love my Tudor nick-nacks!

      1. I think there cute, years ago I bought a tiny scented cushion from Hatfield House as a souvenir in the shape of Elizabeth 1st, I still have it amongst my undies.

  1. Not on topic, but…

    Did you cut your hair, or just pull it back? In either event, it’s really cute!

    Love your website — happy lurker.

  2. Now for on-topic —

    Anne of Cleaves has always been my favorite of the Wives. I read Karen Lindsey’s book “Divorced, Beheaded, Survived” many years ago and thought it was by far the most logical account. It just does not seem logical to me that Holbein would have “prettied up” the portrait when he knew so much was riding on it. My personal opinion is that Anne, a pretty 24-year old, and Henry just did not “click” because she was not raised in the same courtly tradition or have the skill set that he expected of a consort, and Henry was being true to self in that he blamed her. I admire her sagacity very much!

    1. She’s my second favourite and I agree with you, plus I feel that Henry just couldn’t get over the humiliation of their first meeting.

  3. Anne was considered gracious and fair by everyone else in England who saw her and was described as a benevolent Queen by a foreign observer. It was the fact that she found the dog baiting more interesting than him and didn’t recognise him when he came to Rochester in disguise which put him of. I think he was angry and embarrassed, then nothing happened on the wedding night and Henry made up every excuse possible in order to escape the marriage. He went out of his way to publicly make her feel at home and was gracious when with her and they got on fine after the annulment. Henry just didn’t have a sexual attraction to her and she possibly didn’t find him all that attractive either. Anne of Cleves is someone I find attractive as a person, was more intelligent than some of his other wives as she said yes to an annulment and even if she had little choice and maybe felt humiliation at the failure of the marriage, she made the best of it, chose to remain in England and did alright with money and castles. She was treated with royal honour and buried in Westminster Abbey as a real Queen.

  4. I’m not sure if it was the disastrous meeting that turned Henry of her though he at times did behave like a petulant schoolboy, Henry could be cheerful one minute and grumpy the next, and after some wine I’m sure he would have soon made light of it, I think there was more to it than that, although Holbein was noted for his accuracy he may have made Anne look a bit prettier, and one observer who met her before he did commented that he did not think Henry
    would like her very much, there are some reports that she had bad skin and Henry grumbled that she stunk, possibly a reference to the frankfurters, there is another painting by her which shows a sharp faced woman with a pointed nose and in this one she does not resemble Holbeins portrait at all, was this picture more accurate? Maybe he did not fancy foreign women much being used to fair skinned English women, also her style of dress was unbecoming and she couldn’t speak much English, perhaps her unfamiliar accent jarred on him, she came from a stiff German court which was not noted for its sophistication, so unlike the French English and Burgundian courts, her mother had not bothered to have her taught how to dance and play music and so she had no social skills whatsoever, she knew nothing of courtly love and was totally unprepared for the vibrant glittering court of Henry V111, she must have seemed like a sparrow amongst the peacocks, however they were duly wed and what happened that night is just as much a mystery as Katherine Of Aragons was with Arthur, Anne was a total innocent, she thought that by Henry kissing her she would get pregnant, she had no knowledge of what happened between men and women and Henry must have found that a bit embarrassing himself, he told his doctor he was still having wet dreams but he just could not do the deed with her, another woman yes, but he just did not fancy her, poor Anne must have known he was displeased with her, he made excuses not to be with her and the times they were together must have been awkward, she did not know that people were gossiping about her behind her back must she must have sensed something was not right, her husband was then cavorting around with one of her maids Catherine Howard, she agreed to have her marriage annulled on the grounds that she had a pre contract and was given some money a pension, several fine houses and was to be known as the Kings dearest sister, we don’t really know how she felt but I think she knew she was backed into a corner and daren’t raise a dispute about it, she knew what had happened with his first three wives, indeed Henry had had his proposal of marriage turned down by quite a few of the European nobility, it was said her brother wanted her out of his hair so he agreed that she would accept Henry, we all know of Henrys aversion to her but we don’t know what she thought of him, Henry still liked to think of himself as a love god but what did Anne make of him? Here was not the golden prince of legend but an overweight jowly man with red thinning hair and who walked with a limp, hardly the dashing bridegroom! We have some hint of how she felt when after Catherine’s execution she is said to remarked that she hoped Henry would take her back, I think she was deeply disappointed that she had lost Englands crown, she must have been excited when the marriage arrangements were made and she left her country to travel to England, then she was left abandoned and after marrying within a few months she was being asked to agree to an anullment, she had been proud to be queen and now she was being asked if she would care to be his sister, bit of a let down but she agreed and was comfortably well of, she was invited to court and she was friends with his new queen and Henry grew quite fond of her, Anne could have given Henry a son or two but he had such an aversion to her which was a shame, he preferred the young and fascinating Catherine Howard yet that ended In disaster, and in fact Anne who was married for such a short length of time and to whom he had found so ghastly out lived all his wives including himself, yet she died quite young but her stepdaughters were both very fond of her and she was given a grand funeral and now lies in Westminster Abbey amongst the dead kings and queens, her husband had rejected her as queen but she lies in their company which is surely an honour in itself, during her time in England she grew very popular being a prudent wise and affectionate woman, her servants all loved her and it was said years afterwards that she was remembered fondly by all who knew her, proof that beauty is only skin deep.

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