9 July 1540 – Anne of Cleves is no longer queen

On this day in history, 9th July 1540, convocation declared that Anne of Cleves’ marriage to King Henry VIII was null and void and that both parties were free to marry again.

While the twenty-four-year-old Anne never did remarry, her forty-nine-year-old former husband wasted no time taking another wife, wife number five. On 28th July 1540, just over six months after his marriage to Anne of Cleves and just nineteen days after the annulment had been declared, Henry VIII married Anne’s former maid of honour, Catherine Howard.

Click here to read more about the end of Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves.

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19 thoughts on “9 July 1540 – Anne of Cleves is no longer queen”
  1. In just two weeks of beheading Anne Boleyn Henry married Jame Seymour, and now in just over two weeks of his fourth marriage being annulled he married Catherine Howard, no wonder this late King of ours continues to hold our interest and invite controversy, no other King had ever behaved the way he did before and after, at the same time Henry himself must have been getting increasingly desperate to have more sons, this I believe was the reason for him marrying Catherine Howard, he must have had doubts over his own fertility and had he had several hearty sons I doubt he would have bothered to have got married at all after Jane Seymour’s death, that said it I think he was the type of man who loved to be married, he liked to think of having his queen waiting for him in the bedchamber even though he could take mistresses at will, by now he must have known he was not the same man he had been ten years before when many women were all to willing to jump into bed with him, Anne must have felt humiliated after all, she had come to England expecting to be her queen and she had been ignored by Henry most of the time, she had heard rumours of Catherine Howard and her husband and when they were wed, she realised they were true, so her one time maid was now her mistress, the roles were reversed! It was a strange set up of affairs, one contemporary of the court said of Henry, ‘ what a man the King is, how many wives will he have?’ So Henry wed wife number five and Anne feeling no doubt somewhat bemused by the whole affair, maybe struggling with a sense of loss and indignity had to accept the situation, the broken ring she presented to Henry speaks volumes of her true feelings, she felt hurt and betrayed, every woman would have felt the same, it was a serious dent to her ego and although she enjoyed a peaceful happy existence after, she must at times have felt like a wounded animal, she had in a sense been tossed aside like an old shoe whilst her one time maid enjoyed all the honours that should have been hers, after her execution she still hoped the King would take her back, which shows how much she had regretted having her marriage annulled, but she was never to enjoy the privilege of being her adopted country’s queen, that terrible role fell to Catherine Parr who reluctantly accepted Henrys offer of marriage whilst holding a candle for that rogue Thomas Seymour, Anne Of Cleves has gone down in history as the queen who Henry V111 abhorred and discarded, yet after a time they became good friends and she was often at court, he realised that she was a pleasant amiable woman of good sense and his children were very fond of her, good marriage material yet that was not enough for Henry, as indeed for men the world over there has to be sexual attraction to, so now wife number four was out of the way and England had another queen, wife number five, who would soon become consigned to history as Henrys second executed queen.

  2. Reading Claire’s piece here on Anne, it just struck me that Henry was actually quite naive sexually, was’t he? He needed an heir. That was his modus operandi? And here is the genuine article in Anne of Cleves whom Henry seems to have thought was no virgin and he’s in thrall with the young Catherine, who really isn’t at all innocent and even quite the reverse. One wonders what modern men would make of such an elemental mistake.
    Perhaps then, maybe, something else drove Henry from Anne to Catherine. One idea may be that Henry needed to be ‘in love, romantically in love’ with his partner: another may be that his impotence demanded some kind of titillation which the sexually mature Catherine recognised and supplied?

    1. I think when Henry said he did not believe Anne was not a virgin was just a way of getting himself off the hook because he was unable to have sex with her, he confessed to his doctors he was still having wet dreams and would have no problem sleeping with another woman yet not with her, he complained about her slack breasts and that she stunk, wether she did have bad body odour we don’t know but Henry was very fastidious and washed and bathed quite regurlaly, no doubt he expected his women to do the same, however there are no other reports that she stunk so Henry could just have spread that tale around, I think Globerose is correct with her notion that Henry needed to be in love with his wife, he was the only King in history to have married his mistress, the marriages of kings were based on important dynastic issues and keeping allies not on airy fairy notions of love, in this we see Henrys chivalric side, he compared himself to King Arthur who wed the beautiful but faithless Guinevere, he loved to dress up almost childishly and go amongst his people, then declare he ws the King and take delight in their awed surprise, this was apparent when he chose to go incognito to greet the unsuspecting Anne Of Cleves, it was a disaster, she had no idea who he was but why should she? She had no idea of his delight in such pranks and it must have been highly embarrassing for not just him but everyone concerned, with Catherine Howard everyone noted he was very amorous towards her more than he had been towards his other wives so obviously he had no problem there, however his fertility levels were dropping quite drastically as Catherine never became pregnant and he must have slept with her quite a lot.

      1. Anne was, according to Chapuys, of medium beauty, and statuesque-Henry had a taste for smaller, slender women. He may not have liked the smell of her soap for all we know. She came from a Court where female vanity was not encouraged, so she may not have used perfume, and her soap may have been very plain. In an age before deodorant, that might result in undisguised body odor, even with daily washing. ALternately, she may have, in fact, used a perfume he did not like. Chapuys did not have anything bad to say about her, which is interesting, as her brother was a Lutheran, as she was supposed to be(situation is actually a bit more complicated as her mother was Catholic).
        I still think Henry panicked on realizing he was expected to bed a stranger with whom he shared no common language or other ground. He already had E.D. issues and this finished him, at least for her.

  3. I don’t buy all of Henry’s excuses about Anne of Cleves, nor did he really believe she was ugly and the Flanders Mare thing is a seventeenth construct from an even later account. Anne was hardly interested in him when they first met, more like the dog bait she was watching and in he waddled dressed in disguise and she was supposed to see him and fall in love and worship him as His Majesty. Henry forgot one important thing: he wasn’t a young man anymore. He expected Anne to pick him out and love to blossom but it all went wrong. Anne didn’t pick him out and he only returned to visit her as a courtesy. He kissed her and she wasn’t impressed with his bad manners being too forward. Henry had some conversation, asking how things were for her and then left. At their official meeting he greeted Anne with every effort to make her feel at home and was very gracious. They didn’t click in the bedroom and I actually believe they both found faults with each other. Anne had been raised to do her duty but Henry didn’t want this marriage in the first place, hence the annulment partly on the basis of his lack of consent as well as the marriage not being consummated.

    One piece of evidence always cited in the sources is the unlikely conversation between Anne and Lady Bryan which has Anne saying she greets the King with a kiss and every night they bid each other goodnight again with a kiss. In this account Anne is ignorant of the act of sex, but this is probably nonsense and used as part of the King’s case. In the said conversation Lady Bryan says that more is needed for conception and is rather explicit but Anne says this is all she knows and wants to know.

    I really don’t believe Anne of Cleves was ignorant and had some instructions from her mother or other female to prepare her for her wedding night and although a virgin who had been sheltered she must have had some idea what to expect. Henry, however, had his own problems and didn’t find her sexually compatible and had been put off at their first meeting. He didn’t really give the marriage a chance, he made up every insulting excuse to get out of the marriage, he was also not able to physically preform in the bedroom and he just wanted out.

    Anne reluctantly agreed to end the marriage and this brought about a good settlement with several houses and four or five palaces and a good pension. She could also remarry and more or less do as she pleased. She was often at court and was called the King’s Sister. At New Year 1541 she was guest of honour with Henry and Queen Katherine Howard and they all had a good time. Anne sent them four horses as a gift and received a dog from Katherine with whom she danced all night. Anne retained a good relationship with Henry’s children, especially Elizabeth and Mary. Anne showed good sense by her acceptance and intelligence, perhaps more than her unfortunate predecessors. (She was watched of course, but she was also free). She appeared to blossom after the annulment by enjoying travel in England, music, cards and she was widely respected. Anne did, however, see herself as Henry’s true wife, especially when he married Katherine Parr eighteen months after the execution of Katherine Howard.

    1. Yes when I was at school and my history teacher taught us about Henry V111 and his unfortunate wives she mentioned the Flanders mare story, yet after reading a biography of Henry many years later the author confirmed it was a myth, like Marie Antionette and her ‘let them eat cake’ story, how myths arise like that I will never know but yes Henry did run poor Anne down quite a bit, obviously to garner sympathy from everyone, as mentioned he said she smelt but no one else said she did, I think he had fallen in love with Holbeins portrait and when he met her in the flesh he realised she was not really like that, she was supposed to have had smallpox early in her youth which had left her skin a bit scarred, maybe the artist had airbrushed her a bit, (the modern term we use today) certainly she looks fine enough in her portrait but I believe Henry had imagined an ideal and had come to believe it, therefore the reality had come as a shock, we know he was furious with Cromwell who had been responsible for his fourth marriage how did he feel about his master painter? I can well believe Holbein kept out of the way throughout the whole proceedings, I bet everyone tried to avoid the King at this time, he must have been glowering like a grizzly bear snapping at everyone, however Cromwell did manage to extricate him out of the ghastly union by discovering his brides pre contract with an old suitor so job well done! But it was not enough for Henry who now had it in for his evil genius and Cromwell was now on the way to his own doom.

      1. I think your comment about Holbein is really interesting. If I recall correctly, Henry continued to use Holbein as official court painter even after the Anne of Cleves debacle. If that’s true, he could not have been TOO angry with him. That makes me think the portrait was actually enough like her that even Henry could not say he had been misled by Holbein. (I think Karen Lindsey raises this point in her book “Divorced, Beheaded, Survived” — but I haven’t read it in years and my memory is probably failing.)

        1. Henry seems to have put all of his anger into the arch villien as he saw it, Thomas Cromwell who as you know lost his head for a variety of reasons, partly this, partly made up charges of heresy and treason, partly his enemies came up with a good story to set him up and partly because some of it was to do with his connection to the Protestant League. I have read he had a good moan at everyone, his council, himself, his friends, but he didn’t punish the Ambassadors or Hans Holbein and he did retain his services. He probably had a moan about the portrait, but he doesn’t seem to have done anything about it or directly said anything against Holbein. It was all blamed on one man: Thomas Cromwell, which is a bit unfair as when Cromwell reported news of Anne to Henry he reportedly what had been told to him in letters from those who went out to Germany to look at and arrange the marriage in the first place. Everyone else found Anne of Cleves very different to Henry and we know this because it was one of his complaints. Forgive me, this isn’t an exact quote and I don’t have the exact reference to hand but Henry said something like: “I have been poorly handled, she is not as others have reported her to be”. Anne was highly praised by many people who saw her and found her pleasant and fair. In the end, Henry admitted he liked after all, but of course she wasn’t in his bed. I think Holbein was diplomatic and made a good image but used a technique to enhance her better qualities. I believe Karen Lindsey is correct, Henry probably didn’t feel misled by Holbein. Henry probably didn’t feel misled by anyone but his own over excitement. His ideas of romance had fallen short and he felt and behaved like a fool, blaming everyone but himself, moaning he had been deceived and putting all the blame on Cromwell. I think Christine is right, he was like a grizzly bear for a time, definitely with a sore head, and everyone, including Holbein probably kept out of his way.

          You never know but his romance with the young and beautiful Katherine Howard which he had been conducting since about March 1541, with whom he was now deeply in love and crazy about, might just have been the thing which mellowed him out and stopped him from getting too angry with everyone else. His council went out of their way to get him out of his predicament but Cromwell, who did provide testimony, got the full wrath of an unhappy King.

        2. Hi Lou, your correct about Holbein still being in Henrys employ, he admired the man very much and we can see why, his genius is in the wonderful paintings that hang now in the worlds most famous art galleries, no doubt he done a fair amount of grumbling at him but the blame was laid squarely on Cromwells shoulders, he had masterminded the wedding after all.

  4. Incidentally The Private Life Of Henry V111 was on tv a few days ago and I missed the beginning but saw the bit where he was about to marry Anne Of Cleves, Charles Laughton was almost comical as the King and it showed their subsequent anullment and his marriage to Catherine Howard, the film is so old you hear the interference and I had to have the volume right up, it was obviously in black and white which was a shame as the colours would have been so sumptuous, it showed Henry sobbing when he learnt of Catherine’s betrayal and it was hard not to feel sorry for him, then it portrayed Catherine Parr as a right old bossy boots telling Henry when he had to rest and he couldn’t do this and he couldn’t eat that, tv called the film a drama yet it had a sense of fun to it, it started with the execution of Anne Boleyn, played by the stunning Merle Oberon and you only saw a few minutes of her as she walked to her doom therefore Katherine Of Aragon wasn’t in it at all and I felt that was unfair, those first two wives of Henry V111 were the most important, in my eyes anyway, Katherine for being the longest wed and Anne for causing all the upheaval she did, enjoyable movie tho.

    1. I love that film, probably because it’s more like a dark comedy, especially when Henry is sneaking about the castle to try and see Katherine Howard in secret and the guards keep shouting to announce him and he puts his hand over one of them to keep him quiet. I have it on a DVD or Video somewhere. Absolutely love it and it’s a pity we don’t see more of Anne Boleyn with Merle Oberon, who is so lovely. I love the collection of myths in the film, the throwing over the shoulder of the bones, Katherine Parr the nurse maid but oh what a classic.

      I have no idea where the Flanders Mare came from but it is definitely a late seventeenth century account and it made its way into eighteenth century romance. But well, Henry did enough damage and said the poor lady smelt and wasn’t a maid. Really? Her brother had them cover their faces when the Ambassadors arrived. She may have been taught about her duty as a wife, but her virtue was kept under lock and key. Holbein probably did a good job but he also painted her frontal onwards which can hide certain features, giving what impressions you wish. She is almost a blank canvas and Henry filled in the blanks. However, it is still considered a fair likeness and she wasn’t described in poor terms so must have been good looking and the Ambassador who thought she was thirty or forty needed glasses. As one historian on telly recently commented, probably rather harshly as it wasn’t his fault, there was someone in the room who was smelly and had other problems, not Anne but Henry Viii. Henry may have been able hide his leg to the Court but his wife was unable to miss it. I think they both got out of a bad situation and were better off because of it.

      1. Yes Charles Laughton was like a big kid it certainly was an hilarious film, another film I couldn’t stop laughing at was one made about Charles and Diana, it showed the entire royal family with the queen mum in her fussy hats and Charles wandering round his garden telling Diana of his plans to grow rhubarb, it showed Anne with her horses and really it wasn’t supposed to be funny but my family laughed so much our stomach’s ached.

    2. I love that film, especially the wonderful Elsa Lanchester (wasn’t she Mrs. Laughton?) as Anne of Cleves. The best part is when they are playing cards on their wedding night, he’s losing and wants her to take an IOU, and she flips her braids, rolls up her sleeves, and says “I play for cash.” Never happened, of course, but it’s a great scene.

      1. Ha ha yes that’s the bit I saw and your right, she was married to Charles Laughton, a lot of youngsters these days don’t know the old film stars but they were truly wonderful, I loved Flora Robson as Queen Elizabeth but I cannot remember the title of the film, but she was very majestic.

        1. Flora Robson was Queen Elizabeth twice …. in “Fire Over England” with a young Olivier (and a pre-GWTW Vivian Leigh as his love interest) and in the “Sea Hawk” with Errol Flynn.

        2. That’s it Esther thank you, ‘The Sea Hawk’ that’s what I couldn’t think of, Flora made a very good Queen Bess, icily regal and and very firm, the role of playing queens suited her, she also played the queen of hearts in Alice In Wonderland, wonderful actress.

      2. Christine, as a movie buff you might appreciated this. According to George MacDonald Fraser, Flora Robson had a great sense of humor. At the end of “The Sea Hawk”, Queen Elizabeth in all her majesty is supposed to interrupt a duel between Errol Flynn’s character and a traitor, giving Flynn the chance to tell her of the plot against England. On something like the 12th take, Ms. Robson made her entrance, clapping her hands and saying briskly “All right now, break it up, lads, break it up…” and reduced the director (Michael Curtiz) to tears.

        1. Thankyou Lou, I should imagine on movie sets many actors had a great laugh, I know Bette Davis in ‘The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex’ was not pleased at having Errol as her screen partner, she wanted Olivier and she didn’t get on well at all with Flynn, rather surprisingly since he was a well known womaniser and many women found him irresistible, but Davis just did not like him, these long dead monarchs of ours had no idea their lives would be played out on screen and stage hundreds of years later, I wonder what they would have made of the great actors who played them, this afternoon I watched ‘Nell Gynn’ and Sir Cedric Hardwicke was King Charles and Anna Neagle was the infamous orange seller, that’s another King I find fascinating, it to was a very old film as you can imagine, the actors being in their graves for many years now, I loved it to but that was in black and white but still enjoyable to watch.

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