9 July 1540 – Henry VIII’s Marriage to Anne of Cleves Annulled

Jul9,2011 #Anne of Cleves

Anne of ClevesOn this day in history, 9th July 1540, King Henry VIII’s marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, was declared null “by reason of a precontract between lady Anne and the marquis of Lorraine, that it was unwillingly entered into and never consummated, and that the King is at liberty to marry another woman, and likewise the lady Anne free to marry.”1

It was convocation who ruled on the marriage, after hearing a “lucid speech” from Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and hearing from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the bishops of London, Durham, Winchester and Worcester, and doctors of theology and law, who had weighed up all the evidence of the case.

You can read further details on Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne of Cleves, and the subsequent annulment, in “Henry VIII Divorces Anne of Cleves”.

Also on this day in history:-

  • 9th July 1553 – Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, preaches at St Paul’s Cross denouncing Henry VIII’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, as bastards. The congregation were “sore annoyed with his words”2.
  • 9th July 1553 – The Duke of Northumberland officially informs Lady Jane Grey of Edward VI’s death in front of the Council and nobles, going on to explain the terms of Edward’s will which named Lady Jane Grey as the heir to the throne. Lady Jane Grey accepts that she is Queen.

Notes and Sources

  1. LP xv.860 – see LP xv. 860 and 861 for the full records of the meetings of convocation in July 1540.
  2. The Sisters Who Would Be Queen, Leanda de Lisle, p110-111

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22 thoughts on “9 July 1540 – Henry VIII’s Marriage to Anne of Cleves Annulled”
  1. Out of all the six wives, to me she faired the best. A handsom divorce settlement, still invited to court for visits and special occasions, pretty much free to do as she pleased, and more important, her life…. she seems to be far from the uneducated, frumpy fraulein she is portrayed as in the past. She was one smart cookie, Henry’s loss was her gain, well done. I congratulate you. 🙂

  2. I agree, Dawn. She is the one who got away. And I think she seemed to really enjoy her life in England with no problems living the single life–which is an interesting example for the young Elizabeth to have seen. I wish we had another picture of her–I think she looks quite nice in the one I’ve seen.

    1. I personally think she was more attractive than Jane Seymore, and like you say if we had portraits of her, in the more refine english/french fashion of dress, instead of the ‘heavier’ fashion in the picture and a less constrictive head dress I think it would have enhanced and softened her attractiveness more. Because when you look close she has a very kind face. With her large divorce settlement its a wonder she never had portraits done of herself, or maybe she did and they are lost. Shame, it would be nice to banish the myth once and for all that she was ugly wouldn’t it.

  3. There’s an interesting theory about the painting in Derek Wilson’s “Holbein – Portrait of an unknown man”, which claims that Holbein sometimes put puns and little hidden messages into his paintings that referred to his sitters. The Anne of Cleves portrait contains one which pertains to the fact that the skirt has no vertical gold band on one side. Wilson suggests this may be a coded message to Cromwell that he and Henry might not find Anne as he’d expected. Could this also explain why the artist wasn’t caught up in any fallout? This would also indicate that there was an awareness that Henry night not find his bride quite to his taste. He points out some interesting differences in the way that Holbein depicted Christina of Denmark and Anne too. My guess would be that Henry had been sold a vision of Anne (for political reasons) that wasn’t matching the reality. To use a modern comparison, imagine going internet dating and locating an athletic Brad Pitt or Megan Fox-a-like, and finding yourself meeting a portly librarian – perfectly acceptable maybe, but not what you expected. My feeling is that Anne was more attractive and intelligent than she’s been given credit for – she just wasn’t Henry’s type, and may not have been the “eye candy” that he felt befitted a Queen. It would be nice if a decent portrait turned up somewhere – but you could say that about a lot of Tudor people…!

    1. Ha ha, the comment on internet dating… bet that happens more often than not! Interesting theory on the painting though. I have read, also that Holbein, himself, had a soft spot for Anne, and being attracted to her, used ‘rose tinted glasses’ when painting her, but that wouldn’t let him off the hook with the King would it. I personally think that it was more to do with her lack of refinement, and lack of knowledge of court life in a new country. She didn’t dance, sing, play music, and as far as I know didn’t take part in sports, some of these things she learnt after arriving in England. it really was an error of her family not preparing the poor lady correctly. Still think she was far from ugly, and more attractive than Jane, but as they say ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ 🙂

      1. Dawn, my understanding of it from what i’ve read is that Henry’s advisors and the court at Cleves were desperately keen for the match to happen, almost at any price (Cleves probably couldn’t believe his luck that one of Europe’s most powerful men had come calling…). In order for both sides to get the marriage on, she had to appeal to Henry, so Holbein was in the invidious position of either risking everything with Henry by painting a false picture of his “dream woman”, or incurring the wrath of both sides by painting Anne as she was. That’s why the dress and jewellery is extremely ornate, but there is very little detail in the face by Holbein’s standards. The portrait of Christina of Denmark is the precise total opposite. Essentially, Holbein deliberately fudged the painting by concentrating totally on the dress and not Anne’s face in order to protect himself. Hence the possible coded message. I seem to remember reading somewhere (sorry, can’t remember where), that the Cleves women had never been raised to be educated, socially adept or refined in any way, and if they were caught unaware by Henry’s interest, then that might explain why Anne wasn’t prepared. Maybe someone can shed some light on this. Even if she wasn’t particularly well educated, Anne was obviously pretty smart…

        1. Yes I have also read that the Cleeve sisters were kept very close to Mother who was very strict, and their education very basic, having nothing to do with the polictics of their own court, their social life was very restricted, bordering on none exsistance. No wonder she didn’t want to go back home after the divorce…All they must have done is sew!! She was meant to have been an excellent needle woman. Did her sister ever marry do you know? or was she left a spinster, a lonely one at that with Anne gone.

  4. Like most things, Cleves is outside my sphere of knowledge Dawn! However, as far as i can tell, Sybille was definitely married, but Amelia never did. There are portraits by Cranach of Sybile, but the Holbein drawing supposedly of Amelia almost certainly isn’t, so between them they don’t shed much light on Anne’s appearance. Just to throw in a piece of idle speculation of my own, Sybille is portrayed as having gorgeously fiery red hair in her marriage portrait at the age of 14; perhaps (although i’m not aware of any mention of it) Anne had the same colouring and Henry preferred brunettes? It would add a new dimension to Holbein’s portrait if you imagine Anne as a redhead.

    1. I have seen that portrait you mentioned of Sybille, her hair did seem very luxorious and red!! I have always read that Anne was fair (blonde), but then I have read that she was mousey and wore wigs, so who knows for sure…If she was a red head I would have thought that may have been a plus with ole Henry beening as he was one too, but he changed his mind as quick as he changed his wifes’ ha ha….hey and don’t under estimate your knowledge either, we all learn off each other, and we all have things to offer that others didn’t know thats what makes this site so interesting and vibrant.

      1. Thanks for the encouragement Dawn. I didn’t study history at school, (2 years of the industrial revolution didn’t appeal…) so i’ve been a bit selective in my interests. The face Holbein painted is so vague by his standards, there may well be other portraits that have gone unrecognised (could Cranach have painted all the sisters for instance?). Then add in the number of known or likely portraits that are unaccounted for, and the vast numbers of artworks that went “missing” during the war, and there may well be an unrecognised portrait out there somewhere. If i may point you towards the portrait section of the “some Grey matter” website (assuming you haven’t already found it), there’s some interesting analysis and comment on portraits being incorrectly identified. I’m fascinated about the existance of a full length Anne Boleyn portrait (now apparently unaccounted for) mentioned on another thread too… I always like to put an (accurate) face to a name…!

        1. No, Andy, didn’t know about that site, but I will certainly be having a look now, thanks for the tip… I did do history at school, but even though I found it ok, it was pretty staid, and as you say mainly aimed at Vicorian era and wars, which the latter appealed to the lads more than us girls. My interest with this period started as a girl I watched the Six wives of Henry VIII in 1970, and always showed a preference to Anne.B. she fascinated me from the beginning. I dont study it as such, but read a lot and when I lived down south visited many castles etc connected with the period, my other passion is gardening, and have enough garden with this new house to plant a knot garden, from stratch, just done 500 box hedge cuttings, will take a few years to get going, so wish me luck… ha ha 🙂

  5. All that gardening sounds too much like hard work to me, Dawn; BIG luck with that!
    I got interested looking around the National Gallery and the NPG. Seeing the royal portraits made me realise i knew cod all about my country, and seeing Delaroche’s Execution of Lady Jane Grey made me wonder “what was that about?”. So i read up on her, and people of that era in general. LJG seems to be becoming proof that what you thought you knew was probably wrong… Have just read Joanna Denny’s biog of Anne Boleyn, hence the re-discovery of this site. I’ve been fascinated for ages as to who a lot of Holbein’s drawings actually depict, as so many people crop up in various events, and so many drawings seem to be misidentified. Faces to names again… I’m sure some of the unidentified people are probably in fact quite well known – but i doubt we’ll find out for certain.

    1. Yes a lot of these paintings are mysteries waiting to be solved, so keep at it Andy you may be the one that does it for some of them. I wonder if there was any other hidden messages in Holbein’s paintings, like you suggested there was in Anne of Cleves… if there were they could lead to some answers.

  6. A prime example of what Derek Wilson refers to, Dawn, is Holbeins “Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling”. Recently, this has been tentatively identified as Anne Lovell. The Lovells had Squirrels on their coat of arms, and a house in East Harling; hence the Squirrel and a Starling… Gets a bit like “Catchphrase” trying to match up the symbols you can see, and the people, i should think!

    1. Wow you are full of fasinating things on Holbein’s paintings, Andy, you should ask Claire if you can write an article for the site , it would be so interesting..

      1. Dawn, trust me – it wouldn’t! (But deepest thanks for your compliment.)
        It’s all a question of reading the right books and visiting the right websites… I just leave the research to the experts, read about it afterwards and share anything of relevance!

        1. Well thats like me, leave the hard work to the historians, and enjoy their finds through books and documentaries, best of both worlds eh!! 🙂

  7. Can’t beat an easy life Dawn!
    I quite admire historians in a strange way… i can’t imagine the drudgery of ploughing through some long ignored document in Latin or old English, to find the single gem of information they need. No wonder some of them seem a bit… eccentric.

  8. Andy and Dawn, seems like a relationship at the A B files true or not? Maynot be ,but if so Best Wishes. Also good read between you both,just as good as some of the reads on the A B files.How sweet!

    1. Cheeky!! 🙂
      Oh no!! I have been with the same man for 32 years, I am to old to be bothered to train a new one now haha… No it was just two people having a long chat over an interesting subject, I haven’t noticed Andy on A B Files since, which is a shame as he was nice, and very informative in a modest way.
      Sooo, no more match-making my lady Baroness Von Reis….. 🙂 Have a good new year.

  9. Dawn know offence, I agree I am a very Haapily married women The Baron Von Reis is a wonerfull man also well trained,not match making in the least but that would of been a very Tudor thing and I think it would have been cute. Kind regards Baroness Von Reis

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