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

On the 9th July 1540, just over six months after their wedding, it was declared that the marriage of King Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves was null and void, and that both parties were free to marry again.

The process of “nullity of the marriage” is recorded in Letters and Papers. It records how convocation met on the 7th July, in the chapter house of St. Peter’s, Westminster, and that it opened with Richard Gwent presenting “the King’s letters of commission under the Great Seal addressed to the archbishops and clergy, which were then read by Ant. Husey, notary public, in presence of Thos. Argall, notary public”. It was then agreed that the commission could go ahead and Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, “explained the causes of the nullity of the marriage of the King and lady Anne of Cleves in a lucid speech”.

The clergy of the lower house left the proceedings after it was decreed that “the two Archbishops, the bps. of London, Durham, Winchester, and Worcester, and Ric. Gwent, Thos. Thirleby, Thos. Incent, Edw. Leighton, and Thos. Robertson, Ric. Layton, and Wm. Ryvett, doctors of Theology and Law, and Thos. Magnus, archd. of the East Riding, should receive and weigh all the evidences in the case and explain them to the Convocation”. Depositions were then taken from ” Thos. lord Audeley, Chancellor, Thos. duke of Norfolk, Charles duke of Suffolk, Wm. earl of Southampton, Privy Seal, John lord Russell, Great Admiral, Sir Ant. Browne, master of the Horse, knights of the Garter; and of George lord Cobham, Sir Thos. Henneage, Sir Thos. Wryothesley, King’s secretary, Ant. Denny, and Wm. Butt, M.D” as witnesses, and on the 8th July convocation reassembled to hear the evidence. It was agreed that Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves “were nowise bound by the marriage solemnised between them” and on the 9th July letters were drawn up containing convocation’s judgement:

“The clergy of both provinces have received the King’s commission (recited), dated Westm., 6 July 32 Hen. VIII. After mature deliberation, they have found the marriage 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. Westm., 9 July 1540.”

The King’s fourth marriage was over and he was free to marry again. Henry VIII married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, on 28th July 1540.

You can read more about Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves in my article “Henry VIII Divorces Anne of Cleves”.

Also on this day in history…

  • 1553 – Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, preached at St Paul’s Cross denouncing Henry VIII’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, as bastards. The congregation were “sore annoyed with his words”.
  • 1553 – The Duke of Northumberland officially informed 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 accepted that she was Queen. See Mary Writes to the Privy Council and Lady Jane Grey is Informed that She is Queen
  • 1553 – Mary (future Mary I) wrote to the privy council stating her claim to the throne and demanding their allegiance.

Notes and Sources

  • LP xv. 860

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5 thoughts on “9 July 1540 – The Annulment of Henry VIII’s Marriage to Anne of Cleves”
  1. Hi Claire,

    Anne of Cleves was probably mortified by the divorce, but hopefully she realized what a close call she might have had–the block!

    And, a question: do you know of a good biography on Anne of Cleves? I have only come across her in the general bios on all six wives, but would like to know a bit more about her.


    1. Hi Mallory,

      This biography of Anne of Cleves looks interesting. I’m waiting impatiently for my copy to arrive.
      Elizabeth Norton,”Anne Of Cleves: Henry VI iii’s Discarded Bride “

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