Anne of Cleves Arrives in England

Dec27,2010 #Anne of Cleves

On this day in history, 27th December 1539, Anne of Cleves landed at Deal in Kent. Anne was to be Henry VIII’s fourth wife and their marriage was agreed by a treaty in September 1539. Henry had never laid eyes on Anne but instead, had commissioned his court artist, Hans Holbein, to paint her. The portrait was described as a good likeness of Anne and Henry was happy to commit to the marriage, which would see England forming an alliance with the Schmalkaldic League.

When Anne of Cleves landed at Deal at 5pm on 27th December 1539, she was met by Sir Thomas Cheyne and taken to Deal Castle to rest after her long journey. There, she was visited by the Duke of Suffolk and his wife, Catherine Willoughby, the Bishop of Chichester and various knights and ladies. She was informed that she would be meeting the King, her future husband, at Greenwich Palace at a formal reception in a few days time, but she was to be taken by surprise.

On New Year’s Day 1540, while Anne was resting at Rochester before travelling on to London, an excited Henry VIII turned up. Henry, the impatient and hopeless romantic, just couldn’t wait for his bride to arrive in London and was desperate to see the woman from the portrait, so he decided to follow the chivalric tradition of meeting his future bride in disguise. Tradition said that the love between them would be so strong that Anne would see through his disguise and recognise her future husband, however, as Elizabeth Norton points out, Henry should have learned from the disastrous meeting between his great-uncle, Henry VI, and his bride, Margaret of Anjou!

Henry VIII arrived at Rochester on 1st January 1540 and sent his attendant, Sir Anthony Browne, ahead of him to tell Anne that he had been sent by the King with a New Year’s gift for her. Browne told Anne and then Henry, in disguise as a lowly servant, entered the room. Anne was not paying much attention to this servant, as she was watching bull-baiting out of the window, so Henry pulled her towards him in an embrace and tried to kiss her. Anne was obviously shocked at such behaviour from a servant, so obviously did not respond to his advances and Henry’s dreams of her seeing through his disguise and falling into his arms lay shattered. The meeting was a complete disaster and the King was humiliated. It was not a good start and Henry decided he did not want to marry this woman. Unfortunately, there was nothing that could be done without offending Anne’s brother, the Duke of Cleves, so the marriage went ahead but only lasted until July 1540, just 6 months. Anne of Cleves was lucky, she kept her head, was given a generous settlement and was allowed to continue seeing Henry’s children. She became known as “The King’s Sister”.

You can read more about Anne of Cleves in the following articles:-


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25 thoughts on “Anne of Cleves Arrives in England”
  1. Anne of Cleves: the survivor. While her arrivial in England was a disaster (mainly because of Henry), her astute intelligence and kindness won over the English people, court, and finally Henry. She was the lucky one: Henry did not want her, she complied, and won his respect in the process. For me, she’s the kindness of Henry’s wives, since she loved all Henry’s children, and did not use them for her own political gain. What a wonderful wife and mother she could have been.
    For me, Anne of Cleves is often the forgotten wife, and I’m glad Elizabeth Norton has taken the time to write a biography about her. Anne is a women who should be admired. Frankly, she ranks next to Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr as one of my favourite wives.
    I hope in the future historians view Anne of Cleves through a different lens and see her not as the “Flanders mare,” but a women who survived the one of the most dangerous courts in England with intellienge, grace, and kindness.

  2. I love Anne of Cleves, too, for her practicality and good sense. If some of the other wives had been as sensible as she, their lives would have been as happy has hers. She had it all – honor, prestige, autonomy, wealth, and respect. *And* she didn’t have to wake up to Henry’s face on the pillow next to her in the morning.

  3. I agree. She didn’t fight to stay Queen like KOA or AB, she accepted the title of Sister. And loved all of his children and didn’t use them @ all like Catherine Parr did to Edward, atleast as it said Catherine did in the book “Katherine the Queen”

  4. I like, admire and respect Anne of Cleves. She was a good woman. There is a pub some miles from use called “The Queen’s Head”, and it’s Holbein’s Anne pictured. I think to have Anne pictured is quite unusual in the UK, and I wonder if she had dowry lands in and around Fowlmere in Cambridgeshire.








    1. Geoff, I assume you are speaking to my post about Anne of Cleves being a survivor, so let me clarify my point.
      First, I am well aware of the fate of all of Henry’s wives, and need not be reminded about them. Second, I know Anne of Cleves was divorced from Henry VIII. Third, I am refering to Anne’s life: surviving the Tudor court, sexual politics, and shifting balances of power. I am not simply speaking about her marriage to Henry. But, of her ability to stay alive, long into old age, and escape the pitfalls of Tudor politics.
      Frankly, the rhyme about Henry’s wives presents some misnomers anyway. Katherine Parr may have survived Henry, but she certainly did not survive sex, marriage, and childbirth. Unlike Anne of Cleves, Katherine Parr did not life out her natural life. Also, there is some debate I’ve read about the refering to the correct usage of divorce in the rhyme. Since divorce, as we know in the modern era, did not exist, perhap it is not applicable her either.
      I hope this claifies me “going all over the place with Henry VIII’s wives.”

    2. I think Claire is using notable dates in H8’s wives lives rather than a chronology based on who was married in order.

    3. Hi Geoff,
      Please can you clarify what you mean by “IT SEEMS YOU ARE GOING ALL OVER THE PLACE WITH HENRY V111′S SIX WIVES” as I’m not sure whether that is aimed at me or someone else. I think we’re all aware of what happened to Henry VIII’s wives as we are all Tudor history fans. This article is based on the fact that on the 27th December 1539 Anne of Cleves arrived in England so it was one of my “On this day in history” posts. Please let me know what you mean. Thanks.

      1. If you want to be really accurate:-
        Catherine of Aragon – Annulled
        Anne Boleyn – Annulled and executed
        Jane Seymour – Died of natural causes
        Anne of Cleves – Annulled
        Catherine Howard – Executed by Act of Attainder, marriage not annulled
        Catherine Parr – Outlived Henry

        If you consider that an annulment made a marriage null and void, as if a marriage never took place, then Henry probably considered that he only married 3 times, perhaps twice as Catherine H was condemned as a traitor.

        As far as the word “divorce” is concerned, many people use this word interchangeably with “annul”, hence the song about Henry’s wives “Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived”.

        1. I hope my post about Anne of Cleves being a survivor has not offended anyone. I was simply trying to clarify my point after I believed someone took issue with my use of Survivor when describing Anne of Cleves.
          As for my taking issue with the Henry VIII rhyme, it was an attempt to position the inaccuracy of a popular thought about Henry. I was not taking issue with the poem itself, and should have been clearer in my poisition.

        2. Hi Duchess,
          I was replying to Margarita’s correction re annulment and divorce and to Geoff’s comment which I didn’t really understand. I think to call Anne of C a survivor is valid, she was in a precarious position and used her intelligence to come out of the situation with her head intact and held high.

  6. I have always admired Anne of Cleves for her common sense. I cannot imagine being in a foreign country where you cannot even speak the language and then having some strange man break into your room and try to kiss you–a very LARGE man and older, too. Poor Anne. Henry truly was a romantic and never realized his own size and lack of desirability. I saw the old movie YOung Bess starring Charles Laughton as Henry and he was really believable as the king. Neat!

  7. From what I understand Anne of Cleves wanted out of her situation and teh only way to do it was by marrying. In theory, she landed a “big fish” – Okay, both disliked each other on sight – A of C was a practical woman – She didn’t want to return home as she had begun to enjoy living in England so the option of becoming the King’s sister (instead of losing her head literally) plus the dosh – in her case I would have done the same. I am not sure about the conditions in which if she ever married again but probably after the brute of her brother and her husband, it would seem to have been better to live teh life of a singke, but rich, woman. If she had asked my opinion (although I was not around) I would have said “Go for it Gal”

    1. Which, unfortunately, Rose, he didn’t hear and certainly didn’t learn from. I have always been convinced he was “as mad as a hatter” because, if he was also even considering anorther marriage after Katherine Parr – he must have been deranged.

      Out of all his wives, I think Anne of Cleves came out the best – okay a few months of worry but the rest of her life her own. Butof course H8 woukldn’t have seen it that way.

      BTW Happy New year to everyone!

  8. As the Duchess said, I do believe that Anne of Cleves was a survivor as she survived sexual behaviour, marriage and childbirth in Tudor’s age. The pitfalls of Tudor’s politics were also a thing that she survived. She is a woman to be admired by the kindness and politeness.

    I do believe that, at that time, it was very hard to behave in a court which conspiracies were always being planned. Anne of Cleves behave perfectly and kept her head – and as someone said before she was luck as she survived one of the most dangerous courts in all Europe.

    It is only my opinion and I haven’t got the intention to make anyone angry or dissapointed here.

  9. I think that Henry was a man who deluded himself-into
    believing God’s will WAS his, that Anne Boleyn commited adultery,
    and that Anne of Cleves was ugly. This(The A of C part) could come
    from his own feelings of shame and humiliation, so he decided that
    A of C was ugly and to annul the marriage. She was certainly the
    luckiest of the six wives, not executed OR married, and able to
    enjoy the wealth and influence of her new title. She was probably
    extremely grateful when the marriage was annuled, and glad that she
    wouldn’t suffer AB’s fate (she fainted when the annulment came
    bacause she thought she would be executed)

  10. hhahah 😀 Sometimes i love Anne of cleves mostly for what she did to Henry on that day, it must have given him quite a shock to realise that he was no longer that desirable…

    Anyway the “Annes” rule!

  11. AB Friends watch the YouTube on The Kind Queen AnneOf Cleves, shewasnot ugly and from what I have learnd of her very kind gentle smart. That is why I didnot understand why The King left the marriage. He did however like her much as he made her his sister,also gave a proper state burial and a tomb as he did with beloved Queen Jane. Anne Of Cleves was very smart and left the marriage with many riches, her head still on her sholders and The Kings friendship.

  12. DuchessoFBrittany ,I totaly agree with your findings on the Kind Queen of Cleves ,I wasnot offened by your comments, they true to what I have read about this Queen.Well said DushessoFBrittany. Baroness Von Reis

  13. Geoff, Claire is not going all over the place, This is how it happend,if anyone was all over the place that was King Henry the VI I I th. You can’t change HISTORY.

  14. DuchessofBritanny, I was not offended in the least,The Kind Queen Anne of Cleves was a very smart Queen.I would have done the same, please the King agree with the divorce and become his sister/friend,very smart.

  15. Anne of Cleves was, I believe, what I’d call ‘quick on the uptake.’ Realizing her marriage to Henry VIII was a disaster of head-chopping (sorry!) proportions, she did an about-face.

    I have imagined her conversation with him to go something like this: “Good King, Gentle King, with all my heart I do love and adore thee, and my pride lets me dare hope you might like me well enough in return. However – and this is from my truest heart, good Sir, my love is as a sister toward a brother of whom she is of like mind. Therefore, mightn’t it be a better thing that we no longer remained married, but allow you, my Brother of My Heart, to go along with a true bride who might incite thy passions?”

    In other words, “Let me keep my head, go find another bride.”

    Because of Anne of Cleves quick thinking and common-sense approach, she kept her head – literally. She exhibited ‘grace under fire.’ Fortunately for her, Henry VIII listened to her counsel and allowed his “Beloved Sister” to stick around to play the intricate card games she invented for his amusement.

  16. I have read that Anne of Cleves was actually accurately painted by Holbein. If that’s true I would say I find her quite pretty. Does anyone know if that’s true? (Sorry for any grammar mistakes, english is not my birth language).

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