Anne of Cleves Meets Henry VIII – 1 January 1540

Jan1,2012 #Anne of Cleves

Anne of ClevesOn this day in history, New Year’s Day 1540, a very excited Henry VIII arrived at Rochester, where Anne of Cleves was resting before travelling to Greenwich, to surprise his bride-to-be. Henry loved chivalric traditions and wanted to follow the one where the groom meets his bride in disguise. According to the tradition, the love between them would be so strong that it would allow Anne to see right through his disguise and recognise him as her beloved husband-to-be. Unfortunately, nobody had told Anne of Cleves of this tradition and the meeting was a complete disaster.

On arrival at Rochester, Henry VIII ordered his attendant, Sir Anthony Browne, to tell Anne that they had brought her a New Year’s gift from the King. Browne told Anne and then Henry, in disguise, entered the room to show Anne the gift he’d brought her. Anne was rather distracted as she was watching bull-baiting out of the window so did not pay any attention to this man who seemed to be a lowly servant. Shocked at Anne’s disinterest, the amorous Henry pulled her towards him and attempted to kiss her. This overly familiar behaviour from a stranger shocked Anne and, of course, she did not respond to his advances or recognise him as her King and beloved husband-to-be. Henry’s dreams of true love were dashed and he was completely humiliated. No wonder he took an instant dislike to Anne!

You can read more about how the relationship developed, or rather didn’t develop, in my article “Henry VIII Divorces Anne of Cleves”

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5 thoughts on “Anne of Cleves Meets Henry VIII – 1 January 1540”
  1. Henry’s vanity seems to have over thrown common sense when it came to his marriage to Anne of Cleves. He had a portrait of her to know who she was, but something tells me that she had no idea what Henry looked like…he’s lucky he didn’t get smacked while trying to steal a kiss from her!

  2. If only someone had thought to explain the culture of the English court to Anne history might have turned out very differently. Imagine the knock on effects. Anne behaves in the correct courtly romance way, Henry dosen’t take against her, this tips the balance and Henry manages to consumate the relationship. Henry’s children gain a loving mother, Anne herself might supply another prince or princess. Catherine Howard keeps her head and perhaps Elizabeth keeps an open mind about marriage. Catherine Parr gets to marry Thomas Seymour earlier but since after Henry’s death Elizabeth stays with Anne he is never in a position to take advantage of her. Of course it could all have worked out even worse for everyone concerned but it is fascinating to speculate on what might have been.

  3. I often wonder Why Anne was not told of the kings arrival. I find it hard to believe that someone as flamboyant and vain as Henry would have travelled totally incógnito, and there would have been plenty of people who knew who he was: Her own English was not good at this point,but she would surely have had interpretors in her party. It seems to me that it would have been very easy to forewarn her,and tell her which he was. Factions again. There were lots of people who wanted to see this marriage fail.

  4. Henry the romantic idiot. Someone should have told Anne, don’t panic if you are visited by three strangers and one is very large. The large one is probably the King in disguise, just look overawed, go oh your majesty, act delighted and drop to your knees at first sight. But then again, he had not done this for years,so they probably thought he was past it.

    1. By the way, Henry could not have been as upset as he claimed as sources have him remaining and dining with Anne, talking to her for several hours and passing a pleasant afternoon there. She could communicate via an interpreter, so there is more to this than meets the eye. Did she have bad breath? Was he just not attracted to her after all the building her up in his mind? Everyone else liked her, so was this just an excuse?

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