On this day in history, the 22nd September 1515, Anna von Jülich-Kleve-Berg, or Anne of Cleves, was born near Düsseldorf. She was the second daughter of John III, Duke of Jülich, Cleves and Berg, an important German ruler, and Maria of Jülich-Berg. Elizabeth Norton writes of Anne’s grand lineage – not only was she descended from Edward I, she was also, on her father’s side, closely related to Louis XII of France and the Duke of Burgundy.

In 1526 Anne’s elder sister, Sybille, married John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony and Head of the Protestant Confederation of Germany, and in 1527 Anne’s father arranged for Anne to marry Francis, the heir of the Duke of Lorraine. This betrothal was broken when Anne’s brother, who became Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg on the death of his father in 1538, refused to give up the territory of Guelders to the Duke of Lorraine in 1539.

Elizabeth Norton writes of how the Schmalkaldic League (an alliance of Lutheran Princes established by Anne’s brother-in-law, John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony) had been trying to establish a relationship with England in the late 1520s and in 1531 sent ambassadors to Henry VIII. The Duke of Cleves, Anne’s father, had also been involved with marriage negotiations with England in 1530, although Henry had chosen to marry Anne Boleyn. These marriage negotiations were resurrected in January 1539 when Henry was looking for a fourth wife, after the death of Jane Seymour (1537). Henry’s chief advisor, Thomas Cromwell, was keen to build links with the Schmalkaldic League and when Henry saw that Francis I of France and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, were becoming friendly, he too looked towards Germany for support.

By the end of September 1539, a marriage treaty between England and Cleves had been agreed and preparations were made for Anne to travel to Calais and then on to England. Anne arrived in England on the 27th December 1539 and the royal couple were married on the 6th January 1540 at Greenwich Palace. It was not to be a happy marriage and just over 6 months later, the marriage was annulled and Henry VIII married his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. Anne became known as the King’s sister and was rewarded for her acquiescence with £4000 per year and houses at Richmond, Bletchingley and Lewes. She was also given Hever Castle, jewels, plate, hangings and furniture. She kept her head and became a wealthy woman.

Anne of Cleves outlived Henry VIII and all of his other wives, dying on the 15th July 1557 aged 41.

Fact: Although Anne is often portrayed as a Lutheran, like her brother, her mother was a strict Catholic and it was she who brought up Anne, Sybille and their younger sister, Amelia, while William was educated separately, as the future Duke. Anne’s father was influenced by reformist ideas but he was influenced by Erasmus, rather than Martin Luther, and so was more Humanist than Reformist.

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


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16 thoughts on “Birth of Anne of Cleves”
  1. I’ve always admired Anne of Cleves for her wise decisions. I think she was as appalled by Henry as he was by her! And his ego couldn’t accept that. She must have somehow let him know of her own reluctance and he took it in the worst possible way!

  2. Happy Birthday, Anne of Cleves!! I didn’t know much about her until I found this site.. She was smart enough to keep her head and live a comfortable life after her divorce.

  3. Anna of Cleves was amazing. She made the highest lady in England (besides the Queen Consort and the Ladies Mary and Elizabeth), and given a very generous sum of money. Happy birthday, Anna!

  4. Didn’t Henry find her not very attractive and smell bad? I am glad she lived a comfortable life. She was only 41 when she died, the oldest? How old was Catherine of Aragon and Catherine Parr when they passed?

  5. RIP Anne of Cleves. Julie, I think Henry was just making excuses because he was having problems (impotency). He said that she had a saggy tummy and breasts and was not a virgin, but I think that he was just covering up for his own lack of sexual potency!
    I didn’t say that she was the oldest, I said that she outlived them, i.e. none of them were still alive when she died. Catherine of Aragon was the one who lived to the greatest age, she was 50, and Catherine Parr was about 35/36.

  6. Happy Birthday Anne of Cleves!

    I am utterly fascinated with Anne, she was an astounding woman. She kept her head and remainded wealthy and well loved and she loved the Ladies Mary and Elizabeth. She trully is a fascinating woman!

    I also believe that the repugnance that Henry felt for Anne was mostly because when he visited Anne–in surprise–she was trully frightened and didn’t act in a way he would have liked. And he also did have some impotency problems and the ulcer on his leg stunk.

    I also hate that people, even today still remark that she wasn’t very bright and that she was ugly! Judging by the portraits of all of the wives, Anne was one of the prettiest. And as for her smarts, she learned English in a matter of months before leaving Germany so she had to have been smart. Especially when she was smart enough to accept Henry’s annulement and keep her head!

    However, it is weird how Henry took an interest in her after the divorce when he found out that she kept her word and was still visiting with the Ladies Mary and Elizabeth. Alot of people say that it was just a friendship but one has to wonder if it turned out to be something more, judging on that Anne fully expected Henry to marry her again after the anullment and execution of Henry’s fifth wife Katherine Howard.

    I’ve read a review on this site of a book about Henry’s mistresses and bastards and i saw that it delves into the dinamics of Anne of Cleves and a possible bastard. I’m trully looking forward to buying and reading this book when i have some spare money to see what the author came up with with their research. I believe this is also a mystery for alot of people.

    Anne of Cleves is definitely my favorite after Anne Boleyn of Henry VIII wives.

  7. I hadn’t realized that Anne had been raised by her Catholic mother. It makes it more understandable why she was so willing to ‘convert’ to Catholicism under Mary I, if she had had leanings in that direction before her marriage to Henry. Or maybe she was so biddable because she felt as Elizabeth did, that “There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith; all else is a dispute over trifles.”

    I agree with the others who believe she was overlooked and underestimated. There was nothing wrong with her looks, she did learn English (as an adult) very quickly, and she WAS the “one who got away”!

  8. I share a birthday w/ Anne of Cleves! I have always loved her and have always thought that she was the most intelligent of all the wives, after Anne Boleyn and Katherine of Aragon, of course… Anyhow, she kept her life, head and fortune. So hats off to Anne of Cleves!!!


  9. Claire THX for the info on youtube very interesting, Anne of Cleves seemed to be very smart,to leave her marriage keep her head on her sholders and become the Kings sister. Very good move!

  10. Not much is written or recorded about this Queen but I do admire Anne of Cleves. She outlived Henry VIII and all of his wives and she was smart enough to keep her head and live her life. As for her appearance, I do not believe she was ugly – Henry VIII was the tyrant with the nasty leg ulcer at the time and he might have been the only one who thought she was ugly.

    1. It is not known exactly where she was born, but it was in or near Dusseldorf in the Duchy of Cleves and is likely to have been at the family home, not Brussels, as far as I’m aware.

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