Henry VIII Marries Anne of Cleves

Posted By on January 6, 2010

Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein the Younger

Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein the Younger

Thanks to Barb Alexander for reminding me about this Tudor event. Yes, on this day in 1540, in  Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves, the woman that history calls “The Flanders Mare” although I don’t think that those words can be attributed to Henry VIII. I can just see the headlines, “Henry Marries Horse!”!

“The Flanders Mare” title does not do the fourth wife of Henry VIII any justice and she does not deserve to be thought of in this way or discounted as Henry VIII’s unimportant wife, the one he couldn’t even bed. So, who was Anne of Cleves and what was she like?

Anne of Cleves

Here are a few Anne of Cleves facts that I have taken from David Loades’ wonderful book “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”:-

  • Anne of Cleves was born in 1515 (22nd September) and so was 25 when Henry VIII married her.
  • Anne was the sister of William, Duke of Cleves.
  • Loades writes that “Anne had received no education worthy of the name, being mainly trained in modesty of thought and expression.” Her only talent was needlework.
  • At the time of her marriage, Anne could only read and speak “Low German”.
  • When Henry sent envoys to Cleves, Anne was wrapped up for modesty and the envoys could not see much of her face or body.
Anne of Cleves by Bartholomäus Bruyn the Elder

Anne of Cleves by Bartholomäus Bruyn the Elder

  • Henry VIII did indeed surprise his future bride by meeting her in disguise a few days after she arrived in England. Loades points out that Anne may well have believed that she was about to be abducted by this group of cloaked men and it is no wonder that she did not faint with love and passion into the King’s arms. It was after seeing her reaction and then meeting her “properly” a few minutes later that Henry VIII said his famous words: “I like her not”.
  • Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves on 6th January 1540 in the Queen’s Closet at Greenwich.
  • Of the wedding night, David Loades writes: “The wedding night was a fiasco. Anne was not merely a virgin, she had a kind of total innocence which might have baffled a much more ardent lover.” An already disappointed King did not have the patience to deal with such a clueless bride.
  • Henry VIII blamed his failure to consummate the marriage on Anne’s ugliness and said “I liked her not well before, but now I like her much worse.”
  • Anne of Cleves was never crowned Queen.
  • On the 10th of June 1540, Thomas Cromwell was arrested and condemned by act of attainder. His fall was partly due to his failure to provide the King with an annulment. Cromwell was executed on the 28th July 1540, the same day that Henry VIII married Catherine Howard, his new love.
  • On the 24th June 1540, Anne was sent away from court to Richmond and on the 25th was informed by Henry’s commissioners that her marriage to the King was invalid.
  • Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne of Cleves was annulled on the grounds of it being unconsummated and also because of a pre-contract from 1527 between Anne and a son of the Duke of Lorraine.
  • Anne agreed to the annulment of the marriage and was rewarded with lands worth around £3ooo a year. She lived mainly at Hever Castle, the old Boleyn family home. She was named “The King’s Beloved Sister” and took precedence over all other women apart from Henry’s wife and daughters.
  • Anne of Cleves became friends with Henry VIII’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, and she attended Mary I’s coronation with Elizabeth.
  • When Henry VIII married Catherine Parr in 1543, Anne of Cleves was furious as she had assumed that, after Catherine Howard’s fall, she would be reinstated as Queen.
  • Anne of Cleves died on 16th July 1557 at Chelsea Manor aged 42 after suffering from a long illness. She was buried on the 4th August at Westminster Abbey.
  • Anne of Cleves was the last of Henry VIII’s wives to die.
  • In August 1541 it was rumoured that Henry VIII was going to put aside Catherine Howard and remarry Anne of Cleves because he had been enjoying her company.
  • Kelly Hart in “The Mistresses of Henry VIII” writes of how Chapuys wrote in December 1541 that Anne “was known to have gone away in the family way from the King, and had actually been confined this summer.” This appears to be just rumour and gossip.
    • Rumours surrounding Anne of Cleves

      To find out more about Anne of Cleves, you can watch the video above and also read “Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII’s Discarded Bride”by Elizabeth Norton.

      P.S. You can read Barb’s post on Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves over at The Tudor Tutor.

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