July 16 – The death of Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife

Jul16,2022 #Anne of Cleves

On this day in Tudor history, 16th July 1557, in the reign of Queen Mary I, the queen’s former stepmother, Anne of Cleves, died at her home, Chelsea Old Manor.

Forty-one-year-old Anne, who’d been King Henry VIII’s fourth wife, had been ill for a few months.

Her warmth and generosity are shown in her last wishes, with the bequests to her household, friends and stepdaughters.

Find out more about her bequests and her funeral arrangements in the video and transcript below…


On this day in Tudor history, 16th July 1557, forty-one-year-old Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of King Henry VIII, died at her home, Chelsea Old Manor.

Anne had been ill for a few months but by the 12th July she was bedridden and drafting her will. Her biographer, Elizabeth Norton, writes of how her will “demonstrates her kindness and the fondness which she felt for her household”, because she left money to her ladies, gentlemen, yeomen, grooms and the children of the house, listing every member of her household by name, and also asked her step-daughter, Mary I, to make sure that the rents received from her lands at Michaelmas, would be used to meet the expenses of her household.

Anne also bequeathed jewellery to her family, a ring to Catherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, another ring to the Countess of Arundel and jewels to her stepdaughters, Mary and Elizabeth. In recompense for these jewels, she asked Mary to make sure that her servants were rewarded for their long service to her and she asked Elizabeth to take one of her maids into service.

On the same day that she died, Anne’s body was embalmed and placed in a coffin covered with a cloth bearing her arms. Tapers were lit around her coffin and prayers said on a daily basis.

On 3rd August, according to diarist Henry Machyn, her coffin was moved from Chelsea to Westminster in preparation for her burial the next day. Machyn records:
“The 3rd day of August my lady Anne of Cleve, sometime wife unto King Henry the 8th came from Chelsea to be [buried] unto Westminster, with all the children of Westminster and [many] [priests] and clerks, and then the grey [amice] of Paul’s and 3 crosses, and the monks of Westminster; and my lord bishop of Lo[ndon] and my lord abbott of Westminster rode together, next the monks, and then the 2 [executors] Sir Edmond Peckham and Sir (Robert) Freston, cofferer to the queen of England; and then my lord admiral, my (lord) Darcy of Essex, and many knights and gentlemen; and afore her servants, and after her banner of arms; and then her gentlemen and her head officers; and then her chariot with 8 banners of arms of diverse armes, and 4 banners of images of white taffeta, wrought with fine gold and her arms; and so by saint James, and so to Charing Cross, with a 100 torches burning, her servants bearing them, and the 12 bed-men of Westminster had new black gowns; and they had 12 torches burning, and 4 white branches with arms; and then ladies and gentlewomen all in black, and horses; and 8 heralds of arms in black, and their horses; and arms [set] about the hearse behind and before; and 4 heralds bearing the 4 white banners; and at (the) church door all did alight and there did receive the good lady, my lord of London and my lord abbott in their mitres and copes, sensyng her, and their men did bear her with a canopy of black velvet, with 4 black staffs, and so brought into the hearse and there tarried dirge, and so there all night with light burning.”

Then, on the 4th of August, there was a requiem mass for Anne with a “godly sermon” by the Lord Abbot of Westminster. Her coffin was then taken to her tomb and her body interred with the cloth-of-gold laid over her. Then, her head officers broke their staves and her ushers broke their rods and cast them into her tomb. After another mass, there was a dinner led by the chief mourner, Elizabeth, Marchioness of Winchester, the Lord Admiral and Lord Darcy.

Anne of Cleves is the only one of Henry VIII’s wives to be buried at Westminster Abbey and her tomb is on the south side of the High Altar. It is decorated with carvings of a crown and her initials, AC, skulls and crossed bones, and a lion’s head.

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2 thoughts on “July 16 – The death of Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII’s fourth wife”
  1. Anne of Cleves was a kind and generous woman, benevolent with her stepchildren and Henry VIII’s luckiest wife. And she wasn’t ugly, certainly more beautiful than the obese, sickly man who is the king. She died young, do we know what illness she suffered from?

  2. Anna from Cleve’s spelt Kleve’s in her homeland suffered from a short illness and died quite suddenly, it must have come as a bit of a shock to her friends and household, it certainly was not the sweat as there was no outbreak than, I believe it could have been quite an aggressive form of cancer, some cancer sufferers do not experience pain till the tumour is in its last stages three to four, and the victim has barley months even weeks left of life, she knew her end was near and she wrote her will sadly whilst in her bed, she knew she was dying and the fact she was bedridden meant she must have been in a lot of pain, forty one is a shockingly young age to die by modern standards but not so uncommon in Tudor times, if you got to sixty you were thought to have done very well, poor Anna I call her by her true name she was christened with and how she was addressed in her native Cleve’s, she was the queen who so repelled King Henry V111 their marriage was over before it had barely begun, she was treated shoddily by him and yet he came to respect her and even like her after she gave him the annulment without fuss, but her true feelings she kept hidden only to those who knew her well enough, after flighty Catherine Howard was beheaded she hoped the king would consider marrying her again but it was not to be, she was very disappointed and although she had a good life and lived in comfort, she must have felt her heart was broken like her wedding ring she returned to the king, I find Anna quite intriguing I’d love to have a chat with her and know her true feelings how did she really think about the king, her ex husband who acted more like a naughty schoolboy at times than a monarch, she showed more dignity during her short time as queen and thereafter than he showed during his entire life, he acted like a lovesick fool over Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard yet here he had a kind gracious well mannered woman who he had pledged to marry because of the political alliance he needed with Cleve’s, yet this king put his personal feelings ahead of his duty to his realm, Anna’s old engagement to the Duke of Lorraine was accepted as grounds for the distasteful marriage to be dissolved, and Anna’s brother Duke William did not seem to mind much, Anna must have written to her family informing them she was treated most honourably and she was bestowed with the highest accolade after that of consort, – she was henceforth to be known as the ‘ kings beloved sister’, she outlived all her husbands unfortunate wives and the king and was present at her stepchildren’s coronations, Edward and Mary, she bequeathed some jewellery to both sisters and her funeral was a grand affair, suitable for an ex queen and beloved sister of the old king, she was it was noted the only of Henry V111’s queens to be buried in Westminster Abbey with his ancestors, a most fitting achievement indeed when we know two of them were decapitated and his first queen was buried as mere Princess Dowager Of Wales, RIP Queen Anna of England Anna from Cleve’s.

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