November 1541 – Anne of Cleves Rumoured to Have Given Birth to the King’s Son

Posted By on November 13, 2013

Anne of Cleves I had read before about rumours regarding Anne of Cleves having a child by Henry VIII, but I actually came across the primary sources for it while delving into Catherine Howard’s fall. In State Papers, in the section covering November 1541, there is a letter from the King’s Council, to Anthony Browne and Ralph Sadler regarding the investigations into Catherine Howard’s behaviour and in it is the following paragraph:

“We examyned, also, partily befor dyner and partily after, a newe matier, that the Lady Anne of Cleves shuld be delyvered of a fayr boye, and whose shuld it be but the Kinges Majestes, and gotten when she was at Hamptoncourte; whiche is a most abomynable slander, and for this tyme, and the case in ure, as we thinke most necessary to be met with all. This matier was told to Taverner, of the Signet, more than a fortnight a goo, bothe by his mother in lawe, Lambertes wief, the goldsmythe, and by Taverners oune wief, who saithe she hard it of Lilgraves wief, and Lambertes wief hard it, also, of thold Lady Carewe; Taverner kept it; and they, with others, have made it a common matier of talk, and never reveled it tyl Sonday night; at whiche tyme he told it Doctour Cox, to be further declared, if he thought good; who immediatly disclosed it to me, the Lord Privy Seale. We have committed Taverner to the custody of me, the Bishop of Winchester, and Lambertes wief, who seamethe to have been a dunse in it, to Mr the Chauncelour of th’Augmentacions.”

It is mentioned again in a letter from the Council with the King to the Council in London:

“Fynally, to the matier touching the Lady Anne of Cleves, His Majeste thinketh it requysite to have it groundely examyned, and further ordered by your discressions, as the nature and qualyte of the case requyreth; and semblably to enquyre diligentlie, whether the saide Lady Anne of Cleves hath, in dede, had any childe or no, as it is bruted; for His Majeste hathe ben infourmed that it is so in dede; in which parte His Majeste imputeth a grete defaulte in her officers, for not advertising His Highnes thereof, if it be trew.”

This is followed, on 9th December, with a letter from the Council in London to the Council with the King, reporting that Anne of Cleves’ officers and Dorothy Wingfield (of Anne’s privy chamber) had been sent for, Taverner and “Lylgraves widdow” (Richard Tavernor and Frances Lilgrave) had been committed to the Tower of London, and a “Jane Ratsey” had been taken into custody. Jane was described as “most sorrowfull” and the council reported that “more than she hath allredie confessed, we can nott gett of her.” The Council awaited further instructions from the King. On 10th December, the King gave instructions for Jane Ratsey to be released, judging “her wordes to procede of rather lightnes, then of anye malice.”

The matter seems to have then been dropped, although Archbishop Cranmer reported to the King on 13th December 1541 that the Ambassador of Cleves had visited him “to commende unto me the cause of the Lady Anne of Cleve”. Cranmer went on to explain that “the cause” was “the reconciliation of Your Majestie unto the Lady Anne of Cleve.” It was obviously assumed by Anne’s brother, and perhaps Anne herself, that Henry would go back to Anne seeing as his marriage to Catherine Howard was falling apart – interesting!

Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador, also heard the rumours of Anne’s pregnancy and the arrests of those spreading them. He wrote to the Emperor on 11th December:

“Two honest citizens were imprisoned three days ago for having said, since the Queen’s misbehaviour was published, that the whole thing seemed a judgment of God, for the lady of Cleves was really the King’s wife, and that though the rumour had been purposely spread that the King had had no connection with her, the contrary might be asserted, as she was known to have gone away from London in the family way, and had been confined last summer,—a rumour which has been widely circulated.”

Of course, the stories were just rumours and there is no evidence that she gave birth to any children, never mind the King’s son.

On this day in history, 13th November…

  • 1537 – Burial of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife, at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Henry VIII’s daughter, Mary, acted as chief mourner.
  • 1553 – Lady Jane Grey, her husband Guildford Dudley, his brothers Ambrose and Henry, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer were tried for treason at a public trial at London’s Guildhall. See The Trial of Lady Jane Grey.

Notes and Sources

  • State Papers: King Henry VIII; Parts I and II, Volume I (1831), p697, 701, 706, 709 and 716
  • LP xvi. 1441

12 thoughts on “November 1541 – Anne of Cleves Rumoured to Have Given Birth to the King’s Son”

  1. Human nature is constant and this demonstrates how rumour and gossip within the Court was rife, in just the same way we love to hear stuff about celebs today. Chapuys and the other Ambassadors reported everything to their masters. Lucky for us they did so we have some great prime sources for research purposes.

    However, this wasn’t the first time a Tudor queen was rumoured to be pregnant. Mary announced she was pregnant in November 1554 and her image changes in the P of the document detailing the proceedings of the Queens’ Bench i January 1555. Sadly, her pregnancies were either imagined and/or symptoms of something much more serious.

    Then have been centuries of persistent rumours about her sister, Elizabeth. Did she protest to much that she was the Virgin Queen?

    This event demonstrates just how those lower down the social hierarchy loved to gossip about those higher up. A dangerous thing to do if that someone was the King. Lucky for Jane Ratsey Henry did not see any malice, only ‘lightnes’.

    How would Henry have coped if he had had to deal with things like Twitter and Facebook? Would he have beheaded those who owned it, or those that did the gossiping, or perhaps both!

    1. booboo1st says:

      More like boiling everyone in oil.

  2. Dawn 1st says:

    🙂 wouldn’t it have put the cat amongst the pigeons if it had had been true…what a carry on (Henry) there would have been!! A Tudor Soap Opera at it’s best, lol.

  3. If I have read the quote from the King’s coucil in Claire’s article correctly King Henry is asking them to investigate whether he had made Anne pregnant when she was on a visit to Hampton Court and if she so to censor her staff for not telling him. One might have thought that he would know the nature of his relationship with Anne and whether it was likely that he had made her pregnant.
    The other thing of interest would be if he had fathered a son with Anne what the status of the new child might have been.
    Thanks to Claire for digging out this treasure. Who needs to watch soap opera on television when we have real history.

  4. As the author of what is probably the latest novel dealing with Anne of Cleves – ANNE OF CLEVES: HENRYS LUCKIEST WIFE (2013) – I do not think that all these rumours, (Anne’s pregnancy) for that is what I believe they are, are true. In order to write my novel, which I based on as many historical sources that I could find, I did not find any reference at all to this lady’s pregnancy

    I did read that after her unfortunate successor, Catherine Howard (subject of my sequel novel) was executed, Anne had hopes of returning to her former role and remarry the king. These hopes were based on the fact that after her divorce from the king, they got on very well and she was no threat to him in any way. Unfortunately for Anne, (maybe, we’ll never know) the king married Catherine Parr instead.

    BTW, my book is published by Celestial Press, imprint of GMTA, (NC, USA)
    ISBN 9780615 827377 9000

  5. AnnieB says:

    Interesting!. Family legend says that an ancestress Ann Susannah Cleaves ( also spelt Cleve,Clave, Cleeves, Cleef) is descended from Ann of Cleves. Henry in his desire to meet her asap went to Rochester, Kent to await her arrival and on the day due rode down the Dover Road and actually met her at Rainham Mark which bordered on the land of Twydall Manor where they were given refreshment before returning to Rochester castle. As we are told the King on their wedding night ‘left her as much a maid as I found her’ and they were soon divorced (or annulled) but she wasnt sent back to Cleve. Now our family legend says she was already pregnant and that the son was taken away and given to the owner of Twydall Manor (there was a change of ownership at this time evidently and the new occupant was give the manor for services rendered to the king!!?) The son John Cleave was the ancestor of Ann Susannah (1814).
    In correspondance with a well known historian who has written a book on the Tudor Queens, he said could be possible but doubted it. I was coming round to that too but having read this page…..
    The name Cleve, Cleave etc as far as Ann’s home town of Kleve in Germany seems to be derived from the Dutch meaning Cliff. Now, not far from Rochester on the Hoo Peninsular there is a village called Cliffe which in the old days would be pronounced Cleeve so it is possible that Ann Susannaha’s family originated there instead of a Royal bedchamber.

    1. K. Reno says:

      If Anne had a son Henry Never would have annulled marriage, he would have maybe not been happy, but keep concubines, age old saying ” An heir and a spare”. Very interesting insight, and awesome you may be a defendant. Feel free to contact me. I am not by any means a historian, just an avid individual with an interest in all aspects if old English Aristocracies. K. Reno

      1. Banditqueen says:

        Interesting story of your ancestors but I am afraid there is no real evidence other than court gossip that Anne of Cleves had any children. Her marriage to Henry wasn’t consummated and Henry soon put a stop to any rumours that he was the father of any child while married to Katherine Howard, which is when these rumours are from. He had become depressed early in 1541 and ill at the end of 1540 and left Katherine alone. He also visited Anne at home, but probably not alone. Katherine was distressed by gossip that Henry intended to leave her for Anne of Cleves but it was all nonsense. Anne didn’t have any children and even when Henry had KH executed, for alleged treason and adultery, for which the evidence is dubious, although Anne hoped she could be reinstated, Henry refused, but they remained on good terms. Of course Henry would have been pleased if Anne gave him sons or daughters, but since he didn’t sleep with her and intended to end the marriage from the start it is impossible that she had his children.

        I am sorry but I don’t know anything about Susanna Cleve, but she can’t be related to Anne of Cleves. I hope you find out more, though. Good luck.

  6. booboo1st says:

    Watching Secrets of the Six Wives, and had to look up Anne. I guess that having always thought this Anne to be less than attractive no-one ever really thought it possible that she could have borne a child. The series however indicates that its possible she had offended Henry by not recognizing him, and that further, there were some who said her to be fine in the looks department. If she did have a child by the King and it was a girl then I can see Henry not caring much. I wonder if it is remotely possible that she had a girl and that is why she thought maybe he would take her back after the woeful Catherine. Just a thought.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      There is actually no evidence that Anne of Cleves had any children, let alone a child by Henry. For one thing her marriage to Henry was never consummated and it only lasted six months. That’s the whole point of his achievement with his annulment as he failed to stop it on grounds that she had a contract with the Duke of Lorraine. Although this was part of the argument for annulment the heart of the matter was his inability to consummate the marriage. Henry didn’t fancy her, no matter whether she was beautiful or not, he made up anything he could to get out of his marriage and Anne agreed. The source says that several months into his marriage to Katherine Howard there was a rumour that Anne of Cleves was carrying his child. Henry was partly to blame as he visited Anne at Hever and Richmond on a number of occasions, but as a friend or rather as a brother and his daughters were also probably present. Katherine Howard had to be reassured that Henry was not going to abandon her as he had become depressed and left her bed for some time. He quickly put the rumours down and there was certainly no evidence that Anne ever had a child. It was all idle gossip. Had he remained married to Anne, she probably would have given him a few children, but well he never knew what he had missed. In the end Anne probably did better having several palaces and houses and an income and good company without the stress of being Queen.

  7. Dale C. Rice says:

    I will let my Photo speak for me: I am Dale C. Rice you can see my page on Face Book known as D. Charles Rice. I have a book in progress called “John Rice 1624 & The American Tudors: Dedham, Ma” Hopefully published 2018 or 2019. My father chose my mother on the Basis of her descent from William Chalfant Fostered Son of Anne of Cleaves and Henry VIII. The Chalfants were stewards at Windsor Castle and 4th cousins of the Tudor’s via the Blounts…as in Bessie Blount. The king admitted to having a Nocturnal Emission his first night with Anne as Husband and Wife…the Child she bore at 7 mos. after that marriage bed meeting was given over to Trusted Servants to raise as their own. He was given the Name William Chalfant born 1541 and his father was William Chalfant born 1495 ca and his wife also a servant at Windsor was Margaret Artbroke. Twin Girls were also born to Henry and Anne of Cleaves but since he was divorced by the time of Williams Birth and the Girls were of no matter to the King as he was in hot pursuit of his 5th wife Catherine Howard the Queen kept all hint of these children private. Their names are listed as Elizabeth Chalfant Hinkley and Lucy Chalfant Widmer all residing in the household of Margaret Artbroke Chalfant and husband William. These three children are not listed as the children of William and Margaret who’s descendants came to America with William Penn. They were fostered and the Chalfant’s received enough compensation from the Crown to Purchase 760 acres of Land in Penn. from William Penn who came to America at the same time. Thus my father: Samuel G. Rice born 1887 and a descendant of Ethelralda Mault’s daughter Hester Harrington Steubbs chose my mother Mildred M. Cookston born 1910 to be his wife and mother of his children when she turned 18 years old in 1928. We 7 children bare the faces of our 4 lines of doubled Tudor blood…two from my father’s side and two from my mother’s side that is called Breeding Back to recall the features of an EXTINCT Line of directly bred animal stock which my father was such a breeder of the best registered livestock in Nebraska 1900-1940 at the homstead Farm of Neleigh. If you go to my private page D. Charles Rice you can see the remarkable physical resemblance of myself, my brother Andrew, my Father and his Father to Kings Henry VII and VIII. Other members of the family are doppleganger doubles of LOUIS VIIII and HENRY II of France. one dopple ganger is coincidence 8 or more in the same family is DNA caused exactly as my father intended and told me about in 1978 4 mos. before he died. I had to wait 30 years to retire and await the invention of the computer and the Internet to Confirm his story alll of it TRUE. Recently found are the American Pughe family of Native America Stock into which my 8th great grandfather’s children married into. See Perrot ap Rice 1598 7th great grandfather and his son Thomas Price 1632 ca known as Thomas Price of Lither son of Pricilla ap Rice who came to Virginia and was received by Rice Hughes of the James River to run the trading post established ther by Perrot after he left England 1640. I am the 9th great grandson of Sir Robert Dudley and unknown female Photo’s are on D. Charles Rice page Face Book. Believe whatever you like but my DNA matches both Sutton and Dudley cousins of Robert Dudley 23/25 and 59/67 markers on Y chromosome

  8. Mark Mode says:

    I don’t Know whether Princess Anna Of Cleves had a Child or any Children by Henry VIII. or
    Not? I just can’t understand why she remaimed in England after Henry’s Death if she
    missed her Family. She was at Henry’s last Wedding to Katherine Parr. No Children in
    the picture but Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward. i’m sure if Princess Anna was with Child,
    Henry VIII would have had her examined by his Doctors. Sadly she Stayed in England
    during Edward and Mary’s shot reign before she passsed. If I had been in her shoes.
    somehow I would have retuned to Cleves.

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.