September 4 – Anne of Cleves is promised in marriage to Henry VIII

On this day in Tudor history, 4th September 1539, in the reign of King Henry VIII, William, Duke of Cleves, signed the marriage treaty promising his sister, Anne of Cleves, in marriage to the English king.

Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves on 6th January 1540, making her his fourth wife.

Find out all about the marriage agreement and its terms, and what happened next…


On this day in Tudor history, 4th September 1539, William, Duke of Cleves, signed the marriage treaty promising his sister, Anne of Cleves, in marriage to King Henry VIII. The duke then sent the treaty to England, where it was ratified and concluded by early October, being signed by the king’s commissioners on 4th October 1539.

In her book, “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves: Royal Protocol in Tudor England”, historian Retha Warnicke gives details of the marriage treaty, including the financial settlement. The Duke of Cleves promised a dowry of 100,000 gold florins for Anne, which was to be split into a wedding day payment of 40,000 and the remainder being paid within a year of the marriage. Warnicke notes that “In related documents Henry waived this sum, which her brother could ill afford”. The king also promised a dower (a widow’s share of her husband’s estate) of 20,000 gold florins. A copy of the treaty can be found in Letters and Papers and here are the other provisions:

  • That the duke would “within two months, if he can obtain safe conduct, convey, at his own expense, the lady Anne his sister honourably to Calais” where the king would “receive her, by his commissioners, and traduct her thence as soon as possible into his realm and there marry her publicly.” If safe conduct could not be obtained then the duke would “send her, as soon as possible, to some sea-port and transport her thence to England with a suitable convoy of ships at his expense.”
  • That if Henry VIII died and Anne had no surviving children and wanted to return to Cleves, that she would be given “a pension of 15,000 florins, payable half-yearly, for life, and her own dress and jewels; and it shall be at the choice of the King’s heirs to pay the pension or redeem it with 150,000 florins.”
  • If her brother the duke died “without lawful issue” and his duchy was inherited by Anne’s sister, Sibilla, wife of the Duke of Saxony, and they then died without lawful issue, that the succession would go to Anne.
  • If the succession went to the Duke of Saxony, he was to pay a sum of 160,000 florins within four years to Anne and her other sister Amelia, or their heirs. If either sister died without issue, her share was to go to the surviving sister or her children.
  • Also if Saxony inherited, then Anne would also inherit three castles, in Cleves, Juliers and Berg.
  • Anne’s brother was also to keep Henry VIII “informed by letter of his proceedings for the transportation of the lady Anne, so that the King may thereby time his preparations for her reception.”
  • The king and the dukes of Saxony and Cleves were to confirm the treaty by “letters patent under their hands and seals to be mutually delivered within six weeks from the date of the treaty”.

Of course, all these negotiations were for nothing, really. Although the couple married on 6th January 1540, Henry VIII claimed that it was never consummated, saying that “he could never in her company be provoked and stirred to know her carnally”. On 9th July 1540, Convocation ruled that the marriage was null and void “by reason of a precontract between lady Anne and the marquis of Lorraine, that it was unwillingly entered into and never consummated”. Anne agreed to the annulment of the marriage, becoming the King’s beloved sister, and on 28th July 1540, Henry married wife number 5, Anne’s former maid of honour, Catherine Howard.

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