Anne of Cleves Historical Profile

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Anne of Cleves
The History
Anne of Cleves
1516 - 1557 (aged 42)
Queen Consort
January 6, 1540 - July 9, 1540
(just 6 months)
Later called
"The King's Beloved Sister"
& Princess of England

Anne of Cleves


  • Anne was a brought up a catholic and remained catholic all her life. Her brother, Duke William of Cleves too was catholic however his form of religion was close to Henry's and her sister Sybille was married to one of the leaders of the Schmalkaldic League which was Lutheran and opposed Charles V, hence the reason Henry (and Cromwell) believed this to be a good match.

  • Anne remained independent and unmarried answering only to the King and honoured as Royal to the end of her days.

  • Henry asserted that Anne was the wife of the duke of Lorraine and refused to acknowledge that Anne or the duke were free to marry others. When the duke did marry Henry stated that he would not recognise the legality of the match.Whilst the issue of non consummation was also important as to why Henry's marriage to Anne was annulled, what was of prime importance was the issue of her supposed union with the duke. Henry argued that he had been unable to sleep with her because he viewed her as another man's wife.

  • There were rumours of her lifestyle and she was known as enjoying gambling and ale but for the most part she seemed content with her lot in life.

  • She is known to have visited Henry & Katherine Howard & and knelt before her with gifts. In one instance, the two women danced the night away while Henry, with his abscessed leg retired to bed.
  • She appears to have held out hopes that Henry would return to her and was even said to have been distressed when he married Catherine Parr, because she had expected him to return to her following Katherine Howard's downfall.

  • Anne had some financial issues when Edward came to the throne the council decided to remove several of the properties that was supposed to be granted to her for life (i.e. Richmond and Bletchingley). The crown also started to delay paying the salaries of her household officers and so Anne was reduced to pleading for her brother to help her out. She promised her brother that if he allowed her to return she would not trouble him but he appears to have ignored her.

  • At one point Edward suggested she marry Thomas Seymour but nothing came of it.

  • Her last public appearance was at Mary I's coronation and she passed away at Hever of a "declining illness" at age 42.

  • She died 17 years after her & Henry's marriage was annulled & the last of his wives to die.

  • Chronicler Ralph Holinshed remembered her as ‘a lady of right commendable regard, courteous, gentle, a good housekeeper and very bountiful to her servants’ In her will she remembered everyone whoever served her , no matter how small or how long ago. A testament to her kindliness.
  • She was a descendant of King Edward I of England and his wife Infanta Eleanor of Castile through their daughter Margaret of England Plantagenet who became Duchess Consort to Jean II, Duke of Brabant.
  • Her first cousin, twice removed, Margaret of Guelders married King James II of Scotland.
  • Her sister, Sybille's direct descendants include the current Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II, and other major monarchs of Europe.
Ann of Cleves by Barthel Bruyn

'My Lord, if it were not to satisfy the world, and My Realm, I would not do that I must do this day for none earthly thing.'

Henry VIII to Cromwell on his wedding day to Anne of Cleves

Henry, in his typical contradictory fashion first told Anthony Denny, a member of the Privy Chamber, that she had 'breasts so slack and other parts of body in such sort that [he] somewhat suspected her virginity.' He further told his court physicians of the 'hanging of her breasts and looseness of her flesh.'

He told the Doctors, "he found her body disordered and indisposed to excite and provoke any lust in him." He spoke of having nocturnal emissions but being unable to perform the sex act.

Of course he 'bravely' slept in the same bed at least every other night, yet he reported a month later that Anne 'was still as good a Maid.... as ever her Mother bare her.' So she was virgin and yet she was not.

What did Anne think of all this controversy?
At first Anne had no idea that her husband was displeased with her. She told her ladies, "Why, when he comes to bed he kisseth me, and taketh me by the hand, and biddeth me 'Good night, sweetheart'".

On the 9th of July, 1540 just 6 months after the wedding, the marriage was declared null and void by convocation, and an act of parliament to the same effect was passed immediately

Anne of ClevesOn first hearing of the king's intentions, Anne swooned away, but on recovering, while declaring her case a very hard and sorrowful one from the great love which she bore to the king, acquiesced quietly in the arrangements made for her by Henry, by which she received lands to the value of £4000 a year, 2 houses including Anne Boleyn's family home of Hever Castle & a household staff, renounced the title of queen for that of the king's sister, and undertook not to leave the kingdom. This made her one of the wealthiest women in the land and perhaps was as happy with the arrangement as Henry himself.

Contemporary source :
Ambassador Chapuys recorded:

This year on St John's Day, 27 Dec, Lady Anne, daughter of the Duke of Cleves in Germany, landed at Dover at 5 o'clock at night, and there was honorably received by the Duke of Suffolk and other great lords, and so lodged in the castle. And on the following Monday she rode to Canterbury where she was honorably received by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other great men, and lodged at the king's palace at St Austin's, and there highly feasted. On Tuesday she came to Sittingbourne.

On New Year's Eve the Duke of Norfolk with other knights and the barons of the exchequer received her grace on the heath, two miles beyond Rochester, and so brought her to the abbey of Rochester where she stayed that night and all New Years Day. And on New Years Day in the afternoon the king's grace with five of his privy chamber, being disguised with mottled cloaks with hoods so that they should not be recognized, came secretly to Rochester, and so went up into the chamber where the said Lady Anne was looking out of a window to see the bull-baiting which was going on in the courtyard, and suddenly he embraced and kissed her, and showed here a token which the King had sent her for New Year's gift, and she being abashed and not knowing who it was thanked him, and so he spoke with her. But she regarded him little, but always looked out the window.... and when the King saw that she took so little notice of his coming he went into another chamber and took off his cloak and came in again in a coat of purple velvet. And when the lords and knights saw his grace they did him reverence.... and then her grace humbled herself lowly to the king's majesty, and his grace saluted her again, and they talked together lovingly, and afterwards he took her by the hand and led her to another chamber where their graces amused themselves that night and on Friday until the afternoon.

....So she came to Greenwich that night, and was received as queen. And the next day, being Sunday, the king's grace kept a great court at Greenwich, where his grace with the queen offered at mass, richly dressed. And on Twelfth Night, which was Tuesday, the king's majesty was married to the said queen Anne solemnly, in her closet at Greenwich, and his grace and she went publicly in procession that day, she having a rich coronet of stone and pearls set with rosemary on her hair, and a gown of rich cloth of silver, richly hung with stones and pearls, with all her ladies and gentlewomen following her, which was a goodly sight to behold.

The incident must have wounded the King's pride and he pronounced " I like her not!"




  • Anne of Cleves: Fourth Wife of Henry VIII, Mary Saaler, 1995. This book covers Anne's years after her divorce, as one of the most powerful and wealthy women in the world.
  • The Marrying of Anne of Cleves : Royal Protocol in Early Modern England, Retha Warnike. 2000.
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir, 1993.
  • The Wives of Henry VIII, Antonia Fraser, 1993.
  • Letters of the Queens of England 1100-1547, Anne Crawford, editor, 1997. Includes Anne of Cleves.
  • Holbein and the Court of Henry VIII: Drawings and Miniatures from the Royal Library Windsor Castle, Reto Niggl and Jane Roberts, 1997.

  • Philippa Gregory "The Boleyn Inheritance"
  • Margaret Campbell Barnes "My Lady of Cleves "
  • Brandy Purdy "Vengeance is Mine: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, and Lady Rochford--the Woman Who Helped Destroy Them Both" ( Anne of Cleves has a small part in it)
Letter from Anne of Cleves to King Henry VIII dates July 11th,1540

Pleaseth your most excellent majesty to understand that, whereas, at sundry times heretofore, I have been informed and perceived by certain lords and others your grace's council, of the doubts and questions which have been moved and found in our marriage; and how hath petition thereupon been made to your highness by your nobles and commons, that the same might be examined and determined by the holy clergy of this realm; to testify to your highness by my writing, that which I have before promised by my word and will, that is to say, that the matter should be examined and determined by the said clergy; it may please your majesty to know that, though this case must needs be most hard and sorrowful unto me, for the great love which I bear to your most noble person, yet, having more regard to God and his truth than to any worldly affection, as it beseemed me, at the beginning, to submit me to such examination and determination of the said clergy, whom I have and do accept for judges competent in that behalf. So now being ascertained how the same clergy hath therein given their judgment and sentence, I acknowledge myself hereby to accept and approve the same, wholly and entirely putting myself, for my state and condition, to your highness' goodness and pleasure; most humbly beseeching your majesty that, though it be determined that the pretended matrimony between us is void and of none effect, whereby I neither can nor will repute myself for your grace's wife, considering this sentence (whereunto I stand) and your majesty's clean and pure living with me, yet it will please you to take me for one of your humble servants, and so determine of me, as I may sometimes have the fruition of your most noble presence; which as I shall esteem for a great benefit, so, my lords and others of your majesty's council, now being with me, have put me in comfort thereof; and that your highness will take me for your sister; for the which I most humbly thank you accordingly.
Thus, most gracious prince, I beseech our Lord God to send your majesty long life and good health, to God's glory, your own honor, and the wealth of this noble realm.
From Richmond, the 11th day of July, the 32nd year of your majesty's most noble reign.

Your majesty's most humble sister and servant,
Anne the daughter of Cleves.
Hever Castle
The building in the foreground is Anne of Cleves House. It was built in 1384 and housed chantry priests until the dissolution of the monasteries. It was given to Anne of Cleves by Henry VIII as part of their divorce settlement, hence the current name, although it is unclear whether she ever actually stayed here. The building is now a pub.
Inside Anne of Cleves house
Anne of Cleves house
The front of Anne of Cleves House which is a 16th century timber-framed Wealden hall-house in Southover High Street, Lewes, East Sussex. .
Anne of Cleves House Anne of Cleves house
Anne of Cleves
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