Anna of Cleves and Catherine Parr (Guest Post)

Guest post by Heather R. Darsie

Anna of Cleves’ marriage to Henry VIII ended in July 1540, scarcely six months after their official wedding took place. Swiftly after that, Henry married the very young Katheryn Howard. During Katheryn’s fall from grace, there was strong speculation that Henry would take back Anna. Dignitaries from Cleves actively tried to convince Henry to remarry Anna in early 1542. Henry refused, and Parliament would not support the idea. Even still in early 1543, there was speculation that Henry VIII might re-marry Anna. Unfortunately, international politics would not allow for it.

During the Third War of the Guelderian Succession, Henry VIII took his sixth and final wife. Catherine Parr was twice-widowed by the time she married Henry. She had experience soothing aging husbands and looking after stepchildren, though she had no children of her own. Catherine joined the Lady Mary’s household in February 1543, coming to Henry’s attention around this time. Henry reportedly gave Catherine gifts in early 1543….

…By marrying Catherine Parr on 12 July 1543, Henry accomplished three things outside of wanting a new queen and hopefully begetting more heirs. First, Henry was no longer available to marry Anna. Second, his marriage with Anna was once again made legally void. Third, Henry was passively allying himself with the Emperor by making it impossible for him to renew the Cleves match….

Henry visited Anna at Richmond to inform her that he had married Catherine Parr. Anna was devastated at the news. According to Chapuys, Anna had wanted very badly to return to Cleves and be with the Duchess Maria, her mother. Anna’s life was crashing down on all sides: she was stuck in England, losing hope of ever being queen or ever marrying again…

After the death of Henry’s widow Catherine Parr on 7 September 1548 due to complications from childbirth, the position of Queen Dowager of England was vacant. Almost immediately after Mary I’s coronation in October 1553, Anna took steps towards undoing her annulment from Henry VIII. If successful, then Anna would be the only woman living who could claim status as the Queen Dowager of England….”

Excerpt from Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’, pages 248-249, 259.

There is a dearth of records showing whether Anna went to court very often after Henry married Catherine Parr. Given what was happening in Anna’s home country, she may have been too absorbed in her own grief to come to court. Catherine Parr was yet another reminder that Anna was neither queen nor able to go home.

** Darsie’s book is already available in the UK, and is released internationally on 1 July 2019. Below are links to the UK and US Amazon sites. Darsie’s second book is anticipated Summer 2021 (Amberley) with a working title, “Children of the House of Cleves” which will focus on Anna’s siblings.

US Amazon:

Barnes & Noble:

UK Amazon:


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Sources & Suggested Reading

  1. Darsie, Heather R. Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’. Stroud: Amberley Publishing (2019).

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