When Anna met Henry: The German Account (Guest Post)


By Heather R. Darsie, J. D. 

Anna von der Mark’s travel to England to meet her new husband took much longer than either side expected. The Hereditary Duchess of Cleves and King Henry VIII of England mutually hoped that she would be in her new country and officially married to Henry by Christmas. The couple were originally to wed in Canterbury Cathedral, but those plans were thwarted by the unrelenting bad weather on the English Channel. 

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Coat of Arms, Badge and Signature of the Six Tudor Queens




Katherine of Aragon


Katherine of Aragon, NPG


Katherine of Aragon’s Signature


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Katherine’s Badge

Anne Boleyn


National Portrait Gallery, London


Anne Boleyn’s Signature


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Anne’s Badge


Jane Seymour



Jane Seymour’s Signature


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Jane’s Badge


Anne of Cleves


Anna, Duchess of Cleves (1539): Anon. Rosenbach Museum, Philadelphia, USA. MelanieVTaylor.co.uk



Anne of Cleves Signature


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Anne’s Badge


Katheryn Howard



Katheryn Howard’s Signature


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Katheryn’s Badge


Kateryn Parr



Kateryn Parr’s Signature


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Kateryn’s Badge

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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: https://www.amazon.com/Anna-Duchess-Cleves-Beloved-Sister/dp/1445677105/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=darsie&qid=1561909045&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/anna-duchess-of-cleves-heather-r-darsie/1132052950?ean=9781445677101

UK Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anna-Duchess-Cleves-Beloved-Sister/dp/1445677105/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=darsie&qid=1561909081&s=gateway&sr=8-1


You Might Also Like

  1. https://maidensandmanuscripts.com/2019/06/28/happy-504th-birthday-anna-of-cleves/
  2. https://maidensandmanuscripts.com/2019/06/29/wilhelm-v-anna-of-cleves-brother/
  3. https://maidensandmanuscripts.com/2017/05/31/sibylle-the-other-daughter-of-cleves/
  4. https://maidensandmanuscripts.com/2017/05/31/amalia-of-cleves-sister-of-anne-of-cleves/


Sources & Suggested Reading

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

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The Life of Anne of Cleves (Part Three)

She has gone down in history as the lucky fourth wife of Henry VIII…but as we’ve discovered in the first two parts of this series, Anne of Cleves was anything but lucky. Anne was patient, intelligent and kind. She was human, like you and me. Unlike her predecessors Anne was able to maneuver through a failed marriage to become the longest surviving of all of Henry’s wives.



At the end of Anne of Cleves, Part Two – it was the 9th of July 1540 and the marriage between King Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves was declared null and void and Anne would, going forward, be called, ‘the king’s sister’.

Historian Elizabeth Norton explains it well: ‘Despite her acquiescence, Anne always believed herself to be the legitimate wife of the king and the true queen. In spite of this she was first and foremost a survivor and, if the price of that survival was a denial of her true status in exchange for a life of opulent retirement, she was prepared to play along, even if that meant accepting a new lower status, beside her former maid, Queen Catherine Howard.

The End of Cromwell and Beginning of Queen Katheryn

The 28th of July was a very important date in Tudor history for two reasons, first of all, Thomas Cromwell was executed and secondly, Henry VIII married his fifth wife, Katheryn Howard privately at Oatlands Palace.

Even after all the name calling and anger toward the marriage to Anne Henry was still sensitive to his ex-wife’s feelings. A few days after his fifth wedding, Henry traveled from Hampton Court Palace to Richmond Palace to dine with Anne. Henry informed Anne of his marriage to Katheryn Howard over dinner. This is the part where I wonder where Henry’s head was. He was obsessed with Katheryn Howard – we all know that, so what would have caused him to leave his new wife to dine with the old wife he was so turned off by? Had he already realized that his young bride lacked the maturity of a good conversation? Or maybe it was just a respect he had for the woman who gave him exactly what he wanted.

Anne enjoyed her new-found independence and stayed at Richmond Palace through the end of the year. It became her favorite location, one that she later made her primary home.

When their marriage was dissolved Henry told Anne that she could visit court whenever she pleased, but this was not the case. For awhile, her visits were limited to give Katheryn Howard the time she deserved to flourish as queen — until she was invited to celebrate the New Year at court.

Tom & Kat

Anne arrived at Hampton Court Palace on the 3rd of January – Anne’s first meeting with the new queen was a nervous one but Katheryn seems to have been even more nervous about her meeting with her husband’s ex-wife. Prior to the meeting Katheryn asked those around her for advice on how to properly welcome her husband’s former wife. She wanted to make sure it was all done perfectly.

When Katheryn entered the room Anne fell to her knees and greeted the new queen with all the reverence she deserved. Katheryn was thrown off by Anne’s behavior and begged her to stand. Anne refused and continued to kneel in front of Katheryn, insisting on showing the new queen that she was respected by the ‘king’s sister’. While all of this was going on Henry entered the room to witness the interaction – he acknowledged and bowed to Anne and then the three of them had dinner together.

When dinner finished Henry, Katheryn and Anne spent a short amount of time together before the King retreated to his apartments. Anne and Katheryn spent the rest of the night talking and dancing…like two friends. They got along quite well.

When her time at court was over, Anne returned to Richmond Palace, satisfied with how it all went. The queen and Anne had got along well and the King was kind and gracious to Anne. Things were definitely looking up for the ‘king’s sister’.

In August 1540, the French ambassador, Marillac, wrote that Anne was, ‘far from pretending to be married, she is as joyous as ever, and wears new dresses every day’

Even the ambassador for Cleves was surprised at Anne’s behavior – curious why she was acting so merry. This was Anne’s coping mechanism after the humiliation of her failed marriage and stint as Queen of England.

By October of the same year there were rumors circulating that King Henry would discard Katheryn and take Anne back. While Anne would have welcomed the reunion with Henry she knew that Katheryn was his little rose without a thorn, and that the king was very happy with his young bride.

Apparently even Katheryn Howard caught wind of these rumors because Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador, wrote that the queen had been very sad and when the Henry asked her why she said that she feared she would be put aside for Anne of Cleves. The king quickly told her the rumors were rubbish and that if he were to marry again it would not be Anne of Cleves. Not very reassuring if you ask me.

Katheryn should have felt a little more confident in March of 1541 when Henry brought her to London in all the glory that Anne of Cleves had not been given. Both Henry and Katheryn traveled in the same barge down the Thames this time, unlike the 4th of February 1540 when the king and queen traveled in separate barges.

With all that being said, Henry VIII still kept Anne of Cleves in his thoughts – he acted as a protective older brother to her…or maybe a controlling ex-husband, you be the judge. This behavior was evident when Francis of Lorraine married Christina of Denmark in June 1541. Henry proclaimed that their marriage was not lawful because, as he had claimed, Anne was ‘the real legitimate wife’ of Lorraine.

The End of the King’s Fifth Wife

That fall is when the scandal broke about Katheryn Howard’s past in the household of the dowager duchess of Norfolk. Henry was heartbroken by the news and things only got worse for Katheryn on that front.

Around the same time rumors began to stir that Anne of Cleves had had a child by the king which was conceived during her visit on New Years. The time she met Katheryn for the first time. King Henry knew himself that he was not the father and so he demanded a full investigation into the matter.

Henry’s council sent for a couple of Anne’s attendants to get to the bottom of the matter, and after questioning Lady Wingfield and Lady Rattsay they were able to determine there was no truth in the matter.

Anne of Cleves was very upset about the whole affair but her attitude soon changed when she heard about the downfall of Katheryn Howard. While Anne had been very friendly with Katheryn upon their meeting, she was joyous to find out that the queen was in disgrace – to her, this meant that there was still hope for her to be reinstated as queen.

The Duke of Cleves even tried to convince the King that he should marry Anne again, but Henry would not hear any of it and besides, he was nursing a wounded heart over the Katheryn Howard affair and would never have considered re-marrying Anne.

Even after Katheryn Howard’s execution Anne thought she had a chance to be reinstated, but once again she was disappointed by the lack of interest on the king’s part.

A New Wife – Just Not Anne

After a year without a queen, Henry VIII married Kateryn Parr in July 1543. Anne of Cleve’s didn’t find out about the wedding until two weeks after when the king asked to dine with her again at Richmond Palace – just as he had after he married Katheryn Howard. This time, Anne was devastated. She couldn’t understand why Henry would marry another woman, especially one that was less attractive than she was. At least with Katheryn Howard she could believe that the King’s obsession with her maid is what ended their marriage – but with Parr she was left confused and hurt.

Anne was so hurt by the king’s sixth marriage that she wanted to leave England, but she would soon find out that she would not be able to return home because of conflict between her brother and the Emperor.

After much conflict, loss of land and the death of her mother, Anne understood that the Cleves she knew no longer existed.

In 1546, Anne was able to put her dislike for Kateryn Parr behind her and became a regular visitor at court. During Anne’s frequent visits to court the King was so kind to her that rumors began to spread once again about the two having an affair and this time it was said that she had two children by the king. These rumors once again had no base.

Death of the King of England

In the final months of the king’s life Anne of Cleves truly felt like she was part of the royal family – spending much time with Henry, the queen and the king’s children.

When Henry VIII died in January 1547, Anne was saddened by the loss of a man she truly respected. She had never loved him but had become very fond of him. Upon the king’s death she was no longer the king’s sister…now she was just the king’s aunt. Anne’s life was about to change.

Anne soon realized that her new role at Tudor court was one of expensive irrelevance, or at least that is how the new king’s council saw her. They of course couldn’t see why Henry VIII’s promises to his ex-wife had to be upheld by the reign of his son.

Henry and Kat

From the time of her divorce from Henry VIII in 1540 up until his death in 1547, Anne’s divorce settlement was most generous – not to mention when Anne needed financial assistance the King would step up and help. Unfortunately, after Henry’s death, the state of England began to change when inflation set in and Anne’s settlement wasn’t nearly enough to cover all her expenses. Where the old king once had helped his ex-wife, the new king’s council wasn’t so generous.

The payments that had been promised to Anne by King Henry VIII soon fell into arrears and by 1550 things were growing so desperate for Anne that she petitioned King Edward. At first her payments were delayed due to the king being on progress but once he returned she received some, but not all of what was owed to her.

Once again in 1552 she complained and had lands and manors granted to her – the rent from these were not nearly enough to sustain Anne’s household payments and were merely meant to supplement her income.

During the remainder of King Edward’s reign Anne’s property was continually under attack to be taken from her and her income dwindled mightily. Anne continued to wish during this time that she could return home to Cleves but could also retain her income. Both of which could not be granted.

Reign of Queen Mary

After the death of King Edward VI, Anne would have been witnessed to the tragic events that followed regarding Lady Jane Grey. Anne had always been friends with the Lady Mary and supported her cause when Jane Grey was thrust on the throne of England by her father-in-law.

During Queen Mary’s coronation procession Anne was front and center in the first chariot following the Queen. She was, after all, a very prestigious member of Tudor court and shared the chariot with the Lady Elizabeth, the heir to the throne.

At the coronation banquet, Anne also sat at the same table as the Queen and Lady Elizabeth – this event would be Anne’s final public appearance.

When Queen Mary began to consider prospects for a husband, Anne voiced her opinion in the matter. At the time there were several men being considered: Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, Don Luis of Portugal, Prince Philip of Spain, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, the King of Denmark, the Prince of Piedmont and even Reginald Pole. Anne favored Ferdinand of Austria because a marriage with him would ensure good relations with Cleves since there was a relation to her family through marriage.

By November 1553, Mary had decided who she would marry – I’m confident that she always knew it would be Philip of Spain. Her connection to her mother’s Spanish roots were strong and this would bring her the glory her mother would be proud of.

Anne, like many others, was disappointed with Mary’s selection. Her council and her subjects (well most anyway) were equally displeased.

During Wyatt’s Rebellion, Mary believed both Anne of Cleves and the Lady Elizabeth were involved. It appears that Mary had the paranoia of both her father and grandfather as there is no evidence that either woman was involved. But, to be honest, after the ascension of Lady Jane Grey why wouldn’t she have been suspicious.

Anne did not attend the wedding of Mary to Philip of Spain, for whatever reason, but she did write her a letter of congratulations – she ended it by saying, ‘Wishing you both much joy and felicity, with increase of children to God’s glory, and to the preservation of your prosperous estates, long to continue with honour in all godly virtue.

There is no evidence that Anne returned to Mary’s court – her rise to favor under the reign of Mary ended nearly as soon as it began. She spent her remaining years in quiet obscurity.

Life was never easy for Anne after the death of Henry VIII. The money she had been promised was not delivered as it should have been and she struggled to run her households and pay her servants. She was never looked after again like when she was the king’s sister.

Death of Anne of Cleves

By the end of April 1557, Anne was very sick – she had been sick for quite some time. That spring she moved to Chelsea Manor where her health increasingly declined. On the 12th of July, Anne realized she was dying. Three days later, while holding the hand of one of her ladies, Anne of Cleves died. She was forty-one years old and the last wife of Henry VIII to join him in the afterlife.

In my journey to discover the real Anne of Cleves I learned more about her than I have ever know. She wasn’t just the lucky wife – she was so much more.

Check out the Podcast on this article here:


Sources/Further Reading:

Norton, Elizabeth; Anne of Cleves – Henry VIII’s Discarded Bride (2010)
Loades, David; The 6 Wives of Henry VIII (2014)
Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII (1992)
Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)
Licence, Amy; ‘The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII’ (2014)

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The Life of Anne of Cleves (Part Two)

At the end of The Life of Anne of Cleves (Part One) we had covered Anne’s lineage, her education and the negotiations for her marriage with Henry VIII. We also covered the wedding, as well as the wedding night, and how Henry VIII was unhappy with their union – he had claimed he could not consummate the marriage but felt he definitely could perform the task with other women. And then there was Anne of Cleves who was still completely unaware of the gravity of the situation but hopeful all would work out in her favor in the end.

The Life of Anne of Cleves – Part Two

In the days following their wedding Henry visited Anne’s dimly lit bedchamber every other night in anticipation of consummating their marriage. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for Anne, he still could not. At this point, Anne appears to have been slightly more aware of the trouble in her future if their marriage was not consummated. She understood that she had to do something to entice her husband or she may end up like two of her predecessors. Henry on the other hand understood that the political situation in Europe meant that he had to try his best to make this marriage work.

Anne of Cleves -Richard Burchett (1815?1875) -Parliamentary Art Collection

Feeling desperate to please her husband, Anne decided to write letters to Thomas Cromwell to speak with him about what was going on in her marriage. Cromwell was already in hot water with the king for arranging this marriage and feared speaking with Anne would only make him look worse in the king’s eyes. So, instead of speaking with Anne as she had requested, Cromwell, in all his political astuteness decided to inform the king of Anne’s letters to him instead. The last thing Thomas Cromwell wanted was for the King to see him favoring Anne of Cleves. He was, after all, the one being held at fault for this disastrous union.

When Cromwell eventually told King Henry, he was told that he should communicate with Anne the lack of feelings the King had for her –  so, essentially, Henry wanted to make Cromwell his scapegoat and Cromwell wouldn’t have any part of it. Instead, he spoke to Anne’s Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Rutland and advised him to find a way to change Anne’s behavior with the king. Good grief, if one have them had just had the nerve to give Anne some advice on how to entice the King things may have turned out differently. But no, nobody did.

Not long after the marriage of Henry and his new queen a joust was held in Anne’s honor at Greenwich. This time Anne had the forethought to dress in a manner that was more appealing to her husband – Instead of dressing in the German fashion she had been accustomed to, Anne dressed in the English fashion. She even wore a french hood. Anne was making every effort to win over Henry. Edward Hall commented in his chronicle how everyone had noticed her beauty more in this new attire, everyone except the king that is – this did nothing to change his mind about Anne. He was still unhappy.

At this point it wasn’t only in the bedchamber that the King and Queen did not get along, it was reported that Henry and Anne had some disagreement over the Lady Mary – what was said is uncertain but Anne, feeling frustrated with all the work she was doing to attract the king, began to assert herself more to gain some control in this horrible situation. This type of behavior on Anne’s part did not help her cause. The last thing she should have been doing was upsetting the King who already did not like her.

After their first few weeks of marriage, on the 4th of February 1540, the couple moved by barge from Greenwich to Westminster. This was a grand affair where the King would show off his new bride in all their glory. As the barges passed the Tower of London the canons fired a thousand times to acknowledge the presence of the King and Queen. It is telling at this point that the couple’s marriage would never recover from its rocky start because Anne and Henry traveled in separate barges and not together as had been done with her predecessors. The normal celebration procession of the King and his new Queen through London to Westminster was also missing but this didn’t seem all that strange since Anne had not received a coronation or had one scheduled on her behalf.

The trip to Westminster, I believe, is the point that Anne finally realized (after hearing the whispers of her household) that things were worse than the non-consummation of their marriage. Henry, it appears, made it obvious now that he would not give Anne all that was befitting of a new queen. Now, not having a coronation might not have been such a big deal to Anne since her predecessor, Jane Seymour was not crowned, but that was delayed due to religious uprisings in England, not because the king did not like her.

It was after the events of the 4th of February that Anne decided to put her all into the role as queen consort, since her role as wife was not what she had expected it to be. At Westminster Anne was acquainted with her new household which totaled 126 in all – roughly the same amount as Katherine of Aragon had when she became queen in 1509. There were a fair amount ladies who came with Anne from Cleves and there were also all the English ladies who had jockeyed for positions in the Queen’s household once they heard about the marriage treaty. Being in the Queen’s household was a privilege and was an honor given to the most beautiful ladies of notable families. Sometimes even the king would choose which ladies would attend the Queen.

Unfortunately for Anne there was a young lady in her household that was placed there by the King – Katheryn Howard. Katheryn Howard had been spotted by Henry at a banquet held by the Bishop of Winchester. Most definitely the King was attracted to Katheryn’s beauty and youthfulness – and of course, he believed she was a virgin, unlike his current wife. Anne of Cleves was fully aware of the attraction her husband had for young Katheryn…but we’ll get back to that later.

Henry and Anne continued this charade for the first few months of their marriage with only the King?s closest advisors knowing his true intentions.’ Thomas Cromwell had been Henry VIII’s closest advisor since the downfall and death of his predecessor, Cardinal Wolsey. Cromwell had the King’s ear in all matters and pretty much was running the country for him. When the Cleves marriage backfired Cromwell was rightfully concerned about his position with the King, however, in April 1540 Henry raised Cromwell to the earldom of Essex. He also created him Lord Great Chamberlain. From an outsider’s perspective this looked as though Cromwell was safe from the wrath of the King. On that very day a bill was passed through Parliament confirming Anne’s dower.

As always, with Henry VIII, those two events occurred as a means to throw off what was actually going on – there were more sinister plots happening behind the scenes. A plan was already in motion because Henry wanted out of his marriage with Anne so he could be with Katheryn Howard, and if Cromwell could not do it, then he would find someone who could, but in the meantime he?d make Cromwell believe he was still his closest advisor – this is how Henry VIII worked.

Now, when it comes to Anne’s dower, Henry knew that he had to keep up pretenses because her brother, the Duke of Cleves was paying attention to what was going on in England. One wrong move and England could lose Cleves as an ally, which would mean that they would no longer have support against France and the Empire.

Katheryn Howard

Katheryn Howard by Richard Burchett –
Parliamentary Art Collection

At the beginning of the summer of 1540, Katheryn Howard’s star was beginning to shine while things began to look a bit bleaker for Anne. Anne was very observant and she was aware of the way Henry behaved around the young lady in her household. Anne may have had concerns that she would end up just like Katherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn if she did not go along with what the king wanted. It was also around this time that rumors had started to float around about Henry and Katheryn that “citizens of London saw the king very frequently in the day-time, and sometimes at midnight, pass over to her on the river Thames in a little boat”. The citizens saw this as the king having one of his frequent affairs he was known for and not as the king discarding Anne for a new bride.

During the May Day celebrations there were several days of spectacular jousting events and Anne appeared in her queenly duty alongside the King. Growing up in Cleves Anne’s lived a very sheltered life – her time as Queen offered her many amazing opportunities and she relished in her royal position. Unknowingly, this event would be Anne’s last public appearance as Queen.

Anne’s popularity only continued grew the longer she was in her role as Queen. She continued to learn English and the King’s subjects enjoyed her modesty – There were many English subjects who were fond of Anne because they believed she was a Reformist. But in all actuality, Anne was Catholic…and remained Catholic until her final breath.

Thomas Cromwell

Cromwell’s favor may have already began to turn but it was definitely for the worst when Henry VIII started questioning him about all the religious disputes going on in London. This was nothing new, but suddenly Henry was acutely aware of them and was looking for someone to blame. Since Cromwell was instrumental in the dissolution of the monasteries, the king knew exactly who to blame. Cromwell’s continued favor was tied up in whether or not he could get Henry the divorce he wanted.

On the 6th or 7th of June, one of the King’s secretaries, a man by the name of Thomas Wriothesley, showed up at Cromwell’s house in London. When Cromwell saw him he asked him, ‘Have we any news’? Wriothesley said he did not and then asked Cromwell if he had any business for him to carry out, at which Cromwell then replied, “No, I have no business now, but one thing is stuck in my head, which troubles me and I thought to tell you. The king said he does not like the Queen, he has not liked her from the beginning. I believe she is still as much of a maid as she was when she came to England.” Wriothesley was surprised by Cromwell’s statement but had no words of advice for him and reportedly left.

Cromwell, by Hans Holbein the Younger circa 1537

It was only a few days after that conversation that the end of favor came for Cromwell – he was arrested, on the 10th of June 1540. The scene played out as Cromwell was leaving the parliament building to head to dinner – a sudden gust of wind blew his hat from his head and it fell to the ground. Normally, when a gentleman lost his it was customary for everyone to remove their hats as a sign of respect. When Cromwell bent down to pick up his hat, no man showed him the respect that was warranted. At which Cromwell replied dryly: ‘A high wind indeed must it have been to blow my bonnet off and keep all yours on’. The men around him pretended not to hear what he had said and carried on to dinner.

During dinner no man spoke to Thomas Cromwell. Once dinner was over all the lords proceeded to the council chamber where they would carry out their daily business. When Cromwell finally reached the chamber all the men were already seated, at which he said, ‘you were in a great hurry, gentlemen, to get seated’. Once again his words were ignored – and as he went to sit in his chair Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk yelled out – ‘Cromwell, do not sit there; that is no place for thee. Traitors do not sit amongst gentlemen’. At this point Cromwell was furious with his treatment said, ‘I am not a traitor’. And as he spoke those words the captain of the guard entered the chamber and arrested him. The arrest of Thomas Cromwell was a shock to many – he had been the King’s closest advisor for many years; Even Thomas Cranmer was surprised saying, ‘I loved him as my friend, for so I took him to be’. But Cranmer understood that his dear friend had been branded a traitor and so he must not cover his own tail and then he followed by saying, ‘now, if he be a traitor, I am sorry that ever I loved him or trusted him’.

How hard it must have been for the people of Tudor court – to one day have a great friend whom you trusted and the next you must behave as though he were the scum of the earth.

Unfortunately for Cromwell his downfall was greeted with much happiness all over England, for there were those who believed the absence of Rome in their life and the dissolution of the monasteries were solely his fault. They felt he finally got what was coming to him.

The End of a Marriage

A couple of weeks after the arrest of Cromwell, Bishop Stephen Gardiner, another close advisor to the King, wrote a memorandum detailing how Henry VIII wished to proceed with the matter regarding his marriage to Anne. The King wished to secretly investigate the marriage further, as well as look further into Anne’s betrothal to Francis of Lorraine. Then on the 24th day of June 1540, Henry VIII requested Anne of Cleves move to Richmond Palace to avoid the plague. He suggested that the location would be beneficial for her health – with the fresh air and sunshine.

On the following day, at Richmond Palace, King Henry’s commissioners, Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor and Bishop Stephen Gardiner visited Anne to get her to confess that her marriage with the King had not been consummated. Anne was visibly upset by this request and would not consent. Unfortunately for Anne, Audley and Gardiner were able to get statements from three of her ladies on the matter. These statements may or may not be true but would go down in history as making Anne look completely naive as to what constitutes consummation. The ladies claimed that Anne believed a kiss good night was enough to constitute consummation.

In the early hours of the 6th of July 1540, the King sent a messenger to inform Anne of his concerns about their marriage. Anne must have been terrified of what was about to happen. Luckily enough, Henry wished to acquire Anne’s consent to investigate their marriage. Shocked and speechless by the news Anne summoned her brother’s ambassador and the two sat for a while digesting the news that she had just been given. When it all sank in she eventually agreed. Anne was still hopeful that her marriage would be found valid.

Bruyn the elder, Bartholomaeus; Anne of Cleves (1515-1557), Queen Consort to Henry VIII ; Trinity College, University of Cambridge; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/anne-of-cleves-15151557-queen-consort-to-henry-viii-134673

The following day, after they were summoned to Westminster, the convocations of York and Canterbury among other leading clergy, declared the marriage null and void after hearing Gardiner speak against the validity of the king’s marriage.

That very day a group of men appointed by the King went to Anne to inform her that her marriage was no more and that henceforth she would be called, the ‘king’s sister’. Anne held her composure the best she could while the men were there and agreed to accept the king’s wishes. It was reported later that when the men first arrived at Richmond to speak with her that Anne fainted briefly – obviously concerned over her own fate. Her brother’s ambassador (Karl Harst) had arrived ahead of the men and told Anne to have patience. Harst also reported that after she was informed that she could no longer claim the title of Queen that she cried and screamed about the news…her heart was broken that the King would discard her so quickly. Anne had most definitely not expected the investigation to conclude so quickly and was most likely saddened by the fact that her marriage was over. She would have been relieved to not have the same fate as Katherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn but also saddened by the fact that her marriage fell apart – the marriage she had tried so hard to keep.

Before they left, the king’s commissioners requested Anne write the king a letter agreeing to his terms. She agreed, accepting the outcome of their marriage. She signed it – ‘Anne, the daughter of Cleves’. As sister of the king, Anne received many gifts.

The day after Henry received her letter of submission he wrote her back and had Suffolk, Southampton and Wriothesley deliver a letter to her. When the men handed her the letter, along with a token of money, Anne asked them to read it to her. They declined and asked her to have her interpreter read it to her. This was a diplomatic reaction of course, for fear that Anne could claim they misled her. In the letter, Henry offered to:

  • Officially adopt Anne as his sister.
  • Give her precedence over all other ladies at court, except for any of his subsequent wives and his daughters.
  • Offered her a generous annual income
  • Gave her palaces: Richmond, Bletchingley and Hever.
  • She would also receive: Hangings, Plate and Furniture.
  • Jewels
  • And a Household made up of a good number of officers.

While Anne appeared to play along with Henry’s rules to their new agreement she drew the line at informing her brother of her new situation – that was just too humiliating for her. Henry wished for Anne to inform her brother of the divorce agreement and report how well she was being treated by the King and his Council. Anne said she would rather respond to a letter that her brother would send her instead of writing an unsolicited letter. The humiliation was, in her mind, too great to do so. Unfortunately, Anne would not have a say in this matter either – Henry insisted that she write the Duke of Cleves. He worried that if she did not that it would appear that Henry was breaking his former agreement with the duke.

Anne wrote her brother the letter which explained that she was no longer the queen. She ended her letter saying, ‘I propose to lead my life in the Realm’. Anne was fully aware at this point that Henry would hold her as a hostage in England to keep friendly terms with her brother and John Frederick. Remember John Frederick from Part One . He was Anne’s brother-in-law and heir to Cleves if her brother died without an heir.

Later that day Anne sent her wedding ring back to Henry and requested that it be broken into pieces because it no longer had value to her.

So there we have it, Anne’s marriage to Henry VIII was now declared null and void and she would henceforth be called, the ‘king’s sister‘ and would lead her life in England.

In Part Three of this series we’ll cover Anne’s time after the end of her marriage to Henry VIII and carry through until her death in 1557. If you’d like to listen to the podcast version of this article you can find it here: Further Reading:

Norton, Elizabeth; Anne of Cleves – Henry VIII’s Discarded Bride (2010)
Loades, David; The 6 Wives of Henry VIII (2014)
Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII (1992)

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The Life of Anne of Cleves (Part One)

Listen to the Tudors Dynasty Podcast about Anne of Cleves here:

Born on the 22nd of September 1515 in Dusseldorf, Anne of Cleves was the daughter of John III, Duke of Cleves and Maria of Julich Berg.

Like Katherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves had the grandest lineage of any of his other wives. She was descended from Edward I of England and on her father’s idea was closely related to Louis XII of France as well as the dukes of Burgundy.

Anne’s education was not that of a future queen, it was as a lady who would one day marry a duke or prince. She was educated by her mother and could read and write but only knew German. Anne had not been taught any music as part of her education – this was something that was actually disapproved of in her native Cleves.

Anne was the only one of King Henry’s wives who was not musical but her education level was similar to Jane Seymour’s. Throughout all of his marriages you will find wives with interest in music…save Anne of Cleves. Maybe interest is the wrong word – knowledge.

The English ambassador did not seem too concerned that Anne could not speak English, he said, ‘her wit is so good that no doubt she will in a short space learn the English tongue, when so ever she put her mind to it’.

Anne sister Sibylla was married to John Frederick, the eldest son of the Duke of Saxony at the age of fourteen. Author Elizabeth Norton says that the marriage was an excellent match and the Duke of Cleves was very generous in the terms of the marriage treaty. He provided Sibylla with 25,000 florins and agreed that if his son William died without sons, that John Frederick would become heir to Cleves – with the understanding that he would pay 160,000 florins towards the marriages of Anne and Amelia. So John Frederick had a vested interest in who the daughters married since could one day be Duke of Cleves himself.

Betrothal to Francis of Lorraine

Even before he had finalized the marriage treaty of his eldest daughter, the Duke of Cleves was already working on one for his eleven-year-old daughter Anne.

The Duke of Cleves and the Duke of Lorraine had been discussing a possible marriage between their children. The marriage contract was signed on the 5th of June 1527, but neither Anne nor Francis were called upon to give their consent to the union – something that was required to make it binding.

The betrothal between Anne of Cleves and Francis of Lorraine had been brokered by the Duke of Guelders. In 1527 the Duke of Guelders was childless and Guelders was claimed by the Duke of Lorraine – in return the Duke of Cleves would pass his claim to Guelders to his daughter Anne and she would then marry Francis of Lorraine, who would then be recognized as heir to Guelders. Confused yet? In a nutshell, there was land and money being passed around to make this marriage work.

Anne and Francis never met. The couple’s marriage treaty had been completely tied up in the fate of Guelders… and nothing was happening on that front.

The Duke of Guelders maintained the duchy for many years but had no real claim to it himself – so essentially he had no right to name an heir.

Luckily for Anne’s brother William of Cleves, the Duke of Guelders named him as his heir. Upon the death of the Duke of Guelders in 1538, William claimed the duchy for himself. When that happened, the ambassador from Lorraine came to Cleves to awaken the marriage treaty between Anne and Francis. William of Cleves had no interest in the match and that was the end of it. As far as they were all concerned there never was a valid betrothal.

England’s Queen

In October 1537, Henry VIII’s third wife Jane Seymour had died and his advisors almost immediately began looking for a fourth bride. This was the first time King Henry did not have a new bride lined up to replace the previous one. The thought now was to acquire Henry a foreign bride to build an alliance – the King was at odds with Rome and needed an ally…Cleves was perfect, but was not an immediate thought…until 1539 when all other options were beginning to fade.

In February 1539, John III, Duke of Cleves died. At the time of his death he was not very excited about a marriage that tied them with the English king.

A King for Anne of Cleves

It took until 4 September 1539 for a marriage treaty to be agreed on. This was delayed by Anne’s brother the Duke of Cleves consulting John Frederick, Duke of Lorraine, because if William had no sons than John Frederick would inherit Cleves after William’s death. So he definitely cared who Cleves was allied with.

Leaving Cleves

Once the marriage treaty was agreed upon Anne of Cleves life changed – putting her in the spotlight. She received a letter of congratulations from Thomas Cromwell and a gift from the Lady Lisle.

Henry VIII had a feeling that Anne knew little about English customs and the language, so he sent to her a gentlewoman by the name of Mistress Gylman.

Anne’s final weeks in Cleves were spent with her mother and her sister Amelia, preparing for her trip to her new home – England. Part of this preparation was to have a wardrobe that was fit for a queen…all in the German fashion. This was very different from the English fashion and one must wonder if Mistress Gylman had recommended some English styles.

All of Anne’s preparations took time and this caused a delay in her arrival in England – Henry VIII and his English subjects were anxiously awaiting their new queen – it had been two years since a Tudor queen graced the court.

When her departure day finally arrived one can imagine that Anne’s good-byes to her family must have been difficult, she had never left Cleves before – but this was a new adventure and was going to be Queen of England. She left Cleves with a train of 263 people, quite impressive.

Arrival in Her New Kingdom

On the 11th of December 1539, Anne finally arrived in English territory. No expense was spared on the reception of Anne in her new kingdom. She spent her first night in Exchequer and the whole town is said to have come out to greet her – she was very pleased with the welcome she was receiving.

Finally, sixteen days after entering her future husband’s kingdom, at five o’clock in the afternoon, Anne of Cleves landed in Dover. From there, Sir Thomas Cheyne escorted her to Deal Castle.

Deal Castle construction had only recently been completed and it was the perfect location to house Anne and her retinue to freshen up and change clothes, but was not meant for a long stay.

The Duke and Duchess of Suffolk (Charles Brandon and Catherine Willoughby) were there to greet Anne and to escort her to the more suitable Dover Castle. The trip from Deal to Dover was about seven and a half miles long. The group arrived around eleven o’clock in the evening.

Meeting the King

Travel to her final destination was delayed by weather. Both Anne and Henry were anxious to meet one another. As King Henry VIII was tracking her progress he knew that she would spend the day resting in London, he saw this as his opportunity to act on a centuries old tradition. Elizabeth Norton said it best in her book about Anne of Cleves: ‘five members of his Privy Chamber disguised in marble-colored cloaks rode down from Greenwich to Rochester to surprise Anne. In chivalric tradition, the king was supposed to visit his bride in disguise and she, due to the love between them, was meant to immediately recognize her husband, in spite of the fact that the couple had never met’.

Henry had always been known to be a romantic – think back to his love letters to Anne Boleyn – he believed himself in love with Anne of Cleves and that she would most definitely return the feeling and recognize him in disguise.

The plan was to send Sir Anthony Browne in to inform Anne of Cleves that he had been charged to deliver a New Year’s gift from King Henry to her.

After his initial meeting with Anne, Sir Anthony Browne recorded what he had witnessed:

When he looked upon Anne he did not see the resemblance to portrait by Holbein. He knew immediately that King Henry would not be pleased. When he returned to the King after his meeting with he did not warn Henry of her appearance. He only informed her that she was ready to receive her gift.

The King went into Anne’s chamber with no idea of what would happen but was excited and hopeful that she would recognize him. Unfortunately, Anne was distracted. She was looking out her window into the courtyard watching dogs harass and attack a tethered bull – called bull-baiting. It must have been quite a site because she did not immediately acknowledge Henry standing there in disguise. Henry, trying to get his future bride’s attention handed her a token from the King. She still seemed uninterested and distracted, so Henry showed her again. When he still did not get a reaction from her he resorted to kissing and hugging Anne.

Anne was thrown-off by this behavior as it was not what she had experienced from other guests thus far and had not put two and two together that the man in disguise was the King of England. Henry left, upset of course, and returned dressed in all his finest. He greeted Anne and appears to acted like nothing awkward had just happened – he then led her into a pivot chamber so they could get better acquainted.

It was that original meeting that most likely formed Henry VIII’s opinion on Anne Cleves. He liked her not and did not want to marry her.

In Henry’s own words: quote – ‘…when I saw her at Rochester, the first time that ever I saw her, it rejoiced my heart that I had kept me free from making any pact or bond before with her till I saw her myself; for then i assure you I liked her so ill, and so far contrary to that she was praised, that I was woo that ever she came to England’.

When Henry VIII was first made aware of the friendship and union that could come from Cleves he had looked forward to it – ever the politician and romantic he was. His excitement followed the new of her beauty and her virtuousness. Once he met Anne in person he immediately doubted the betrothal and wanted to find a way out of it.

Cromwell could not find an easy way out and so the wedding had to go on. England had made an agreement with Cleves and they feared angering Anne’s brother. They needed him as an ally, not a foe.

Anne of Cleves at this time had only been taught a minimal amount of English by Mistress Gylman and generally communicated through interpreters – it is likely that she was unaware of how her future husband felt about her because of this, but Anne was sure that Henry had no idea that she was not attracted to him.

This match was a complete failure as far as physical attraction goes. Not uncommon in royal marriages but not the way that either of them expected it to go. With that being said, Anne kept her chin up and continued to smile and be merry.

Once Henry VIII realized that there was no way out of marrying Anne he signed documents granting her land…which had been agreed upon as part of her dower.

The Wedding

Anne was informed on the evening on the 5th of January that she would marry the king the following day. This is the event that she had traveled so far for and was prepared to fulfill her commitment. Anne still had no idea that the king was not pleased with her. Henry, on the other hand, spent that evening wallowing in self-pity.

On the day of their wedding Anne woke early to prepare for the day that would make her queen. With the help of her ladies she was dressed in the finest gown that she had brought from Cleves. Chronicler Edward Hall noted that the bride was wearing a gown of rich cloth of gold set full of large flowers of great and orient pearl, made after the Dutch fashion. Her long, yellow hair was hanging loose (which was the custom) and on her head she wore crown of gold with great stones. Around her neck and waist were matching jewelry of great value.

Once she was prepared for the wedding Anne was to wait for Henry Bourchier, the 2nd Earl of Essex to escort her, however, he had not showed and was apparently running late. In his place, Henry VIII sent Thomas Cromwell to lead Anne to the church. When Cromwell arrived so did the Earl of Essex and so Cromwell left.

When Cromwell returned to the King’s side (along with a few other lords), Henry said to him, ‘My Lord, if it were not to satisfy the world and my realm I would not do that I must do this day for no earthly thing – and then he walked to the chapel…surely stomping his feet like a child.

When Anne arrived at the chapel it is said that she had ‘most demure countenance and sad behavior. She passed through the king’s chamber, all the lords going before her till they came to the gallery where the king was, to whom she made low curtsies and observances’.

Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury performed the ceremony at eight o’clock in the morning on the Feast of Epiphany, and in place of her brother, Anne was given away by the Count of Overstein.

During the ceremony Anne performed as she must, quietly speaking English until, on her finger, was placed a ring which was engraved with ‘God send me well to keep‘.

Upon the conclusion of the ceremony, the couple walked hand in hand to the King’s Closet where they heard mass together for the first time as husband and wife.

From there the newlyweds went to their wedding banquet.

Later in the afternoon it was said that Anne changed into a gown that was considered to be of a masculine cut. Like things were bad enough with Henry not being attracted to her, not she was also wearing more unattractive clothing.

The couple had supper together and then attended a program of masques and other entertainment, after which the couple were put to bed.

Wedding Night

Some believe that Anne’s mother Maria, had not felt it necessary to acquaint her daughter with, well, information about what would occur in the marriage bed. Other says that it was the custom of the time for a mother to teach her daughter such things and that Anne knew what to expect. We’ll never know for certain.

On the other side of the bed was the obese King Henry who knew all too well what should be done – he had intended to perform his duty and consummate the marriage. After running his hands all over his bride’s body he gave up and went to sleep. Evidently he was not up to the task. The newlyweds did not consummate their union.

The following day Henry VIII was in a terrible mood, he had married the woman he had wished not to. Unable to perform his husbandly duties in the marriage bed would normally be so embarrassing but to Henry it was proof that this marriage was all wrong. The King even told influential courtiers that he was unable to consummate the marriage and that ‘he had found her body disordered and indisposed to excite and provoke any lust in him‘and that she could not be a virgin.

He then clarified his comments to Sir Thomas Hennege that the reason he believe Anne not be a virgin because she had ‘loose breasts and other tokens’. He also claimed that she smelled.

Then the king told his doctor, William Butts that his failure to consummate the marriage was not due to impotence on his part because he had experienced wet dreams during his wedding night – so he could perform, just not with his new bride. Interestingly enough we know of a time when Henry was with Anne Boleyn that he experienced impotence because it was brought up during the trial of her brother George Boleyn.

So there we have it – Anne of Cleves was now Queen of England. Henry VIII was unhappy with the union and claims he could not consummate the marriage but felt he definitely could perform the task with other women and Anne of Cleves is still completely unaware that he time as queen will be short lived.

We’ll stop there for now and continue on with the story in Part Two.


Further Reading:

Norton, Elizabeth; Anne of Cleves – Henry VIII’s Discarded Bride (2010)
Weir, Alison; The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1991)
Burnet, Gilbert; The History of the Reformation of the Church of England (1679)

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