- "Nobody ever asks a bride why she has agreed to marriage, but Anne of Cleves could have had her own reasons. She must have realized that marriage to the English monarch would mean she would leave Germany and say goodbye to her brother, probably forever. If that is what she wanted, she has done well. She does not even have to cope with the unpredictable King. I think she may be a very clever woman."
- —Beatrice Townhill
Anne of Cleves (1515 – 1557) was the fourth wife of King Henry VIII of England. She married Henry in January 1540, after travelling a long way from her homeland, Germany. Henry was unhappy with the marriage and obtained an annulment within six months. Anne remained in England for the rest of her life.
1539 – 1540
After the death of his third wife, Henry VIII looked at several potential marriage candidates, including Christina of Denmark and Mary of Guise. His advisers, particularly Thomas Cromwell, leaned toward the daughters of the Duke of Cleves, since Germany was a Protestant country. Envoys and Henry's portrait painter, Hans Holbein were sent Düsseldorf and Anne was picked as the more attractive of the sisters.
The marriage contract was signed in the fall of 1539. Anne traveled to Calais, France, eventually crossed the sea and reached London. Henry found her "repulsive," after their first meeting. Nonetheless, they were married on January 6, 1540, but the marriage remained unconsummated. Henry soon sought an annulment, which she consented to quickly. Their marriage was officially annulled on July 9, 1540. Henry gave her four houses and an allowance of four thousand pounds a year.
Anne was allowed to visit court whenever she wished, and enjoyed a friendship with King Henry in his later years. She was also friendly with Henry's children, Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward, and also met Henry's last two wives, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr. In 1553, Anne attended the coronation of Henry's eldest daughter, Mary. Anne died in 1557, the last of Henry's wives.
Personality and traits
Unlike some of Henry's other wives, Anne of Cleves was not highly educated. She spoke only High Dutch, a form of German, and spoke no English, when she first arrived. Anne did eventually learn English, but spoke with a thick accent. She also could play an instrument or dance, since these pastimes were considered "ungodly" in Germany.
Anne was an earnest and naive person, who only had respect for Henry. However, she felt humiliated, when her ladies-in-waiting explained consummation to her, and realized that "her marriage was a farce." She went through the rest of her marriage in a dignified manner, despite Henry's attempts to blame her for its failing.
Behind the scenes
- My Tudor Queen (Mentioned in the Historical Notes)
- Anne Boleyn and Me (Mentioned in the Historical Notes)
- Henry VIII's Wives
- Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor
- Bloody Tower (Mentioned only)
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