article first appeared in August, 2007.
— FOURTH OF A SERIES —
three years passed following the death of
VIII’s third wife,
Jane Seymour, who died following the
complications of childbirth, leaving Henry heartbroken, but with the
heir—Edward VI—he had sought. The political times were charged with old
enmities (France had been England’s great competitor in Europe for
centuries) made more contentious by religious differences between
Catholics and Protestants brought on the by Reformation. Seeing the new
alliance between catholic France and the Holy Roman Empire as a military
threat to England, protestant Henry VIII
PORTRAIT OF ANN OF CLEVES
BY A CONTEMPORARY
alliances of his own in protestant northern Europe. His key advisor,
Thomas Cromwell, recommended Henry create a strong alliance with the
Lutheran states of Germany and Holland by marrying Anne, the sister of
the Duke of Cleves, powerful Protestant leader from the German/Holland
visited the Duchy of Cleves and returned with glowing reports of Anne’s
attractiveness and suitability as a potential queen for Henry. Henry’s
great court painter, the German Hans Holbein the Younger was sent to
paint Anne’s portrait to show Henry whether Cromwell was accurate. The
painting convinced Henry to proceed with the marriage, and he sent for
Anne late in 1539.
ANNE OF CLEVES—PORTRAYED
COURT PAINTER HANS HOLBEIN THE YOUNGER.
IT WAS THIS IMAGE THAT CONVINCED HENRY
VIII OF ANNE'S PHYSICAL BEAUTY. WHEN
HENRY AND MET SOME MONTHS LATER, NEITHER
WAS TAKEN WITH THE OTHER'S APPEARANCE.
Anne of Cleves arrived in England—enduring a hazardous winter journey of
more than a month to get there—in late December 1539, Henry was shocked
by her appearance, which Henry called that of a “fat, Flanders mare”.
Twenty-four year old Anne evidently was not instantly attracted to
48-year-old Henry, either. An eyewitness account tells of their first
meeting: Henry, disguised as a messenger of the king, presented Anne
with a New Year’s gift and a kiss to show the king’s affection, but she
paid little attention to him. Minutes later, when Henry reappeared in
proper kingly attire and was introduced to her formally, Anne deferred
properly to Henry’s regal presence. Clothes—and not Henry’s mature
physique—clearly made the man to Anne. Nevertheless, the marriage went
on as planned, on January 6, 1540, at the Palace of Placentia in
Greenwich, boyhood home of Henry VIII and birthplace of Queens Mary
(1516) and Elizabeth (1533).
KING HENRY VIII IN
PAINTED IN THE EARLY 1540s.
CHARLES V, HOLY
EMPEROR. RELATED TO THE
ENGLISH ROYAL FAMILY
THROUGH HIS AUNT,
CATHERINE OF ARAGON,
FIRST WIFE OF HENRY VIII.
HIS EMPIRE OF SPAIN +
ITALY + GERMANY WAS SOMETIMES PAIRED WITH
ENGLAND AGAINST FRANCE,
AND SOMETIMES WAS
PAIRED WITH FRANCE
AGAINST ENGLAND. HIS
COUSIN WAS ENGLAND'S
QUEEN MARY I, WHO
MARRIED HIS SON, KING PHILLIP II OF SPAIN.
CHARLES AND MARY BOTH DIED IN 1558. WITH THEIR PASSING, ENGLAND'S
RAPPROCHEMENT WITH CATHOLICISM AND WITH SPAIN BOTH ENDED.
the King of France and the Holy Roman Emperor had a falling out, Henry
VIII no longer needed his alliance with the Duchy of Cleves and other
German/Dutch Protestant dukedoms. And, with the Duke of Cleves picking a
fight with the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry VIII had grounds to sever all
ties with Cleves. Then, too, Henry’s wandering eye noticed the
19-year-old Kathryn Howard, in service as an attendant to the queen.
Henry, aided by a cooperative Queen Anne, found a way to end the
marriage. Anne agreed to the premise that her prior engagement to a
Continental nobleman was grounds for annulment of her marriage to
Henry—that and her confirmation that she and the King of England had
never consummated their marriage (Henry claimed to leave Anne “as good a
maid as he had found her”) provided sufficient legal space to dissolve
the shortest of Henry's marriages. By July, 1540,
FRANCIS I, KING OF
1515-1547. HIS POWER
STRUGGLE WITH CHARLES V,
HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR,
BROKE APART THEIR
ALLIANCE AGAINST HENRY
VIII'S ENGLAND, MAKING HENRY'S MARRIAGE TO
ANNE OF CLEVES NO
LONGER A STRATEGIC NECESSITY. THIS
PORTRAIT OF FRANCIS I
IS BY JOOS VAN CLEVE,
ARTIST FROM THE
RHINELAND REGION THAT
ALSO WAS HOME TO ANNE
OF CLEVES. IN THE SMALL WORLD OF EUROPEAN ROYALTY AT THIS TIME,
JOOS VAN CLEVE ALSO PAINTED A
OF KING HENRY VIII.
seven months union between the King of England and
Anne of Cleves
ended in divorce, and Henry was free to marry
Kathryn Howard, a pretty
courtier 30 years his junior.
cry for Anne of Cleves. Henry’s domesticated “Flanders Mare” may have
been ill prepared for the sophistication of the English court, but she
negotiated a shrewd departure, and escaped Henry’s displeasure with much
more than her not-so-pretty neck. No longer queen nor wife to King Henry
VIII, Anne took a new title, one that promised safety and respect so
long as Henry ruled: the King’s Sister. She was ensconced in
Anne Boleyn’s family home,
Hever Castle, thirty
miles from London in Kent, where she lived in relative luxury for
seventeen years. There was no such golden parachute for poor Thomas
Cromwell, the minister who arranged the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne
of Cleves. Cromwell, like Cardinal Wolsey before him, lost the
confidence of the king, and, by the end of Henry’s marriage to Anne in
July, Cromwell would lose his head at the
of London on trumped up treason charges.
THOMAS CROMWELL, IN
PORTRAIT BY HANS HOLBEIN
THE YOUNGER. AFTER HIS EXECUTION IN THE TOWER
OF LONDON, CROMWELL
WAS QUICKLY MISSED BY HENRY, WHO LACKED TRUSTWORTHY COUNSEL FOR
THE REMAINDER OF HIS REIGN.
of Cleves, Protestant ex-Queen of England, outlived her former husband
by some ten years, and then outlived his Protestant heir, Edward VI, and
his Protestant heir, Lady Jane Grey. When Queen Mary I, the Roman
Catholic daughter of
Catherine of Aragon,
ascended to the throne in 1553, Anne of Cleves was in attendance at her
Westminster Abbey. Bloody Mary devoted much time to
restoring Roman Catholicism as the state religion in Britain, and became
known for persecuting and executing Protestants who stood in her way.
QUEEN MARY I OF ENGLAND AND KING PHILIP II OF SPAIN.
MARY HOPE THE MARRIAGE—TO HER COUSIN—WOULD ENSURE
ENGLAND'S RETURN TO ROMAN CATHOLICISM. PHILIP, 11 YEARS MARY'S JUNIOR,
SEEMED LESS INTERESTED IN MARY THAN IN
STRENGTHENING THE POSITION OF SPAIN IN EUROPE AND THE
NEW WORLD. MARY PERSECUTED MANY ENGLISH PROTESTANTS, BUT ACTED AS
PROTECTOR OF HER FATHER'S 4TH WIFE, THE
GERMAN PROTESTANT ANNE OF CLEVES.
of Cleves is buried on the south side of the High Altar in Westminster
Abbey, where she had observed her stepdaughter
Mary become Queen of England in 1553. Anne died in 1557, a year before
Mary died and was replaced by her resolutely Protestant sister Elizabeth
I. Mary ordered that Anne’s funeral be in accordance with Roman Catholic
ceremonial rites. She outlived her former husband by ten years,
outliving all five other wives of Henry VIII.
ANNE OF CLEVES, IN
HANS HOLBEIN THE YOUNGER. IS THIS
THE FACE OF A "FAT, FLANDERS MARE"?
— END OF PART FOUR —
LEARN ABOUT HENRY VIII &
ALL SIX OF HIS WIVES: