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THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII

 

Travel is people. You may go abroad to see the famous sites, but what you remember best are the people you meet. Among them, like unexpected treasure, are a few memorable contacts that will make your travels unique, special, and delightful. "People" is devoted to some of those you may come in contact with during your Home At First travels.

WIFE #4 — ANNE OF CLEVES

This article first appeared in August, 2007.                                                    Most recent update: 2014.

VII Things You Don't Know About

Henry VIII's VI Wives

III Catherines, II Annes, & I Jane

— IVTH OF A SERIES —

Wife II —

Anne of Cleves


I.

Almost three years passed following the death of King Henry 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 looked for alliances of his own in protestant northern Europe. His key advisor, Thomas 

Portrait of Anne of Cleves attributed to contemporary German artists. PD-Art.
PORTRAIT OF ANN OF CLEVES
BY A CONTEMPORARY
GERMAN ARTIST.

-

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 border region.
-

The Hans Holbein the Younger portrait of Anne of Cleves. Henry VIII accepted this image as a realistic representation of Anne's physical beauty. PD-Art.

II.

Cromwell 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 — BY ENGLISH 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.

III.

When 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

King Henry VIII in a portrait believed painted in the early 1540s. PD-Art.
KING HENRY VIII IN A
PORTRAIT BELIEVED
PAINTED IN THE EARLY 1540s.
 

of Placentia in Greenwich, boyhood home of Henry VIII and birthplace of Queens Mary (1516) and Elizabeth (1533).
-

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor 1530-1556. His aunt was Catherine of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII. His cousin became England's Queen Mary I, who married his son, King Phillip II of Spain. At times Charles was allied with France against England. Other times Charles was allied with England against France. There were also times of non-alignment. PD-Art.
CHARLES V, HOLY ROMAN
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.

IV.

When 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.

Francis I, King of France 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 portrait of King Henry VIII. PD-Art.
FRANCIS I, KING OF FRANCE
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
PORTRAIT
OF KING HENRY VIII
.

By July, 1540, the 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.

V.

Don’t 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 Tower of London on trumped up treason charges.

Thomas Cromwell, the third of Henry's top advisors to die in the service of king and country. His crime? Arranging a marriage of state between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves. Not long after his execution at the Tower of London, Cromwell was much missed by the king, who lacked trustworthy counsel for the remainder of his reign. Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger, Henry VIII's court painter. PD-Art.
THOMAS CROMWELL,
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.

Queen Mary I ("Bloody Mary") of England and King Philip II of Spain. Mary hoped the marriage — to her cousin — would ensure England's return to Roman Catholicism. Philip, 11 year's Mary's junior, seemed less interested in Mary than in strengthening the position of Spain in Europe and the New World. The painting, done during the reign of Mary's sister, Queen Elizabeth I, hangs in Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds. PD-Art.
QUEEN MARY I OF ENGLAND
& KING PHILIP II OF SPAIN.

VI.

Anne 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 coronation at 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.

MARY HOPED 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.

VII.

Anne of Cleves is buried on the south side of the High Altar in Westminster Abbey, where she

had observed her step-
daughter 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 from a miniature portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger. PD-Art.
ANNE OF CLEVES.
BY HANS HOLBEIN THE YOUNGER.
IS THIS THE FACE OF A
"FAT, FLANDERS MARE"?


Live like a Queen when you come to London.
Stay at HOME AT FIRST’s Apartments at St. Katharine’s Marina.
They’re all named after their famous neighbors at the
Tower of London next door: the wives and heirs of Henry VIII.
For example, see HOME AT FIRST's
Queen Elizabeth I Apartment.

 

— END OF PART FOUR —
LEARN ABOUT HENRY VIII & ALL SIX OF HIS WIVES:

HENRY VIII

CATHERINE OF ARAGON

ANNE BOLEYN

JANE SEYMOUR

ANNE OF CLEVES

KATHRYN HOWARD

KATHERINE PARR

TRAVEL MAKES HISTORY COME ALIVE

— HOME AT FIRST —

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