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House of Tudor - Anne of Cleves

Name: Anne of Cleves
Father: John Duke of Cleves
Mother: Marie von Julich
Born: September 22, 1515 at Dusseldorf, Duchy of Cleves
Married: Henry VIII, on January 6, 1540
Died: July 17, 1557 at Chelsea, London, aged 41 years, 9 months, and 24 days
Buried at: Westminster Abbey

Anne of Cleves was the 4th wife of Henry VIII, and was born in 1515 in Dusseldorf in the Duchy of Cleves. At the age of 12 she was betrothed to Frances son of the Duke of Lorraine but the marriage did not take place. She received no formal education but learnt needlework and music. Her family were Lutheran and she became a suitable match in Thomas Cromwell’s search for a new wife for Henry following the death of Jane Seymour.

The artist Holbein was sent to paint portraits of Anne and her sister and instructed to paint them in a good light. The portrait (now in the Louvre in Paris) pleased Henry and in 1539 the marriage treaty was arranged. Anne travelled to England and Henry impatient to see his new bride walked in on her unannounced as she arrived at Rochester. Having never seen him and speaking no English, she did not know who he was and did not acknowledge or curtsy to him. Henry took an instant dislike to her and said ‘I like her not’. He referred to her as ‘The Mare of Flanders’.

It was too late to cancel the wedding as the marriage treaty was in place, and despite Henry’s misgivings they were married on 6 January 1540. A few weeks later Anne was told to leave the court and informed of Henry’s decision to reconsider the marriage. An annulment was granted on 9 July on the grounds of non-consummation and her pre-contract to Francis of Lorraine. She received a generous allowance and Hever Castle in Kent, former home of the Boleyn family. Reluctant to return home to her family a failure, Anne remained in England for the rest of her life and was referred to by Henry as the ‘Kings beloved Sister’.

Anne of Cleves's Signature