Anne of Cleves


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King Henry VIII Tudor

Anne of Cleves

  • Born: 22 Sep 1515, Düsseldorf, Cleves, Holy Roman Empire
  • Marriage: King Henry VIII Tudor on 6 Jan 1540 in Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, London, Middlesex, England
  • Died: 16 Jul 1557, Hever Castle, Hever, Kent, England at age 41
  • Buried: Westminster Abbey, Middlesex, England

  General Notes:

Anne of Cleves (22 September 1515\endash 16 July 1557) (German: Anna von Jülich-Kleve-Berg) was the fourth wife of Henry VIII of England and as such she was Queen of England from 6 January 1540 to 9 July 1540.

Early life

Anne was born near Düsseldorf, the second daughter of John III, ruler of the Duchy of Cleves, who died in 1538, and his wife Maria, Duchess of Julich-Berg (1491- 1543). Her father was influenced by Erasmus and followed a moderate path within the Reformation. He sided with the Schmalkaldic League and opposed the catholic Habsburg Charles V, then emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. After John's death, her brother William became Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, bearing the promising epithet "The Rich." In 1526, her elder sister Sybille was married to John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, head of the Protestant Confederation of Germany and considered the "Champion of the Reformation." At the age of 12 (1527), she was betrothed to Francis, son and heir of the Duke of Lorraine while he was only 10, thus the betrothal was considered 'unofficial' and was cancelled in 1535. Her brother William was a Lutheran but the family was unaligned religiously, with her mother, the Duchess Maria described as a "strict Catholic". The Duke's ongoing dispute over Gelderland with Emperor Charles V made them suitable allies for England's King Henry VIII in the wake of the Truce of Nice. The match with Anne was urged on the King by his chancellor, Thomas Cromwell.

Wedding preparations

The artist Hans Holbein the Younger was dispatched to paint portraits of Anne and her younger sister, Amelia, both of whom Henry was considering as his fourth wife. Henry required the artist to be as accurate as possible, not to flatter the sisters. The two versions of Holbein's portrait are in The Louvre in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Negotiations with the Cleves court were in full swing by March 1539. Cromwell oversaw the talks and a marriage treaty was signed on 4 October of the same year. While Henry valued education and cultural sophistication in women, Anne lacked these in her upbringing; she received no formal education as a child, and instead of being able to sing or play an instrument, she was skilled in needlework, and liked to play card games. She had learned to read and write, but in German only. Nevertheless, Anne was considered gentle, virtuous, and docile, qualities that made her a suitable candidate for Henry. Anne was described by the French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, as tall and slim, "of middling beauty, and of very assured and resolute countenance". She was dark haired, with a rather swarthy complexion, appeared solemn by English standards, and she looked old for her age. Holbein painted her with high forehead, heavy-lidded eyes and a pointed chin.

Henry was impatient to see his future bride. He rode to meet her at Rochester on her way to London and was promptly disappointed. He felt he had been misled, as everyone had praised Anne's attractions: "She is nothing so fair as she hath been reported," he complained. Henry urged Cromwell to find a legal way to avoid the marriage but, by this point, doing so was impossible without endangering the vital alliance with the Germans.

A doomed marriage

Despite Henry's very vocal misgivings, the two were married on 6 January 1540 at the royal Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, London by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The phrase "God send me well to keep" was engraved around Anne's wedding ring. Immediately after arriving in England, Anne conformed to the Catholic form of worship, which Henry expected. The couple's first night as husband and wife was not a happy one. Henry confided to Cromwell that he had not consummated the marriage, saying, "I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse".

Anne was commanded to leave the Court on 24 June, and on 6 July she was informed of her husband's decision to reconsider the marriage. In a short time, Anne was asked for her consent to an annulment, to which she agreed. The marriage was annulled on 9 July 1540, on the grounds both of non-consummation and of her pre-contract to Francis of Lorraine. She received a generous settlement, including Richmond Palace, Hever Castle, home of Henry's former in-laws, the Boleyns. Anne of Cleves House, in Lewes, Sussex, is just one of many properties she owned; she never lived there. Henry and Anne became good friends and he later made her a Princess of England and called her "the King's Beloved Sister". In 1553, when Henry's daughters Mary and Elizabeth rode side-by-side into London with Mary as Queen, Anne was there to greet them. She was also at Mary's coronation at Westminster. She also has the distinction of being the last of Henry VIII's wives to die (she outlived Henry's last wife, Catherine Parr, by 9 years). However, she is not the longest-lived, for Catherine of Aragon was 50 at the time of her death. Anne remained in England for the rest of her life.


Anne died at Hever Castle on 16 July 1557, a year before Mary herself died. According to her wishes, she was buried in what is described as a "somewhat hard to find tomb in Westminster Abbey". Her tomb is on the opposite site of Edward the Confessor's shrine, and slightly above eye level for a person of average height.

In fiction

Philippa Gregory's novel, The Boleyn Inheritance, is told from the viewpoint of three prominent women at the Tudor court of Henry VIII: Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn.

Margaret Campbell Barnes' My Lady of Cleves describes what Anne's life might have been like between the time her portrait was painted by Hans Holbein and when King Henry VIII died.

Joss Stone will play Anne in the third season of Showtime's The Tudors.


Sir Horace Walpole, writing in the 18th century, resurrected the myth which described Anne as "The Flanders Mare" \emdash a monument to ugliness. This view persisted, and it is still a popular stereotype. Most modern historians, however, disagree with it, and the Holbein portrait certainly contradicts it. Another theory is that Anne found Henry repulsive because of his obesity, and set out to make him dislike her.

Another theory suggests that they agreed that they simply did not get on well with each other \emdash Anne had been raised in the small provincial court at Düsseldorf and shared none of the musical and humanistic literary tastes of Henry's court. Another theory suggests that shifts in a threatened Catholic French-Spanish alliance removed any diplomatic motivations for their union. In any event, Henry and Anne split on amicable terms and became close friends. Henry even made her Princess of England.

Finally, there is the theory that the marriage was politically inconvenient because of the growing hostility between Henry and the Duke of Cleves.

Anne married King Henry VIII Tudor, son of Henry VII Tudor and Elizabeth of York, on 6 Jan 1540 in Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, London, Middlesex, England. (King Henry VIII Tudor was born on 28 Jun 1491 in Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, London, Middlesex, England and died on 28 Jan 1547 in Palace of Whitehall, London, Middlesex, England.)

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