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June 24, 1540 – Anne of Cleves Sent to Richmond

On June 24, 1540, Anne of Cleves was sent from court to Richmond Palace, the first step in the dissolution of her marriage. Read about it on
Richmond Palace – 1765 Engraving by James Basire “based on an ancient drawing” (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

By June 24th, 1540, Henry VIII had made up his mind and was ready to act. He would never accept the marriage to Anne of Cleves, and so she was sent away from court to Richmond Palace. Of course, Henry also believed in dissimulation, so the excuse was invented that she was being sent there to avoid the plague…though there was no plague around to avoid.

Right away, the King’s Council sprang into action. Wriothesley wrote a list of the six points that would determine the legality of the marriage.

  1. First, to declare the difference between sponsalia [de] presenti and de futuro.
  2. Whether either of them being not first … be a lawful impediment whereby the second m[arriage] may be declared nought with (sic) having appar[aunce of] consent lacked yet a perfect and hearty cons[ent, as] by proof of witness may appear.
  3. Thirdly, if it may appear by witness [of relation] quod claustra non aperiebantur, and so [consummation] not following, nor intended, with a certain [horror in] nature thereto appending, be matter sufficie[nt to] declare, upon a marriage not heartily [consummate as] afore, the insufficiency thereof without f[urther pro]cess.
  4. [Four]thly, whether the bere pot be a s[ufficient disch]arge for the former spousal.
  5. “[Fifth]ly, if it be not a lawful imped[iment to the par]ties which contracted the second [marriage, kno]wing before of the first spousal, [to go together, not] having a better discharge to th[eir knowledge the]nne the bere pot.
  6. 6. Sixthly, to declare what deposition [and how man]y deponents be sufficient to [prove the lac]k of hearty consent

The next day, Wriothesley supplemented this list by a much longer one of questions to be discussed with the imprisoned Thomas Cromwell. We know that on June 30 Cromwell supplied them with sworn written testimony that covered just about all the required legal points. With that in hand things went quickly: by July 6, matters were far enough along that Anne was finally informed that Henry was reconsidering the marriage – and by July 9 the marriage was formally dissolved.

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