July 11, 1540 – Anne of Cleves Acknowledges the Dissolution of Her Marriage

Elvi Hale as Anne of Cleves, from the BBC's Six Wives of Henry VIII (1972)

Elvi Hale as Anne of Cleves, from the BBC’s Six Wives of Henry VIII (1972)

On July 9, 1540, the marriage between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves was formally dissolved by the convocations of both Canterbury and York, based on the grounds put forward to them by Parliament. Anne was informed that afternoon, both of the dissolution and the lands and annuities she could expect by virtue of her new position as the “King’s Sister” which gave her precedence over almost every other lady of the kingdom. She immediately assured them of her consent – but the Council asked her to put her agreement in writing.

The result was a masterful letter from a woman who ended up in far better a position than she had expected or hoped – but who was careful to conceal the true extent of her relief.  Indeed, as Alison Weir put it, “it manages to convey a poignant sense of loss, calculated to flatter the King.” Which of course begs the question: was the letter drafted by the Privy Council or did it come out of Anne’s own head? The BBC’s Six Wives of Henry VIII showed us an Anne who was perfectly capable – more than anyone else – to craft such a letter. That’s the Anne I believe in.

This is the letter she wrote Henry. It is my own first-person muddle between the letter that Alison Weir quotes from in her book and the one summarized in Letters and Papers, but it gives you the essence of the communication:

I was told by divers of the Council of the doubts concerning our marriage and how petition was made that the same might be examined by the clergy and I consented to this.

Though this case must needs be both hard and sorrowful for me, for the great love which I bear to your most noble person, I accept and appro.ve the decision of the clergy, whereby I neither can nor will repute myself your Grace’s wife, considering this sentence and your Majesty’s pure and clean living with me. For all this, I hope I will sometimes have the pleasure of your most noble presence, which I shall esteem for a great benefit. The Lords and others of your Council now with me have put me in comfort that your Highness will take me for your sister, for the which I most humbly thank you accordingly. Beseeching the Almighty to send the King long life and good health.

Your Majesty’s most humble sister and servant, Anne the daughter of Cleves.

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January 6, 1540 – Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves

Wedding of Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII - as portrayed by Joss Stone and Jonathan Rhys-Meyer in Showtime's The Tudors

Wedding of Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII – as portrayed by Joss Stone and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in Showtime’s The Tudors

The official meeting having been quite public for his subjects (read the post here), the marriage was much quieter. It took place in the Queen’s Closet at Greenwich, and Chronicler Edward Hall gives a great description (I’ve updated some of the spelling for clarity):

“Thus the noble lady remained unmarried until the Tuesday following being the day of the Epiphany: on which date about eight of the clock in the morning, his Grace being appareled in a gown of cloth of gold, raised with great flowers of silver, furred with black Jenettes, his coat crimson satin all to cut and embroidered and tied with great diamonds, and a rich collar around his neck, came solemnly with his nobility into the gallery next the closets, and there paused.

Then the Lords went to fetch the Lady Anne, which was appareled in a gown of rich cloth of gold set full of large flowers of great and orient pearls, made after the Dutch fashion round, her hair hanging down, which was fair, yellow and long. On her head a Coronal of gold replenished with great stones, and set about full of branches of rosemary, about her neck and middle, jewels of great value and estimation. In this apparel she going between the Earl of Overstein and the Grand Master Hostonden, which had the conduit and order of the performance of her marriage, with most demure countenance and sad behavior (!), passed through the King’s chamber, all the Lords going before her till they came to the gallery where the King was, to whom she made three low obeissances and curtsies. Then the Archbishop of Canterbury received them and married them together, and the Earl of Overstein did give her: and about her marrying ring was written: God send me well to keep.

When the marriage was celebrated, they went hand in hand into the King’s closet and there heard Mass and offered their tapers, and after Mass had wine and spices, and that done, the King departed to his chamber and all the Ladies waited on her to her chamber, the Duke of Norfolk going on the right hand, and the Duke of Suffolk on the left hand on her grace.

After nine of the clock, the King with a gown of rich tissue lined with crimson velvet embroidered, came to his closet, and she in her here in the same apparel that she was married in, came to her closet with her Sergeant of Arms and all her Officers, like a Queen, before her. And so the King and she went openly on procession and offered and dined together. And after dinner she changed into a gown like a man’s gown, of tissue with long sleeves [gyrte] to her, furred with rich sables, her narrow sleeves were very costly, but on her head she had a cap as she wore on the Saturday before with a cornet of [laune], which cap was so rich of pearl and stone, that it was judged to be of great value. And after her fashion, her Ladies and Gentlewomen were appareled very rich and costly with chains of divers fashions, and in this apparel she went that night to Evensong, and after supped with the King; and after supper were banquets, masques, and diverse disports, till the time came that it pleased the King and her to take their rest.”

Of course, Hall did not know then that their “rest “did not include the activity that would have been expected for a wedding night…the world all found that out about six months later when the annulment proceedings started…

RESOURCES

Edward Hall, Lives of the Kings: The Triumphant Reign of King Henry VIII

Showtime’s The Tudors – if only for the crazy eyes of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers!

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January 1, 1540 – Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves Meet Privately at Rochester

Elvi Hale as Anne of Cleves, from The Six Wives of Henry VIII

The official meeting between the King and his new bride was scheduled for January 3, 1540, at Greenwich, but Henry VIII was far too much of a romantic for this – he wanted to “nourish love.” Spoiler alert (as if we needed one!) – this really didn’t go well…

There are a number of stories that are told about this meeting. The chroniclers all agree that the King’s “face fell” when he first saw her, and that he was so disappointed that he forgot to give her the presents he had brought her. They also all agree that the King began immediately to make inquiries about avoiding the marriage. But it is stories about what happened in the room that are the fun ones.

EnglishHistory.Net presents a contemporary account said to be by Spanish Ambassador Eustace Chapuys:

And on New Years Day in the afternoon the king’s grace with five of his privy chamber, being disguised with mottled cloaks with hoods so that they should not be recognized, came secretly to Rochester, and so went up into the chamber where the said Lady Anne was looking out of a window to see the bull-baiting which was going on in the courtyard, and suddenly he embraced and kissed her, and showed here a token which the king had sent her for New Year’s gift, and she being abashed and not knowing who it was thanked him, and so he spoke with her. But she regarded him little, but always looked out the window…. and when the king saw that she took so little notice of his coming he went into another chamber and took off his cloak and came in again in a coat of purple velvet. And when the lords and knights saw his grace they did him reverence…. and then her grace humbled herself lowly to the king’s majesty, and his grace saluted her again, and they talked together lovingly, and afterwards he took her by the hand and led her to another chamber where their graces amused themselves that night and on Friday until the afternoon.

Antonia Fraser gives a slightly different version, taken from John Strype (Ecclesiastical Memorials…of the Church of England under Henry VIII). It’s the one that was used in the Six Wives of Henry VIII presented back in the 1970s. The Anne of Cleves episode, written by Jean Morris, was particularly brilliant. It opens with the marriage negotiations, showing us a king who looks much older than the one who married Jane Seymour – it’s the king that most people think of when they hear “Henry VIII” (these later years are really the ones that show Keith Mitchell’s greatness). Then we switch to Cleves, where Anne is about to have her famous portrait painted. We are given a key contextual point and learn that Anne has been told – and obviously believes – that Henry is “the handsomest and most courtly king ever born.” We also are given to understand that Hans Holbein was personally captivated by Anne of Cleves – perhaps because he met her when she was wearing simple clothes with her shoulders showing – and that Anne is surprised to hear herself called beautiful …

Then we get to the best part. Henry – in pain after a good hunt, learns that his bride-to-be is on English soil, and his romantic nature takes over. Rather than waiting for the official meeting scheduled for three  days, hence, he calls for “Clothes, clothes fit for the bridegroom,” checks on the gifts he has chosen for her, and grabs some chicken legs. While he is eating, his mouth full and his chin greasy, he comes up with his plan. “We will say that I am a messenger sent by the King. She receives me. When we are alone, I reveal myself. Not the King, but the lover. The ardent lover who can wait no longer.”

They ride the 30 miles to Rochester, and get there a bit late – when Anne would not be dressed to receive visitors (but not quite in her shift yet). He is admitted to her chamber as a messenger – a larger than life messenger covered by a plain, coarse cloak. And snickering every other line.

“So, this is to be the Queen of England, eh?” he says and kneels, awkwardly to kiss her hand.

“His Majesty has sent you, sir?

“Ya,” he snickers in “German.” 

“That was most kind.” She pauses, and looks at him. “I see the journey has tired you.”

Henry waves off the concern. “Twice as far would have been nothing, Madam, so long as it was to your side.”

Anne gives a quiet “Ah” (why would she encourage a messenger who was being overly familiar?); Henry continues with his attempts at gallantry.

“And er, does England please you as much as you will please England? The journey, these lodgings, your attendants? Are they all you could wish? One finger lifted, and all England is yours.”

“Everything is most comfortable, thank you.”

He gives another of his wheezy snickers. “And while we hear your views on England we will take a cup of wine with you.” The servant comes in, has a bit of a hard time not bowing to the King but also not turning his back on him, and Henry just pushes him with an “Oh go on, get out.”

Then Henry looks over and sees Anne’s lady, Lottie, still there. “Your woman may leave us as well.”

This clearly does not please Lottie, who sniffs, “Leave her Highness alone, Sir?”

“It’s not manners in Cleves, Mistress,” he starts to rage – then catches himself and calms himself with great effort. “Well, just here, manners are different.”

Lottie agrees (what choice does she have?) but turns to Anne to curtsy and assures her, sotto voce, “I shall be within call, Madame.”

Alone with his new bride, Henry sits and tries again to charm. “Ah, of to be Queen of England. What greater glory could any woman wish? When I was young, what was England then? A little country, disregarded in the councils of the world. Who feared England then, when we signed the treaty of Lille in 1514?”

Anne breaks in. “Thirteen.”

“Madam?”

“The treaty of Lille was signed in 1513. October. The 17th

Henry is surprised, and utterly charmed. “Such a pretty thing, to prepare yourself for marriage by familiarizing yourself with your husband’s triumphs.”

Unfortunately, that turns his mind to other things…He sits, and a lecherous look appears on his face. “But there are better ways of pleasing a husband,” he says, patting his knee.

Anne pulls her dressing gown close around her and turns away. “I am not dressed to receive visitors so late at night.”

Henry ignores the dismissal and presses on. “That’s a mighty pretty piece of silk but nothing so fine as what it covers.”

That really gets her. She turns around, furious, and snaps. “Sir. This is too much. If the King were here himself…”

“But he is,” interrupts Henry.

Anne, still not getting it, looks around. “Oh? Where?”

“Sweetheart, behold him,” he yells, standing and removing his cloak to reveal a magnificent white doublet glittering with jewels. Anne looks him up and down and falls to her knees in horror.

The image cuts to Cromwell and Cranmer talking about the marriage contract outside the room. They hear an indignant scream from Anne, clearly in reaction to an inappropriate gesture. “My procuring has been successful,” says Cromwell, but then soon after that an annoyed and disgruntled King comes out of the room. A servant extends the tray of sables he had planned for her gifts, and Henry just waves him away. “Oh, tomorrow. Let a servant bring them tomorrow.”

Then he looks at Cromwell to delivers his famous lines. “I am ashamed that men have so praised the princess. I like her not.”

Again, not a good first date…

RESOURCES:

Antonia Fraser, The Wives of Henry VIII and  John Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials…of the Church of England under Henry VIII

Marilee Hanson, The First Meeting of Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII (EnglishHistory.Net)

The Six Wives of Henry VIII series!

My other posts on the topic (including the description of their official meeting that did take place as planned on January 3) – check out the Anne of Cleves line of tags!

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November 26, 1533 – Henry FitzRoy Marries Mary Howard

Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond, by Hans Holbein (public domain via Wikipedia Commons)

Henry FitzRoy was the illegitimate son of Henry VIII and Elizabeth Blount. Mary Howard was the second daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and Anne Boleyn’s cousin. The marriage was an enormous coup for the Howard family.

There had been talk, when Henry VIII first began to consider divorcing Catherine of Aragon, to have FitzRoy marry his daughter Mary and thereby assure the future of the Tudor line. The Pope pushed for this solution as the perfect solution to Henry’s Great Matter, and offered to issue the required dispensation. It might even have worked, except that the King was in love with Anne Boleyn…

By November 1533, Anne Boleyn had become Queen of England. She had given birth to her daughter Elizabeth and a son was expected next. The marriage between the fifteen year old FitzRoy and the fourteen year old Mary Howard was a triumph for the Howard family, cementing their position as the premier English family. It also gave assurance that, one way or another, Howard blood would join in the royal line after Henry…

Unfortunately for the young couple, they were not allowed to consummate the marriage. The King was afraid that too much sexual activity had hastened his older brother Arthur’s death (remember – it was at the base of his annulment from Catherine that the two had consummated that marriage) and didn’t want to chance his own son. Thus, when FizRoy died of consumption in 1536 right after turning 17, Mary was not entitled to many of the lands she should have expected as the widow – because without the consummation, the marriage was not a true marriage (a trick Henry was to use again to rid himself of Anne of Cleves)(!).

But that is a story for later. For today, let us toast happiness to the newlyweds and to the still-triumphant Anne Boleyn….

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July 9, 1540: Cleves Marriage Dissolved

July 9, 1540 - Cleves Marriage Dissolved (lucky Anne!). Read Cromwell's detailed account of why it failed on www.janetwertman.com

Hans Holbein’s Portrait of Anne of Cleves (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

On this day in 1540, Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne of Cleves was formally dissolved on the grounds of the King’s lack of consent to it (evidenced by the nonconsummation…) and her precontract with the Duke of Loraine. The former queen fared quite well in the transaction: she received a generous financial settlement that included Richmond Palace and Hever Castle (which had formerly been home to Anne Boleyn…I always wonder whether that was a subtle reminder that things could go considerably worse for her). She was also made an honorary member of Henry’s family, referred to as “the King’s Beloved Sister”.

Thomas Cromwell had supplied the basis of the testimony, in his letter of June 30. The lawyerly Cromwell covered every key fact that spoke to the King’s lack of consent, and suggested other witnesses to bolster the King’s case. It was another example of Cromwell’s unparalleled skill at giving the King what he wanted.

A note of caution, this was the most run-on letter I have ever encountered – the entire text that you see below was a single sentence, perhaps to establish the weight of the case.  I considered leaving it like that to convey the sense of desperate urgency it gave, but it was too unreadable so I added commas and substituted periods for some of the connective “ands.” I also created paragraphs, all to make it more understandable and not discourage anyone from reading the full story.

First, after your Majesty heard of the lady Anne of Cleves’ arrival at Dover and that her journeys were appointed towards Greenwich and that she should be at Rochester on New Year’s Eve even at night, Your Highness declared to me that you would privately visit her at Rochester upon New Year’s Day, adding these words to nourish love, which accordingly Your Grace did upon New Year’s Day as is abovesaid. And the next day being Friday, Your Grace returned to Greenwich where I spoke with Your Grace and asked of Your Majesty how you liked the Lady Anne. Your Highness answered, as I thought, heavily and not pleasantly, “Nothing so well as she was spoken of.” You said further that if Your Highness had known as much before as you then knew, she should not have come within this realm. And you said as by way of lamentation, “What remedy?” Unto the which, I answered and said I knew not but was very sorry therefor, and so God knoweth I was, for I thought it a hard beginning. 

The next day after the receipt of the said lady and her entry made into Greenwich, and after Your Highness had brought her to her chamber, I then waited upon Your Highness in your Privy Chamber. Being there, Your Grace called me to you, saying to me these words or the like, “My Lord, is it not as I told you, say what they will. She is nothing so fair as she hath been reported howbeit she is well and seemly.” Whereunto I answered saying, “By my faith Sire, you speak true,” adding thereunto that yet I thought she had a queenly manner, and nevertheless was sorry that Your Grace was no better content. Thereupon Your Grace commanded me to call together your Council which were these by name: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, my Lord Admiral, my Lord of Duresme and myself, to comment on those matters, and to know what commission the Agent of Cleves had brought touching the performance of the covenants sent before to Doctor Wotton to have been concluded in Cleves and also the declaration as to how the matters stood regarding the covenants of marriage between the Duke of Lorraine’s son and the said Lady Anne. Whereupon Oslegerr and Hogeston were called and the matters purposed, whereby it plainly appeared that they were much astonished and abashed and desired that they might make answer in the morning which was Sunday. And upon Sunday in the morning, your said counselors and they met early and their eftsons were purposed unto them as well, touching the commission for the performance of the treaty and articles sent to Master Wotton and also touching the contract and covenants of marriage between the Duke of Lorraine’s son and the Lady Anne and what terms they stood in. To the which things so purposed they answered as men much perplexed that as touching the commission they had none to treat. Concerning the Articles sent to Mr. Wotton and as to the contracture and covenant of marriage they could say nothing but that a revocation was made, and that they were but spousals, and finally after much reasoning they offered themselves to remain prisoners until such time as they should have sent unto them from Cleves the First Articles ratified under the Duke their master’s sign and seal, and also the copy of the revocation made between the Duke of Lorraine’s son and the Lady Anne. Upon these answers, I was sent to Your Highness, by orders of your said Council, to declare to Your Highness what answer they had made. I came to Your Highness by the privy way into your Privy Chamber and declared to the same all the circumstances. Wherewith Your Grace was very displeased saying “I am not well handled,” insomuch that I might well perceive that Your Highness was fully determined not to have gone through with the marriage at that time, saying unto me these words, or others with like effect, that “if it were not that she is come so far into my realm and the great preparations that my state and people hath made for her, and for fear of making a ruffle in the world that is to mean to drive her brother into the hands of the Empeor and French king being now together, I would never have married her,” so that I might well perceive Your Grace was neither content with the person nor yet content with the proceeding of the agent.

After dinner the said Sunday, Your Grace sent for all your said counselors and repeated how Your Highness was handled as well as touching the said articles and also the said matter of the Duke of Lorraine’s son. It might – and I doubt not it did – appear to them how loath Your Highness was to have married at that time. And thereupon and upon the considerations aforesaid Your Grace thought that it should be well done that she should make a protestation before your said councilors, in the presence of notaries, that she was free from all contracts. This was done accordingly, and thereupon I repaired to Your Highness declaring how she had made her protestation. Whereunto Your Grace answered in effect these words or others like them, “Is there none other remedy but that I must needs put my head in the yoke?” Whereupon I departed leaving Your Highness in a study or pensiveness, and yet Your Grace determined the next morning to go through.

In the morning, which was Monday, Your Majesty prepared yourself toward the ceremony. There was some question who should lead her to church, and it was appointed that the Earl of Essex and an Earl that came with her should lead her to church. And thereupon one came to Your Highness and said unto you that the Earl of Essex was not yet come, whereupon Your Grace appointed me to be one that should lead her. And so I went to her chamber to do your commandment and shortly after I came into the chamber the Earl of Essex was come, whereupon I repaired back again in to Your Grace’s Privy Chamber and showed Your Highness how he was come. And thereupon Your Majesty advanced toward the gallery out of your Privy Chamber, and Your Grace being in and about the middle of your Presence Chamber called me into you saying these words, or others  like them, “My Lord, if it were not to satisfy the world and my realm, I would not do that I must do this day for none earthly thing.”  Therewith one brought Your Grace word that she was coming, and thereupon Your Grace repaired into the gallery toward the closet, and there paused her coming being nothing content that she so long tarried as I judged then. And so consequently she came and Your Grace afterwards proceeded to the sermons, and they being finished traveled the day, as appertained, and the night after the custom.

And in the morning on Tuesday, I repaired to Your Majesty in your Privy Chamber, finding Your Grace not so pleasant as I trusted to have done. I was so bold to ask Your Grace how ye liked the Queen, whereunto Your Grace soberly answered, saying “Surely my lord, as ye know I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse. For I have felt her belly and her breasts and thereby as I can judge she should be no maid, which struck me so to the heart when I felt them that I had neither will nor courage to proceed any further in other matters. I have left her as good a maid as I found her.”  Methought then ye spoke displeasantly, which I was very sorry to hear.

Your Highness also after Candlemas and before Shrovetide once or twice said that you were in the same case with her as you were afore, and that your heart could never consent to meddle with her carnally. Notwithstanding, Your Highness alleged that you for the most part used to lie with her nightly or every second night, and yet Your Majesty ever said that she was as good a maid for you as ever her mother bore her, for any thing that you had ministered to her.  Your Highness showed me also in Lent last passed, at such time as Your Grace had some communication with her of my lady Mary, how that she began to wax stubborn and willful, ever lamenting your fate and ever verifying that you had never any carnal knowledge with her. And also after Easter Your Grace likewise at divers times and in the Whitsun week in Your Grace’s Privy Chamber at Greenwich exceedingly lamented your fate and that your greatest grief was that you should surely never have any more children for the comfort of this realm if you should so continue, assuring me that before God you thought she was never your lawful wife. At which time Your Grace knoweth what answer I made, which was that I would for my part do my utmost to comfort and deliver Your Grace of your affliction and how sorry I was both to see and hear Your Grace. God knoweth Your Grace divers times since Whitsuntide declared the like to me, ever alleging oiv thing, and also saying that you had as much done to move the consent of your heart and mind as ever did man and that you took God to witness this, but ever you said that the obstacle could never leave your mind, Gracious Prince.

After you had first seen her at Rochester, I never thought in my heart that you were or would be contented with that marriage. And Sire, I know now in what case I stand, in which is only the mercy of God and Your Grace. If I have not to the utmost of my remembrance said the truth and the whole truth in this matter, God never help me. I am sure that there is no man living in your realm that knew more in this than I did, except only Your Highness, but I am sure my Lord Admiral calling to his remembrance can show Your Highness and be my witness what I said unto him after Your Grace came from Rochester, and also after your Grace’s marriage, and also now of late since Whitsuntide. And I doubt not but many and divers of my Lords of your Council, both before your marriage and since, have right well perceived that your Majesty hath not been well pleased with your marriage, and as I shall answer to God I never thought Your Grace content after you had once seen her at Rochester.

This is all that I know.

For further reading:

Roger Bigelow Merriman, Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell, Volume 2

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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 www.janetwertman.com

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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June 20, 1540 – Anne of Cleves Worried About Henry’s Attention to Catherine Howard

On June 20, 1540, Anne of Cleves expressed her concern over the attention that Henry VIII was paying to one of her maids of honor, Catherine Howard. Read about it on www.janetwertman.com

Anne of Cleves, by Barthel Bruyn

Last week, I wrote of Cromwell’s arrest for treason, and shared the first pleading letter he sent to the King. Cromwell’s crime was religiously based: his enemies managed to persuade the King that Cromwell was a rabid Protestant. The main proof? He had saddled his king with a German bride.

So what would that mean for Anne of Cleves?

Clearly Anne was worried about the same thing, and on June 20, 1540, she complained to her brother’s ambassador that the King was paying too much attention to young Catherine Howard. This is the earliest formal reference to the King’s affection for Catherine Howard, though the attraction would have started much earlier than this.

Anne must have known something was afoot. During the six months that the couple had been married, Henry had not yet touched her. Meanwhile, the Franco-Spanish alliance that had prompted the marriage in the first place had dissolved. Henry was working to repair his relationship with Spain – who increasingly looked to be close to war with Cleves. Things did not look good right now for Anne of Cleves…

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January 3, 1540- Official meeting of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves

Hans Holbein’s Portrait of Anne of Cleves (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Today was the day that Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves were supposed to meet for the first time. Unfortunately, on January 1, Henry allowed his impatience to get the better of him and decided to surprise his prospective bride. He disguised himself as a servant sent to bring her a New Year’s gift and tried to kiss her. Of course she was shocked, of course she resisted…and of course Henry was insulted at her (likely disgusted) reaction  Apparently he didn’t even bother giving her the rich sables that he had picked out for her, and just left them there for a real servant to bring her. You can read about the experience in a separate post here)

Not much changed at their formal meeting on Blackheath outside the gates of Greenwich Park, where she was received with all the pomp that a foreign alliance demanded and a new queen deserved. The King, dressed in rich cloth of gold and purple velvet and adorned with diamonds, rubies and jewels of all kinds, rode in “on a goodly courser” through the crowds with his entire court behind him – household officers, gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, lords, knights, bishops, ambassadors, and liveried servants.  Anne rode toward him on a “richly trapped steed”and Henry “put off his bonnet and came forward to her, and with most lovely countenance and princely behavior saluted, welcomed and embraced her, to the great rejoicing of the beholders.”  The couple and their attendants then rode on to Greenwich, where they could see – and hear – the citizens of London on the river in barges cheering and singing. That night, there was a grand reception laid out in Anne’s honor.  She was said to have made a good impression on just about everyone – except the one person who mattered.

Unable to find a way to avoid the marriage without jeopardizing the Gernan alliance, Henry went ahead with the marriage. He was clearly dragging his feet on the way in (“My Lord, were not to satisfy the world and my realm, I would not do that I must do this day for none earthly thing”), and was even less happy the morning after (“I liked her not well before, but now I like her much worse”).

Henry’s inability to consummate the marriage opened the door to the annulment that followed (conveniently after the threatening alliance between France and Spain had dissolved). Many believe (I believe) that was his plan: Francis I had sent him a gift of boar pate for Christmas, so Henry might have suspected that a rapprochement between England and France would not be long in coming. Some also believe (I suspect) that he had already developed an attraction to Catherine Howard, who would have come to court to serve as a lady-in-waiting to the new queen. Ironically, Anne of Cleves probably ended up happier in this scenario than she would have been under the original plan….

Further reading:

Alison Weir, Henry VIII: The King and His Court

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December 27, 1539 – Anne of Cleves Arrives at Kent

December 27, 1539 - Anne of Cleves arrives in England, is met at Deal Castle. Read about it on www.janetwertman.com

Deal Castle, Unsigned 1539 Draft. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Such a promising day for Anne of Cleves: it was the day she landed at Kent and was met by Sir Thomas Cheyne and conveyed to Deal Castle, the most elaborate of the King’s coastal fortresses. There she was visited by the Duke of Suffolk and his wife, Catherine Willoughby, the Bishop of Chichester, and several other knights and ladies. The plan was to gradually move on to Greenwich , to arrive on January 3rd for the formal reception where she would finally meet her fiance.

It was a good plan, but unfortunately the King would change it. He got a romantic notion of surprising her, even disguising himself like he used to do in his youth with Catherine of Aragon….and so he came to meet her at Rochester on New Year’s Day.  That didn’t go well, which was the beginning of the end.

[An interesting, quick tidbit: Sir Thomas Cheyne, the man who met Anne of Cleves, was one of the men who had to tell her of the King’s decision to part with her. The History of Parliament describes him as “an astute soldier, diplomat and royal servant…[with an]…” urge to please those in authority.” No kidding.]

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Happy Birthday Anne of Cleves

Hans Holbein's Portrait of Anne of Cleves

Hans Holbein’s Portrait of Anne of Cleves (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Anne of Cleves was born on September 22, 1515 in Dusseldorf. She became the fourth wife of Henry VIII on January 6, 1540….and his ex-wife (“Beloved Sister”) on July 9, 1540.  When you consider that she received Richmond Palace and Hever Castle as part of her settlement – and she kept her head – she really fared better than just about any other of Henry’s queens…

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