College Research Presentations History Essays Britain Tudor Life  Henry 8th   Anne of Cleves

Ann of Cleves was the 4th queen consort of Henry VIII.  She outlived Henry and all of his wives.

The Princess of Cleves was the 2nd daughter of John Duke of Cleves (located in Germany ). She was born September 1515. She did not speak English and knew no other language other than her native tongue. She was not pretty and had a gentle meek temperament.

Anne of Cleves marriage to Henry VIII was a political arrangement set up by Thomas Cromwell who thought it wise for England to ally with one of the German provinces against both Catholic France  and Spain . The marriage treaty was signed October 6, 1539.

Henry had never met Anne of Cleves. Holbein painted a miniature portrait of her likeness. It was very flattering. Henry was looking forward to meeting her new bride.

As one story goes, Anne landed at Deal on December 27. Henry disguised as another met her at Rochester. He was repulsed by her looks.

Anne of Cleves portraitHenry was locked into the marriage because of the treaty. He felt he had been mislead as everyone said Anne of Cleves was a real beauty. He was angry.

Henry went through with the marriage to Anne of Cleves on January 6th. However, on the wedding night he could not bring himself to consummate the marriage. At this time period, Henry had lost most of his looks and had grown fat. Many thought he was impotent during his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Henry complained that Anne of Cleves breath was foul. Anne of Cleves knew of Anne Boleyn's fate. So, she most likely did not care to marry Henry either.

6 months later, Cromwell was arrested for treason and became a prisoner of the tower of London and executed.

Henry wanted out of his marriage either divorce or annulment. In the mean time, Stephan Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester introduced Henry to 16 year old, Catharine Howard. Henry was anxious to marry Catharine Howard. Parliament met on July 6 1540 to discuss the validly of Henry's marriage to Anne of Cleves for possible divorce or annulment. The marriage was annulled on July 6, 1540. Anne was happy with the decision  or at least she did not protest. For her troubles she was made Henry's sister and given a generous settlement of 4000 pounds a year in lands and property on the condition she stay in England. She lived at Richmond and visited Henry at court occasionally. She remained in good terms with Henry throughout his life. English women had more liberties than women in Cleves. So Anne enjoyed her status in England. Had Catharine of Aragon accepted her divorce from Henry VIII, she would have been treated as generously too.

On July 16, 1557 Anne of Cleves died at Chelsea. Henry had died 10 years earlier in 1547. His last wife, Catherine Parr died  in 1548. So Anne of Cleves was the only ex-wife to out live Henry.

Questions and Answers

Question: What Anne of Cleves did Wrong? Answer: Absolutely nothing.

Question: What nationality was Anne of Cleves? Answer: She was German.

Question: How did Anne of Cleves Die? Answer: Her health had been failing for quite sometime. The illness that caused her death was not named.


Weir, Alison, The Six Wives of Henry VIII,  Grove Press (April 2000)

Weir, Alison, Henry VIII: The King and His Court Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (October 29, 2002)