6 January 1540 –
King Henry VIII marries Anne of Cleves
Lady Anne of Cleves found herself to be the (un)fortunate 4th wife of Henry VIII on January 6th 1540. After the death of wife #3, Jane Seymour, the only wife thus far to provide dear Henry with a legitimate male heir, the mourning king remained single for a record length of time, a whole 18 months (!) before he went looking for wife #4. After being rejected by Christina of Denmark, who supposedly told an English ambassador that "If I had two heads, one should be at the King of England's disposal”, his choice turned to the two sisters of the Duke of Cleves. Upon seeing Anne’s portrait, Henry was thrilled and negotiations for the wedding were imminent and Lady Anne arrived in England in 1539 and was immediately treated like a queen.
The courtship really did not start out well. Instead of waiting patiently at Greenwich Palace, Henry decided to ride out and meet her at Rochester. Upon seeing his bride-to-be, Henry was extremely disappointed with her appearance and later, in one of his many disguises, he kissed his wife to be, who then pushed him away and swore in German. After being ignored, it was then that Henry revealed his true identity. Oops . . . awkward . . . Not the best way to start out a relationship and this was the beginning of a doomed marriage, poor Lady Anne of Cleves.
The marriage didn’t last long – from the 6th of January 1540 until the 9th of July 1540 and it was never consummated. However, Lady Anne should count herself lucky as she escaped from the marriage with her head firmly attached to her shoulders with a generous settlement, and Hever Castle, the former home of Anne Boleyn’s family, and she lived out the rest of her life as “The King’s Beloved Sister”. Unfortunately this marriage led to the downfall of Sir Thomas Cromwell, who had arraigned for the marriage – he ended up losing his head as a result of the King’s displeasure.
If you are looking for some great reads about Anne of Cleves and her marriage to King Henry VIII, check out these great titles!
The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
She has her own good reasons for agreeing to marry a man old enough to be her father, in a country where to her both language and habits are foreign. Although fascinated by the glamour of her new surroundings, she senses a trap closing around her. Katherine is confident that she can follow in the steps of her cousin Anne Boleyn to dazzle her way to the throne but her kinswoman Jane Boleyn, haunted by the past, knows that Anne’s path led to Tower Green and to an adulterer’s death.
The story of these three young women, trying to make their own way through the most volatile court in Europe at a time of religious upheaval and political uncertainty, is Philippa Gregory’s most compelling novel yet.
My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes