The Tudor Society

11 December – A lavish reception for Anne of Cleves

On this day in Tudor history, 11th December 1539, Anne of Cleves and her retinue were received at Gravelines, just a few miles outside of Calais, by Lord Lisle, Deputy of Calais.

Anne of Cleves was on her way to England to marry King Henry VIII, but her journey had been rather slow and she was about to be delayed even more.

The reception was rather lavish, with everyone dressed up to the nines. Enjoy a contemporary description from a Tudor chronicler in today's talk.

Video on Henry VIII meeting Anne of Cleves for the first time:

Also on this day in history, 11th December 1608, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s former ladies and a lover of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was buried at St Margaret's Church, Westminster. Her name was Douglas Sheffield and she was the mother of Leicester's illegitimate son, Sir Robert Dudley. Find out more about Douglas Sheffield, who claimed to be Leicester's legal wife, in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:


On this day in Tudor history, 11th December 1539, Anne of Cleves and her retinue were received at Gravelines, just a few miles outside of Calais, by Lord Lisle, Deputy of Calais.

Chronicler Edward Hall records her reception on that day as follows:

“The 11th day of December at the Turnpike on thesaid Gravelines was the Lady Anne of Cleve received by the Lord Lisle, Deputy of the town of Calais, and with the spears and horsemen belonging to the retinue there, all being fresh and warlike apparelled. And so marching toward Calais a mile and more from the town, met her Grace the Earl of Southampton, great Admiral of England, and apparelled in a coat of purple velvet cut on cloth of gold and tied with great aglettes and treifoiles of gold, to the number of 400 and baudrickwise he wore a chain, at the which did hang a whistle of gold set with rich stones of a great value.
And in this company, 30 gentlemen of the King’s houshold very richly apparelled with great and massy chains, and in especial Sir Francis Bryan and Sir Thomas Seymour’s chains were of great value and strange fashion. Beside this, the Lord Admiral had a great number of gentlemen in blue velvet and crimson satin and his yeomen in damask of the same colours, & the Mariners of his ship in satin of Bridges (Bruges??), both coats and slops of the same colours. Which Lord Admiral with low obeysance welcomed her, and so brought her into Calais by the lantern gate, where the Ships lay in the Haven garnished with their banners, pencelles & flags, pleasantly to behold. And at her entry was shot such a peal of guns, that all the retinue much marvelled at it. And at her entry into the town, the Mayor of the town presented her with a 100 marks in gold. And before the Staple hall stood the Merchantes of the Staple well apparelled, which likewise presented her with a 100 sovereigns of gold in a rich purse, which heartily thanked them, and so she rode to the king’s place called the Exchequer, and there she lay 15 days for lack of prosperous wind. During which time goodly jousts and costly banquets were made to her for her solace and recreation.”

Anne’s brother, William, Duke of Cleves, had signed the marriage treaty promising Anne to King Henry VIII as his fourth wife on 4th September 1539. He’d then sent it on to England, where it was ratified and concluded by early October, being signed by the king’s commissioners on 4th October 1539. Henry VIII then arranged with Emperor Charles V for a safe conduct for Anne to travel through imperial territory and ordered the equipping of ten of his finest ships to carry Anne and her entourage from Calais to England.

Anne left Dusseldorf on 26th November 1539, reaching Antwerp on 3rd December. It was a slow and difficult journey due to the winter conditions. She reached Bruges on 7th December and then made her way on to Dunkirk, and finally to Gravelines and Calais. Anne was meant to set sail from Calais on 13th December, but, as Hall mentions, the weather wasn’t playing ball and her departure had to be postponed.

On the morning of 27th December 1539, Anne and her entourage were finally able to leave Calais. They landed safely at Deal in Kent at 5pm the same day and were met by Sir Thomas Cheyne, who escorted the party to Deal Castle to rest after their long journey. There, Anne was visited by the king’s good friend, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and his wife, Catherine Willoughby; the Bishop of Chichester and various knights and ladies. After rest and refreshments, Anne was escorted on to Dover Castle to spend the night there. Anne was informed that she would be meeting the King, her future husband, at Greenwich Palace at a formal reception in a few days time, but Henry had other ideas and Anne was to be taken by surprise on New Year’s Day, while resting at Rochester Castle. Their first meeting didn’t really go to plan, but that’s another story…

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