The Tudor Society

27 December – Anne of Cleves arrives in England

On this day in Tudor history, 27th December 1539, Anne of Cleves landed at Deal in Kent in preparation for her forthcoming marriage to King Henry VIII. Anne of Cleves would be King Henry VIII's fourth wife.

Find out more about her journey, the background to it, and what happened next, in today's talk.

Also on this day in history:


On 27th December 1539, at 5pm, Anne of Cleves landed at Deal in Kent in preparation for her forthcoming marriage to King Henry VIII. Anne was to be the king’s fourth wife and their marriage had been agreed by a treaty in September 1539. Henry had never laid eyes on Anne but instead, had commissioned his court artist, Hans Holbein, to paint her. The portrait was described as a good likeness of Anne and Henry was happy to commit to the marriage, which would see England forming an alliance with the Schmalkaldic League.

Anne had arrived at Calais, having travelled from Düsseldorf, on 11th December 1539 “at the head of a glittering retinue comprising 263 attendants with 228 horses.” Strong winds had delayed her departure from Calais, but Anne and her party had finally left the port on the morning of 27th December.

When Anne of Cleves landed at Deal at 5pm on 27th December, she was met by Sir Thomas Cheyne and taken to Deal Castle to rest after her long journey. There, she was visited by the Duke of Suffolk and his wife, Catherine Willoughby, the Bishop of Chichester and various knights and ladies. She was informed that she would be meeting the King, her future husband, at Greenwich Palace at a formal reception in a few days time, and on New Year’s Eve, she travelled on to Rochester, where she was to rest before travelling on to Greenwich.

However, Henry VIII was excited about meeting his bride-to-be, and so decided to disguise himself and travel to Rochester to surprise her. Tradition said that the love between them would be so strong that Anne would see through his disguise and recognise her future husband, however, as historian Elizabeth Norton points out, Henry should have learned from the disastrous meeting between his great-uncle, Henry VI, and his bride, Margaret of Anjou! The first meeting between Henry and Anne just did not go to plan and I will tell you more about it on 1st January.

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