The Tudor Society

Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII

Today is the anniversary of the death of Anne of Cleves and to mark the occasion Claire looks at some texts associated with her.

By the way, today is also the anniversary of the death of Sir John Harington in 1612. One of the things he is known for is his flush toilet, or flush water closet and you can click here to read more about it.

Links to texts

Anne of Cleves resources

Dan Jones and Suzannah Lipscomb on Anne of Cleves:

Another video on Anne, this time from Historic Royal Palaces:

Further Reading

  • Warnicke, Retha M.. “Anne [Anne of Cleves] (1515–1557).” Retha M. Warnicke In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., edited by David Cannadine. Oxford: OUP, 2004.
  • Fraser, Antonia (2009) The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, W&N.
  • Norton, Elizabeth (2010) Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Discarded Bride, Amberley Publishing.
  • Warnicke, Retha M. (2011) The Marrying of Anne of Cleves: Royal Protocol in Tudor England, Cambridge University Press.

There are 6 comments Go To Comment

  1. L

    I do feel that Anne of Cleves has been very misunderstood and disregarded by history.
    She was clearly very clever, and very diplomatic in her dealings with Henry, which in a way endeared her to him. She perhaps understood him and weighed him up a lot better than most of his courtiers had in all the years they had been at court.
    The trouble from the outset of the marriage was his flipping ego, thundering down to Rochester to play a silly dress up game would bound to end in failure. Yes Cromwell does bear some responsibility for the failure of this marriage to, but equally so, so do those who met her in Calais. What exactly did she know about Henry. I’m guessing very little, so that didn’t help either, all she knew about Henry was the basics as well as the basics in English customs and manners. Perhaps if somebody told Anne the truth about Henry instead of the glamourised version, she would have been better armed to have dealt with his stupid dress up game.
    I really feel that if he had given his marriage a chance with her, she would have turned out to have been a brilliant queen. As Charles Laughton said in the 1933 film Henry 8th’s private life “Six Queens and the best of them is the worst.”

    1. C - Post Author

      I just wish Henry had given her chance. I think he just couldn’t get past that initial humiliation and had decided from that point on that it wasn’t going to work. Later, the two of them got on so well and she also had good relationships with his children. She was liked by the people and her household seem to have adored her, she was obviously a lovely woman and I’m sure would have made an excellent queen. Such a shame.

  2. R

    Anne of Cleves was a good match. The benefits of the alliance suited the political situation in England at the time and Cromwell had been in contact with the League for some time, as had Henry Viii. The Duchy of Cleves stood as a stop gap between France and Germany and William had real influence. Henry needed the alliance at the time it was made and as the video shows it was a long time in the making, over six months. Henry believed that he could make a match with Christine of Milan, but she refused him. He also made sure Anne was free to marry so he was ensuring nothing stood in his way.

    However, his disappointment on her arrival was nothing to do with anything to do with her qualities but their first meeting put them both off. Anne didn’t see through his childish ways and disguise and fall into his arms and he then had problems sexually and blamed Anne. I have said for years now that the Flanders Mare nickname comes from the seventeenth century. Henry put doubt on a lot of things in order to get out of the marriage but there is nothing to show he called her a horse. Anne was indeed very intelligent, she was also a lovely woman of twenty four, possibly able to have several children, gracious, described as fair and merciful, was clearly a lady who was adaptable, dancing with Queen Katherine Howard at New Year and paying her homage, but she also had a good relationship with Henry’s children and she became musical and cultured as well as a good card player.

    I think over time Anne of Cleves has become my favourite wife. Anne also believed she remained Henry’s true wife, although she agreed to the annulment, after sending for the papers on the Lorraine contract to see if she could find anything to support her as Queen. Anne was more intelligent than she is given credit for, she was to prove herself more intelligent than any of them. Anne was a good mother to young Edward and a friend to Mary and Henry and a guiding hand for Elizabeth. Mary would remember her step mother and would honour her during her own reign and with a state funeral. Anne of Cleves also had a position of honour at her coronation. She gained wealth and castles, although under Edward she had to negotiate against exchanges of some of these.

    Elizabeth Norton also states that Anne of Cleves was not a Protestant. She was the daughter of a devout Catholic mother and she showed no outward sign anyway of being anything but a conforming Catholic. In the early reign of Mary I when there were Protestant plots, some suspicions appear to have been made towards Anne as having sympathy, but she was able to assure Mary otherwise in her letters. Mary held Anne in high esteem and her actions at the end of her life in 1557 show this. She said Anne always conducted herself with great dignity.

    I thought it was interesting that the video said Katherine Howard was pregnant when Henry married her and they had indeed had a relationship for several months before their marriage while Henry was married to Anne of Cleves. I doubt that there is any evidence to support this theory that Katherine trapped him into marriage by saying she was pregnant, but there were false alarms during their marriage. No, I believe he was genuinely attracted to Katherine, found her sexually compatible and charming and believed she would give him more sons. Her offered her power and wealth and magnificence and showered her with gifts and treated her well. Henry at least believed himself in love.

    1. C - Post Author

      Yes, I’ve never found anything to support the idea that Catherine was pregnant when Henry married her. I think Henry had set his sights on Catherine and that was that. I think he’d fallen hook, line and sinker for her. He seems to have completely doted on her.

  3. A

    Loved this video Claire and Tim! Thank you so much, you know how much I’m a fan of Anne 🙂

    I had a dream recently about how Henry met Anne at Rochester Castle, it was so surreal….
    It was set during the right time since the lands were frosty and wintry. I just remember Henry and his guards going up the stairs all cloaked and entering a large room with loads of German heavily dressed ladies.
    I then remembered Henry being frustated as he couldn’t tell which one was Anne and looking around with his beady eyes muttering but with excitement.
    One of his guards pointed towards the left hand side of the room and there towards the window was Anne! She looked EXACTLY like how she was in the holbein painting but she was really tall and she had large features including her nose I remember!
    I can’t really remember what happened after but I know she eventually started talking and smiling towards henry (which as me all of a sudden) and either the dream ended or the story changed dramatically as dreams do!
    I hope to dream more about tudors, need one on anne boleyn! 🙂

  4. L

    Although I am a new member of the Tudor Society, it is already common knowledge (to some) that I’m a huge fan of Anne of Cleves. So when looking through the list of Friday videos, this is the 2nd one I watched. I very much enjoyed it too.
    I’ve always thought (like you Claire) that had Anne been given ‘half a chance’ (which she wasn’t) that she would have made a perfect queen consort for King Henry VIII. Especially after Jane Seymour’s death. He now had his long awaited son, so I doubt Anne would have displeased him and I believe that she would have brought him great joy in the years that followed. It is also my opinion that they would have remained together until his death. He may have taken mistresses but I believe he would have stayed married to Anne.
    So instead of 6 wives, Henry would have only had 4, with one life (that of Catherine Howard) spared.
    Of course, history took a different path, but what a shame that Anne was never given the chance to prove herself.
    She still left a legacy though, in her good works and that she was highly thought of during her lifetime in England. Also much mourned at the time of her death, and even remembered most fondly even today.
    To me, Anne was so much more than a Princess of Cleves. She showed genuine kindness, understanding and compassion towards most who she dealt with. She was also much stronger than many thought. Not easily led, but not a trouble maker either. She lived her life with grace and humility. A great lady indeed, and oh, what a wonderful Queen she could have been.
    A wonderful talk. As always “thank you” Claire.

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Anne of Cleves, fourth wife of Henry VIII