Women of Royalty
Anne of Cleves
Anne of Cleves
     For two years after Jane Seymour's death, Henry stayed single. Growing old and the father of three living children, Henry's advisors thought that it would be best if Henry marry politically. His first marriage was political but he and Catherine had loved each other. His next two marriages, to Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, had aspired to nothing other than an heir to the throne by Jane Seymour. Now Henry was to marry as a political device. Henry ordered his ambassadors to different courts across Europe to search for a bride for him and sent out painters to bring him portraits so he could judge these women and pick his next wife. His ambassadors found two suitors: Marie de Guise, but she was soon married to King James V of Scotland, and Christina de Milan. Christina was a beautiful 16-year-old heiress, but she was also the granddaughter of Catherine of Aragon, Henry's first wife. This little fact destroyed plans of marriage to Henry VIII, who was three times her age. He sent his most famous painter, Hans Holbein the Younger, to the duchy of Cleves in 1539, a powerful German land that opposed its neighbors France and the Holy Roman Empire for their disregard to the countries that had thrown away the papal powers much like England had. While in Cleves, Hans Holbein painted the duke of Cleves' sisters: Anne and Amelia. The two sisters had another older sister, Sybille of Cleves. Sybille was famous across Europe for her natural beauty and so Hans Holbein thought that Henry would favor one of the famous beauty's sisters. When Hans Holbein returned to England, Henry favored the painting of Anne and so he decided to marry her.
     Anne of Cleves was born on September 22, 1515 in Dusseldorf, the daughter of John III, Duke of Cleves and Mary, Duchess of Julich. Her father was a Protestant leader and therefore an enemy of most of Catholic Europe. She grew up at the Dusseldorf court and learned domestic skills. She never learned an sort of musical skills and took no interest in books. She hated card games and was basically a dull girl.
     In 1539, the betrothal contract between Henry and Anne was signed and Anne was sent to England to marry the king. In December, she set out and arrived in Calais on December 11, 1539. The weather was stormy, and she was forced to wait two weeks before she could set out for Deal, on December 27. Finally she arrived in England on January 1, 1540.
     King Henry was eager to see his bride and rode out to Rochester to see her in disguise. In her apartments, Anne was looking out the window at the games going on in the courtyard. Henry went over and embraced and kissed her. She thanked him and brushed him aside, not knowing who he was. Enraged, he dropped his disguise. Anne was shocked and fell to her knees asking for forgiveness. Henry and Anne retired to a room to talk for the afternoon.
     On January 6, the two were married at Greenwich Palace. By the next day, Henry was already looking for ways out of the marriage. To Lord Cromwell he said:
'My Lord, if it were not to satisfy the world, and my Realm, I would not do that I must do this day for none earthly thing.' 
     Henry found Anne dull and ugly. She did not share his likes and Henry found her appearance repulsive, calling her 'the Flemish Mare'. Quite hypocritical of him considering he was now an old overweight man who could barely walk within the next few years. Henry had also found another love around this time, a woman named Katherine Howard, the cousin of his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
     Henry needed to find a way out of his marriage to Anne of Cleves, but first he had to punish Lord Thomas Cromwell, who was the main contender behind the marriage. He had Lord Cromwell executed on July 28, 1540, but regretted it deeply.
     Meanwhile Henry and his advisors searched for a way out. They came across a document stating that Anne had been betrothed to the duke of Lorraine previously, however, the contract was never broken and so Anne was still officially betrothed to Duke Francis of Lorraine. The courtiers in Cleves, unaware of King Henry's intentions, searched their archives and found by February 26, 1540 that there was no proof of a break of the contract to Lorraine. Henry, for once in his marriage career, had found a legal way to get out of marriage.
     As all of this was going on Anne stayed to her apartments. She had almost no knowledge of English and so could not follow the rumors and gossip about her marriage to Henry. Still unconsummated, the marriage was coming to an end and Anne was still full of innocence.
     In the end, Anne was only queen of England for four months. She showed herself at the May Day celebrations before escaping to Richmond Palace from the plague. Henry panicked, recalling the support Catherine of Aragon received when he tried to annul his marriage with her and the years it took to rid him of her. However, Anne agreed to the annulment, more from fear than from support. She had heard of Henry's wrath and rage and dreaded falling victim to it. Henry sent personal envoys out to Richmond and Anne graciously signed the documents, ending her marriage to Henry. However, Anne was not discarded like Catherine and Anne Boleyn. Instead, she became a good friend of Henry's and became known as his 'sister'. She was given allowances and residences, including the old Boleyn estate in Kent, Hever Castle, and Wealden Hall. She later was a close friend of Henry's second daughter, Elizabeth. Anne died on July 17, 1557 at Chelsea, at the age of 42.