Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves was the queen consort of Henry VIII of England from January 6, 1540 to July 9, 1540.

Anne was born on September 22, 1515, at Düsseldorf, the daughter of John III, ruler of the German duchy of Cleves. As a leader of the Protestant faith, he was deemed a suitable ally for Henry in the aftermath of the Reformation, and the match was urged on the king by his chancellor, Thomas Cromwell. The artist Hans Holbein the Younger was dispatched to paint a portrait of Anne, and Henry was pleased with the result. Nowadays we know that it was usual for court painters to be complimentary in their portrayal of important people, and it is thought likely that Holbein covered up the evidence of Anne's smallpox scars.

Whatever the reason, Henry was not happy with Anne when she arrived in England but went ahead with the marriage on January 6 at the royal Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, London. In view of his record as a husband, it was not appropriate for him to deal violently or unjustly with Anne, and a pretext was quickly found for divorce. The marriage was annulled on July 9, 1540, on the grounds that she had been previously contracted to marry the Duke of Lorraine, and she was given a generous settlement, including Hever Castle, home of Henry's former in-laws the Boleyns. Made a Princess of England and called "sister" by her former husband, Anne remained in England for the rest of her life. She was the last of Henry's six wives to die, in London, on July 16, 1557. By then, she had converted to Roman Catholicism, and remained on good terms with one-time stepdaughter Princess Mary (also known as "Bloody Mary") Tudor.

Jane Seymour
Wives of Henry VIIINext:
Catherine Howard