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Anne of Cleves (22 September 1515–16 July 1557) ( ) was a German noblewoman and the fourth wife of Henry VIII of England and as such she was Queen of England from 6 January 1540 to 9 July 1540. The marriage was never consummated, and she was not crowned queen consort. Following the annulment of their marriage, Anne was given a generous settlement by the King, and thereafter referred to as the King's Beloved Sister. She was the second longest-lived of all of Henry's wives, after Catherine of Aragon.

Anne was the subject of two portraits by Hans Holbein the younger who painted her in 1539.

Early life

Anne was born in 1515 near Düsseldorfmarker, the second daughter of John III, Duke of Clevesmarker, Julichmarker, Bergmarker, Count of Mark and Ravensbergmarker (often referred to as Duke of Cleves) who died in 1538, and his wife Maria, Duchess of Julich-Berg (1491- 1543). Her father was influenced by Erasmus and followed a moderate path within the Reformation. He sided with the Schmalkaldic League and opposed Emperor Charles V. After John's death, Anne's brother William became Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, bearing the promising epithet "The Rich." In 1526, her elder sister Sybille was married to John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, head of the Protestant Confederation of Germany and considered the "Champion of the Reformation."

At the age of 12 (1527), Anne was betrothed to Francis, son and heir of the Duke of Lorraine while he was only 10, thus the betrothal was considered 'unofficial' and was cancelled in 1535. Her brother William was a Lutheran but the family was unaligned religiously, with her mother, the Duchess Maria described as a "strict Catholic." The Duke's ongoing dispute over Gelderland with Emperor Charles V made them suitable allies for England's King Henry VIII in the wake of the Truce of Nice. The match with Anne was urged on the King by his chancellor, Thomas Cromwell. Both Henry and Anne were descendants of Charlemagne through Baldwin IV, Count of Flanders.

Wedding preparations

The artist Hans Holbein the Younger was dispatched to paint portraits of Anne and her younger sister, Amelia, both of whom Henry was considering as his fourth wife. Henry required the artist to be as accurate as possible, not to flatter the sisters. The two versions of Holbein's portrait are in the Louvremarker in Paris and the Victoria and Albert Museummarker in London. Negotiations with Cleves were in full swing by March 1539. Cromwell oversaw the talks and a marriage treaty was signed on 4 October that year. While Henry valued education and cultural sophistication in women, Anne lacked these as she had received no formal education but was skilled in needlework, and liked playing card games. She could read and write, but only in German. Nevertheless, Anne was considered gentle, virtuous, and docile, qualities that made her a suitable candidate for Henry. Anne was described by the French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, as tall and slim, "of middling beauty, and of very assured and resolute countenance". She was dark haired, with a rather swarthy complexion, appeared solemn by English standards, and she looked old for her age. Holbein painted her with high forehead, heavy-lidded eyes and a pointed chin.

[[Image:Anne of Cleves Arms.svg|thumb|right|upright|Anne of Cleves' arms as queen consort]]Henry was impatient to see his future bride. He went to meet her at Rochester and was promptly disappointed. He felt he had been misled, as everyone had praised Anne's attractions: "She is nothing so fair as she hath been reported," he complained. Henry urged Cromwell to find a legal way to avoid the marriage but, by this point, doing so was impossible without endangering the vital alliance with the Germans.

A doomed marriage

Despite Henry's very vocal misgivings, the two were married on 6 January 1540 at the royal Palace of Placentiamarker in Greenwichmarker, London by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The phrase "God send me well to keep" was engraved around Anne’s wedding ring. Immediately after arriving in England, Anne conformed to the Anglican form of worship, which Henry expected. The couple's first night as husband and wife was not a happy one. Henry confided to Cromwell that he had not consummated the marriage, saying, "I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse".

Anne was commanded to leave the Court on 24 June, and on 6 July she was informed of her husband's decision to reconsider the marriage. Shortly afterwards, Anne was asked for her consent to an annulment, to which she agreed. The marriage was annulled on 9 July 1540, on the grounds of non-consummation and her pre-contract to Francis of Lorraine.

After the annulment

The former queen received a generous settlement, including Richmond Palacemarker, and Hever Castlemarker, home of Henry's former in-laws, the Boleyns. Anne of Cleves Housemarker, in Lewesmarker, Sussex, is just one of many properties she owned; she never lived there. Henry and Anne became good friends—she was an honorary member of the King's family and was referred to as "the King's Beloved Sister". She was invited to court often and, out of gratitude for her not contesting the annulment, Henry decreed that she would be given precedence over all women in England save his own wife and daughters.

After Catherine Howard was beheaded, Anne and her brother, the Duke of Cleves, pushed for the king to remarry her. The king quickly answered such suggestions with a no.

In 1553, when Henry's daughters Mary and Elizabeth rode into London with Mary as the new monarch, Anne was there to greet them. She was also present at Mary I's coronation at Westminster. That was her last public appearance.

A few months later, Anne wrote to Mary I to congratulate her on her marriage to Philip of Spain. Nevertheless, Anne rarely visited the Court during Mary's reign and enjoyed managing her own estates. Since her arrival as the King's bride, Anne had never left England: both of her parents had died by the time her marriage was annulled and her strictly Protestant brother did not approve her adherence to Anglicanism.


When her health began to fail, Anne was allowed by Mary I to live at Chelsea Old Manor — where Henry's final wife Catherine Parr lived after her remarriage. Here she dictated her last will in mid-July 1557. In her will, she mentions her brother, sister, and sister-in-law, as well as the future Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of Norfolk and the Countess of Arundel. She left some money to her servants and asked Mary and Elizabeth to employ them in their households.

Anne died at Chelsea Old Manor on 16 July 1557, a few weeks before her forty-second birthday. She was buried on 3 August in what is described as a "somewhat hard to find tomb in Westminster Abbeymarker". Her tomb is on the opposite site of Edward the Confessor's shrine, and slightly above eye level for a person of average height.

She also has the distinction of being the last of Henry VIII's wives to die (she outlived Henry's last wife, Catherine Parr, by 9 years). However, she is not the longest-lived, for Catherine of Aragon was 50 at the time of her death and Anne was 41.

In non-fiction

Elizabeth Norton, Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Discarded Bride, Amberley 2009 hardback ISBN 9781848683297

In fiction

Philippa Gregory's novel, The Boleyn Inheritance, is told from the viewpoint of three prominent women at the Tudor court of Henry VIII: Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Jane Boleyn.

Margaret Campbell Barnes' My Lady of Cleves describes what Anne's life might have been like between the time her portrait was painted by Hans Holbein and when King Henry VIII died.

A fictionalised Anne of Cleves appears briefly in the opening scenes of Carry On Henry, played by Patsy Rowlands.

In 2009, Joss Stone played Anne in the third season of Showtime's The Tudors.

She appears as a ghost in Homer's dream in The Simpsons episode, "Father Knows Worst".



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