1515 - 1557 (41 years)
||Anne of Cleves, Queen of England |
||22 Sep 1515
||Duca, capital of Dusseldorf
||16 Jul 1557
||16 May 2005 |
- Cleves was a dukedom in modern day Germany and Anne was the sister of its ruler, Duke William. Born in 1515, she was given a sheltered upbringing, and was less educated and worldly than Henry's previous wives. Henry approved of her portrait, so in 1539 a marriage treaty was signed and Anne set sail for England.
When she arrived Henry was so eager to see her that he raced to where she was staying and burst in upon her unannounced. Anne didn't speak English, didn't know who this fat stranger was, and was busy watching something out the window, so she more or less ignored Henry. The king's pride was wounded. "I like her not!" he told all and sundry. He found her ugly - downright repulsive - and the last thing he wanted to do was marry her.
But Henry couldn't wriggle out of his treaty with Cleves. The wedding took place on January 6, 1540 with the groom protesting every step of the way. At first Anne had no idea that her husband was displeased with her. She told her ladies, "Why, when he comes to bed he kisseth me, and taketh me by the hand, and biddeth me 'Good night, sweetheart.'" Her ladies had to tell her that this wasn't enough to cause a pregnancy.
Eventually Anne learned that her husband wished to be rid of her. She was shrewd enough to realize that her life was in danger. To Henry's amazement, she cooperated with his desire to have the marriage annulled. Relieved, he gave her money and property and treated her very well. Anne remained in England, and never remarried. Henry called her his sister and often invited her to court. She outlived Henry and was certainly the most fortunate of his wives.
Less than twenty days after his marriage to Anne of Cleves ended, Henry married his fifth wife. . .
Anne of Cleves was the luckiest of Henry's wives, since Henry annuled their marriage on July 9, 1540, before he even consumated it. The reasoning being that the king NEVER gave his consent to the marriage. Henry was so glad to be relieved of Anne of Cleves that he set up a settlement of 4,000 English pounds per year, and a number of stately manors (9) in Sussex, with the stipulation that Anne must make her permanent residence in England. This property and trust was put into place on January 17, 1541. Anne was assured that she would be treated as "a sister," in Henry's court. One month later Henry married Catherine Howard, Queen number five.
Anne retired to Richmond Palace, where she lived peaceably, until her death on July 16, 1557. Anne of Cleves was buried in Westminster Abbey. She was the only one of Henry's queens to be so recognized. She outlived all of his wives and Henry too.