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Anne of Cleves (1515-1557)

Born: 22nd September 1515 at Dusseldorf, Germany
Queen of England
Died: 17th July 1557 at Chelsea, Middlesex


Lady Anne of Cleves, fourth Queen of Henry VIII, was the daughter of John, Duke of Cleves, and Mary, Duchess of Julich. Her father became a Protestant in 1533 and was generally regarded as the head of the West German Lutherans. As early as 1537, King Henry's minister, Cromwell, who was anxious to draw his master into a Protestant connection, seems to have thought of Anne as a possible successor to Queen Jane Seymour, who had just died. But not till 1539 were any serious steps taken.

Holbein was then commissioned to paint Anne's portrait and the King, who seems to have shown an extraordinary apathy on every subject connected with his future wife except her looks, professed himself satisfied with it. But Anne knew no music, of which art Henry was devotedly fond, and could speak no language but German. She was, in fact, a dull, good-tempered, domestic German lady. By the time Henry had made up his mind to the match and had gone too far in it to avoid receiving the Princess, the political reasons which had moved him to enter upon it had ceased to exist. Cromwell's day of favour was over and the King was anxious to conciliate the Emperor and to avoid all suspicion of 'heresy'.

Thus Anne arrived in England in December 1539, a year too late, and Henry, who met her at Rochester, though outwardly civil, was shocked at her plainness and at the impossibility of conversing with her. They were, however, married by Archbishop Cranmer at Greenwich in February 1540. They never lived together as man and wife and the passive Anne was apparently well pleased when a vote of Convocation divorced them in the following July. She received a large jointure, which she continued to enjoy until her death. She visited Henry at Hampton Court on at least one subsequent occasion, but most of her time was passed at Hever Castle in Kent. She figured in Royal state at the coronation of her step-daughter, Queen Mary, and was buried in Westminster Abbey in 1557.

Edited from Emery Walker's "Historical Portraits" (1909).


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