‘Nothing so fair as she has been reported’
Anne was in many ways the luckiest of all Henry’s wives. She outlived all of the others – and outlived Henry VIII himself by ten years. Her more peaceful and fortunate life can be put down to the fact that she just wasn’t Henry’s type. She was described by the French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, as tall and slim and ‘of middling beauty’; however when Henry rode out to meet his betrothed at Rochester he complained that ‘She is nothing so fair as she hath been reported’.
Despite these misgivings the couple were married at Greenwich in 1540 by Thomas Cranmer. Their first night as husband and wife was not a happy one. Henry confided to Cromwell that the marriage had not been consummated, saying, ‘I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse’.
Whereas Henry admired educated women, Anne could not play a musical instrument, nor was she very literary or cultured – preferring needlework and cards. She had received no formal education as a child. She could read and write, but only in German. She is described as having a peaceable personality; and although it may not to have sparked passion in Henry it seems to have led to a lasting friendship.
Thomas Cromwell had brokered the marriage to try to form an alliance with Anne’s family against Emperor Charles V. After first meeting Anne, Henry urged Cromwell to find a way of breaking off the arrangement without endangering the alliance – but at the time this seemed impossible. When the marriage was not consummated on the wedding night Henry had cause to seek an annulment. Anne did not contest it.
A Lasting Friendship
Henry was very grateful for Anne’s co-operation, and she received a generous settlement. She was given Richmond Palace, and Hever Castle, home of Henry’s former in-laws, the Boleyns. Henry and Anne became good friends – she was referred to as ‘the King’s Beloved Sister’, and Henry decreed that she would be given precedence over all women in England save his own wife and daughters.
Better perhaps to be ‘not so fair’ and ‘of midding beauty’ after all!
See more about Anne of Cleves & her family in another post
PS Take a look at more of Sez D’s excellent photos here – it is well worth a look!