Posts Tagged ‘Anne of Cleves’

ANNA AND HER SISTERSWhilst doing a bit of research for another post I found out a little more about Anne of Cleves. Anne is well known to us because of the famous Holbein portrait, she is also remembered because of Henry VIII’s famously negative reaction to her.

A powerful family

Born on the 22nd September 1515, Anne was the second daughter of Johann (or John) III – known as ‘the peaceful’. John ruled the duchy of Juliers-Cleves an independent part of the Holy Roman Empire and a territory he partly inherited and partly acquired through marriage to his wife Maria.

Although she came from a relatively small territory, Anne had an impeccable royal lineage – she was descended from Edward I of England and John II of France.

John III Dule of Cleves – Annes father

Annes brothers and sisters.

Anne was the second of four children, her oldest sister Sybille was born in 1512 (top of post on the right) William, born in 1516 who succeded his father as Duke (pictured below) and Amelia (pictured top of post in the middle/rear).


William, Duke of Cleves, brother of Anne of Cleves (Borrowed from Lisby1 on Flickr : click image))


Juliers-Cleves occupied a strategically important area within the empire – it maintained it’s own armed forces and conducted it’s foreign affairs independently -it also had it’s own official state religion. This area now lies partly in the modern German State called North Rhine-Westphalia and partly in the Dutch province of Gelderland.The river Rhine meets the river Lippe within it’s borders – there is an online map of the area here

The next bit is trivial, superficial and trashy!

Look at the pictures above – don’t you think that they are a fine looking bunch of people?History has arguably been a little unkind to Anne – the famous  ‘Flanders Mare’ jibe  was not in fact uttered by Henry VIII. This was actually made by the historian Bishop Gilbert Burnet writing in the 17th Century.

Gilbert Burnet historian, bishop & lets be honest here - no right to criticise anyone about their physical appearance!

Gilbert Burnet historian, bishop & lets be honest here - no right to criticise anyone about their physical appearance!

See our earlier post about Anne of Cleves

Check out this article on the Raucous Royals blog – it does a good job here

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Anne Of Cleeves

Anne Of Cleves

‘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’.

Thomas Cromwell arranged the marriage his relationship with the King was fatally damaged by this

Thomas Cromwell arranged the marriage: his relationship with the King was fatally damaged


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.

Hever Castle: Photo by Sez D onFlickr ( Click image)

Hever Castle: Photo by Sez D onFlickr ( Click image)

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!




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