Saturday, 9 February 2013
Anne of Cleves
Thomas Cromwell was eager to have Henry VIII marry into the Protestant League in Germany because it would provide him with protection against the Catholic countries of Spain and France who were signing a treaty. Henry (superficial as always) was not happy about having to marry someone he had never seen and demanded that the court painter Hans Holbein was to go to Germany and paint the likeness of Anne of Cleves. And he liked what he saw.
In 1539 a marriage treaty between Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII was negotiated into place and the bride was sent to England. Anne had - like Jane Seymour - not received a grand education but was talented in needle work but could only read and write in German. But her personality was very suitable for a monarch like Henry; she was considered gentle, virtuous and docile. But when she arrived in England she caught the English court off guard. In her German clothes she looked very strange and old for her age.
Her first meeting with her husband was a catastrophe. Henry and his fellow courtiers had sneaked into the room where Anne was watching bull-fighting to get a peak at the new Queen. Anne, who had never met Henry, was disgusted when a strange man suddenly kissed her on the lips and she pushed him away while cursing in German. Henry was deeply embarrassed; all his previous wives had grown up with him and knew how he looked so something like this had never happened before. He stormed out of the room declaring that he "liked her not!". It is probably from then on that Henry regretted the marriage that he had not even made yet. He asked Cromwell to get out of the match but it was impossible - England still needed the security from the German alliance.
The marriage took place on January 6th 1540 and the King was unhappy from the beginning. The wedding night was just as sad; Henry told Cromwell that he had not consummated the marriage and that "I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse."
Anne told the Countess of Rutland that the King was a very kind husband - every night he would kiss her cheek and bid her goodnight and every morning he would kiss her again and bid her farewell. Lady Rutland pointed out that it took more than that to get a duke of York.
Anne had only been at court for six months when she was commanded to leave on 24th June. She was informed that the King was rethinking their marriage and the rumours must have reached her that the King was divorcing her - stating that he did not think she was a virgin. Anne was shortly afterwards asked for her consent to a divorce to which she agreed. She must have thought of Henry's previous wives and found it better to escape now.
Henry was pleased that she had willingly given him the divorce he wanted and rewarded her with Hever Castle (Anne Boleyn's childhood home) and Richmond Palace. After the annulment Henry and Anne became good friends and she was given the title of the King's "beloved sister". The King even stated that she should have precedence over all ladies at court expect the King's daughters.
After Katherine Howard had been beheaded, Henry was presented with the idea of returning to Anne of Cleves - but he refused. Instead he married Catherine Parr whom Anne was never fond of. Anne made the joke that "Madam Parr has taken a great burden upon herself" - referring to the King's massive obesity. She might have been jealous of a woman who was older than herself and not considered as beautiful but who was still to take the place of Queen. She was asked to move to another property and once again Anne consented.
Anne survived Henry and was even present at Mary I's coronation. She later wrote a letter to congratulate Mary on her marriage to Phillip II of Spain. Anne never left England and is reported to have lived a happy life as a wealthy single lady.
Anne's health began to deteriorate and in 1557 she dictated her last will. Anne of Cleves died on July 16th 1557 of what has later been identified as cancer.
Motto: God Send Me Well to Keep