Anne of Cleves

Queen consort of England (1515–1557)

Anne of Cleves (22 September 1515 – 16 July 1557) was the fourth wife of Henry VIII of England from January 1540 to July 1540.[1]

A portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger



She was the daughter of John III, Duke of Cleves and Maria of Julich Berg. She was born in Düsseldorf on 22 September 1515. She was betrothed to Francis, the Duke of Lorraine, but she ended up marrying Henry VIII in January 1540. When the couple met for the first time, they did not like each other.

Henry VIII got married six times. Except for Anne of Cleves, Henry knew all of his wives for a long time before marrying them. Henry decided to marry Anne so England and the Protestant League would be allies. It was a political marriage. Henry also knew that having more than one son would be good, in case his and Jane Seymour's son, Edward, died. So he also married Anne so he could have more children.

Hans Holbein painted a beautiful picture of Anne of Cleves and showed it to Henry. One of the reasons Henry decided to marry Anne (instead of her sister Amelia) was because she looked so beautiful in her portrait. When Anne's ship landed in England, Henry decided to sneak out to meet her early. He brought a few of his friends and servants with him. Henry dressed in the exact same clothes as the servants, and they all came into the room where Anne was waiting with her women. Henry was acting out a story from the tradition of courtly love in which a man goes to see a woman while he is disguised as a servant, and she recognizes him because of the magic of true love. Almost everyone in the courts of England and France knew this story. But Anne grew up in a strict German court. She did not know that the man dressed as a servant was King Henry, playing a game. She spoke to him like a real servant. Henry was very embarrassed.

Henry started complaining that Anne was not pretty. He said that he could not have sexual intercourse with her because she had "bad breath" and smelled. Anne's previous engagement to the Duke of Lorraine was used as an excuse for a divorce, and Anne agreed to it. In July 1540 Henry divorced Anne and married Catherine Howard, who was younger and prettier. (She was not ugly, in fact the king a.k.a Henry VIII dressed up in a different outfit and broke into her room where she was getting ready, and he kissed her without her permission, and of course that she pushed him away, after that the king got mad at Anne and he started calling her a "Flanders mare". He believed that this so called "trick" of his was used to test if the woman is his 'true love", after just a few months, the marriage was over and Anne got a pretty good allowance, two properties and also the title :The King's 'Sister'.)

After the divorce


After the divorce, Henry made Anne his "sister" and gave her money and land for the rest of her life. As part of her divorce agreement, Henry gave Anne Hever Castle to live in. Anne invited Henry's daughters Mary and Elizabeth to visit her at Hever Castle. King Henry visited her too. In 1541, there were rumors that King Henry had gotten his ex-wife Anne pregnant, but historians do not think this is true.[2]

After Henry died, Anne did not have enough money. His son, Edward VI, did not give her the same generous sums.

Anne of Cleves died on July 16, 1557 when she was 41 years old.[2] She was the last of Henry's six wives to die, as she outlived his sixth wife, Catherine Parr, by nearly nine years. Anne was buried in Westminster Abbey.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Anne of Cleves, 4th wife of Henry VIII". Westminster Abbey. Retrieved October 14, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Meilan Solly (June 13, 2019). "Historian's New Novel Raises Controversial Theory: Henry VIII Divorced Anne of Cleves Because She'd Already Given Birth". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved October 14, 2021. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)