#On This Day – Anne of Cleves

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

#OnThisDay

Anne of Cleves Died on July 16th 1557

On the 16th of July 1557, Anne of Cleves died at Chelsea Manor, England. Born in Dusseldorf in 1515, Anne, who was the second daughter of John III Duke of Cleves, was Queen of England from January 6th to July 9th 1540. Originally unofficially betrothed, at the age of eleven, to Francis, Duke of Bar, Anne became the fourth wife of Henry VIII. This was a politically motivated match, as Henry sought to align himself with Anne’s Protestant brother William in order to seek an alliance with the Protestant League of Schmalkalden against the threat of Catholic Spain and France and a feared invasion of England. The move was successful with Henry VIII and William of Cleves signing a treaty at Hampton Court in October 1539.

Anne and Henry’s Marriage

Anne and Henry’s  marriage, which took place at the Royal Palace of Placentia, Greenwich on January 6th 1540, was eventually declared unconsummated and annulled just sixth months later, with the pre-contract to Francis, Duke of Bar mentioned as one of the reasons. The original contract between Henry and Anne had been at the urging of Thomas Cromwell, primarily for diplomatic reasons and it was Cromwell who bore Henry’s anger when the wedding could not be cancelled for the same diplomatic and political problems it would create. This created a space for political manoeuvrings within the Tudor court and Privy Council itself as powerful men, such as Thomas Howard, began to see Cromwell’s influence waning, and other’s, such as Stephen Gardiner, who already considered Cromwell an heretic,  sought to pull him down. Cromwell would eventually face a traitor’s execution on July 28 just nineteen days after the annulment of Anne and Henry’s marriage.

Anne, however, was well taken care of and both she and Henry became good friends, often invited to Court and referred to as ‘the King’s Beloved Sister’. Anne died just two months after her forty-second birthday and was the only one of Henry’s wives to be buried in Westminster Abbey, she also outlived all of Henry’s other wives.

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