Anne of Cleves: Henry VIIIs Discarded Bride by Elizabeth NortonI like her not! was the verdict of Henry VIII on meeting his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, for the first time, complaining that he had been sent a Flanders mare. Anne, having been promised the most handsome prince in Europe, was also destined to be disappointed in the elderly and corpulent king. Forced to proceed with their wedding for diplomatic reasons, Henry and Anne tried to make the best of the situation, but attempts to consummate the match were farcical. After only seven months of marriage Henry was so desperate to rid himself of Anne that he declared himself impotent in order to secure a divorce. Anne was also eager to end her marriage and, with her clever handling of Henry, obtained one of the biggest divorce settlements in English history. Following her divorce, Anne made good use of her many properties, including Richmond Palace, Hever Castle and the house at Lewes now known as Anne of Cleves House. Anne of Cleves is often portrayed as a stupid and comical figure. The real Anne was both intelligent and practical, ensuring that, whilst she was queen for the shortest period, she was the last of all Henry VIIIs wives to survive. Henrys chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, lost his head for his role in the Cleves marriage, but Annes shrewdness ensured she kept hers. Anne of Cleves led a dramatic and often dangerous life but, for all this, of Henry VIIIs six wives, she is truly the wife that survived.
Anne of Cleves
But, suggests Tracy Borman, the true story is entirely different to this humiliating fiction. Anne of Cleves has gone down in history as the ugly wife. Thereafter, his poor, spurned fourth queen retreated quietly into obscurity to hide her face from the world, while Henry joyfully married the infinitely more desirable Catherine Howard. Anne, daughter of the late Duke of Juliers-Cleves, Johann III, and sister of his successor, Wilhelm, had first been mooted as a potential wife for the English king in the closing weeks of , soon after the death of his beloved third wife, Jane Seymour. This had come to nothing, leaving her free to marry elsewhere. John Hutton, ambassador to Mary of Hungary, who had originally made the suggestion, admitted he had heard no great praise of her beauty.
In March , negotiations for Anne's marriage to Henry began, as Henry believed that he needed to form a political alliance with her brother, William , who was a leader of the Protestants of western Germany, to strengthen his position against potential attacks from Catholic France and the Holy Roman Empire. Anne arrived in England on 27 December and married Henry on 6 January However after six months, the marriage was declared unconsummated and, as a result, she was not crowned queen consort. Following the annulment , she was given a generous settlement by the King, and thereafter referred to as the King's Beloved Sister. Anne was born in , on either 22 September,   or more probably 28 June. She grew up in Schloss Burg on the edge of Solingen.
Anne of Cleves was Queen of England from 6 January to 9 July as the . Despite Henry's very vocal misgivings, the two were married on 6 Henry confided to Cromwell that he had not consummated the.
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Anne was from the small north German state of Cleves. After the divorce of Catherine, the execution of Anne and the early death of Jane, few noble women in England were willing to marry Henry. To many he appeared tainted and marriage to him seemed to come with a price.