Today in 1515 Anne of Cleves was born. She is most famous for being Henry VIII’s fourth wife, the one he deemed too ugly for him. The marriage was annulled on the grounds of non consummation, and so she was never crowned Queen Consort. When it became clear that Henry was going to end the marriage, she agreed to his demands, and became known as the King’s Sister. She wound up with a great deal of land and money, and was the second highest ranking woman in court, just after the Queen. Many people say that Anne was the lucky one, but it has to be said that she was bitterly disappointed in the way things went. After Henry disposed of Catherine Howard, his fifth wife, Anne hoped that Henry would take her back, and when he married Katherine Parr she commented that she (Anne) was much prettier than Katherine in a bit of a catty moment.
Anne was unable to go home, effectively being held hostage in England, but she was a hostage who had a great deal of money and comfort. And she lived for another decade after Henry had died, outliving all of his wives. She was close with Henry’s children, though she fell out of favor with Mary after she was implicated in Wyatt’s rebellion in 1554. She died, likely of cancer, 8 weeks before her 42nd birthday.
That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com.
Alison Weir on Anne of Cleves
Anne of Cleves collection