Anne Of Cleves

Henry’s fourth wife was Anne of Cleves, reincarnated in Wife After Wife as Anki from Cleveland.

People often feel sorry for Anne, rejected by Henry when she didn’t match up to her portrait. Like a disappointing profile pic. But I think of her as the wife who won at being Mrs Tudor. Not only did she manage to avoid any hanky panky* in the marital bed, she also received a generous settlement when she agreed to an annulment. This included Richmond Palace and Hever Castle. The latter was the childhood home of her predecessor Anne Boleyn. I often wonder whether Anne of Cleves imagined the other Anne walking ahead of her on a staircase, sitting in the same spot by the fire, staring up at the same ceiling when she was in bed.

* If you read Wife After Wife, you’ll come across the line ‘No more hanky panky with Anki.’ You can blame my delightful editor Emma Beswetherick at Little Brown UK for that one.

After their shaky start, Anne and Henry became great friends, and Anne was referred to as ‘The King’s Beloved Sister’.

Anne’s profile pic, by Hans Holbein the Younger

Anne of Cleves’ initials carved into a wooden panel at Hever Castle, which she received as part of her annulment settlement.

A few facts about Anne: 


  • This marriage was strategic. Henry was keen for a Protestant alliance in the face of the threat from Catholic France, and the Holy Roman Empire. Anne ticked all the political boxes, and the portraitist Holbein was dispatched with instructions not to PortraitShop – Henry wanted accuracy.
  • Contemporary reports described Anne of Cleves as tall and slim, with fair hair and a pretty face. ‘Of middling beauty’ said the French ambassador. But the French are picky.

  • When Anne arrived in England, Henry decided to surprise her. He went in disguise into the room in which she was staying. Anne was watching bull-baiting out of the window, only to have Henry-in-disguise appear by her side, give her a squeeze and a kiss and a little present. Having no idea who this joker was, she gave him a funny look and carried on gazing out the window. Henry wasn’t giving up, even though his reaction to her was also ‘meh’. He changed his coat to one of purple velvet. (Big hint; purple = royal.) Still a mutual meh. ‘She is nothing so fair as she hath been reported,’ whinged Henry.


  • In spite of all this, the marriage took place, but it wasn’t consummated. ‘I liked her before not well,’ he said to Cromwell, who had organised the marriage, ‘but now I like her much worse.’


  • This sad little marriage was soon put out of its misery with an annulment. Anne had a happy life in England, and outlived Henry. #winner

Tune in again – Catherine Howard next!

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