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King Henry VIII and his Six Wives
Anne of Cleves
Picture Galleries
Badges and Mottos
Catherine of Aragon
Anne Boleyn
Jane Seymour
Anne of Cleves
Kathryn Howard
Katherine Parr
Henry VIII

Anne of Cleves
(1515- 1557)
Fourth Wife of Henry VIII, Divorced


It took 2 years after Jane Seymour's death for Henry to begin looking again for another wife.  Henry was pushed this time to marry to ally England with another country, since the split from Rome had left them weak.  Still, Henry, who had married his last two brides for love, wanted a bride that was pretty and desirable, so he had men bring him reports on the appearances of a few of the women up for consideration, and had some artists paint their portraits so he could see them.
Famous painter of the English court, Hans Holbein, was sent to the court of the Duke of Cleves (in Germany) to paint portraits of his two daughters, Amelia and Anne.  This would be an important alliance, since Germany would soon be supporting the reformation church.  Holbein went in 1539, and when he returned, Henry decided to draw up a marriage contract with Anne.
Henry and Anne were married in 1540, but even before the marriage, Henry was looking for a way to get out of it.  Henry did not think that Anne looked anything like the portrait Holbein had painted of her, and throught her not to be at all pretty.  She was very naive and spoke little English, so she did not even know at the time that the king was trying to get out of the marriage, or knew the unkind things that the members of the English court said about her.  Henry also began to notice, somewhere during this time, young Kathryn Howard.
Henry immediately worked to annul the marriage.  Anne knew she would be making trouble for herself if she didnt comply, and she certainly didnt want to end up like Catherine of Aragon.  She testified her marriage had not be consummated (indeed, Anne's parents had neglected to teach her the "facts of life.")  and that a previous engagement she had had not been properly broken.  Cromwell, who has suggested the match, was executed shortly after.
In order to not anger or incur trouble from the Duke of Cleves (and because Anne had complied and accepted the annulment), Henry gave Anne the honorary title of the "King's sister," and was given property in England.  She lived the rest of her life in the English countryside away from court until her death in 1557.  She is bured in Westminster Abbey.
View Anne of Cleves' Picture Gallery: Anne of Cleves
Go on to: Kathryn Howard