Anne of Cleves
Anne of Cleves was Henry VIII’s fourth wife, who is seen as either very lucky or badly mistreated as Henry had the marriage annulled after only six months. Although she had to suffer this public rejection by the king she was then well provided for and given the title of the ‘King’s Beloved Sister’, which was a far better life than his previous wives had been subject to.
Anne was born in Germany on 22 September 1515, to Johann III, Duke of Cleves and his wife Marie, and grew up in the wealthy duchies of Cleves and Mark. Due to the wealth her father possessed and the prodigious lineage of her family (she was descended from both the Kings of England and France), a marriage alliance between her family and the English monarchy was talked of for many years. Following the death of Jane Seymour Henry VIII was again looking for another wife and after seeing what he felt was a beautiful portrait of Anne she seemed like the perfect candidate. Despite not speaking any English, Anne travelled over to England for the marriage at the end of 1539. Henry was disappointed that he did not find as attractive as the likeness he has seen in the picture and tried to get out of the alliance, however he could not risk doing so due to the diplomatic repercussions. The marriage went ahead on 6th January 1540 but it was not to last and ended with an annulment on 9th July 1540 on the grounds that it was not consummated. As the marriage ended so soon Anne of Cleves was never crowned as Queen of England at Westminster Abbey.
Anne went on to live quietly in England for another sixteen years and ended up outliving Henry and all his other wives. She died on 18th July 1557 during the reign of Mary I, who ordered a magnificent funeral to be held at Westminster Abbey for her. She was buried on the south side of the High Altar with a monument that is thought to have been made by Theodore Haveus of Cleves but it was never finished. The monument is a low stone structure of three sections which are covered in elaborate carvings including skulls and cross bones (symbols of mortality) and lion’s heads. The back part of the tomb has been mostly obscured by later monuments but there is a transcription that was added at the back in 1970s which reads “Anne of Cleves Queen of England. Born 1515. Died 1557.”
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