The “Flanders Mare,” as history has dubbed her, Anne of Cleves was King Henry VIII’s shortest-lived wife, yet she managed to outlive all of the other 5 wives and Henry himself! Anne’s brief bio as Queen is full of fascinating tidbits nonetheless, so here’s the report, straight from the Mare’s mouth:
Guten Tag! I am Anne, daughter of John III, Duke of Cleves in Germany – Ja, Danke, Wiener schnitzel, Lederhosen! When I was just 12, I was betrothed to Francis I, son of the Duke of Lorraine, though he was but 10. The arrangement was cancelled in 1535, and instead, I was suggested as a wife to King Henry VIII of England, so our two countries could seal an alliance. Henry decided to do a beauty background check by sending his royal artist, Hans Hoblein, to paint portraits of me for the King to consider. After deliberation, Henry agreed to a marriage treaty – I was moving to England!
I finally met Henry in Rochester, but his reaction was less than favorable… he didn’t like my looks, a crushing thing for any woman to hear, but especially one in my position! Henry tried to get his chancellor to find a legal way to cancel the marriage, but the risk of offending my native Germany was too high. So on January 6, 1540 we were wed at the royal Palace of Placentia.
Renaissance Wedding Gown and Veil:
Our first night as a married couple was a disaster, and we didn’t… um… become intimate, as it were. This ended up being a tool for Henry when he finally decided to cut loose the ball-and-chain. I was told to leave Court on June 24th, then I was informed of his plans to get an annulment on July 6… I quickly agreed to the annulment. Ours hadn’t been much of a real marriage, anyhow. Just 3 days later, the annulment was complete on the grounds of our failing to consummate and my previous betrothal to Francis I. At the end, our marriage had only lasted 6 months!
Anne of Cleves Chemise:
Grateful for my compliance, the King gave me a generous settlement, including Richmond Palace and Hever Castle. I was given the title, “The King’s Sister,” and unbelievably, Henry and I became friends in later years. I visited Court often and got to know his children – I even attended the coronation of his daughter, Mary I! In the end, I spent the rest of my days in England, managing my estates, outliving Henry and all his other wives. Still sounds like a happy ending to me.
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