Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves was the last survivor of Henry VIII’s six wives, relegated from queen, to the role of Henry’s ‘sister

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  • On This Day 23rd September 1571

    On 23rd September 1571 Katherine Pole, Countess of Huntingdon died. Katherine’s life exemplifies the complexities of family life at the Tudor court. Her grandmother was Margaret Plantagenet, Countess of Salisbury, and her father was Henry, Lord Montague. Both of them were executed on charges of treason following the Exeter Conspiracy. She married Francis Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon in 1532. His uncle, Edward, Duke of Buckingham had also been executed in 1521. The couple had eleven children, the eldest of whom, Henry, was brought up with Edward VI and became known as the Puritan Earl.

    Her husband was a supporter of Northumberland and the Puritan Henry married Katherine Dudley. Francis was sent to the Tower for supporting Lady Jane Grey. Katherine’s uncle, however, was Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, and Katherine herself was ‘restored in blood’ by Queen Mary, whilst her cousin Dorothy Stafford was a Protestant exile under the same queen. Katherine appears to have remained a Catholic sympathiser during Elizabeth’s reign.

  • On This Day 22nd September 1515

    On 22nd September 1515 in the Duchy of Julich-Cleves-Berg, a daughter, Anne, was born. Anne of Cleves was one of four children and was brought up strictly by her mother Maria, Duchess of Julich in her own right. The court of Cleves was heavily influenced by the thinking of Erasmus, but did not formally adhere to Lutheranism. This moderate position, and the position of Anne’s brother-in-law, the Elector of Saxony, as head of the Lutheran Schmalkaldic League that opposed the Emperor, made her a very suitable choice for a wife for the King of England.

    Henry became enamoured of the portrait of her by Holbein, and was eager to have her as his bride. Unfortunately, when they met in the flesh, he found her profoundly physically unattractive. She also had few of the courtly accomplishments that his previous wives had had. Nevertheless, the marriage took place, and Anne became Queen of England in 1539. Her jointure was generous - it was to be as ‘ample’ as that of the late Queen Jane Seymour. Unable to perform his marital duties, and no longer wishing to be in League with the Lutherans, Henry had the marriage annulled. Anne acquiesced, and continued to reside in England, apparently on excellent terms with Henry (now transmogrified into her ‘brother’) and his children. She received the castles of Hever and Richmond as part of the divorce settlement – not bad for 6 months work!

    Recent research by Heather R. Darsie, biographer of Anne of Cleves, suggests that her birthdate is actually 28 June 1515.

  • On This Day 21st September 1516

    On 21st September 1516 Matthew Stuart, later 4th Earl of Lennox, was born. His grandfather, the second earl had been killed at Flodden, and his father, the 3rd Earl, was in dispute for precedence with the Hamilton Earls of Arran and was murdered by one of his party in 1526. Following this, Matthew was sent to France, to be brought up with another branch of the Lennox Stuarts. Matthew spent most of his youth in France, hence the change in the spelling of his name from Stewart to Stuart. He was in the army of Francois I and fought with some distinction in the Italian Wars.

    On the death of James V in 1542, when the Earl of Arran took the role of Regent, as heir to the baby Mary, Queen of Scots, Matthew returned to Scotland, during the War of the Rough Wooing. Initially, Lennox was an envoy of France, and it was rumoured that he planned to marry the widowed Queen Mother, Marie of Guise. So long as Arran remained pro-English, Lennox would remain pro-French. However, as the political landscape altered and Lennox changed allegiance. He joined the English party, and was rewarded in 1544 with marriage to the niece of the King of England, Lady Margaret Douglas.

    Lady Margaret was also the half-aunt of the Queen of Scots. The Lennoxes had two sons who lived to adulthood. The eldest Lord Darnley married his cousin, Queen Mary, in 1565. Lennox had his Scottish estates restored, but, after Darnley’s murder, faction fighting broke out again. A brief period of regency for his grand-son, James VI, ended in Lennox being shot, possibly by one of his own men.

    Picture shows the Lennoxes in mourning for their murdered son.

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