Anne of Cleves: Life Story

Chapter 11 : Domestic Disputes

Anne had been given a handsome income by Henry, but she struggled to maintain herself in the style to which she rapidly became accustomed.  Henry, being of an open-handed nature, gave her additional cash, but during Edward’s reign, she fell into considerable debt.  This was probably not helped by the presence of her cousin, Count von Waldeck, and his eight servants, who came to stay and never left.  King Edward’s government had appointed a new officer to Anne’s household as ‘cofferer’ – that is, responsible for financial management. He was a fellow-Clevian, Jasper Brockehouse.  Unfortunately, his efforts to reduce the household’s expenditure caused a rupture with Waldeck.

Waldeck complained to Wilhelm, who, rather than accepting Anne’s support of Brockehouse and his wife as evidence of the cofferer’s value, tried to persuade her to dismiss him. By 1556, the affair had come to such a pass that Wilhelm wrote to Queen Mary, asking her to intervene – he was particularly concerned, he said, about the influence of Brockehouse’s wife, Gertrude, whom he accused of having a negative effect on Anne’s mental health. Anne refused to dismiss the couple.

Wilhelm’s earlier antipathy to Philip of Spain had died down to the extent that he approached him to persuade Mary to overrule Anne. Philip, perhaps keen to keep Cleves happy at no inconvenience to himself, agreed, and wrote to the English council.  The council interrogated Brockehouse and three others, with the result that the cofferer and his wife were given six weeks to leave England.  

Another of Anne’s servants caused more arguments – Florence de Diaceto, who had come with her from Cleves and was still with her in 1553. During Edward’s reign, he had undertaken an embassy to the king of Denmark on behalf of the government, and he was still abroad when Mary acceded to the throne. He returned in spring 1554, and his bags were searched – why he was under suspicion is not apparent – perhaps, given that Denmark had joined the ranks of Lutheran states, he was suspected of bringing in forbidden books.  He was dismissed, and refused reimbursement of the expenses incurred in Denmark.

Other petty arguments occurred – Anne was requested to surrender Westhorpe (the property she had previously been granted even though Mary wanted it). She refused to give it up, unless she could have the royal property at Guildford instead.  Since we don’t know whether Anne ever travelled to Suffolk to see Westhorpe, it is hard to know if her reluctance to give it up was based on a personal liking of the place, or determination to hold what she thought was hers.  

By the summer of 1557, Anne was in failing health. She was sufficiently mistress of herself to draw up her will on 12th July at her home at Chelsea.  As was customary, she bequeathed her soul to the Holy Trinity, then asked that Mary might settle her debts. She also asked for her land grants, which would cease on her death, to be held to the use of her will until the following Michaelmas (29th September). The will made detailed bequests to all her household, and she specified items of jewellery for her brother, her sister-in-law, and other friends, including Katherine Willoughby, dowager-duchess of Suffolk, the queen, and the Lady Elizabeth.

Four days later, Anne died. Mary ordered that her funeral should be conducted with all the ceremony requisite for a woman of such high rank. She was buried at Westminster Abbey in the first week of August – the last queen-consort of England to be buried in a Catholic ceremony.

Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves

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