Anne of Cleves: Life Story

Chapter 5 : Queen Anne

Anne’s new ladies-in-waiting were becoming curious about the state of the royal marriage.  Apparently, they probed their mistress on whether she was likely to become pregnant any time soon. Anne replied that the king kissed her morning and evening – presumably, that was all that was required?  The ladies’ response was robust – this was certainly not enough to produce the longed-for duke of York. 

This conversation has been taken as an indicator of Anne’s innocence, but it passes all belief that, no matter how strict her upbringing, she could have attained the age of twenty-four and been sent to be the wife of a king without more information on sex than that – the Tudor age was not the repressed Victorian era. Her answer was, presumably, to close the conversation. She could not suggest that Henry was at fault in any way, so had to pretend to think everything in order.

Despite the difficulties in the royal bedchamber, Anne had all the splendour and position of her predecessors. On 11th January, she appeared in front of the court, dressed in the fashion of her new country, with a French hood, rather than German style dress. It was widely agreed that her new look was becoming, although it made little impression on her husband. Her household comprised some one hundred and twenty-six people, and she was permitted to keep some of her Clevian attendants – something not always allowed to queens. Her doctor, Dr Cornelius, and her senior lady-in-waiting, Frau Löwe, as well as her cook and footman had all come with her from Cleves.

The original marriage treaty had given Anne a dower (her income during widowhood) of 20,000 florins per annum, should she remain in England, and 15,000 florins should she choose to return to Cleves – if the king’s heir desired it, the latter provision could be bought out for 150,000 florins. Similarly, if Wilhelm and Sibylle died without heirs, Anne’s rights to succeed to the Cleves duchies were assured, or, if Sibylle inherited, her husband, Johann Friedrich, would pay Anne and Amelia a lump sum.

Her jointure – that is, the lands she was to hold as queen – was confirmed two days after the wedding. Properties to the value of 4,367 marks, 7s 1¾ d were granted, including many that had once belonged to religious houses.

Despite Anne being treated with all the ceremony and respect due to her as his wife, Henry hesitated to move ahead with plans with her coronation, originally scheduled for Whitsunday 1540 (16th May that year).  He did, however, proceed with a state entry into London, which took place on 4th February. Anne and Henry were rowed upriver from Greenwich to Westminster in a convoy of barges – first, that containing Henry’s household, then Henry’s barge, followed by Anne in her own queen’s barge.  After Anne came three more vessels – those containing her ladies and her senior officers, and then that of the mayor and alderman of London. Behind were the barges of ten of the most important of the City guilds, draped with cloths and symbols indicating the craft – that of the Mercers’ Guild was hung with cloth-of-gold.  As the flotilla passed the Tower of London, a gun salute was fired and the crowds cheered the new queen.  When the royal party arrived at Westminster, king and queen walked from the water steps to the palace at Whitehall.  

A few days later, Dr Wotton was sent to Cleves to assure Anne’s family of the contentment of the couple. No word of Henry’s unhappiness could be leaked, lest the whole political purpose of the match be undermined. Wotton, however, was soon concerned that the alliance might not be as advantageous as hoped. Duke Wilhelm had determined, despite the advice of his council, to meet the emperor in person to resolve the issue of Guelders. The emperor’s brother, Ferdinand, King of the Romans, had offered to mediate. Wotton pointed out that such a course of action might lead Henry to fear that Wilhelm could not be relied upon. The hoped-for rapprochement with Charles did not materialise – Wilhelm returned home disappointed of his hopes of the emperor confirming his right to Guelders.

By March, Henry had convinced himself that his difficulties in the bedchamber were because his inner self (to put it politely) knew that his marriage to Anne was invalid – she must, in truth, not have been free to marry, but still betrothed to Francis of Lorraine.  He instructed his council to investigate – ‘the obstacle will not out of my mind’, he informed them. Reluctant to create a stir in international relations, the council discussed the matter, then suggested to Henry that, although they would again look into Anne’s previous betrothal, perhaps non-consummation might form a better ground for annulment.

Whilst the council sought an escape route for Henry, he was consoling himself with a dalliance with Mistress Katheryn Howard, who had been appointed as one of Anne’s maids-of-honour. Katheryn was the cousin of the late Queen Anne Boleyn, and the niece of the duke of Norfolk.  Whilst Anne was by no means a Lutheran, her association with the Lutheran states of the Schmalkaldic League made her suspect in the eyes of religious conservatives such as Norfolk and his ally, Bishop Gardiner of Winchester.  It was not long before duke and bishop were encouraging Henry’s new romance, in the hopes of displacing Anne with the biddable Katheryn. 

Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves

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