Anne of Cleves: Life Story

Chapter 8 : The Settlement

Henry assured his ambassadors to Cleves that, although Anne had been sorry about the annulment because of her great love for him, she was now reconciled to it, and he was eager to maintain good relations with the German princelings.  He showed his goodwill by immediately formalising the financial settlement, details of which were delivered to Anne on 12th July. She was given time to read the details, with her interpreter. 

The settlement was generous – in addition to the money and the houses, quantities of household furniture, plate and jewels were granted to her, and she was assigned rank only after the king’s daughters and subsequent wives.  This rank was to be supported by an extensive household of officers, gentlemen and ladies.  At some point, she was also granted the use of Hever Castle, once the childhood home of the first Queen Anne and Bisham, formerly the property of Margaret, Countess of Salisbury.  That Anne was still nervous about her situation is reflected in her response to the councillors’ request that she write to her brother. She declined to do so, as it was not etiquette for her to write first, but assured them that, if Wilhelm wrote to her, she would let Henry know and would answer in a manner to please the king. She begged that, if the Duke of Saxony should take the annulment badly, Henry would still be good to her, for she was entirely at his ‘pleasure’, for which we might read ‘entirely at his mercy’.  

Henry’s councillors advised the king that they should not push Anne further on the matter of writing to her brother, suggesting to him that, if they did push her, Wilhelm might become suspicious that Henry was not confident of his actions, in which case Wilhelm might become more ‘insolent’, than if he thought everything was straightforward.

The king, however, was adamant. If Anne did not immediately write to her brother, confirming her agreement to the annulment, she might ‘swerve from her conformity’, particularly if the emperor encouraged Wilhelm to object. Henry, despite having been married previously to two of the most strong-minded women in English history, thought that Anne might go back on her promise – indecision being the ‘condition of a woman’.  Her letter to Wilhelm was to be accompanied by a translation into German of her own letter to Henry.  In return, Suffolk and the others could reassure her that even if Wilhelm and her other relatives cut up rough, Henry would not treat her any less well.  

Anne was still not thrilled with the prospect of having to write to her brother that the glittering alliance had fallen apart, because the king did not like her. Nevertheless, it was made clear to her that she had no choice.

The generous settlement Anne received was dependent on her remaining in England.  She therefore, whether willingly or not, told Wilhelm that she liked her new home and would remain.  Wilhelm, who could do little to undo what Henry had done, and no doubt fearing to make his sister’s life materially more difficult, took the announcement of the annulment calmly, at least in public. He would, he said, remain Henry’s friend. Although he would have preferred Anne to return home, he trusted in Henry’s good will toward her. We can probably suppose that in private, his views were rather more outspoken.

Having done all that was asked of her, Anne made a final gesture of her own. She returned her wedding ring to Henry with the request that it be broken up, as a thing of no meaning or value.

The courts of Europe were astonished at Henry’s latest marital escapade. The emperor could not understand what the grounds for annulment were; François I of France could not at first believe the news and had to check that the story really related to ‘the queen that now is’;  Luther exclaimed that ‘Junker Heinz (Lord Henry) want(ed) to be God and do as he please(d)!

Anne had been right to anticipate that her brother-in-law, Johann Friedrich, might react badly to the insult to his extended family.  The Schmalkaldic League, which he led, broke off the alliance with England.  There was considerable sympathy for her, both at home and abroad.  Her ‘patience under affliction’ was admired, and the rapid transfer of Henry’s hand, although not his heart which she had never held, from Anne to Katheryn was looked upon with some disapproval.

Henry had the grace to inform Anne of his speedy marriage to Katheryn, and, with the embarrassment of their failed relationship behind them, the two began to get on well.

Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves

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