Henry VIII Marries Anne of Cleves
Henry VIII’s brief marriage to Anne of Cleves encapsulated in just a few months that most egotistical monarch’s view of the balance between duty and personal satisfaction. Thomas Cromwell had worked hard to negotiate the union, which it was hoped would bind the German Protestant territories in common cause with England; and given Henry’s profligacy and finances the fact that his new brother-in-law Duke William of Cleves had the epithet “The Rich” attached to his name was surely significant too.
Holbein’s portraits of Anne had shown the king a woman handsome rather than beautiful, but Henry on meeting her at Rochester as she disembarked was immediately disappointed. In spite of this politics required the marriage: they were wed in the royal palace at Greenwich on January 6 1540, Thomas Cranmer officiating. But the union was never consummated. Anne was sent from the court in June, and by July an annulment had been agreed, with generous terms for Anne who, doubtless very aware of the fate of those who crossed Henry , intelligently cooperated. She spent the rest of her life in comfort in England, outliving Henry, though she died just short of her forty-second birthday. Thomas Cromwell did not fare so well: he was arrested after the annulment negotiations were finalised; sent to the Tower ; and executed on the day Henry married Catherine Howard.
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