period makeups: Anne of Cleves

Period makeups: Anne of Cleves

Anne of Cleves (1515–1557) was – briefly – Queen of England in 1540 as the fourth wife of King Henry VIII. The marriage was declared never to have been consummated and, as a result, she was never crowned.

The couple’s first night as husband and wife was not a successful one. Henry confided to Cromwell that he had not consummated the marriage, saying:, ‘I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse.’ He described her as having unpleasant body odour and sagging breasts, among other complaints.

Henry claimed he had been misled: ‘She is nothing so fair as she hath been reported’. But most historians believe that Henry used Anne's alleged ‘bad’ appearance and failure to inspire him to consummate the marriage as an excuse.

Anne was commanded to leave the Court was informed of her husband’s decision to reconsider the marriage. Witness statements were taken from a number of courtiers and two physicians which register the king’s disappointment at her appearance. Henry had also commented to Thomas Heneage and Anthony Denny that he could not believe she was a virgin. Anne was asked for her consent to an annulment, to which she agreed

The former Queen received a generous settlement, and she and Henrybecame good friends – she was an honorary member of the King's family and was referred to as the King’s Beloved Sister. She was invited to court regularly and Henry decreed that she would be given precedence over all women in England save his own wife and daughters.

Anne lived to see the coronation of Queen Mary I, outliving the rest of Henry’s wives. She died in 1557, eight weeks before her forty-second birthday, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.