Further down the rabbit hole


I may have a bit of a bug about how Anne of Cleves has been portrayed in history. It never sat well with me, that it was all about her not being pretty, especially when I started reading conspiracy theories on how Holbein fudged his art to flatter her. If you can get hold of it Mary Saaler’s book is fantastic (oh links! buy from the publisher- http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/anne-of-cleves.html or ILL- http://www.worldcat.org/title/anne-of-cleves-fourth-wife-of-henry-viii/oclc/247680248) and I have  whole lot more to say about the portraits she so wonderfully shared! It’s the first book to actually go to original sources and include her life in England as a whole. Even her not so easy relationship with the people who worked with her later in life.

I have only seen it mentioned in passing that maybe the marriage was inconvenient. What is really clear from the papers is just how inconvenient it got literally as Anne was travelling from her (protestant lands smushed between the lands of the HRE and the Burgundians) across the Netherlands (Catholic Burgundian-Hapburg lands).

At the time the marriage was sensible- convenient- but Cleve-Julich-berg was only just merged and by the end of the century was really falling apart financially. And that was what upset “friends” of the King of England. And yeah, just read the letters from Dec 1539 to Jan 1540! They get really nasty!

“The declaration and whole truth of such things and matters which as (sic) are laid against me, Christopher Chaitour.

Cray then asked what news from beyond sea. “Then I showed as the said Hilyard (wo be to him !) showed me on the Thursday afore St. Nicholas’ Day last,” viz., when he enquired of Hilyard whether the Queen was come over, Hilyard said he had heard she would not come till all the abbeys in England were pulled down, and that caused the commissioners to make such haste before Christmas. He said also that the Emperor was come to France and should marry the French king’s daughter, and the duke of Orleans should marry the duchess of Milan; and all this was by the bp. of Rome’s means, and they were all confederate together. “As for the Scottish king,” he said, “he is always the French king’s man in all that he may.”

He added secretly, “We shall all be undone, for we have no help now but of the duke of Clefe, and they are so poor they cannot help us.” He said also that the duke of Cleves had sent to the Emperor to ask leave for the queen of England that shall be to pass through his dominions, and the Emperor had replied “he would nothing at his request, but for his most dear and loving cousin’s sake, the King of England, she should pass,” and commanded all his subjects “to away [t] of hyr grace as though she were the [empe]ryc[e].”

2. Cray’s Account.

And now ye see he hath brought it to pass that the King shall marry one (fn. 4) of his own sort, and that she will not come into England as long as there is one abbey standing, and for this cause so great haste is made to have them down so shortly as ye see.” “Jesus,” quod I, “what will be the end of these matters ?” “I cannot tell,” quod he, “but this is certain, that the Emperor is comen down into France, and by the mediation of the bp. of Rome there is a perfect peace and unity established between him and the French king, and he shall marry the French king’s daughter, and the duke of Orleans shall marry the duchess of Milan, and so now these three, the bp. of Rome, the French king, and the Emperor, be all one, and the king of Scots is the French king’s man; and so we be left alone, and nobody with us but these Germans, a sort of beggarly knaves, and they are able to do nothing. And as for our own commons, their hearts be not so firm nor steadfast to the King but for fear.”


Both men refer to Hilliard as the source, a man who had fled to Scotland, and was already considered a traitor. It was a dangerous time for anyone, so exactly how true any of this actually was is unclear. Whether Hilliard was fabricating the story or Cray and Chaitour were, it’s hard to believe it as being true. There is only one account that suggests she would push her will over others, and that was to basically get to know the nobles who had come from England to meet her.


She asked Southampton to come to supper and bring with him some noble folks to sit with her after the manner of her country. Told her it was not the usage of our country so to do, but complied on her repeating her request.


What is true is that while Anne was traveling so to was the Hapsburg Emperor traveling through France, an ally of England at the time.

[London,] 17 Jan.:—Since he wrote on the 5th of the arrival of the new Queen at Greenwich, there has come a personage calling himself ambassador of the Landgrave of Hesse, who, with this duke of Bavaria, the chancellor of Saxony and some lords of Cleves who came with the “said” lady, has been summoned to Cromwell’s house, where, with the principal councillors of this King, they have divers times discussed their secret affairs. Finally, upon a report that the Emperor was bringing down from Italy into France certain Italians and Spaniards of his garrison there, and because the Landgrave’s ambassador brought news that the Lutherans on the one side, and the bishops and church party of Germany on the other were in arms against each other, the German lords decided to leave at once, under pretext that the safe conduct they have from the Emperor would expire in a few days and they might be shut in here if war broke out, for they think the Emperor and their ecclesiastical adversaries are working to no other end than to attack them, which is very likely if the above news are true.



Even the abmassador from France could only say that Anne looked over 30 (good lord, really? no?) that she was was tall and thin, but that she was self assured and had wit.

23. Marillac to Montmorency.

[London] 5 Jan.:—Has received the Constable’s letters of 26 Dec. Wrote on the 24th, on the 27th (by the gentleman of the chamber of the King of Scotland) and on the 31st ult. The Queen of England has arrived who, according to some who saw her close, is not so young as was expected, nor so beautiful as every one affirmed. She is tall and very assured in carriage and countenance, showing that in her the turn and vivacity of wit supplies the place of beauty. She brings from her brother’s country 12 or 15 damsels inferior in beauty even to their mistress and dressed so heavily and unbecomingly that they would almost be thought ugly even if they were beautiful.


22. Marillac to Francis I.

[London] 5 Jan.
She looks about 30 years of age, tall and thin, of medium beauty, and of very assured and resolute countenance. She brought 12 or 15 ladies of honour clothed like herself—a thing which looks strange to many. An ambassador of Saxony (fn. 13) is in her company, probably to conclude treaties between his master and this King; for now the affairs of Cleves and Saxony, with all their League, and of this King will be one. But we shall see what is determined in the coming Parliament which will begin, they say, in Lent, and provide for several great affairs, especially for a great supply of money which this King means to demand. His ministers say he can get 1,000,000 crs. without difficulty.


I am still making my way through all the papers. There is obviously a lot and with variation of spelling and a mix of direct transcriptions and edited text it can be hard to find letters or papers relating directly to her. But in reading everything the context of her arrival makes so much more sense!

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