by Heather R. Darsie
On 9 July 1540 while she was at Richmond, Anna was told that her marriage to Henry VIII was unlawful. Her marriage annulled, Anna was no longer Queen Consort of England.
“Anna reportedly wailed and screamed when Henry’s representatives came to deliver the news of the annulment. A few days before, Henry covered his tracks by ordering…[for] ‘counsel learned in those laws and experimented in treaties to be sent thither for the matters of the duke [of Cleves]….
” The Judgment of Nullity was witnessed by four doctors of law and made public on 9 July 1540. Written in Latin, it stated,
‘The clergy of both provinces have received the King’s commission (recited), dated Westm., 6 July 32 Hen. VIII. After mature deliberation, they have found the marriage null by reason of a precontract between Lady Anne and the marquis of Lorraine, that it was unwillingly entered into ad never consummated, and that the King is at liberty to marry another woman, and likewise the lady Anne free to marry.’
The speed with which the annulment went through is astounding…. None of [Anna’s] lawyers, advisers, or others were present at the Convocation to represent Anna’s interests. No one was there to speak on her behalf about whether Anna and Henry consummated the marriage, or whether the contrived statements in the various depositions were true…. This set a dangerous precedent.”
From Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’.
Unknown Woman by Hans Holbein
Why was the marriage annulled, and why so quickly in such secrecy? Did Henry really despise Anna? What was the true reason for the end of Anna’s marriage? Why didn’t Anna go home? To see a fresh look at Anna’s life from the German perspective, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’.
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Sources & Suggested Reading
- Darsie, Heather R. Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’. Stroud: Amberley (2019).