Anna of Cleves Breaks the News to Wilhelm

by Heather R. Darsie


On 21 July 1540, Anna of Cleves was no longer allowed to hide the truth from her brother Wilhelm about her marriage’s end. Henry had grown impatient waiting for Anna to write her family. Anna waited as long as she could, hoping that Henry would either directly send a letter to Duke Wilhelm in Cleves, or that one of Henry’s ambassadors would break the news to Wilhelm. Henry sent his representatives to compel Anna to write a diplomatic letter, assuring her brother that all was well. Most importantly, Anna asked Wilhelm and her family to continue in a friendly manner due to the ‘knot of amity’ between England and Cleves. If you would like to hear the letter Anna wrote to Wilhelm, head on over to my podcast, Tudor Speeches, and listen to Episode 3.

Love learning about the Queens of England? Are you interested in Tudor history or Women’s history? Then check out my book, Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’, a new biography about Anne of Cleves told from the German perspective!

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You Might Also Like

  1. Anna of Cleves Learns her Marriage is Annulled
  2. Wilhelm V, Anna of Cleves’ Brother
  3. The Habsburg-Valois Wars
  4. Anna of Cleves’ Maternal Grandparents: Wilhelm IV and III of Jülich-Berg and Sibylle of Brandenburg
  5. How to Train Your Hawk: A 15th Century English Prioress’ Guide


Sources & Suggested Reading

  1. Darsie, Heather R. Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’. Stroud: Amberley (2019).

4 thoughts on “Anna of Cleves Breaks the News to Wilhelm

  1. Imagine having to tell your brother, a Prince and Duke, that the marriage made with one of the powers in Europe, Henry Viii and England, made just six months earlier, was now over and he had rejected you, the Princess of Ckeves, the key to the alliance, as his bride. How humiliating! Regardless of the personal or political reasons Henry Viii had or invented, this was a disaster for Anna as the woman, because she had been put aside and rejected as a wife. How does a woman of the sixteenth century of such high status cope with that on an emotional basis and really how did William feel? Of course we don’t really know, but this must have been very insulting. Yes Anna agreed to the annulment, not that she had much choice, yes, she received a reasonable settlement, yes, she was smart enough to do that, but she also remained in her heart and her own mind, Henry’s true wife. She has to break the news diplomatically to her brother and say how wonderful Henry has been and she is doing it to please him. Oh boy, I wish the poor woman had a rolling pin to hit Henry with! She returned the wedding band and told him to destroy it as a thing of little worth, meaning he saw the marriage as no longer having worth. This shows how high born women were just convenient or inconvenient in the marriage market depending on the whims of men and the fortunes of war and peace and political pressure in Europe. Anna was highly prized when it was politically convenient for England and yet no longer wanted when Henry backed the wrong side in the ambitious expansion policy of Emperor Charles V. It was off course her fault according to Cromwell and Henry because he disliked her. Wow! Men really don’t know what they wanted then or now.

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