Happily Ever After
On January 6, 1540, the couple married at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich. They never consummated their marriage. The morning after the wedding, Henry was said to have complained to Cromwell: “I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse.” Apparently, Henry considered his young bride’s breasts to be saggy- and believed she had an unpleasant body odor.
Anne herself confirmed the non-consummation to one of her ladies, the Countess of Rutland. The King was kind, she said, but all that happened between them was: “When he comes to bed he kisseth me, and he taketh me by the hand, and biddeth me ‘Good night, sweetheart’; and in the morning kisseth me and biddeth ‘Farewell, darling. “
Henry began to work to get rid of his fourth wife. The French-Imperial Alliance in Europe was cooling. This lessened the danger to England, making Henry’s German alliance less vital. Also, the teenage Katherine Howard had caught his eye. So, on June 24, just over six months after her marriage, Anne of Cleves was dismissed from court. On July 6, she was informed her husband wanted an annulment. None consummation was the primary reason cited- as well as Annes’ previous engagement to Francis of Lorraine- an arrangement that was broken off when she was in her mid-teens.
However, Anne surprised Henry by her complete cooperation in their annulment. On July 9, 1540, the marriage formally ended. Henry was so gratefully to Anne for not making a fuss that he gave her a more than generous settlement. As well as houses, including Hever Castle, the former family home of Anne Boleyn, Henry awarded Anne an allowance of Â£4000 a year- so long as she remained in England. To salve any hurt pride, she became an honorary member of the Kings family, his “Beloved Sister,” with precedence over all women in England save the King’s daughters and his wife.
Henry married Katherine Howard, and Anne settled into her new role. She was much happier as Henry’s sister than his wife. Just months after her divorce, Charles de Marillac observed she was of “a more joyous countenance than ever.” She had every reason to be joyous. By remaining in England, Anne was independent and wealthy, rather than a dependent and cast off as she would have been if she had returned to Cleves. She had standing and status. It did not matter that her looks had been disparaged. She did not need a husband. Nor did she want one. Despite the eligibility, her wealth gave her, Anne of Cleves never married again.
Anne continued to live in England until her death in 1557 at the age of 42. Despite a brief scare during the Wyatt Rebellion, when she was implicated in a plot to replace her stepdaughter Mary with her sister Elizabeth, she remained on good terms with her former husbands’ family. She was the last of Henry VIII wives to die. She was buried in state in Westminster Abbey, remembered by those who served her as a lady of “right commendable regards, courteous, gentle, a good housekeeper and verie bountifull to hir seruants.”