Anne of Cleves was woken early on 30 December 1539 in order to continue her journey towards London. From Canterbury, the next stage of the route was Sittingbourne, where she was lodged as comfortably as possible in an inn. Although she was used to royal residences and noble households she did not complain. By 30 December she had been journeying towards England for a month and had become used to packing and unpacking as she made her slow progress towards her new life as queen of England.
Once the marriage treaty between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves had been agreed at the end of September 1539, the English king turned his attentions to just how his bride was to reach England. The most direct, and usual route, was for a traveller to pass overland through the Low Countries and into Calais, where they could make a short sea voyage over to Dover. With the Lo Countries ruled by Charles V’s sister, Mary of Hungary, however, it was far from certain that a safe-conduct would be granted, particularly since Anne’s brother was in dispute with the Emperor over his occupation of the Duchy of Guelders. Another dangerous possibility was that, even if safe-conduct as granted, war could break out during the journey, leaving Anne stranded and in danger.
For Henry, who was anxious to be joined by Anne, the solution was obvious. He had spent a good deal of money on building his navy. The idea of his fleet sailing across hostile waters to snatch his bride from the hands of the emperor fired his imagination. Anne’s home of Juliers-Cleves had only acquired a sea port when her brother took control of the disputed Guelders and the people around her had little experience of sea travel. Henry, however, was enthusiastic, commissioning two experienced shipmasters to sail to Guelders to produce a pilot’s chart and seaman’s rutter (a book of sailing instructions) for the dangerous route, which involved navigating sandbanks in the Zuider Zee. Their reports did not fill Anne’s brother with confidence, particularly since, at one stage of the journey the deepest water was only nineteen feet, with ‘ooze’ clogging the water on both sides of the channel.
Faced with this, Anne’s brother refused absolutely to consider the enterprise, with his ambassadors telling Henry that ‘they think it rather expedient to have conveyed by land than by water; for she is young and beautiful, and if she should be transported by the seas, they fear lest the time of year being now cold and tempestuous she might there, although she were never so well ordered, take such cold or other disease, considering that she as never before upon the seas, as should be to her great peril’. Anne had almost certainly never seen the sea and was probably relieved when the matter was allowed to drop and a safe-conduct acquired instead.
Anne’s brother paid for her to travel in grand style across Europe. As a distant kinswoman of the Emperor she was never really in danger of attack, although Henry wrote touchingly to Mary of Hungary, requesting that she ensure ‘the personal security and comfort of the said lady [Anne] and her suite’. Anne left Cleves at the end of November with a train of 263 people, including some of the highest dignitaries of her brother’s duchy. They made slow progress due to the wintry conditions, averaging only around five miles a day, but had reached Antwerp by 3 December, where she was received in grand style. On 7 December she was at Bruges and, three days later, she reached Gravelines, which was only a few miles from the English-held city of Calais.
Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, who escorted Anne from Deal to London. The two women became friends.