Sunday, 5 January 2014

5 January 1540 - The Eve of a Wedding

Anne of Cleves was still at Greenwich on 5 January 1540, waiting for her marriage to Henry VIII. She was entirely unaware of the king’s desperate attempts to end their engagement, attending mass with Henry in public.

On 5 January Henry finally bowed to the inevitable, allowing plans for the marriage to go ahead. As a precursor to this, he signed three documents, granting Anne estates as part of her dower – lands that were intended to provide her with her income as queen. The total value was nearly 700 marks, something which ensured that the princess was generously provided for.

Anne spent the days before her wedding acquainting herself with her household officers and ladies. An appointment to the queen’s household was a coveted one, with the Earl of Rutland holding the chief office of chamberlain. She also employed a chancellor, master of horse, secretary and receiver general, as well as her own surveyor, auditor, attorney and solicitor. In order to attend to her daily needs, Anne had a cupbearer, ushers, servers and her own sergeant at arms, as well as clerks and a chaplain.

She relied on interpreters to speak to these figures, with two household members - Mistress Gilmyn, who had been sent by Henry to Germany to teach his bride some English, and a young gentleman, Wymond Carew - taking this role. Anne would learn English quickly, but the Earl of Rutland still required an interpreter to understand her in July. Due to the language barrier, Anne was able to show herself amiable and gracious to her household members, but was not able to establish real relationships with them, relying on Mother Lowe, who had come with her from Germany to manage her maids, for advice and support.

On the evening of 5 January Anne was informed that her marriage would take place the next day, causing a frenzy of activity in her household. Henry VIII also spent an anxious evening. When his friend, Sir Anthony Browne, came to him that evening, the king, who was ‘nothing pleasantly disposed’, once again commented ‘that he had a great yoke to enter into’.

Anne of Cleves also had much to be nervous about. As she retired to bed on 5 January 1540, she was hours away from becoming the fourth wife of Europe’s most notorious – and dangerous – husband.

Anne's signature. She was literate, but far from the type of educated woman that usually attracted Henry VIII

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