Meet the Wives Handbook: Anne Boleyn

Role as Queen

Scorned by Henry VIII, Anne of Cleves was queen for a mere six months. She was never crowned and all attempts to discuss her coronation with the king were rebuffed.

Ever since her betrothal to Henry VIII, Anne of Cleves had been expected by members of both the Catholic and reformist factions at court to advance the cause of Protestantism in England. It never happened.

Instead, Queen Anne settled into a kind of limbo. She appeared at two holiday tournaments and other public events, and received visits from the king. She spent her days playing cards with her ladies-in-waiting, receiving gifts and various congratulatory messages from Cleves and her husband's subjects. She also concentrated on improving her language skills - her success in this can perhaps be measured by a French report that the English valued her "as one of the most sweet, gracious and humane queens they had had."

Not speaking enough English to understand court gossip, though, she had only slowly become aware that her position was vulnerable. Rumors concerning the king's interest in maid-of-honor Catherine Howard had reached her. Together with the ambassador from Cleves, Queen Anne discussed ways to advance her coronation and thus reinforce her position.

But the talk came too late. By late June 1540, five months after her marriage, Anne of Cleves' presence at court was no longer deemed necessary. The king's Privy Council arranged for her to be moved to Richmond Palace, a royal residence along the Thames, ostensibly to protect her from the plague. Henry VIII himself did not inform his wife of this decision and would not see her again until after the divorce was final.

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