ANNE of Cleves (1515–1557), fourth queen of Henry VIII, was the daughter of John, duke of Cleves, surnamed the Pacific. Her mother, Mary, was the only daughter of William, duke of Juliers, and her father was consequently possessed of that duchy also in her mother's right. She herself was born on 22 Sept. 1515. She had an elder sister, Sybilla, who was married in 1527 to John Frederic, duke of Saxony, the leader of the Smalcaldic league; and a younger sister, Amelia, who remained single. She had also a younger brother, William, who, by an arrangement made at Nimeguen, became duke of Gueldres in 1538, and united that duchy after his father's death to those of his inheritance. In 1533 her father established Lutheranism throughout his dominions. He was the most powerful supporter of protestantism in the west of Germany, and it was not unnatural that after Jane Seymour's death she should have been thought of by Cromwell as a match for Henry VIII. There were, however, some drawbacks; and one was intimated pretty distinctly beforehand, even as early as December 1537, before the king had been two months a widower. John Hutton, ambassador in the Low Countries, wrote at that time to Cromwell, mentioning her among other possible ladies. ‘The Duke of Cleves,’ he observes, ‘hath a daughter; but I hear no great praise neither of her personage nor beauty.’ Nevertheless, after the failure of some other negotiations, Henry was induced, in the spring of 1539, to desire her portrait of her brother-in-law, the Duke of Saxony, her father being then lately dead. Christopher Mont, a German himself, was the king's agent at that court, and wrote to Cromwell in a very different vein from what Hutton had done some fifteen months before. Every man, he said, praised the lady's beauty. She as far surpassed her sister, the duchess, ‘as the golden sun did the silver moon.’ The Duke of Saxony, however, put off sending her portrait, alleging that his painter, Lucas Cranach, was ill, till the king commissioned his own artist, Holbein, to do the work, who painted likenesses both of her and of her sister Amelia, which seem to have given great satisfaction.
It is one of the extraordinary features of the case that so little seems to have been thought of any possible objections except plain looks. Nicholas Wotton, afterwards dean of York and Canterbury, wrote at this time from Germany, that the lady had been very strictly educated by her mother, the duchess, ‘and in manner never from her elbow;’ that she was very meek and gentle, but that she could neither read nor write any language but her own. She might, no doubt, learn English soon, for she was very intelligent; but at that time (within five months of her marriage) she knew not a word of it, and, worse still, she could not sing or play upon an instrument. Henry was devotedly fond of music; but in Germany it was thought unworthy of a great lady to have any knowledge of the art. The only thing in which she was at all proficient was needlework, and with that she occupied most of her time. The prospect of her union with Henry was certainly far from satisfactory. Nevertheless everything was arranged. Frederic of Bavaria, count palatine of the Rhine, came to England accompanied by the vice-chancellor of her brother, the Duke of Cleves, to conclude the match, and the treaty was signed at Windsor 24 Sept. 1539. Anne left Düsseldorf and proceeded by easy stages to Calais, where she was met, 11 Dec., by Fitzwilliam, earl of Southampton, lord high admiral, and a great array of English lords and gentlemen. She was received with immense firing of guns both from the town and from the ships in Calais haven. She remained at Calais fifteen days for lack of favourable wind, but crossed on 27 Dec., and landed at Deal. Thence she proceeded, by Dover, Canterbury, and Sittingbourne, to Rochester. She was met on Barham down and conducted into Canterbury by the archbishop and four of his suffragans with a great company of gentlemen. Again she was met on Rainham down and conducted into Rochester by the Duke of Norfolk and a great company of lords, knights, and esquires. She reached Rochester on New Year's eve, where Henry himself came upon her next day by surprise, having informed Cromwell beforehand that he intended to visit her privily ‘to nourish love.’ He found her looking out of a window at a bull-baiting, and showed her a token from himself, still preserving his incognito. She thanked him with commonplace civility, and still kept looking out of window, till the king, after putting off his cloak in another chamber, returned in a coat of purple velvet,