As daughter to the German Duke of Cleves, Anne (whose birth name was Anna of the La Marck family) was a prospective bride for King Henry VIII after the death of his third and favorite wife Jane Seymour. Anne and her sister Amalia were both painted by the English court painter Hans Holbein and in 1539, Henry chose Anne as his new queen, but it was not to be a perfect match. From the moment they met, Henry was put off by her, not only because of her lack of an education, but because upon their meeting, she tried to brush off the disguised king, perhaps not knowing who he was. Nevertheless, the two were married in early January 1540 and they would divorce the same year.
Henry used the excuse of her being unattractive (which was far from the truth as many sources of the time praise her looks, especially her long blond hair) for not consummating his marriage, which he mentioned to his top adviser Thomas Cromwell; “I liked her not before, and I like her much worse now.” He complained of her sagging breasts and unpleasant odors from her breath and body, even remarking how he believed she was not a virgin. After several grueling months, an annulment was issued in July and the unhappy couple mutually ended their marriage. Cromwell, whom had arranged the marriage, was arrested soon after for treason and eventually executed at the Tower of London.
Anne, however, thrived after her divorce. She became good friends with Henry and was often referred to as the King’s Sister; the two played cards often and she was a frequent guest at court. Despite not being the oldest of Henry’s six wives, she managed to live the longest, well into the reign of Henry’s eldest daughter Mary I, whose coronation she participated in. On 16 July 1557, she died at the age of forty-two and became the only one of Henry’s wives to be buried in Westminster Abbey.