Why did the marriage to Anne of Cleves fail?

Dinah Starkey

You are a member of Henry's court. Your job is to read this information about Anne of Cleves and then decide whether the king should marry her.

Fact file on Anne of Cleves

The lady is 24. She is the sister of William, Duke of Cleves. Cleves is a poor country and she will bring no money or lands with her if she marries Henry.


The lady is shy and modest. Her family have taught her it is wrong to dance, play cards or take too much interest in fashion. She spends much of her time praying and working at her needlework. She does not have much sense of humour and she is not cheerful.


She has been taught how to run a household but she has never learned French or Latin. She can read and write in her own language. She does not speak English. She cannot sing or play an instrument.


The king's ambassador couldn't get a proper look at her because her headdress hid her face and her "monstrous apparel" covered up her figure.

But another visitor told the king that she was much more beautiful than the Duchess of Milan, a very pretty woman who Henry had also thought of marrying. Hans Holbein, the king's portrait painter, has brought back a picture of her which makes her look very pretty.

Points in her favour

Cleves is a Protestant country like England. It has the same enemies, the Catholic countries of France and Spain. A marriage between the king of England and the sister of the Duke of Cleves will join the two countries together. They will become allies against Spain and France.

You are a member of court of the Duke of Cleves. Your job is to read this information about Henry VIII and then decide whether or not his sister should marry him.

Fact file on Henry VIII

The king is in his 40s. He has had three wives already. He divorced the first, had the second put to death and the third died in childbirth. He has three children, two daughters and a son.


He is much feared. People who displease him are beheaded. He has had some health problems and these make him short tempered. But he can be very charming. He is musical and sings and plays well. He enjoys playing cards, dancing and is very fashion conscious. He likes pretty, cheerful women who make him laugh.


His Majesty is very well educated. He speaks French, Latin and a little Greek. In his youth he was interested in mathematics and astronomy.


He is tall and getting rather fat. He dresses in rich clothes and likes to cover his fingers with rings. He is very frightening when he is in a rage.

Points in his favour

Henry can make the lady a queen. She comes from a poor country. He can give her jewels and land. Marrying Henry will help her brother in his fight against the Catholic countries of Spain and France. England, like Cleves, is Protestant and the marriage will bring the two countries together.

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