9th July 1540 – Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII’s Marriage Is Annulled

On the 9th July 1540, the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves was declared null and void. They had married on the 6th January 1540 but things hadn’t gone well from the start. In Anne’s eyes, the proceedings for the annulment had taken three days.

Anne and the Cleves agent, Karl Harst, had been informed of the King’s intentions on the 6th July. In Harst’s meeting with the Council and his own subsequent investigations, Harst discovered the range of conservative Councillors arrayed against Anne. It was to do with the marriage contract between her and the son of the Duke of Lorraine. Henry thought that is marriage was unlawful because she had been pre-contracted.

While Harst was seeing the Council in London, Anne of Cleves was handed a paper, which told her that Henry intended to submit their marriage to the judgement of Convocation. We are not sure whether she gave consent or not. According to the Councillors’ report to the King, Anne, ‘without alteration of countenance’ gave her immediate oral consent, saying ‘that she is consent always with your Majesty’s (desires)’. However, Harst said that Anne was far from giving her informed agreement and paid no attention to the paper. This could have been a misunderstanding or the Councillors could have just reported what Henry wanted to hear.

The Convocation proceeded and met early on Wednesday the 7th. They considered the case against the marriage in the morning session, which was presented by Gardiner. Cranmer then adjourned the full session till the following day. In the afternoon, depositions were taken from a wide range of witnesses. These, along with Cromwell’s two written confessions, provided the intimate detail about the failure of the marriage. On the Thursday the depositions were tabled and agreed to present a prima facie case against the marriage. On Friday the 9th, the judgment was drawn up in proper form and assented to by all present. As expected, the marriage was found null and void and the judgment is recorded in Letters and Papers:

‘The clergy of both provinces have received the King’s commission (recited), dated Westm., 6 July 32 Hen. VIII. After mature deliberation, they have found the marriage null by reason of a precontract between lady Anne and the marquis of Lorraine, that it was unwillingly entered into and never consummated, and that the King is at liberty to marry another woman, and likewise the lady Anne free to marry. Westm., 9 July 1540.’


Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey, 2004, p639-640

LP xv. 860


Anne of Cleves in The Tudors.

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