Fact of the day: 16th July

On this day in 1557 Anne of Cleves (b. 1515) died.

Anne of Cleves was Queen of England from 6 January 1540 to 9 July 1540 as the fourth wife of King Henry VIII.

The marriage was declared never consummated, and she was not crowned queen consort.

Following the annulment of their marriage, Anne was given a generous settlement by the King, and thereafter referred to as the King’s Beloved Sister.

She lived to see the coronation of Queen Mary I, outliving the rest of Henry’s wives.

When Anne’s health began to fail, Mary allowed her to live at Chelsea Old Manor, where Henry’s last wife, Catherine Parr, had lived after her remarriage.

Here, in the middle of July 1557, Anne dictated her last will. In it, she mentions her brother, sister, and sister-in-law, as well as the future Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of Suffolk, and the Countess of Arundel.

She left some money to her servants and asked Mary and Elizabeth to employ them in their households. She was remembered by everyone who served her as a particularly generous and easy-going mistress.

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Anne died at Chelsea Old Manor on 16 July 1557, eight weeks before her forty-second birthday. The cause of her death was most likely to have been cancer.

She was buried in Westminster Abbey, on 3 August, in what has been described as a “somewhat hard to find tomb” on the opposite side of Edward the Confessor’s shrine and slightly above eye level for a person of average height. She is the only wife of Henry VIII to be buried in the Abbey.

She also has the distinction of being the last of Henry VIII’s wives to die (she outlived Henry’s last wife, Catherine Parr, by 9 years).

She was not the longest-lived, however, since Catherine of Aragon was 50 at the time of her death and Anne was only 41.

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