Despite her marriage being on the rocks, Anne was popular in England, and she was actually good at being Queen. According to one reformer, “The state and condition of that kingdom is much more sound and healthy since the marriage of the queen than it was before. She is an excellent woman, and one who follows God: great hopes are entertained of a very extensive propagation of the gospel by her influence. There is now no persecution.”1
By the end of June, a secret investigation into Anne’s betrothal to Francis of Lorraine was begun again. Anne – hindered by her limited English – had very little idea of what was going on, and she was shocked when she finally learned what was going on. In the early hours of 6 July, a messenger arrived to inform Anne that Henry had concerns over their marriage. Anne was terrified, and she probably feared that she would end up in the Tower. She agreed to have the marriage investigated, and she was probably asked about the (lack of) consummation of their marriage. The following day, clergymen declared that the King and Anne were not bound by the marriage solemnised between them. Henry sent commissioners to Anne to obtain her agreement to an annulment, and Anne reportedly took the news well, despite having fainted in terror when the commissioners arrived. Anne believed herself to be Henry’s lawful wife, but she was also terrified of being executed like Anne Boleyn. She was informed that if she agreed, she would be treated favourably, and she was so relieved that she agreed.
Anne would from now on be treated as the “King’s beloved sister”, and in his first letter to her after the annulment, he addressed her as “Right dear and right entirely beloved sister.” Henry was so grateful that Anne agreed that he showered her with money and houses. Anne asked her brother to remain a friend to England, but the news was not well-received by her family. Her sister Sybilla refused to accept it and continued to call Anne Queen.
On 28 July 1540, Henry married Anne’s former maid Catherine, and she reluctantly accepted the lower status to her former maid. They did not meet formally until the New Year and Anne was determined to make friends, and she threw herself on the ground before Catherine, addressing her on her knees. By that time, Anne was finally fluent in English, and she had a pleasant conversation with both Catherine and Henry. However, she probably did not return to court during Catherine’s time as Queen. Instead, Anne went on progress in 1541. When Catherine fell from favour and was eventually executed in 1542, Anne probably expected to be reinstated as Queen. However, she never would be. Anne remained close to the court and developed a close relationship with Henry’s daughter Mary. The two were only one year apart in age.
Henry’s sixth marriage to Catherine Parr in 1543 permanently dashed Anne’s hopes to be reinstated as Queen. She was also devastated to learn of her mother’s death that same year. Anne developed a friendship with Catherine and became a regular visitor to court again. She became a full member of the royal family – the King’s sister indeed. She last saw her former husband in August 1546 when she was present during a reception for the Admiral of France. Henry died on 28 January 1547.
During the new reign, Anne found herself in financial trouble due – in part – to the high inflation. Anne became anxious to return home to Cleves. When King Edward VI died on 6 July 1553, he was succeeded by Anne’s former stepdaughter and friend; now Queen Mary I. Mary was determined to give Anne the respect that she was due and she was present when Mary was crowned. It was to be Anne’s last public appearance. She did keep in touch with Mary and even suggested Archduke Ferdinand as a possible husband. Mary became betrothed to Philip of Spain, and the following Wyatt rebellion also put Anne under suspicion. Anne wrote to Mary upon her marriage, “Wishing you both much joy and felicity, with increase of children to God’s glory, and to the preservation of your prosperous estates, long to continue with honour in all godly virtue.”2 However, she was not invited back to court.
Anne spent her final years in the shadows. By the end of 1557, Anne was very ill. She was moved to Chelsea where she deteriorated quickly. On 12 July, she took to her bed and drafted her will. On 15 July 1557, Anne died at the age of only 41. Mary made sure that Anne was honourably buried and she was buried on 3 August 1557 at Westminster Abbey.3