Sunday, March 20, 2016

Question from Audreanna - Anne of Cleves' life in Germany before marriage

Hello, my name is Audreanna and I recently got a part in a renaissance festival as Anna von Kleve, or as she is more widely known, Anne of Cleves. I have done some research although, not a lot and I have found to very different stories. One being that she loved her family and she didn't want to leave her home in Germany. Another story is that she hated her family and that she was abused by her brother. I was just wondering which one is the more accurate story or if they both have some truth in them.

1 comment:

Foose said...

There's just not a lot of information about Anne's life in Germany, her upbringing or her education. Regarding her feelings towards her family, the belief she may have had a bad relationship with her brother may come from a badly mutilated portion of Letters & Papers, dated July 12 1540.

Apparently in Wriothesley's hand, it records her acquiescent response to the royal commissioners announcing the annulment of her marriage:

"We praised much her conf[ormity, exhorting] her to stick there though perc[ase her] counsel might otherwise a[dvise. To which said] she, ‘Think not that I am … hear with mine ear and if … [he] can take it; if not I … oo, I will not vary ne … in to Almayn, for and [I did so] … would slay me. Theref[ore] … a woman.’ And with th[at we took our leave] to go to supper … promising to be … e boke for … * * * (perhaps a line or two lost)."

"Almayn" is Germany, the brackets indicate the missing portions. The key words are "would slay me" and I don't think you can positively assert from these fragments that Anne of Cleves said her brother would kill her if she returned to her homeland, although this is how it has been construed by a number of authors. Possibly she did say it; her overriding motivation may have been to convince Henry's agents that she would comply with his demands and not cause trouble, so she may have exaggerated her brother's likely reaction.

Subsequent letters to her brother were supposed to be run by Henry and his Council; they are mostly conventional, Anne describing herself as a loving sister, etc.

Later, when Anne's stepdaughter Mary was queen, her brother interfered in her English household in what seems to be a dispute over money and inheritance, getting three of her trusted servants dismissed.

So perhaps there was friction, but I don't think you can draw that conclusion based on one fragmentary letter and some typical Renaissance family quarreling over money. Men were supposed to interfere in their womenfolk's lives. With Anne's "brother" Henry dead, William may have felt it his responsibility to reassert his authority over an unmarried sister.

The only other family dynamic for which there is evidence is the English envoy Wotton's comment that Anne's mother "ruled her daughters straitly." This might cause resentment, but mothers were expected to keep a close eye on their daughters. The comment might also reflect Wotton's desire to reassure Henry that he would not suffer a repeat of Anne Boleyn, or possibly he was trying to get across - without openly saying it - that the king could not expect Anne of Cleves to have the same level of polish and sophistication.

Besides consulting the usual sources on Anne of Cleves (Retha Warnicke's might be the best), you might review the life of her sister, Sybilla/Sibylle, Duchess-Electress of Saxony. She seems to have been a fair exemplar of the noble German matron of the period, not highly educated (like her sister, she apparently spoke nothing but German) but an energetic consort, religious patroness and woman of character well able to stand up to the Emperor when he pushed her husband around. She seems to have been on good terms with her brother and their correspondence indicates the usual Renaissance reliance on family bonds and shared interests, although ties were strained when Sibylla's husband rebelled against the Emperor (William had, earlier, but had smoothed out his relationship with Charles V by marrying his niece). Sybilla's career might indicate how Anne could have developed if allowed to marry and function within the German-speaking environment with which her education and accomplishments harmonized. Before her death, Anne did send her brother a letter in which she confessed that she did not consider England her home.