King Henry VIII, Anne of Cleves and Gerberge van Ossenbruch

.... and Gerberge van Ossenbruch??? Yes, read on.

The year is 1539.

Anne of Cleves (German: Anna von Kleve) was the fourth wife of King Henry VIII who managed to stay alive long enough to outlive Henry and his five other wives.

Anne's youth
She was born in Schloss Burg, near Düsseldorf, on 22 September 1515. In 1526, her elder sister Sybille was married to John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, head of the Protestant Confederation of Germany and considered the "Champion of the Reformation".
In 1527 when Anne was 12 years old she was betrothed to be married to 10 year old Francis, Duke of Lorraine (county in N.E. France). However eight years later, when she was 20, the betrothal contract was cancelled making Anne eligible and free to marry another.

Anne's parents were Johann III, Duke and ruler of Jülich (Dutch: Gulik), Kleve, Ravenhorst and Berg and Maria von Jülich. Anne's mother supervised her daughters' household education, which emphasized instruction in reading and writing German and needlework.

In 1538 after Charles of Egmond's death in Holland, Johan inherited the duchy of Guelders.
Johan died in February 1539 and his son William (German: Wilhelm), age 23 became the new Duke of Jülich, Kleve and Berg, Count of Mark, Count of Ravensberg, Duke of Guelders, Count of Zutphen and Lord of Ravenstein.

King Henry VIII
A year after the death of Jane Seymour, Henry was still eager to produce another son and heir. With this in mind he ordered Thomas Cromwell to search amongst the European nobilities for eligible heiresses whom he could make his future wife. This proved a difficult task due to Henry's reputation of disposing of wives who displeased him. Also, due to Henry's break with the Catholic Church in Rome in 1533, England was in danger of being completely isolated from Europe. By 1538, the King of France and the Emperor Charles V had agreed a truce, and Henry feared an attack. It made perfect sense to form an alliance with the Duchy of Cleves as they were Lutherans, and an easy and convenient way to do so was for Henry to marry a daughter of the Duke. Henry hoped to create an alliance between England and other non-catholic states in case the country was attacked.

In January 1539, Henry VIII sent a member of Thomas Cromwell's household, as ambassador to Germany to discuss a possible marriage between the Princess Mary (later called "Bloody Mary") and William, Anne of Cleves' brother, and also to "inquere of the beautie and qualities of the lady eldest of booth doughters to the duke of Cleves, as well what stature, proportion and complexion she is of as of her lerning actyvitie, bihaviour and honest qualities". He reported back that "everyone praises the lady’s beauty, both of face and body. One said that she excelled the Duchess [of Milan] as the golden sun did the silver moon", although he was going on hearsay as he had not seen Anne himself.

In March 1539, the leading English ambassador Nicholas Wotton was sent to Cleves to get further reports on Anne but the ambassador encountered difficulties as Anne and her younger sister Amelia kept their faces hidden under a "monstrous habit and apparel". On 23 April 1539 Henry sent his court painter, Hans Holbein, to Cleves to paint Anne and her younger sister. When Wotton saw Holbein’s portraits of the sisters, he declared that "Hanze Albein hathe taken th'effigies of my lady Anne and the lady Amelye and hathe expressyd theyr imaiges verye lyvelye" and considered the portraits a good likeness of the young women. After viewing the portraits of the two sisters Henry chose Anne, and the marriage contract was immediately drawn up. Anne was 24 and Henry twice her age at 49 years. Anne didn't speak a word of English.

Portrait painted by Holbein in 1539 for the wedding with Anna.
ANNO ETATIS SUAE XLIX means: His year of age 49

Henry VIII
View full portrait
Portrait painted by Hans Holbein in 1539 for Henry to judge.

View full portrait
Holbein also did a miniature (probably at the same time), which was encased in a carved ivory box.

View carved case
Holbein was also asked to do a portrait of Anna's younger sister Amelia. The painting is lost, but a first drawing survived. In the early 1900s this drawing was thought to depict Anne, but is now thought to be Amelia.

Sister Amelia
Read about portrait

The wedding was to take place on 6 January 1540 at the royal Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, London.

The Cleves wedding party
In February 1539 Anne's father had passed away and her brother William was now in charge of the counties of Cleves, Jülich (Gulik), Berg, Mark, Ravensberg, Gelders, Zutphen and Ravenstein. Family members of the most important noble families were selected to accompany the future queen of England on her voyage: a.o. van Wylich, van Wissen, van Ossenbruch, van Loë, van Bueren, Schwarzburg, van Palland, van Brempt, Smullinck, van Bronckhorst Batenburg, Kettler, van Nesselrode.

View a chart of how these families were all inter-connected through marriage and see where our 29 year old "great-great aunt" Gerberge van Ossenbruch fits in. She was one of Anne's five German gentlewomen.
N.B. There are no known records of the first name the gentlewoman Lady van Ossenbruch, but of all the known Ossenbruch ladies at that time, she fits the bill perfectly, since her husband Johan van Wylich was also invited to the wedding party.

Anne, and the wedding party, left Cleves on 26 November and reached Calais on 11 December. Sixteen days for the 250 miles (400 km) trip. The first night they stayed in castle Ravenstein, which was now part of the Cleves territories. It was where Diederick II van Wylich was, who was not able to join the journey, because of his illness. The next night was spent less than 3 miles away at castle Batenburg, where the powerful Bronckhorst Batenburg family lived. Johanna, "the elder Pallant's wife" came from here. They contined the journey with stops in Tilburg, Hoogstraten, Antwerp, Beveren, Stekene, Tokyn, Bruges, Oudenburg, Newport, Dunkirk, Gravelines and Calais.
Click below for a detailed map of the route they took.

The train numbered 263 persons -all decked out in their finest- and 228 horses, with fabulous welcomes and parades in every town they entered.

Henry VIII had sent his ambassador Nicholas Wotton to accompany the train and report back to him on progress. Read the letter Wotton wrote to Cromwell about the members in the wedding party and progress of the trip.
During the journey, Anne was addressed as Queen of England and treated accordingly. For two weeks she waited at Calais until the weather settled. Then on 27 December they sailed to Deal (just north of Dover) in a stormy crossing. Fifty ships accompanied Anne.

The wedding
On New Year's day Anne met Henry for the first time. It was not a big success. After another formal meeting with Anne, Henry complained to Cromwell "she is nothing so fair as she hath been reported; however she is well and seemly". Henry wanted a way out, however for diplomatic reasons matters had progressed too far and the wedding could not be stopped.

The day of the wedding, 6 January, began -at 7:00 a.m.- with the signing of the wedding contract. Hochsteden and Olisleger from Cleves did the honors for William (Anne's brother). At 8 o'clock Henry and his gentlemen were getting ready. Henry complained to Cromwell: "My Lord, if it were not to satisfy the world and my realm, I would not do that I must do this day for none earthly thing".
In the meantime, Anne's ladies (Hello Aunty Gerberge van Ossenbruch) were dressing her for the ceremony. For her attire had Anne chosen a splendid gown of cloth of gold embroidered with flowers in pearl without a train in the German fashion.

At the end of the wedding ceremony, performed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Anne was escorted to her privy chamber, her ladies trailing along behind her. After all the festivities of the day Anne's ladies undressed her and put her to bed. The groom then arrived, was undressed by his attendants, and lay down beside her. The officiating priest would then enter the chamber and bless the bed, an old fertility rite that the Church had long embraced. Ribald curiosity governed this night, when everybody was eavesdropping, as was the custom. However, those people might not have heard anything interesting, because Henry was unable to consummate the marriage. When Cromwell asked him the next morning, "How liked you the Queen?", Henry replied, "I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse". He also mentioned that "his nature had abhorred her". To further embellish his displeasure Henry remarked that her breasts were slack and that she had a belly, suggesting that she might not have been a virgin when he married her. At that time it was common knowledge that a virgin had small perky breasts and a flat stomach.

Two weeks after the wedding, on January 19, many of Anne's countrymen went back home, including Olisleger and Lady Kettler. Some of Anne's attendants were permitted to stay until late Spring. Then at the end of May licenses were requested for the maidens to return to Cleves. They arrived at Cleves on June 20. Gerberge van Ossenbruch would probably have gone back with the first group in January, because she had two young children and her husband was still at home. He had been ill when the train had left Cleves.

Straight from the beginning Henry began to search for an angle which could get him out of the marriage. He blamed Cromwell for pressuring him into this arrangement. Then on 10 June Cromwell was arrested on a.o. the charge of revealing the King's secrets.

The divorce
One 24 June Anne was commanded to leave the Court, and on 6 July she was informed of the annulment proceedings of their marriage. Anne was said to have sobbed loudly and have cried violently, but she accepted a generous settlement. The marriage was ended three days later, having lasted just six months. The grounds sited was non-consummation of the marriage and also that the marriage had not been valid to begin with, because Anne's betrothal to Francis, Duke of Lorraine had not been officially ended at the time of their marriage.

Henry had given Anne a very handsome divorce settlement, which included Richmond Palace, Hever Castle and other estates, some of which belonged to the now executed Thomas Cromwell, giving her an annual income of £3000, which made her one of the wealthiest women in England at the time. Anne could not return to Germany as a divorce would have been regarded as an embarrassment for her family, so she stayed on in England. Anne and the King remained friends (Henry called her his sister), and she was close to his children.

Catherine Howard
Well before all this, the King had met the 19 year old Catherine Howard, cousin of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, who had been appointed as a lady-in-waiting to Anne. There is no doubt he felt an instant attraction to the lively, curvaceous Catherine. He started sending her presents after Easter. On 28 July -less that 3 weeks after the annulment with Anne- Henry married Catherine Howard. Thomas Cromwell was executed on the same day.

After 16 months of marriage (in November 1541) Catherine Howard was arrested for adultery and almost immediately Anne and her brother, William the Duke of Cleves, pressed the King to remarry Anne. Henry quickly refused to do so. Catherine Howard was beheaded 8 months later on 28 July 1541.

Anne's later life in England
In October 1542 Emperor Charles V invaded Cleves and Gulik, defeated William and captured "Gelderland". In the Treaty of Venlo (1543) William was allowed to keep Cleves and Jülich (Gulik), but not Guelders nor Zutphen. Charles V also made him wed his brother Ferdinand's daughter Maria.

After his union with Katherine Parr in July 1543 Henry arranged to dine with Anne, apparently in order to reconcile her to his sixth marriage. During his last years Henry provided her with additional financial support and invited her to court in 1543 and 1546. After Henry died in January 1547, some of the new council members whittled away at Anne's possessions. The splendid palace Richmond and also Bletchingley were confiscated. It signaled Anne's mounting financial problems and continuing social demotion. In 1549 she was forced to ask her brother William for financial help and in 1551 she was considering going back to Cleves.

In response to her pleas for help, Wilhelm sent several envoys to England, but they brought her little relief. She continued to seek aid from the privy council and even from Queen Mary, whose coronation and banquet she attended with Princess Elizabeth on 29 September 1553. It was her last public appearance. A household dispute between her cousin Francis (Franz) von Waldeck and three other countrymen: Jasper Brockehouse (her cofferer), his wife Gertrud and Otho Wylik (the illigitimate son of Otto van Wylich, Lord of Huit and Grubbenvorst in Limburg), also disturbed her final years. She refused the request of her brother, who was an ally of Waldeck, that she expel her three servants. Finally, in September 1556, Wilhelm persuaded Mary's council to order their deportation. The Brockehouses (Broeckhuizens) might have been family of Anna van Broeckhuizen, whose daughter was married to the Tenngnagels. See chart.

Anne lived until she was 41 years old and died eight weeks before her 42nd birthday on 16 July 1557. Upon her death she was buried in Westminster Abbey alongside many other kings and queens of England. She is the only wife of Henry VIII to be buried in the Abbey.

In her will she had bequeathed jewelry to her stepdaughters and her cousin Francis of Waldeck and a small gift to Otho Willicke (=Otto van Wylach, who had been sent home the year before) and gave money to: "Otho Rampello, Arnold Kinglebury, John Guligh, John Solenbrough, Derrick Pasman, Arnold Holgins, and George Hagalas, being our countrymen", so that they could return home to Cleves and Guelders. Those names had obviously been anglicized and one of them "John Guligh", might very well have been Johan Gulik (1495 -1550), who was Anne's uncle (brother of her mother Maria van Gulik).

Go here for more documents and references on all the above.
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