Tudor Tuesdays – ANNE OF CLEVES Artefact
On this Tudor Tuesday, we take a look at a rare wooden panel from a former home of Anne of Cleves that can be found at Hever Castle.
There are very few artefacts associated with Anne of Cleves. It is one of only two panels to exist, excluding the ones in the church, and is the only one which is privately owned. The artefact dating to around 1544 is believed to have come from a former home of Anne of Cleves, which could have been Hever Castle.
The oak panel shows Anne’s insignia and appears to have been made for her and installed on her orders. It is one of several panels removed after she died. The design is believed to have been a basis for the decoration used on her tomb in Westminster Abbey.
Anne of Cleves owned Hever Castle until her death in 1557 but it is not known how much time she spent at the Castle. However, there is a surviving letter written by Anne to Mary Tudor in 1554 signed ‘from my poore house of Hever’.
Following her divorce, Henry VIII awarded her the honorary title of ‘The King’s Sister’, £500 a year, a sufficient household and two houses. In addition, he allowed her to lease a number of manors to enhance her status and income, including Hever, at an annual rent of £9-13s-3½d. Anne settled happily in England and became good friends of the King and Anne Boleyn’s daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth I.
HOW THE PANEL WAS DISCOVERED
While researching her book Dr Sarah Morris who co-wrote, ‘In the Footsteps of the Six Wives of Henry VIII’, found references to Anne of Cleves panels and contacted Jonathan Foyle. Jonathan tracked some panels down to the Church of St Leonard, Old Warden, Bedfordshire before coincidently noticing a panel at auction. The panel was later purchased by the Guthrie family, the owners of Hever Castle.
Dr Jonathan Foyle on the Anne of Cleves’ panel
Historian Dr Jonathan Foyle who found the panel said: “The Tudor age has long fascinated us, but historians lament the very poor survival of royal interiors, a loss due more to the destruction of the civil war than changing fashions. On very rare occasions, surviving relics appear that transform our understanding of how palaces were dressed for kings, queens and their audiences. This extremely fine oak panel with an ‘AC’ monogram, which dates to the 1540s, was made for a house of Anne of Cleves (1515-57), the fourth queen of Henry VIII for only the first six months of 1540.
“Anne remained in England at their divorce at a number of houses, and then outlived the king by a decade. Hever Castle was owned by Anne of Cleves until her death in 1557, when her unfinished tomb at Westminster Abbey replicated the design used for this panel. It is deeply fitting that her panel should reside here permanently.”
Speaking at the launch Jonathan Foyle said: “It is an extraordinary rare object and illuminates the real quality of Tudor interiors. It is one of a kind.
“Hever has a leading role in bringing back to life the story of the Tudor monarchs. They are a curatorial host for the nation’s treasures. I am delighted that it is going to be shown at Hever.”
The panel is now on display in the Book of Hours Room at Hever Castle.