Anna Duchess of Cleves: The King’s Beloved Sister

By Heather R. Darsie


I have been eagerly awaiting Darsie’s book on Anna of Cleves for several months now. Advertised as a new way at examining Anna’s life I was interested in what Darsie had to say and now that I have finished, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Darsie did not disappoint. In fact, if you only ever read one book on Anna of Cleves then this is your book!

Through studying Tudor history, I have read quite a lot about Anna of Cleves however the majority of what has been written about her life focuses only on the English perspective and Anna’s time in England. Darsie takes a completely different approach, embedding Anna in the German heritage in which she was born and raised.

Darsie explores the political landscape that Anna was born into. The history of Anna’s family is detailed and how her younger brother became Duke. This is vital to understanding Anna’s story as her formative years were deeply influenced by the politics throughout Germany and wider Europe at the time. In fact, throughout Anna’s life there were constant upheavals both military and religious. Wars raged between France and the Holy Roman Empire and Anna and her family and their Duchies were swept up in these events. In addition to this Luther was making his mark across Europe and religion as it had been known for centuries, was drastically changing. All of these events played a huge role in Anna’s life as well as her marriage to Henry VIII.

In addition to embedding Anna in the wider world in which she lived, Darsie challenges the long-held belief that Henry VIII had his marriage to Anna annulled simply because he found her ugly. In fact, Darsie puts forward a very different theory as to why the marriage was annulled and provides a wealth of information, including ambassadorial reports, letters and the political changes of the time, to support her ideas. In doing so she creates a very different and far more authentic picture of what really happened when Henry VIII had his marriage to Anna annulled.

Darsie also challenges the very inaccurate belief that Anna of Cleves was ugly. In fact, she provides a wide range of first hand accounts as to what people really thought, not just of Anna’s beauty but also of her grace and poise. Darsie also challenges the written accounts that Anna was ugly by providing reasons as to why such information was inaccurately spread throughout Europe.

Darsie’s writing is so enthralling that once I picked her book up, I simply did not want to put it down, I was suddenly captivated with Anna’s life! The sheer amount of research that has gone into this book is just astronomical and it is clear that Darsie has poured both her love and knowledge into this book. Through first hand accounts and a detailed account of what was happening in both Germany and Europe as well as the political shifting of alliances, Darsie has brought Anna’s world to life and in turn shed an often-overlooked light on this extraordinary woman.

If you only ever read one book on Anna of Cleves then I strongly recommend this one. Thoroughly researched, well written and examining Anna’s life from a never before viewed angle, Heather R. Darsie has done Anna of Cleves true justice in this book. A must have for any bookshelf!


Heather R. Darsie at the Louvre, Paris with Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of Anna of Cleves. Taken from Heather R. Darsie’s website.

I would like to say a very big THANK YOU to the Tudor Times for sending me a copy of this stunning ‘Tudor Book of the Garden’.


This book is a stunning combination of the history of Tudor gardens as well as a garden planner for your own yard. There is a great deal of information all about the types of gardens in the Tudor era, what tools they used, gardening books of the age as well as the types of plants that were planted and what they were used for.

There are also sections divided into seasons in which you can put your own information about your garden, what you have planted and space to draw out a map for your garden. There are also helpful hints on when to plant certain flowers, when to prune and the best time to plan different types of vegetables.

The layout of this book is just beautiful and it is decorated with images of Tudor plants and gardens. It’s very easy to use and a great book to keep handy and use all year round.

The only small consideration is that some parts of this Tudor Book of the Garden isn’t suitable for people in the southern hemisphere. Simply because the seasons are reversed eg. The book has summer from June to August where in the southern hemisphere June to August is winter. However other parts of the book are valuable as they provide a wonderful wealth of gardening information and Tudor gardening history and overall this does not diminish from the usefulness and beauty of this book.

Tudor Book of the Garden is only £15 and available on April 18th, however it would be a real shame to miss out, luckily you can preorder your copy now!

Tudor Book of the Garden

I am both honoured and excited to have Heather R Darsie stop by on her book tour for her new book ‘Anna Duchess of Cleves: The King’s Beloved Sister’. Today Heather provides a fascinating insight into Anna’s grandparents…..


Anna of Cleves’ Maternal Grandparents: Wilhelm IV and III of Jülich-Berg and Sibylle of Brandenburg

By Heather R. Darsie

In honor of Charles T. Reice, 1926-2019. Reice served in the US army during World War II, including landing on the beaches of Normandy. He is remember as a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

Wilhelm of Jülich-Berg was born 9 January 1455 to Gerhard of Jülich-Berg, from the Heimbach branch of the Dukes of Jülich. Gerhard was the son of Wilhelm of Ravensberg and Adelheid von Tecklenburg. When Gerhard’s uncle Adolf of Ravensberg, who eventually became the Duke of Jülich-Berg-Ravensberg, passed away without male issue in 1437, Gerhard became duke. During the late 1430s to early 1440s, the Dukes of Jülich-Berg battled with the Egmond dukes over their claims to the older territorial duchy of Jülich-Guelders. In 1444 at the Battle of Linnich, Gerhard successfully defeated the Egmond dukes, who renounced all claim to Jülich. The Egmond dukes retained Guelders through a contract with Gerhard, but that was later purchased by Burgundy in 1473. This was one of the claims which would lead to squabbles between Anna’s brother Wilhelm of Cleves and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

Wilhelm of Jülich-Berg was the eldest son of Gerhard. Shortly after his birth, Gerhard’s mental health rapidly declined to the point where Gerhard’s wife, Sophia of Saxony-Lauenburg, took over the regency of Jülich-Berg until Gerhard died and Wilhelm was old enough to rule the duchies himself. Wilhelm’s younger brother Adolf died in 1473 during an epidemic, possibly the Black Plague, which reared its ugly head off and on throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. Wilhelm’s mother Sophia died during the same epidemic, shortly before Adolf. Wilhelm fully took over Jülich-Berg in 1475, when he was roughly twenty years old.

Wilhelm of J-B

Wilhelm of Jülich-Berg

Wilhelm married twice. His first marriage was in 1472 to the Countess Elisabeth of Nassau-Saarbrücken. The Countess Elisabeth was wealthy and came from an established line, bringing honor to Jülich-Berg. Sadly, she passed away in 1479 from puerperal fever after the delivery of a stillborn child. The couple did not have any living children. After Elisabeth’s death, the idea of a marriage between Philippa of Guelders, twin sister of the future Duke Karl of Guelders from the Egmond line, was considered. France was in support of the marriage, but re-joining Jülich and Guelders would lead to war between Jülich and Burgundy.

Two years later, in 1481, Wilhelm married Sibylle of Brandenburg. Sibylle was born on 31 May 1467 to Elector Albrecht III Achilles of Brandenburg and Anna of Saxony. Sibylle was the sixth of thirteen children, making the match between Wilhelm and Sibylle prestigious and well-connected. Wilhelm and Sibylle had one child together, Maria of Jülich-Berg, born 3 August 1491. Wilhelm may have had an illegitimate son named Johann of Jülich, as well. The marriage with Sibylle, daughter of the Elector of Brandenburg was a grand affair. The marriage of Wilhelm and Sibylle bolstered Jülich-Berg’s support of the Holy Roman Empire, given the staunch relationship which Sibylle’s father had with the Holy Roman Emperor.

In addition to the prestige of the match between Wilhelm and Sibylle, Sibylle was supposed to bring a large quantity of much-needed money to the marriage. The money was very slow in coming. Wilhelm had to repeatedly petition his father-in-law for the funds, which were needed in part to support military stability of Jülich-Berg during the rest of the tumultuous 1480s and 1490s.

Sibylle of Brandenburg

Sibylle of Brandenburg

During the 1470s, there was a struggle between Burgundy and Cologne over control of the Archdiocese of Cologne. By the end of 1474, Wilhelm joined with Burgundy, an alliance previously established by his father Gerhard. Wilhelm’s international policies were weighed in favor of Burgundy until 1498, when he began to shift toward supporting France in its struggles with Burgundy. Wilhelm eventually assisted in convincing the Archbishop of Cologne to give up his seat. At the same time, there were struggles in the Lower Rhine region of Germany. This led to Wilhelm securing various treaties for the soundness of Jülich-Berg. Most of the treaties were successfully agreed upon in the 1470s, including the initial treaty with Cleves-Mark and a treaty with Cologne.

Wilhelm became a supporter of the Maximilian, Duke of Burgundy jure uxoris through his marriage to Mary of Burgundy. Wilhelm provided support during the rebellion against Maximilian, made King of the Romans in 1486, in the Netherlands. Wilhelm remained mostly pro-Imperial throughout the 1490s, even for a time after Karl of Egmond was placed as Duke of Guelders. This made Wilhelm nervous because Duke Karl also had a possible claim to Jülich. Maximilian offered support to Wilhelm by providing troops.

Wanting to avoid a succession crisis and consolidate power in the Lower Rhine region, Wilhelm of Jülich-Berg agreed to join with Johann II of Cleves-Mark through the marriage of their children. The engagement of Anna of Cleves’ parents, Maria of Jülich-Berg and Johann III of Cleves-Mark, took place in 1496 when Maria was 5 and Johann was 6. They finally married in 1510. Wilhelm of Jülich-Berg ruled successfully until his death in 1511, when Johann III of Cleves became Duke of Jülich-Berg jure uxoris, by virtue of his marriage to Maria of Jülich-Berg. Louis XII of France, a distant cousin of the Dukes of Cleves, supported the match between Johann III and Maria.

By the end of the 15th century, Wilhelm of Jülich-Berg, Johann II of Cleves-Mark, and Karl of Guelders agreed to have any of their disputes mediated by Louis XII of France. Wilhelm traveled to France for a time to work out specifics concerning Guelders. Karl also appeared in France, though Johann II remained behind in the Cleves-Mark territories. The Treaty of Orléans between Jülich and Guelders was ratified on 29 December 1499, granting Louis XII final say in any disputes between Jülich and Guelders. However, the Treaty of Orléans excluded the Holy Roman Empire, under whose jurisdiction both Jülich and Guelders fell. This overt cooling of the relationship between the Holy Roman Empire was caused by Maximilian, who remained as King of the Romans until he was elevated to Holy Roman Emperor in 1503, because of Maximilian effectively pitting Jülich-Berg and Cleves-Mark against Guelders at the cost of Jülich-Berg and Cleves-Mark.

Wilhelm successfully maintained a diplomatic relationship with Maximilian, even staying with Maximilian in Innsbruck for a long period in 1501 to determine reparations for Jülich-Berg’s involvement with the struggle over Guelders. For the rest of his life, Wilhelm saw Maximilian around once per year. Evidence of Wilhelm’s close relationship with Maximilian is supported by a commission for Wilhelm as Duke of Jülich-Berg being sent on a peace keeping mission in 1506 on behalf of the now-Emperor Maximilian I 1503, plus the possibility of Wilhelm becoming Regent of the Low Countries being bruited about in 1507. Wilhelm was also supported by Emperor Maximilian in the marriage treaty between Johann III of Cleves-Mark and Maria of Jülich-Berg despite attempts by Louis XII of France to break the treaty and wed Maria to the much older Karl of Guelders. On 4 May 1509, Maximilian signed a patent securing Maria of Jülich-Berg’s rights. As mentioned above, Johann III and Maria finally wed in 1510.

Wilhelm continued to secure Jülich-Berg against its enemies, and support the idea of monastic reforms. He finally died on 6 September 1511 in Düsseldorf, leaving Sibylle of Brandenburg a widow. Wilhelm left most of what was left of his money for the maintenance of

Sibylle, who outlived Wilhelm by 13 years. Sibylle maintained a close relationship with her daughter Maria, and served as governess of Jülich-Berg during her widowhood on behalf of Johann III and Maria. It is likely that Maria’s eldest daughter, Sybylla of Cleves, is named after Sibylle of Brandenburg, and that Maria’s son the future Duke Wilhelm of Jülich-Cleves-Berg was named after Maria’s father Wilhelm.

Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister’ by Heather R. Darsie is released 15 April in the UK and 1 July in the US. If you live in the US and cannot wait until July, you can order a hardcover from the UK Amazon. The book can be purchased here:

UK Hardcover

US Hardcover

You can also visit Heather R. Darsie’s website: Maidens and Manuscripts

Sources & Suggested Reading

1. “Gerhard VII, Duke of Jülich-Berg.“ Retrieved 20 March 2019.

2. Redlich, Otto Reinhard. „Wilhelm IV., Herzog von Jülich.“ Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. Vol. 43, pp. 100-106. Historischen Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (1898).

3. Darsie, Heather. Anna, Duchess of Cleves: The King’s ‘Beloved Sister.’ Stroud: Amberley Publishing (2019).

4. Knapp, Johann F. Regenten- und Volks-Geschichte der Länder Cleve, Mark, Jülich, Berg und Ravensberg , Becker (1836).

5. von Minutoli, Julius. Das kaiserliche Buch des Markgrafen Albrecht Achilles. Schneider (1850).

Please do stop by other sites on Heather R. Darsie’s book tour….

Book Tour

Elizabeth of York

On the 11th of February 1466 Elizabeth of York was born at the Palace of Westminster. Exactly thirty seven years later, at the Tower of London, Elizabeth died shortly after giving birth to her last child.

Elizabeth of York was the eldest child of King Edward IV and his wife Queen Elizabeth Woodville. Elizabeth was christened in St Stephen’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey. Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York stood as her godmothers and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick stood as her godfather.

Elizabeth’s young life was anything but stable. Her father had taken the throne in 1461, capturing King Henry VI and claiming the English crown for himself. Edward IV’s choice of wife, Elizabeth Woodville, a widow with two sons, caused some controversy amongst those at court. In addition to this the Wars of the Roses still raged on with people taking sides, Lancaster vs York.

As a young child Elizabeth was given her own establishment at Greenwich Palace under the supervision of Lady Margaret Berners. Elizabeth’s mother gave birth to two more daughters, Mary and Cecily, before war erupted again.

King Edward IV’s position was challenged and after a series of battles the King escaped to Flanders while his wife and daughters fled to Westminster Abbey. It was here at Westminster Abbey that Elizabeth Woodville gave birth to a son, named Edward after his father. In October 1470 Henry VI was restored to the throne however his rule lasted less than a year.

Edward and his supporters returned to England and defeated Henry VI and his men. Edward IV was once more King. Henry was captured and all those that opposed Edward were removed. It is believed that Henry VI was murdered in the Tower of London. With Edward IV back on the throne young Elizabeth was once more a Princess and her life returned to normality.

Edward IV died on 9th April 1483 and Elizabeth’s younger brother Edward was to succeed as the new King. Edward IV’s younger brother Richard of Gloucester was named Lord Protector and he sought to place his nephews Edward and Richard in the Tower of London for their protection. A short time later Richard declared that Edward IV had been betrothed before he had married Elizabeth Woodville and thus their children were proclaimed illegitimate. Parliament petitioned Richard to take the crown and he accepted.

Mysteriously young Edward and Richard, the Princes of the Tower, disappeared never to be heard from again. Interestingly Elizabeth never publically stated what she believed happened to her brothers.

After spending time with her mother and sisters in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey, Elizabeth returned to court under the rule of her Uncle King Richard III. There were rumours that the new King had romantic interest in his young, very beautiful niece, however these were quickly squashed. Meanwhile Elizabeth’s mother was plotting with Margaret of Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor who was in exile in Brittany. The mothers planned for Henry Tudor and his men to return to England and take the English throne and marry Elizabeth of York, uniting the houses of Lancaster of York.

In December 1483, in Cathedral at Rennes, Henry Tudor vowed to marry Elizabeth of York. True to his vow Henry Tudor and his men landed in Wales in 1485 and on the 22nd August 1485 defeated Richard III in the famous battle of Bosworth.

Henry Tudor’s coronation was held at Westminster Abbey on the 30th October 1485. Then on the 18th of January 1486, after two dispensations to marry were granted from the Pope, Elizabeth and Henry were married at Westminster Abbey.

Although a marriage of political alliance it would seem that Elizabeth and Henry came to love each other deeply. Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, a son named Arthur, just eight months after her marriage on the 20 September 1486. (Either Arthur was born a month early or the young couple were intimate before their marriage!) Elizabeth would go on to have six more children, Margaret, Henry, Elizabeth, Mary, Edmund and Katherine. Sadly due to high infant mortality rates in Medieval England only Margaret, Henry and Mary would live to adulthood.

On the 14th of November 1501 Arthur, oldest son and heir of Elizabeth and Henry, married Catherine of Aragon, daughter of King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile. The couple were married at St. Paul’s Cathedral. After the marriage the young couple were sent to live at Ludlow Castle, the traditional home of the Prince of Wales. Tragically Arthur died less than a year later on 2nd April 1502.

When news of the Prince’s death arrived Henry VII was distraught and in his great grief Elizabeth was brought for to comfort her husband and King. Elizabeth reassured Henry that they were both young and that they would have more children. After leaving her husband Elizabeth broke down into tears and Henry had to come and comfort his wife.

True to her word Elizabeth became pregnant with her seventh child shortly afterward. After a long and difficult labour Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter named Katherine on the 2nd of February 1503 at the Tower of London. Sadly little Katherine died eight days later on the 10th of February.

Elizabeth of York also fell sick and she died on the 11th of February 1503, on her 37th birthday. It is unknown exactly what Elizabeth died of but having recently given birth it may be possible that she suffered from a post-partum infection such as puerperal fever. Elizabeth of York was greatly loved and her passing was deeply mourned by the people of England.

Personally Henry VII was grieved at the death of his wife. He ordered that 636 masses be said for Elizabeth’s soul.  Elizabeth was buried in a lavish ceremony in the Henry VII Chapel otherwise known as the Lady’s Chapel at Westminster Abbey. Shortly after Elizabeth’s death the King fell grievously ill and it was reported that he was heartbroken at the death of his beloved wife. On the anniversary of Elizabeth’s death every year Henry VII ordered a requiem mass to be sung, bells to be tolled and 100 candles to be burnt in the late Queen’s honour.

Elizabeth was reported to be extremely beautiful, pious, and abundantly generous to those in need, kind natured, patient and deeply loving of her children. She spend a great deal of her time with her children Margaret, Henry and Mary at Eltham Palace where it is reported that she taught her son, the future Henry VIII, to write. She also cared for her sister’s children as well as giving charitable donations to religious houses.

Polydore Virgil reported that Elizabeth was “intelligent above all others, and equally beautiful. She was a woman of such character that it would be hard to judge whether she displayed more of majesty and dignity in her life than wisdom and moderation.”(Weir 2014, p. 200).

Elizabeth of York was the perfect image of a Queen, wife and mother. It has even been suggested that the beautiful Queen of Hearts on a pack of playing cards represents Elizabeth of York; perhaps a fitting tribute for a woman who gave so much of her heart to others.

For those interested in learning more about the fascinating Elizabeth of York I would strongly recommend reading Elizabeth of York: The Forgotten Queen by Amy Licence.

Elizabeth of York


Hughes, Olga 2013, Elizabeth of York and her Kings – Henry VII, viewed 15 January 2016, <;.

Hughes, Olga 2013, The Perfect Queen: Elizabeth of York, viewed 15 January 2016, <;.

Licence, Amy 2013, Elizabeth of York the Forgotten Queen, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire.

Weir, Alison 2014, Elizabeth of York The First Tudor Queen, Vintage Books, London.

Traitors’ Gate

Traitors Gate

Traitors’ Gate (photo by me).

It is a common misconception that Anne Boleyn, upon her arrest and arrival at the Tower of London, entered through Traitor’s Gate. On the late afternoon of May 2nd 1536, the barge conducting Anne to the Tower landed at The Tower Gate, now days known as Byward Tower. It was here through the Court Cate in the Byward Tower, and not at Traitor’s Gate, that Anne was conducted within the walls of the great Tower of London.

According to Historic Royal palaces ‘Experience the Tower of London Guide’ Traitors’ Gate was “originally built for Edward I between 1275 and 1279, this new watergate called St Thomas’s Tower was a daring variation on the traditional defensive gate tower. Discreetly defended by arrowloops, the building had gilded window bars and painted sculpture on its exterior. Edward’s royal barge could be moored beneath the great archway, built using cutting edge Crusader castle-construction technology gleaned from the King’s time fighting in the Holy Land.” (p. 21)

In addition the guide states that “the timber framing above the archway is a memento of happy times for Anne Boleyn. It was constructed in 1532 by Henry VIII’s Master Carpenter, James Nedeham, as part of the excited rush to renovate the Tower ready for Anne’s coronation in June 1533” (p. 21)

Anne Boleyn may have walked past Traitors’ Gate to the Queen’s Lodgings upon her arrival at the Tower of London after her arrest, but she did not enter the Tower through Traitors’ Gate. Even though Anne did not enter through this gate I still have to admit, having stood at the top of the steps and looked down, it is rather a haunting place. I had a shiver run down my spine and I could only begin to imagine what the prisoners who were actually brought in through the gate were thinking. Would they ever see the light of freedom again? Or would death be their fate?


Here is a photo I also took of Traitors’ Gate from the river Thames…



Dolman, B, Holmes, S, Impey, E and Spooner, J. 2009, Historic Royal Palaces Experience the Tower of London, Historic Royal Palaces, Surrey.