Panels from the long-vanished Tudor royal residence Chelsea Place have been discovered in an English country church. The panels bear the insignia of Anne of Cleves, Anne’s monogram, the emblem of the Duchy of Cleves and a snarling lion’s head and were likely made for her and installed on her orders in one or more of the royal residences that she lived in for the last part of her life.
Anne of Cleves was Henry VIII’s fourth wife and their brief six-month marriage ended in an annulment because Henry found Anne physically unattractive. He later went on to marry two more times. Anne of Cleves died at Chelsea Place in 1557 and is the only one of Henry’s Queens to be buried in Westminster Abbey.
The panels, up to 20 of them, are now in St. Leonard’s Church in Old Warden in Bedfordshire, in the Museum of London and in private ownership. They are currently the only known examples of high-status English interior architecture to have survived from this period. Because of this there are considered to be of very substantial importance.
Chelsea Place was just one of Henry VIII’s over 60 royal residences. Most of these were torn down and stripped of their contents during the English Civil War or they simply did not survive the times. Chelsea Place was demolished in 1825. Some of the contents were recycled in other buildings, some were lost and maybe some are still awaiting rediscovery like these panels.
The discovery is also significant due to the low numbers of surviving objects relating to any of Henry’s six wives. Due to Anne’s short marriage to Henry items relating to her are especially rare. Anne received a generous settlement from Henry after she agreed to the annulment and lived a lavish lifestyle, even after his death in 1547.
Before this new research into the panels they were thought to have been from a chapel in Bruges, Belgium, or from having been created after her death.