The Unfinished Tomb That Has Presided Over Every British Coronation Since 1557

Among the more than 2,000 spectators at King Charles III's coronation, King Henry VIII's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, may have had the best seat in the house. Anne died hundreds of years ago — so how is that possible, you may ask? According to the Westminster Abbey website, Anne's tomb, which was never finished, is located near the High Altar at the Abbey, where King Charles III's crowning ceremony (and every other coronation since Anne's death) has taken place.

As such, Anne has maintained her front-row view of British royal coronations for centuries, according to British heritage historian Dr. Jonathan Foyle in a tweet. Unlike some of Henry's other wives, Anne died from what may have been cancer, per the Tudor Society. She's also the only one of Henry's wives to be buried in a place of high honor — however, Anne of Cleves was never crowned queen, and her marriage to Henry was annulled after one year. 

Anne was close to Henry VIII's daughter, Mary I

If her marriage to Henry was annulled and it was never a love connection in the place, how did Anne's tomb get such valuable real estate at Westminster Abbey? That's thanks to Henry's eldest daughter, Mary, later Mary I, Queen Elizabeth I's half-sister, according to History Extra. Though things didn't work out between Anne and Henry, Mary and Anne, who was briefly Mary's stepmother, were around the same age, and after her divorce settlement with Henry, Mary and Anne stayed close friends. This was especially true after once Mary took the throne.

When Anne died young, Mary pushed for Anne to be buried in such a place of honor. Mary was also tight with the future Queen Elizabeth I. But Mary I and her sister Elizabeth didn't get along. Mary died about a year after Anne, at which time Elizabeth was crowned monarch. Meanwhile, Anne's tomb was never finished. Anne's tomb went unnoticed for centuries. Today, it bears the inscription, "Anne of Cleves Queen of England. Born 1515. Died 1557," but that was only added in the 1970s. Dating from Anne's time are her initials "AC" with a crown, lions' heads, skull, and crossed bones.