Possible reasons for Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage?

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Positive Negative

There are all kinds of theories on this:-
- Anne Boleyn was Rhesus negative (Rh-) meaning that her body would reject all Rhesus positive babies after the first pregnancy, causing miscarriages. This is a theory put forward by Retha Warnicke to explain Anne's miscarriages following her first successful pregnancy. This would happen if Henry was Rhesus positive.
- Stress - Anne was under an incredible amount of pressure to "perform" and deliver a son. She had also had quite a difficult pregnancy with Elizabeth so I can only imagine the stress and anxiety she felt. Also her final miscarriage is thought to have happened shortly after Henry's jousting accident when he was unconscious for 2 hours and thought to be dead.
This must have been a shock for Anne. It is also said that on hearing of Catherine of Aragon's death, Anne suddenly became paranoid that she also would die and so was obviously worrying about her pregnancy and the birth.
Another stress would have been fears for her position as Henry's wife and Queen with Henry's infidelities.
- Syphilis - One theory, which has pretty much been debunked now, is that Henry had syphilis and that this venereal disease could then explain his ill health, Catherine's miscarriages, still births and infant fatalities, and Anne's miscarriages. However, Henry was not treated with mercury, the standard syphilis treatment of the time and he also did have three healthy legitimate children and at least one illegitimate child.
- Tudor times - Anne may just have been a victim of her times - A time when there was not much known about prenatal care.
- Just one of those things - Many women suffer miscarriages and Anne may just have been unlucky.
- Witchcraft, adultery and sin - Not a theory I give any credence to but people of the times believed that deformed babies, like the one that Anne was said to have lost in her final miscarriage, were due to the sexual sins of the parents. Obviously Henry didn't sin (splutter splutter!) so therefore Anne was an adulteress and witch.
- Poisoning - Some will have you believe that Anne was poisoned by the Cantrella of Borgia (secret poison) and that Wolsey, More and Seymour caused her miscarriages even though Wolsey and More were dead!

So, those are the main theories regarding Anne's miscarriages.

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43 Responses to “Possible reasons for Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage?”

  1. Julia says:

    I doubt More woiuld have poisoned her, even if he was alive at that time. He seems to have been too gentle and holy for that. Not sure Jane would either, though her family might well have I can’t believe Henry, ad two wives executed for adultery, when you consider how many mistresses he had. SOOOOO hypocritical!!! By his own his own laws he should have been deposed long before.

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  2. Claire says:

    So hypocritical, I agree, but that was expected of a King in those days – the French monarchs were just the same. It’s funny how it is said that Henry viewed Anne’s miscarriages as a punishment from God but that it was a punishment for Anne’s wrongdoings not his own – mmm, double standards me thinks!

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  3. sharlene says:

    It seems all Henry’s wives 1st pregnancys were born healthy. Even his mistress had a healthy baby. I believe he was rh positive, How ironic,,,it was not the womens fault at all. It was Henry;s!

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    Noel Lynne Figart Reply:

    RH incompatibility doesn’t work that way. It’s only a factor with a negative mother and a positive father, so that the BABY also has negative blood.

    What happens is that at birth, some maternal and fetal blood mix. If there is an RH incompatibility, the mother’s blood generates antibodies against the positive blood types. This means that an RH Pos fetus can’t come to full term.

    If the baby has RH neg blood (can happen, even with two RH pos parents, if they have secondary negative! I am living proof) then this is not an issue.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rh_disease

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    Linda Reply:

    I’m RH negative and I had a positive baby, so no problem since the first one would not be in danger but my doctor gave me a shot (had to be within 24 hrs so he had to come back to the hospital to give it) in case I got pregnant again with a positive baby. But he also told us I could have a negative baby and there would be no danger ( if I remember correctly)

    This was in the 60′s so I’m sure things may be handled different now. I’m pretty sure that both of my parents were positive.

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    Brooke W. Reply:

    Not as different as you might think (between 60s and now). I know even as late as 1986 they were still doing that as I’m positive but my mom is negative. Apparently they even had to give her a shot while still pregnant because her body was having an immune reaction from me in the first place.

    Tanya Reply:

    Not Diffrent at all had to have a rogam shot with every pregnacy. If o hadn’t switched doctors I might have lost my first one thou because our blood was Diffrent . I guess it don’t happen that way to much but my new doctor double check and a good thing too!

  4. Abby Lyn says:

    Well, one of the many reasons I’ve heard were that she became hysterical, another was that one of the many who were plotting against her, was actually one of the cooks, so he dabbed a little poison into her wine,and which did no harm to her, but even the slightest drops of poison could harmt he baby. Another one was that she was under far to much presssure, and with being queen, it was to much and it poisoned the baby. but hey, that’s what i’ve heard…

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  5. David says:

    Henry’s using God for an excuse was an easy out for him. That God would cause Anne to miscarry as punishment upon King Henry is really well playing on the ignorance of the times. The church was a potent force in those days and the poor little street person, totally uneducated was bound to believe anything the King would say, let alone the church. I completely agree once again with Claire that physical factors most likely did play a role and I firmly believe that the enormous amount of stress that Anne was living with all of the time it seems since the relationship began played a big part with the miscarriages. When you think about it, it was probably a lucky thing Elizabeth was born and born healthy yet. The saddest event for Anne was that she miscarried a son which happened because she loved Henry so much that the news of his jousting accident was the straw that broke the camels back causing her to miscarry. I could just take Henry by the lapels and say, “Stop always blaming the women in your life for everything that happens to you!!”

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  6. kirby says:

    I really like the Rh factor theory. It seems to fit very well, as she quickly had a successful birth and nothing but disaster afterward. I wonder, what would this theory mean for the incest theory? If we accepted that she was Rh negative, would that mean that the incest theory would be discredited? Or could it lend more credence to the theory?

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    christina Reply:

    henrys wives including jane and the mistress all had healthy 1st babies but none other-granted jane died but still-this seems medically plausible..

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    Lauren Reply:

    That’s not true that the first babies were always healthy. Catherine had several stillbirths/miscarriages and one boy that lived almost 2 months before Mary was born.

    That said, I do think the similarity between Catherine’s and Anne’s pregnancies is too strong to be coincidental. Add to that to the fact that neither of Henry’s sons lived past their teenage years, and he had one brother that didn’t either, I think there had to be something wrong with Henry genetically, and probably with all the Tudor males from Henry VII on.

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    margaret Reply:

    this definetely sounds right about the fault being on henrys side with only 2 girls healthy and no healthy boys .

  7. Nita says:

    Thomas More was not that mild and gentle. He was humble, but he did burn heretics. That takes a strong stomach. He also wasn’t deceitful or sneaky. I think if he’s had any kind of direct evidence against Anne, he would have brought it to the king.

    Even though she did survive her bout of “sweating sickness”, it could have weakened her. That combined with her difficult first pregnancy and the constant stress she was under could have contributed to the miscarriages.

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  8. Sarah says:

    I’ve wondered for a long time if the inability of Henry’s first two wives to have healthy babies after the first was due to prolonged stress, knowing that they had, literally, to deliver.

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  9. Natalie says:

    While Rh blood group antigens are rather common and they can cause hemolytic disease of the newborn there is another blood group antigen that is more likely to cause fetal demise especially after one exposure to the antigen. This antigen is the Kell antigen first described by doctors in the 1940′s. Note: not all preganancies from a Kell positive father will produce a Kell positive infant who will in turn cause the mother to make antibodies that attack the infant’s blood cells. There is a good article about Henry the VIII and the likelihood that he was a carrier of the antigen: http://www.science20.com/news_articles/henry_viii_and_miscarriages_was_it_kell_antigen-76877
    There is also discussion about other symptoms of the Kell antigen, and an associated syndrome (McLeod syndrome described in 1961) that may be related to the symptoms that Henry had later in life. Additionally, and I have not seen this written about in literature, I suggest that Edward also carried the Kell gene (only males can get McLeod syndrome due to it’s X-linked inheritance) and it contributed to his death; I have read articles saying that McLeod syndrome can cause symptoms as early as age 10 and death is usually 5-10 years after symptoms are first seen, Edward died at 16. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroacanthocytosis – Edward died with cough, lung problems, and swollen legs all of which are symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy which can be a complication of Mc Leod syndrome.

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    Cyd Reply:

    what do you get when you mix an OB/NICU nurse with a Tudor nerd? Me—someone who is ecstatically happy to read these kind of articles!!! Special thanks to Natalie (above) for her links—who knew other people thought about this stuff?

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    Claire Reply:

    Welcome, Cyd!

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    Angela McArthur Reply:

    Thanks for your interesting comment about Henry VIII and the possiblitiy that he had Kells Syndrome. I have reviewed other articles that supports this theory. In one of the articles the researchers wanted to try and obtain permission from our present Queen to exhume, the body of Henry Vlll and take samples from it and have it genetically tested for Kells.The requested was turned down. It would have been very intreresting if they had been able to do so.

    I think poor Anne Boleyn would have been under so much stress not only from her own family but Henry as well. He probably thought that he gave her everything and her role was to give him a son and a spare. When she failed then Henry did what he did best and moved on and she paid the ultimate price with her life.

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  10. Alex says:

    I can’t believe I never thought of her being RH negative! I am RH negative and had to get those nasty shots when I was pregnant. Too bad they didn’t have those in that time…

    Another thing I thought of would possibly be endometriosis. It causes issues with fertility and causes cysts and fibroids (I actually think Mary might have had it on top of the uterine cancer)

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  11. Joanna B. says:

    Anne may just have had pregnancies with problems, as have many of us, and miscarriages were nature’s way of saying the baby would not have been well. i was pregnant seven times and we had three beautiful children, but did lose four. it’s heartbreaking, but it’s the way things end sometimes. still, regardless of her horrible conduct in the marriage of Catherine and Henry (as well as his!) my heart always went out to her, to be under such pressure to have a son, back then they did not know the man determined the child’s sex!!

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  12. Anna says:

    It has nothing to do with Henry’s wives but talking about medical condition of the Tudor family members: isn’t it striking that Prince Arthur and both Henry’s sons, Edward and Henry Fitzroy, died as teenagers due to poor health? I know that muscoviscidosis was suspected but we probably will never find out anyway.

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  13. Sarah says:

    The RH negative theory is interesting, I myself am a RH negative baby (my mother’s second child) and managed to reach full term without receiving any treatment (doctors werent aware) although I went into distress at the end and had to be delivered by c-section.

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  14. Rachel McNeil says:

    Hello Everyone,

    I remember reading an article in one of my BBC History Magazine’s, it put forth a theory that Henry suffered from a disease which attacked the white cells within the feotus. This theory logically explains the reasons why Katherine of Aragon (who had 7 pregnancies overall), and Anne Boleyn (who had 3) were having miscarriages, and stillborns.

    Katherine of Aragon was from an extremely fertile family, the pomegranate being used as the familes emblem, was symbolism to their great fertility.

    I will have a hunt through my magazines, in order to find the source, and then will put it up for anyone who is interested in this theory.

    Rachel

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  15. Boleyn says:

    I kind of toyed with the idea, that Anne was given Hemlock in a drink and that helped to induce a miscarriage. Although who might have given her it I’m still trying to figure out..

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  16. CindyL says:

    Many thanks to Noel and Natalie. I too am a nurse (worked in OB as well) and was about to comment about that Rh theory, which is incorrect.

    Natalie in particular… thank you so much for posting that about the Kell antigen! For many years, I have said that’s what I believed the infant problem to be, though I admit I had not considered Henry’s later behavior as being part of that. DUH! I can’t believe it never occurred to me.

    That only seems to prove that theory even more.

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    Omaira Reply:

    wait, why do you say the Rh theory is wrong?

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  17. Karen Solt says:

    I just found this website and am enjoying it tremendously. The only thing I can add to the interesting comments above is that Anne was in her 30′s (33?) when she gave birth to Elizabeth. Not ancient, but certainly older than usual for a first baby. Her most fertile years were “wasted” in the waiting game. Couple that with the aforementioned stress and it can’t have been easy at all.

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  18. kate says:

    i think the RH theroy could easily be true, although to be honest i don’t understand it that much :P i think she was really stressed out, and didn’t they use to drink wine a lot of wine and ale back then? i don’t think drink alone could cause miscarrige but it couldn’t have helped. and thank you for all this infomation i’m really enjoying it!! :)

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    margaret Reply:

    but something could have been put into that drink !

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  19. Linda says:

    It is believed Henry VIII had at least 6 children to several mistresses. Sir John Perrott
    who was beheaded in the Tower, was just one, and so on.

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  20. Phoenix Risng says:

    Some very interesting posts – fascinating reading! The medical side is certainly plausible, but I wonder at the timing of her last miscarriage. It seems to e perhaps more than a little co-incidental that this was on the very same day that her one time rival, a woman who had all her life maintained that she was Henry’s wife in God’s eyes and the rightful Queen of England, was being laid to rest in Peterborough Cathedral.

    But who might have committed such an act, and why?

    Well, there was at the time considerable anti-Anne Boleyn feeling in the country as a whole. Whereas Katherine had been much beloved of the general populace, Anne was not, and of course there was the split with Rome, the ‘Mother Church’ that had held sway in England fore centuries. Surely then it is not inconceivable that a person who was perhaps still loyal to Katherine, perhaps even someone as close as one of Anne’s own ladies in waiting, could have either been working on their own or as part of a wider conspiracy. After all, we know that Cromwell and Eustace Chapuys (the ambassador of the Holy Roman empire) were at least on speaking terms if not more, and Chapuys was also close to both Katherine herself and to Mary, her daughter.

    Remember, Mary had suffered greatly because of Anne Boleyn coming onto the scene. She lost her title, all contact with her mother (until she would acknowledge Anne as Queen, which she never did), her household and all her staff. From the heights of a Princess she was taken down to a lowly ‘lady’, a lady in waiting to the new infant Princess who had even supplanted her in the order of succession.

    Is it possible that someone decided to ‘right the wrong’ in a way that would be as vindictive and venegeful as possible, or that Mary herself, who called Anne ‘Harlot’ and ‘whore’ and who hated her with a passion (yet never took this out on the child Elizabeth oddly enough), was behind the plot to bring her down?

    As always history clouds us with more questions than answers, and I don’t suppose we will ever know for sure – but its fun to speculate, isn’t it?

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  21. Lesley says:

    Off topic but the comment “regardless of her horrible conduct in the marriage of Catherine and Henry” riled me.

    I don’t think we’ll ever know the whole truth about these events, but sounds to me like Henry was the ultimate stalker and Anne didn’t want to become another discarded mistress. Who would? Just saying.

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  22. ashley says:

    I can’t help but wonder, if their attire contributed to this as well, those tight corsets couldn’t possibly be good for the growing belly, plus they did drink a decent amount unknowingly to the effects that it would have on a growing fetus

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  23. whitley says:

    I feel bad she lost her baby but i also think she did ugly things like meaning meam to mary mostly henery and she did do nice thing but god doesnt like ugly and i don`t think she deserved a boy she got a blessing with a elizabeth brith.

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  24. Sandra says:

    All good theories, with the rhesus factor incompability the most likely one, I think.
    How about Fetal alcohol syndrome? It may cause miscarriages or stillbirths and I could imagine doctors not knowing anything about it and instead telling women (esp. at court where they had more access to it than poor peasants) to drink wine cause it was definitely ‘cleaner’ than regular water.

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  25. Rarrkel says:

    Stress does NOT cause miscarriages. Only health problems with the mother or the development of the fetus are reasons for miscarriages to occur.

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  26. Rarrkel says:

    I have a theory – alcohol consumption. Pregnant women are not supposed to drink alcohol but that was all they ever did drink in the medieval period. I imagine that may have definitely had something to do with the stillbirths and miscarriages the Queens were experiencing…

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  27. Carolyn says:

    Has anyone suggested that the last deformed miscarriage could have been caused by Anne Boleyn’s diet? From what I have read, the Tudor Court under Henry the VIII consumed large quantities of meat. This diet would be highly acidic without enough fruits and vegetables to balance out that acidity. The description that Philippa Gregory gives in “The Other Boleyn Girl” of Anne’s last miscarriage is of a baby with a flayed back and a large head. I believe that the flayed back could be from a lack of folic acid in her diet during the first month of pregnancy. A few servings of broccoli would have fixed that problem (94 mcg of folic acid). Folate is responsible for proper cell division and DNA synthesis as well. We all know how some Royals and even Presidents have foresworn broccoli. The overgrown head may have been hydrocephalus or water on the brain. There are too many causes to know which factor could have caused this problem. Extreme stress could also cause higher acid levels during pregnancy. Inflammation is a leading cause of the five major diseases including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer and Alzheimer’s. I remember reading that Queen Mary (Catherine’s daughter) died of breast cancer. Too much meat! Not enough fruits and veggies. Henry might have been able to live a healthier life if he had eaten less venison and pastries and more fruits and veggies. He might have avoided the diabetes and the leg sore that did not heal. I really like the RH factor theory too though, but this does not explain why so many different wives had stillborn babies.

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    Mimico Reply:

    The book the ‘the other bolyen girl’ is extremely inaccurate and remember its fiction no fact. In real life there is absolutely no contemporary evidence, both reliable and unreliable, that even suggest that Anne miscarried a deformed child, much less a child with a flayed back and montrous head. Even Eustace Chapuys the imperial ambassodor who loathed Anne only describe the baby as a foetus of 3 and a half months. But i do agree that the Tudors lifestyle would have increased the chance of miscarriages or stillborn babies. Hopefully you dont think Anne as the witch of a queen she is portrayed as in the other bolyen girl. Whenever reading phillipa gregory always remember that she is a fiction writer (and the most inaccurate one), not a historian.

    Cheers,
    Mimico

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    Carolyn Reply:

    Thanks Mimico,

    Yes Philipa Gregory says that her book is a novel rather than non-fiction or history. I wondered why I had never heard of the other two miscarriages that she describes in “The Other Boleyn Girl”, or that the last one was a monster. It seems very unfair that people of that era blamed the mother for a miscarriage and assigned superstitious attributes like sin or witchcraft to what is already a grave tragedy. No I do not think of Anne Boleyn as a witch. She seemed to be an extremely well educated woman for her time, who was maligned by the court around her. She was a musician like me and there is even a piece of music attributed to her called “O Death Rock Me Asleep” (c.1536) Here is a sound recording of the haunting piece. http://markalburgermusichistory.blogspot.com/2008/06/anne-boleyn-c-1507-1535.html I have no idea if Boleyn actually composed this piece and it was later published posthumously or if someone else composed it. I do know that there is music attributed to Henry the VIII th including “Greensleeves,” but again it is nearly impossible to verify the authenticity of pieces that are over 450 years old. Henry ran a very musical court, and I think that Anne’s talent as a singer and musician was part of his attraction to her as well as her education and intelligence. I suspect that she played a large role in England’s becoming Protestant, but that is a complicated matter. What I am really upset about is the movie version of “The Other Boleyn Girl”. I just watched it recently, and found it to be violent and dark. Ok we all know she is going to get killed in the end, but why drag incest and rape into to mix? I know that the court accused her brother of incest, but I doubt there was any proof of this. They just wanted to bring down the entire Boleyn family so killing George was a way to end the Boleyn line. I see it as a political move rather than something based on fact. How do you read his death?

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  28. Heather says:

    I’m O negative so also have the Rhesus factor. It was the first thing I thought of when I read about Anne losing her baby at birth. I’m glad they gave me the injection after my first pregnancy because my next child took her father’s blood which was positive. Science has changed this type of ignorance in favour of us women but it must have been a nightmare for women centuries ago who had enormous pressure on them to deliver healthy sons.

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  29. Sigrid says:

    It’s not only her fault it’s also Henry’s because he was a part of it too and just because he was a king dosen’t make him less human and think about how great a queen Elizabeth became, she was loved by the people in England, it was like she was the male child that he always wanted ♥

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