The Pregnancies of Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon

Posted By on February 3, 2010

Madonna dell Granduca by RaphaelRaphael

Madonna dell Granduca by Raphael

Last week, I considered the role of Anne’s final miscarriage in the fall of Anne Boleyn and the Boleyn faction. Although Retha Warnicke concludes that “her fall was almost certainly triggered by the nature of the miscarriage she was to suffer in late January, for there is no evidence that she had been in any personal or political danger”, I cannot believe that the miscarriage was the sole reason for Anne’s downfall and I have to agree with Professor Eric Ives who says:-

“The miscarriage of 29 January was neither Anne’s last chance nor the point at which Jane Seymour replaced Anne in Henry’s priorities. It did, nevertheless, make her vulnerable again.”

The miscarriage may well have made Anne’s position more vulnerable, particularly because it coincided with the death of Catherine of Aragon, but it was not the catalyst of Anne Boleyn’s fall. It was just one factor which contributed to the undoing of this queen, one more thing which her enemies could use against her and to make Henry doubt his second wife.

But why did Anne’s miscarriage have any impact at all?

To understand why this final miscarriage may have shaken Henry’s faith in Anne and his marriage, we have to examine Anne’s obstetric history and also look at that of Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The miscarriage of January 1536 was not an isolated incident.

Catherine of Aragon’s Pregnancies, Still-births and Miscarriages

There is a fascinating article by Professor Sir John Dewhurst entitled “The Alleged Miscarriages of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn”, in which he examines the obstetric histories of both Catherine and Anne. When we consider that Henry VIII got his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled because she could not bear him a son and that some feel that he executed Anne Boleyn for the same reason, we have to conclude that these women’s obstetric histories are worth looking at.

Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon

According to J.J. Scarisbrick, Catherine of Aragon had “several miscarriages, three infants who were either stillborn or died immediately after birth (two of them males), two infants who died within a few weeks of birth (one of them a boy) and one girl, Princess Mary”. Dewhurst makes the point that “several” must mean three or more so Scarisbrick is crediting Catherine with a total of nine pregnancies, only one of which gave Henry a living heir and it was only a girl. Hester Chapman writes of Catherine having a total of seven pregnancies, Neville Williams writes of how Henry was “mindful of earlier miscarriages” in his second year of marriage to Catherine, John Bowle writes of six pregnancies and A.F. Pollard suggests a total of around ten pregnancies. If Catherine had nine unsuccessful pregnancies it is little wonder that Henry felt that their marriage was cursed!

But did Catherine have so many miscarriages or still-births?

Sir John Dewhurst has looked at primary sources and argues that there is only evidence for six pregnancies:-

  • 31st January 1510 – A stillborn daughter born 33 weeks after the marriage. This is reported by Diego Fernandez, Catherine’s chancellor, in the Calendar of State Papers (Spain)
  • 1st January 1511 – Birth of a son, Henry, who died on 22nd February at just 52 days old.
  • 17th September 1513 – Birth of a son who was either stillborn or who did not survive long. The Venetian Calendar of State Papers records that the child was alive at birth: “a male heir was born to the King of England and will inherit the crown, the other son having died.”
  • November 1514 – According to Dewhurst, the Venetian ambassador, wrote to his senate in November that “The Queen has been delivered of a stillborn male child of eight months to the very great grief of the whole court”, Holinshed, the chronicler, ” reported that “in November the Queen was delivered of a prince which lived not long after”, and John Stow wrote “in the meantime, to Whit, the month of November, the Q was delivered of a prince which lived not long after”.
  • 18th February 1516 – Birth of a daughter, Mary, the future Mary I.
  • 10th November 1518 – Birth of a stillborn daughter. The Venetian ambassador wrote “The Queen has been delivered in her eighth month of a stillborn daughter to the great sorrow of the nation at large”.

Dewhurst admits that Catherine may have had further miscarriages but that at least one date given by Pollard for a miscarriage is a physical impossibility as he credit Catherine with a miscarriage or stillbirth in July 1514 when she was actually pregnant with the son she delivered in November 1514. Dewhurst concludes that “In the absence of other evidence, these can surely be dismissed as unsupported rumour and Catherine relieved of the burden of her alleged miscarriages.”

Anne Boleyn’s Pregnancies, Still-births and Miscarriages

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

Details of Anne’s obstetric history seem to be as hazy as Catherine’s! We know that Anne gave birth to a healthy daughter, Elizabeth, on the 7th September 1533, but exactly how many pregnances did Anne have?

Historian G.R. Elton writes that “the dreary tale of miscarriages was resumed” after Anne’s successful first pregnancy, which implies that Anne had a few miscarriages, at least three. Mary Louise Bruce writes that “during the first six months of 1534 she appears to have had one miscarriage after another” which Dewhurst concludes must refer to a maximum of three as “it is scarcely “conceivable” for a woman to have more than three miscarriages within a six-month period”. Hester Chapman writes of a miscarriage in March 1534, a further pregnancy in April and a possible third in July , all of which ended in miscarriages. According to Dewhurst, Chapman goes on to write about the birth of a dead son in the seventh month of pregnancy in January 1536. Still another historian, F. Chamberlin, writes of Anne only having two miscarriages – one in 1534 and another in 1535. Confused yet?!

So, what does the evidence say?

  • 7th September 1533 – The birth of a live daughter, Elizabeth.
  • 1534 – Eustace Chapuys wrote to Charles V on the 28th January reporting that Anne was pregnant. A letter from George Taylor to Lady Lisle dated the 27th April 1534 says that “The Queen hath a goodly belly, praying our Lord to send us a prince”. In July, Anne’s brother, Lord Rochford, was sent on a diplomatic mission to France to ask for the postponement of a meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I because of Anne’s condition: “being so far gone with child she could not cross the sea with the King”. Chapuys backs this up in a letter dated the 27th July, where he refers to Anne’s pregnancy. We do not know what happened with this pregnancy as there is no evidence of the outcome. Dewhurst writes of how the pregnancy could have resulted in a miscarriage or stillbirth, but there is no evidence to support this, he therefore wonders if it was a case of pseudocyesis, a false pregnancy, caused by the stress that Anne was under – the pressure to provide a son. Chapuys wrote on the 27th September 1534 “Since the King began to doubt whether his lady was enceinte or not, he has renewed and increased the love he formerly had for a beautiful damsel of the court”. Muriel St Clair Byrne, editor of the Lisle Letters, believes that this was a false pregnancy too.
  • 1535 – The only evidence for a miscarriage in 1535 is a sentence from a letter from Sir William Kingston to Lord Lisle on 24th June 1535 when Kingston says “Her Grace has as fair a belly as I have ever seen”. However, Dewhurst thinks that there is an error in the dating of this letter as the editor of the Lisle Letters states that this letter is actually from 1533 or 1534 because it also refers to Sir Christopher Garneys, a man who died in October 1534.
  • 29th January 1536 – Chapuys reported to Charles V on the 10th February 1536 that Anne Boleyn had miscarried on the day of Catherine of Aragon’s funeral: “On the day of the interment [of Catherine of Aragon] the concubine [Anne] had an abortion which seemed to be a male child which she had not borne 3 1/2 months”.

After looking at the evidence, Dewhurst concludes:-

“Thus the Lisle letter relieves Anne of the burden of one alleged miscarriage and careful examination of the evidence surrounding a possible pregnancy in 1534 provides little if any support for any miscarriage that year. She is left with only two pregnancies, one successful and one unsuccessful. Perhaps the oft-repeated assertions that both Catherine and Anne had a series of miscarriages may be laid to rest.”

However, when it comes to Anne Boleyn I like to look at what Professor Eric Ives says as he has meticulously researched her life and always backs up his theories with primary sources. Ives writes of how Anne became pregnant shortly after giving birth to Elizabeth and that “All was well as late as July, and then tragedy struck. Anne miscarried.” Ives also refers to Henry VIII’s instructions to George Boleyn to ask Francis I to defer their interview on the grounds of Anne’s pregnancy (LP vii 958). Ives then says: “That it was a miscarriage and not a stillbirth or neonatal death is indicated by the Queen not having “taken her chamber”.

Ives also writes of how Henry VIII ordered a beautiful silver cradle, decorated with precious stones and Tudor roses, from his goldsmith, Cornelius Hayes, in April 1534 so he must have been sure that Anne was pregnant.

Ives discounts Dewhurst’s theory of pseudocyesis saying:

“Anne, however, had no reason to be under stress at this date, having produced a healthy female child 8 months earlier”

and pointing out that imperial sources at Rome had been informed that Anne was pregnant in January 1534 so Anne must have conceived around November 1533. I have to agree with Ives, Anne may have been disappointed by the birth of a daughter in the September but she had every reason to believe that she would conceive again and give birth to a son. Ives does not mention another miscarriage or stillbirth and writes of her third pregnancy being the one she miscarried in January 1536.

The Impact of Anne Boleyn’s Final Miscarriage

I can understand Henry VIII’s obsession with having a son because not only did he feel he had to prove his manhood but he also knew that his job was to protect the throne and keep the Tudor line going. Catherine of Aragon’s miscarriages and stillbirths must have not only grieved him but also terrified him. Ives writes of how Anne’s loss of a son in January 1536 must have been a huge psychological blow to Henry and reminded him of the problems that Catherine had experience, which had “revealed the wrongfulness of his marriage to Katherine.” Who can blame Henry for wondering if history was repeating itself, particularly when he was already shaken from his accident just five days earlier? BUT, he and Anne had only been married for 3 years and in that time she had provided him with a healthy daughter, and there is no evidence that Anne suffered a series of miscarriages. There was hope that Anne would conceive quickly and there was no reason for Henry to doubt Anne’s fertility and ability to carry a son.

Although Henry was desperate for a son and shaken by Anne’s miscarriage, I do not believe that the miscarriage of the 29th January caused Anne’s fall or that it was the moment that Henry VIII decided to replace his wife with another model. It was a blip, not the end of the marriage. As I said last week, the lack of a son did make Anne’s position vulnerable, but the fall of Anne Boleyn was due to a number of factors – political and personal – all moving against Anne in 1536.

What do you think?

P.S. You can read a discussion on the causes of Anne Boleyn’s miscarriages at http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/q-a/possible-reasons-for-anne-boleyns-miscarriages/

Sources

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Comments on
"The Pregnancies of Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon"

56 Responses to “The Pregnancies of Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon”

  1. rochie says:

    Great piece, Claire. Thank you. I agree, there was so much else going on for poor Anne – namely a certain Mr. Cromwell. In an age where miscarriages and infant deaths were unfortunately common place, her record was hardly anything out of the ordinary, and – you are right – it would not have been held against her.

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  2. Cranky says:

    I have no comment to add on this article I just felt like telling you how much I enjoy this website.

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  3. Claire says:

    Thanks, Rochie and Cranky, I really enjoyed researching this one. My heart went out to Catherine, she had such a tough time with her pregnancies, what heartache.

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  4. Jeanette says:

    Hi Claire
    I think Henry just fell out of love with Anne.
    Her downfall was a mix between a lot of things i believe that he thought that his marriage with Anne was cursed too.
    He was a very Religious man and superstitious.
    He probably felt bad about Catherine what he did to her and maybe thought God is punishing him for it.

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    margaret Reply:

    agree with jeanette above

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  5. desedora says:

    I loved reading this article. I must admit I have not read a lot on this site until very recentley and I was wondering if you have explored Henry’s fertility vs. infertility or other health issues early on that led to some of these miscarriges and still births? Just wondering if in those days males were ever looked at as the problem or if all of the issue laid on the woman. Just curious. Thanks so much for the information it is super fun to read.

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  6. Claire says:

    Hi Jeanette,
    I just can’t understand Henry – to fight so hard to be with a woman and then just dump her (and kill her!) just seems so weird. Perhaps he had convinced himself that the marriage was not right in God’s eyes and perhaps you’re right about the guilt thing.

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    epiphany Reply:

    I’ve always believed there was more to Henry and Anne’s story than we know. How can a man so passionately and deeply in love with a woman that he executed faithful servants and turned his kingdom upside down for her, the suddenly do an about face and despise her? Something happened between these two that we don’t know about; miscarriages, while heartbreaking, and in Henry’s case, politically dangerous, were commonplace back then. No way he would have suddenly dumped her because she lost a baby. Anne was a hellcat; I just wonder, what if Henry had asked Anne for a divorce, offered to let her and Elizabeth leave England, go to France – a country Anne loved – and be free – which would of course involve Elizabeth being declard a bastard – and Anne vehemently refused, threatening Henry with all kinds of things, and he, outraged by her threats, then had Cromwell trump up the adultery and witchcraft charges.Given Anne’s aggressive, argumentative nature, I can see her doing this, thinking Henry would appease her, as he had done many times when she threw a fit. Depending on what Anne threatened, I can also see this being enough to set off a switch in Henry’s head where he decided, ‘right, that’s enough I’ve had it with her’, and set the stage for her execution. I also explains why his next choice of wife was a mouse that couldn’t even look him in the eye. There are diplomatic letters where Jane is described as addressing Henry on her kness with downcast eyes – what a (boring) change from Anne!

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  7. Claire says:

    Hi desedora,
    I haven’t actually explored Henry’s fertility and his sexual problems but I have had a brief look at the theories regarding Anne’s miscarriages – see http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/q-a/possible-reasons-for-anne-boleyns-miscarriages/
    I think that Henry was very macho, as men were in those times. Eric Ives writes of how Henry reacted to Chapuys stating in April 1533 that a new wife did not guarantee children, Henry said “Am I not a man like other men? Am I not? Am I not?”. I wonder if he was already having some impotence problems and that’s why he reacted like that. On/off impotency obviously would hinder the conception process!
    I get the feeling that fertility problems were always put down to the female and I wonder sometimes if attitudes have changed much. Although doctors investigate the man and the woman today, if a couple is childless then people tend to assume the problem lies with the woman.

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    epiphany Reply:

    The fertility problems very likely did lie with his wives. Henry had no problem impregnating KoA or Anne – his potency issues didn’t occur until he was older and obese, circa Anne of Cleves and beyond. He also made a few of his mistresses pregnant, although he acknowledged only one child. If anything, Henry’s problem his that he had an attraction for petite, delicate women who may have a had a difficult time carrying and birthing the undoubtedly large babies his sired (he was 6’3″ – a giant for his time!) Had he remained married to the big, strapping Anne of Cleves, she probably would have given him a nursery full of sons – ironic, isn’t it?

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  8. Carol says:

    I have a lot of sympathy for Catherine and all her miscarriages – it would be interesting to know the cause.

    Concerning Anne’s fall, I think that there was a variety of reasons. The miscarriage in January 1536 was just another nail in the proverbial coffin. There was also the falling out with Thomas Cromwell and the fact that Henry found Anne’s fiery nature less appealing in marriage than in courship.

    I just think that it was a combination of factors rather than one specific incident that led to the tragedy.

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  9. Jill says:

    Given that many people of royal birth were in some way interrelated could it be perhaps that genes were passed down that would make it almost impossible to bring a healthy child to term. Catherine and Henry did share a distant relative and his issue I believe may have been John of Gaunt, but my memory escapes me.

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  10. Linda Read says:

    I wonder if anyone has investigated, the Rh factor in Catherine of Aragorn’s case. This may well have been the problem that caused her miscarriages and stillbirths. Mary would have been the same blood type as her mother, which is how she survived.
    Just a thought of mine.

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    Lynn Donovan Reply:

    I think the Rh factor is more likely with Anne than Katherine. Anne gave birth to a healthy girl and miscarried subsequent pregnancies.Which could point to her being Rh- and Henry being Rh+. Katherine’s problem I think may have had problems because she being a devout Catholic would Fast very stringantly and not have gotten the nutrients she needed during pregnancy. There are a lot of theroies, unfortunately would not be able tobe proven without exhumation of these ladies remains. I don’t see the Royal family allowing this . So we can only guess.

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  11. Eliza says:

    Really interesting information here!! Poor Anne, always trying to get pregnant straight after giving birth or having miscarried.. Not being able to let her body rest for a while..This must have been so difficult for her. And the same goes for Catherine of Aragon.

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  12. lisaannejane says:

    I saw a part of a documentary on Henry’s health on you tube. It suggested he probably had type 2 diabetes, which could cause fertility problems. Didn’t he start to gain weight after the jousting accident? The show also states he probably ate about 5,000 calories a day.

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  13. Brad says:

    HELP,, I am trying to identify the people on this lace. I believe they came from the same time and place of the Jane Seymour lace you will see in the pictures. Also if you know of anyone who can authenicate these types of items please feel free to contact me at t4c@trading4cash.com as these items are forsale.. Thanks in advance
    http://s989.photobucket.com/albums/af19/janeseymour/Jane%20Seymour%20and/

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  14. Claire says:

    Hi Brad,
    I’m no expert but I would say that they are from a later period because of their dress – the ruffed, standing up collars. I don’t recognise them unfortunately.

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    karen Reply:

    i believe the period these collars come from are the reign of elizabeth 1st

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  15. Ronda says:

    Has anyone asked or explored the possibility that Anne could have been pregnant when she was executed? If her last miscarriage in January wasn’t the end of her relationship with Henry, she may have become pregnant again. Would Henry have wanted to make sure before the execution that she wasn’t carrying another child?

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    margaret Reply:

    that is a shocking thought but i think by this stage he was persueing jane seymour

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  16. Jennifer says:

    Claire,
    Please let me just say I absolutely love this website. I go to Wikipedia and they always seem to have things wrong on there. I really enjoyed this piece that you wrote. I have a thought of my own as well. I feel as though that there could have been something wrong with King Henry and/or the mix of genes, although he was able to produce a few children with different women. It may seem far fetched but my sister in law had a still born because of her and her husband’s blood types or something were not compatable and therefore she lost the baby. Maybe its far fetched but I just thought I would share. I also think that Anne’s uncle the Duke of Norfolk wasn’t too great of a man either. I mean my god, who would put there family on the chopping block and smile about it. That just infuriates me and I have no relation nor do I have anything to do with that time..lol but I have to say that I am enamored with 16th Century Tudors. I had seen the movie, “The Other Boleyn Girl” about 2 years ago and have fallen in love. I have read Philippa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl” , “The Boleyn Inheritance” and I am in the middle of Alison Weir’s “The Lady Elizabeth”. Are the books that are on the sides of this site books that you recommend? Please let me know because I need more reading material. haha. Thank you so much for having this site and digging into the research and making sure that things are accurate. Have a great weekend and happy reading!
    With love,
    Jennifer

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  17. Claire says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    I’m so glad that you like the site and that you enjoyed my articles on Anne and Catherine’s pregnancies. There is the theory that Anne may have been Rhesus negative and therefore not able to carry a child to term after her first but that doesn’t explain Catherine’s miscarriages and stillbirths. Some people believe that Henry had syphilis and that that explains why his wives had such problems, but I can’t see any evidence of that. Miscarriages were very common in those days, as they still are today, so I’m not sure that there are any reasons behind them – just bad luck perhaps. Not sure.
    If you want some more books to read then visit our Tudor Book Reviews site at http://reviews.theanneboleynfiles.com/ as I’ve reviewed loads of books on that. I’ll be reviewing some more very soon.
    Thanks again for your comment and you have a great weekend too x

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  18. Tracey says:

    Catherine was incredibly religious and fasted a lot, which may have adversely affected her fertility. There were concerns about her religious practices affecting her chances of conceiving and I believe these date back to the early years of her marriage to Henry. The queen’s menstrual cycle was always a talking point among courtiers and ambassadors, so every queen throughout history must have been constantly under enormous pressure to produce an heir. The stress caused by that knowledge couldn’t have helped either. I think stress played its part in Anne’s obstetric history as well – having been the mistress, she knew what her husband was capable of and it must have been difficult to make the transition from her long-standing role of exciting, daring mistress to obedient, dutiful wife.

    On a slightly different subject, where have those beautiful Anne Boleyn (Tudors) dresses gone? I looked at them a few weeks ago and when I tried to find them earlier tonight, they had vanished!!!

    I love your site and am looking forward to next week, when I am on leave and can curl up on the sofa with a cup of coffee and read some of your articles. :o)

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  19. Claire says:

    Hi Tracey,
    Stress does indeed affect fertility and pregnancy – you hear about women who try to conceive for years and then adopt a child only to get pregnant immediately after the adoption when they have stopped trying for a baby.

    The post about the dresses is still on site with the poll but has got slightly buried with new posts. The Marquis of Pembroke dress won and Kris has nearly finished making the first dress so that we have photos to list it on the site, we will then be launching the other dresses gradually. I’m going to be wearing the Marquis dress at Hever in May so I’m very excited about it!

    Enjoy the site x

    [Reply]

  20. CheekyPeaches says:

    I very much enjoy this site but I have a question. This may sound ignorant to some, so please excuse me, but is there any validity to the rumors that Anne’s miscarriage produced a heavily deformed male fetus? I have often heard these rumors in conjunction with talk of her “extra fingers” and “witchery” and such so I do not lay much credence to the idea however I am quite curious.

    [Reply]

  21. Claire says:

    Hi CheekyPeaches,
    There is no contemporary evidence that Anne miscarried a deformed foetus, just that it was said to be a boy of around 15 weeks in gestation. If Anne had miscarried a deformed foetus it is likely that this would have been used as evidence of adultery or incest as it was taken as a sign of a parent’s sinfulness. It was Nicholas Sander who wrote of Anne miscarrying a “shapeless mass of flesh” and he was not a contemporary of Anne or Henry and he was aiming to blacken Anne’s name. He was also the one who described Anne as having “a projecting tooth under the upper lip, and on her right hand, six fingers. There was a large wen under her chin, and therefore to hide its ugliness, she wore a high dress covering her throat.”
    Most historians completely reject Sander’s description of Anne and the idea that she gave birth to a deformed foetus.

    [Reply]

  22. Kathy says:

    Claire,
    Love your website – well done! Very Interesting topic. Question: The issue of a queen’s menstrual cycles/ general heath were usually regularly recorded (state records?) as a matter of importance. Regarding Katherine, I remember reading some years ago that she was known for having numerous gynecological problems. Has anyone been able to find/ access any of these medical records?

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  23. miladyblue says:

    It is strange that Katharine had so many miscarriages and stillbirths – there must have been quite a bit of difference in childbirth standards between England its rivals, namely the Holy Roman Empire and Spain/Portugal. Two of Katharine’s sisters were quite fertile, and had several children apiece that lived long lives. One of them was Juana (known also as Juana la Loca and Joanna the Mad) and the other was Maria of Aragon, who became Queen of Portugal.

    Juana was the mother of six children, of whom two became Holy Roman Emperor and four were Queen Consorts. Maria was also the mother of six, four of whom were sons.

    Then again, Katharine’s eldest sister, Isabella, who had been married to the King of Portugal, gave birth to a son, then died in childbirth with her second child after being widowed. Perhaps she and Katharine shared some sort of fertility problem?

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  24. Amanda says:

    A fascinating article, thanks.

    I think it’s estimated that, now, 2 out of 3 conceptions end in a miscarriage, albeit many of those are so early that the mother may not know she is even pregnant.

    Alcohol consumption also increases the risk of miscarriage, especially early in a pregnancy, and pregnant women then drank like the proverbial fish.

    Also, I imagine it was hard to be certain that a woman was pregnant until much later on than is the case now, until the baby quickened. That would make a woman who was desparate to become pregnant easy to believe she was (and for others to so believe, too).

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  25. Joanne says:

    I’m thinking in Anne’s case that the Rh factor is valid. Not so much for Katherine of Aragon though. I am Rh negative and I was told that prior to Rhogam the first pregnancy would be successful, but subsequent pregnancies would end in miscarriage, stillbirth or what was called blue-babies. A blue baby was one that needed a blood transfusion immediately after birth or it died. Now this wasn’t a problem if the FATHER was Rh negative and the mother positive. But if the mother was negative and the father positive it was positively devilish.

    Good grief they sure didn’t give themselves time to recover did they? I suspect by the time Katherine was done her uterus was probably a mess and she was incontinent. And it seems Anne was doing the same thing to some extent. It’s really hard on the body and I say this as someone who had children 13 months apart. And yes I passed on my negative Rh to my daughter, but not my son.

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  26. ingrid says:

    I believe that Ann was sacrificed to keep the french and the spaniards from invading england and killing the king. In the series there is a conversation with Pope paul and the french king where he reminds him that now that Henry is excommunicated and it is his duty and the duty to invade England and kill him .

    Henry realized that unless he sacrificed Ann his own life and dynasty dreams were in danger so he threw her to the wolves literally. by killing her he saved his neck, by marrying a catholic after his lawful wife was dead he appeased the emperor and the pope and gain a son while still maintaining absolute power in his own realm. it became a pattern with him in his later life.

    He killed cromwell to appease the north and to keep them from rising and killing him and putting Mary in the throne and handing England to the hapsburgs.

    Anne of cleves was thrown away when the protestant league became involved in a despute with the french and denmark which lead to the destruction of the league and was not longer of any use.
    Katherine for cheating and making him look like a fool and pointing he was impotent as young as she was she never became pregnant.

    Katherine Parr because she was richer than him and he needed her money for his war against france and had his health not taken a turn for the worst he probably would have gotten rid of her for her protestant opinions and to appease the catholics.

    [Reply]

    emma Reply:

    With respect I have to disagree with you on this one. In 1536 the Emperor and King were in the stages of becoming once more allies, something that Anne and her faction also were supporting (albeit reluctantly). At no time since the start of the ‘King’s great matter’ had it looked less likely that the Spanish would invade. France certainly would not have considered invading England whilst a Anglo-imperial alliance was in the offing. Henry didn’t marry Jane to please the Emperor, if he had been marrying to please Charles he would have made a Spanish match, one of Charles’ relatives or allies. He married Jane because he had become infatuated with her. Her conservative faith may have been more in tune with the King but as she soon found out Henry was no longer willing to listen to the opinions of a wife. Cromwell was executed in 1540 three years after the northern uprisings had been effectively crushed and when there was not any sign that any more would follow. Cromwell was executed mainly for not enforcing the six articles, but also for not getting rid of Anne of Cleves quick enough and to appease the French. The reason that Henry married Anne was that France and Spain had joined forces and Henry needed allies fast. Once Francis and Charles were back at each others throats the reason for continuing with a unsatisfactory marriage no longer existed. I do however totally agree with you on Katherine Howard, Henry tried to regain his youth and it backfired on him.

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  27. anne boelyn to me was dumb for her marrying henry, if she knew all he wanted was a male hier

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  28. Emma Ramsey says:

    Claire, you said (really far back near the top) that Henry said “Am I not a man like other men?” in 1533, refering to his new wife. However is it possible for Henry (who had a huge ego – it discarded one wife, killed another, and formed a new start for religion) was talking about the way he lived – as a sort of God-King, looked up to in awe and reverence? He was pushing foreward the idea that he was different because he was King. Wolsey was convicted of treason, after years of faithful work, for one flaw – he commited the treason of telling Henry’s ego that he couldn’t have something he wanted. Other men had sons and Henry didn’t, so out goes Wolsey and in comes Cranmer. By the way, have you read Divorced, Beheaded, Survived A Femenist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII by Karen Lindsey? I just finished it and thought it was great! (Sorry this isn’t really about miscarriages but great article!)

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  29. Anyanka says:

    It’s possible for a woman carrying fraternal twins to miscarry one of the fetuses. However it does mean that premature labour and stillbirth risks for the other fetus is much higher.

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  30. emma says:

    When you look at the conditions that Anne had to contend with whilst trying to produce an heir it’s like a what not to do guide. Firstly she was put under enormous pressure, then her diet is largely red, fatty meat, white bread and alcohol, and then for the last couple of months she’s locked up in a dark, stuffy, hot room. Even if she had not had any medical problems it would have had an adverse affect on her. I also think that Catherine’s problems were made worse from what was in effect an eating disorder. Didn’t it get so serious that Henry VII wrote to the Pope asking him to reason with her to cut down on her fast days ? As for the miscarriage sparking off Ann’s downfall it was reported that on hearing of Catherine’s death after her initial delight Anne wept, saying that now Henry would do to her what he had done to Catherine. This was whilst she was pregnant. She had cause as Henry had the year before looked into the possibility of annulling their marriage but found that it was not possible whilst Catherine lived. I think that ironically it was her death that was the biggest factor in Ann’s fate.

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  31. JS says:

    I have a question about the official notations of CofA’s miscarriages and stillbirths by chroniclers and ambassadors. I think Warnicke or Starkey states that in the early 16th, queens didn’t officially announce issues regarding their reproductive lives. For instance, the book I’m thinking of states that CofA wrote her father in 1513 or 1514 that she and Henry had lost their latest baby, and that was how historians even know she miscarried that year. The book stated that there was no official announcement of this miscarriage to the court or international representatives. Does anyone know?

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    Ella Stern Reply:

    You know, I’ve wondered that myself. Starkey’s always going on about how the Queens of England were, essentially, “royal baby machines”, and one does wonder how public they were about that sort of thing. The whole court knows by the next morning after Queen Catherine sends a letter to Henry about a pilgrimage to Walsingham, which you’ve got to admit is decidedly creepy considering many people couldn’t have seen this letter unless the queen left it unsealed for a large amount of time, which wouldn’t have been smart. Perhaps the seal was tampered with somehow…

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  32. Jula says:

    What about the rumours of a baby that was malformed? Is there any evidence of that, or of her sleeping with George? I’d imagine she would only do that out of desparation to give Henry a son. Remember, he could be violent. Who knows how frightened she might have been of him!

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  33. Mary Ann Cade says:

    I think that the Tudor family were not a very robust or healthy stock of people, particularly the mailes. Just look at all the males in that family who died soon after birth, were stillborn, or died from a tuberculosis type of malady (Henry VII; Prince Arthur; Prince Edmund; Henry Fitzroy; King Edward VI; Catherine’s boys; Anne’s boys; Henry’s sisters’ boys).

    Just look at Henry VIII’s siblings and see how many died before the age of maturity: There were Arthur; Margaret; Henry; Elizabeth; Edmund; Mary; and Catherine (I seem to remember reading in Agnes Strickland’s book a long time ago that there might have been another stillborn son named George as well, but not positive). Of these children, Arthur; Elizabeth; Edmund and Catherine did not live to the age of maturity and Mary died in her 30s.

    I believe the Tudors had some recessive genes that caused them to be inclined to poorer health than most, in particular the male children.

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  34. Linda says:

    I have often theorized that Anne Boleyn was Rhesus negative and therefore could have only 1 healthy child – although, I admit, I haven’t researched to see if the result of an Rh neg mother with an Rh pos child is usually a miscarriage—-Catherine may have been just unlucky. Catherine’s mother gave birth to several healthy daughters but her one son was weak and died in his teens, I think.
    I have heard many theories about what caused (or contributed to) Anne’s downfall. I am sure this 1536 miscarriage DID contribute, Henry must’ve thought his history with Catherine was repeating itself, and he already would have held guilty doubts about all those Protestant reforms he’d made (or, his ministers made on his behalf)
    Other possibles I’ve heard: She wasn’t really a virgin. Whatever – she couldn’t have been very experienced even if she wasn’t technically a virgin and I doubt if Henry could’ve told the difference, it isnt as easy as most people seem to think
    She had angered a lot of important people. I am reasonably sure this was true, she seems to have been of a nervous temperment – and also she was probably paying back a lot of folks who’d snickered at her before she got to be Queen
    Henry blamed her for some of the results of his religious reforms – PARTICULARLY his executing Thomas More who was his friend. I think this was surely part of it – Henry was KING, so it couldn’t be his fault, could it? How easy to blame Anne
    She was technically virgin, but knew too much about sexual play and offended Henry. I doubt it very farfetched – – just because she’d been in the French court, nobody ever said she had affaris with people there and I think people didn’t talk as much in those days about sexual techniques
    I think one of the most important things that led to her downfall was the fact that when Henry finally got her in bed, she proved to be “just an ordinary woman”. I suspect he had very unrealistic expectations – probably thought he was going to go over the moon (figuratively) HOWEVER I think Henry wasn’t very good in bed – “He didn’t have to be, he was the King, right?” and I think Anne wasn’t either. She was a type who liked flirting and admiration but didn’t really like sex, or closeness of any sort, I think. On top of the general lack of technique I think both parties would’ve been VERY nervous when they first bedded. Henry probably had an episode of impotence because of this, or else he found himself to be the proverbial “minuteman”. Anne’s emotional state made her respond to this trouble by railing at Henry, probably she told him he never COULD father a son, and suchlike things. I am betting he never forgave her for it

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    Victoria Reply:

    Just to clarify for you, if a rhesus negative mother has one rhesus positive baby and is not given anti-d after the birth, she will miscarry all future rhesus positive babies, due to her antibodies recognizing the different blood type as a foreign virus and attacking it. Kind of like how your body recognizes the flu virus after you have it once and sends white blood cells to attack it. Hope this helps!

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  35. Rachel says:

    Ah, Henry..that fickle swine. What I’m not seeing in any of the very interesting and intelligent comments is the fact that he was known to be paranoid and downright delusional. I realize the religious sensibilities were different then, but it is quite sane to be with a woman for over two decades and suddenly declare that the marriage was a sin against God and the lack of a son was a punishment? (Not that I quite believe He believed this, but I think he repeated something until he kinda did)

    So, we have a good dose of paranoia combined with a changeable personality, and of course the ego to squash all egos. His advisors were close to him, very. They knew him well and the most clever ones were able to bend Henry to *their* will quite easily it seems.

    Cromwell had come to hate Anne. Anne, though not given very much time to do so, had not produced a living son, had she? Henry seemed to take things like this personally. If you promised him the moon, he seems the sort to actually expect you to produce it for him, so when Anne miscarried after the marriage had already had fighting, and other problems, he probably was taking that as a slap in his face..some kind of failure on her part or even a betrayal.

    And there was Cromwell, whispering in his ear all the time, with motives of his own.

    He respected Cromwell a lot still, and so if he was already finding himself displeased with Anne and turning against his marriage to her, Cromwell probably gave it a healthy shove in that direction, no?

    Of course many others at court and in the country in general hated Anne because they’d loved Catherine. Look how they acted on Anne’s coronation day..some even refusing to remove their hats, and no one cheering.

    Ever had a best friend who hated the person you were dating, who was able to sway you?

    Imagine most of your country and all of your friends and family being of that opinion, not to mention everyone you conduct important business with.

    I’m not sure Anne’s sharp tongue and fiery personality had all that much to do with things in the end. I think the collective attitude toward her, and the fact that no son had come of it would have been enough.

    I do wonder what might have been if she had been able to give him a healthy son..though if nothing else changed, I think she may still have found herself falsely accused of something bad enough to either banish or kill her, and he could have ended the marriage on those grounds while keeping their son legitimate.

    I bet he’d be happy to know that we’re all still obsessed with him centuries after his death!

    Talk about an ego boost, hm?

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  36. margaret says:

    can anyone tell me what happened in the time between annes last miscarriage and her execution ,in regard to henry and annes everyday life ,like for instance were they sleeping together or even talking at this stage ?how did relations between them go downhill so fast .iy cant have been blamed on jane seymore entirely ie this downhill slide ,i thought jane had been his mistress for some time ,well at least with anne being pregnant and anne knew this so what sparked henry into turning away from her even before the miscarriage ?what if she had gone on to have a boy ,would henry have listened to the whisperings about her and still had her executed

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  37. I don’t believe that Anne had lovers. She kept Henry dangling for long enough and must have done without sex for all those years. If she did cheat on Henry while waiting to be married and Queen, she would have been found out by her many enemies. She should have known she was in terrible danger when she could not have a son. After all, Henry turned the world on it’s head to get her to the alter and have sons. It must have been a right slap in the face for him when history started to repeat itself, He didn’t start off as a tyrant but he lived in cloud cuckoo land with his songs, his poems, his courtly love, etc. When he had to take a reality check he found that life was not as simple as he hoped it would be and that even Kings can’t have everything they want. If only he knew how well his daughter Elizabeth would do and how a woman could rule just as well as, and in this case, better than a man.

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  38. Cynthia says:

    Is there any information anywhere as to the cause of death of the infant son (Henry), born on Jan 1, 1511 to Catherine of Aragon and died when he was only 53 days old? I have read several books on the Tudors including the one I am presently reading by Alison Weir (Henry VIII, The king and His Court). All the books seem to imply the infant was apparently healthy at birth but then the child suddenly died with no reported illness. Could this perhaps have been a SIDS death? I have always been very curious about this and inclined to believe this could have been the reason. Does anyone have any theories?

    It is amazing at the numerous amount of caregivers it took to care for one tiny infant. It is also difficult to understand how the Queen could bear to have her infants taken to another palace to be the care of others and not see them on a daily basis.

    [Reply]

    Claire Reply:

    Hi Cynthia,
    There is no evidence to suggest that the baby was sickly at birth or evidence of any illness leading up to the death so perhaps it was SIDS, we just don’t know. It must have been so hard for queens and noblewomen to be parted in that way and to not have the opportunity to feed their babies.

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  39. Alison says:

    I think in the end Henry just wanted to be rid of Anne, he just grew tired of her and wanted another wife, he probably did not like her strong character and that she was like Catherine and stubborn and not the meek, submissive ideal of a Tudor wife. A wife’s postion in those days was alot based on her fertility, being barren or having problem pregnancies would have been bad for any Royal wife, they were there to bare sons basically. Some women sadly have many miscarriages and the stress she would have been under would have been of no help, stress can cause miscarriage, she was perhaps thinking of what became of Catherine and dreading that, Henry is thinking that he cannot divorce again and so the whole ” adultery” fabrication was formed as a way to get rid of poor Anne.

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  40. Diana says:

    Personally I believe Henry was the cause of Anne losing the child. Anne loved Henry with her whole heart she gave him everything she had. She risked her reputation to be with him because she loved him so much. But Henry was to worried about having a boy that he let that ruin the love he had for Anne. But Anne gave Henry Elizabeth. The daughter that ruled for 45 years. The daughter that he said wasn’t even his but someone else was her father. If you ask me this whole mess is the fault of Henry and the men who wanted to ruin Anne because the king loved her.

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  41. Ann Russell says:

    I have always liked the Rh- theory for Anne. As far as Catherine goes, I don’t know how inbred the Spanish royal family was at this point. Once they became Hapsburgs they really intermarried. There was a blog in the Washington Post today that said: ‘Take that Anne Boleyn. It’s a boy. ‘ I think they meant that now that they have changed the rules for inheritance, it was a boy, anyway. Most European monarchies have changed to allow the oldest child to inherit. Claire, since you live in Spain, I wonder if there is any move there to change things. I know that the Infante Felipe only has daughters. But, I don’t know if the monarchy in Spain will survive. I believe the King is unpopular and his son-in-law has been accused of corruption.

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  42. Kristine L. says:

    Having read little of the replies, I may be repeating some possible conclusions here, so please forgive me if this is so. First, since Henry was very promiscuous, it is not hard to conclude that the many miscarriages could have been due to possible disease transmission and infection. Another possible conclusion was mentioned as Rh factor issues. This could very well have been a factor in the miscarriages since an Rh negative woman can develop antibodies to Rh positive children, thus creating an immune response to rid of the “foreign” intruder…the baby. Personally I could believe it was a combination of the two coupled with possible nutritional deficiencies that led to the various infertility issues. Just a thought…

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  43. Kelly says:

    I so enjoy your site ! I get lost on here for hours :)

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  44. Michelle says:

    I think the reason for so many miscarriages is they never let the body heal. After a miscarriage you have to let you body heal itself then move on. They were pregnant right after another.

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  45. TudorFan says:

    I was particularly interested in this bit:

    “Mary Louise Bruce writes that “during the first six months of 1534 she [Anne] appears to have had one miscarriage after another.” ”

    I wondered how quickly, in those days, did they assume that there was a pregnancy? These days with our sophisticated tests, we can find out very soon, but in those days I would imagine it would be much later.

    So I’m wondering if these so called miscarriages in this particular year were simply irregular periods? But would they assume there was a pregnancy if a period was, say, a week or two late?

    I can’t imagine how they would know for sure that there was a pregnancy so soon, and suspect that perhaps her ladies or Anne herself were just being a little over enthusiastic (understandable, given the pressure she was under to produce an heir). And then when her period came, they claimed it was a miscarriage.

    To have three – or more? – definite, confirmed pregnancies ending within the same six month period seems a bit far fetched to me!

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  46. Debbie says:

    I have studied and read many books and articles about Anne, and I have always felt that Henry was the villain, not Anne. Henry had a opportunity to be rid of both his wives at nearly the same time. He grabbed it with both hands. By the time Anne had her last pregnancy, Henry more or less was tired of her and wanted to try out Jane Seymour as a wife. I feel that Henry wanted Anne completely out of the picture. Cromwell would not have been bold enough to begin to bring Anne’s fall about without Henry’s approval, Henry must have said something to him in order for Anne to have fallen as fast as she did. I feel that her last pregnancy and miscarriage was all Henry needed to find a way to be rid of her. He wanted her completely out of the way. Just look at the way Henry deserted Wolsey, Thomas More,Cromwell (in time), Katherine of Aragon and of course, Anne. This was his pattern of giving them over to their enemies. He was a cruel, unfeeling man. He had Anne killed, because she failed to give him a son, besides, he wanted to make his marriage to her null and void, he did, so if it was never a marriage, how could she have committed adultery , because he wanted her dead, pure and simple. I feel her miscarriage was the main reason he wanted her gone, he could have divorced her, Katherine was dead, why didn’t he just divorce her, why did he have to have her name and character smeared for years to come, because he wanted her dead, not just out of the way. I always felt that God made Elizabeth, Anne’s daughter, become the Queen that she did, as the supreme irony for what Henry did to her. Sweet Justice.

    [Reply]

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