29 January 1536 – Anne Boleyn’s Miscarriage

Posted By on January 29, 2012

On this day in history, 29th January 1536, Anne Boleyn suffered her second and final miscarriage. It was her third pregnancy – she had given birth to healthy baby girl, the future Elizabeth I, on the 7th September 1533, and then had suffered a late miscarriage in the summer of 1534 – and the loss of this baby must have been a devastating blow for both Anne and King Henry VIII.

Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, reported Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage in a dispatch to Emperor Charles V:-

“On the day of the interment [Catherine of Aragon’s funeral] the Concubine had an abortion which seemed to be a male child which she had not borne 3½ months, at which the King has shown great distress. The said concubine wished to lay the blame on the duke of Norfolk, whom she hates, saying he frightened her by bringing the news of the fall the King had six days before. But it is well known that is not the cause, for it was told her in a way that she should not be alarmed or attach much importance to it. Some think it was owing to her own incapacity to bear children, others to a fear that the King would treat her like the late Queen, especially considering the treatment shown to a lady of the Court, named Mistress Semel, to whom, as many say, he has lately made great presents.”1

and the chronicler Charles Wriothesley recorded:-

“This yeare also, three daies before Candlemas, Queene Anne was brought a bedd and delivered of a man chield, as it was said, afore her tyme, for she said that she had reckoned herself at that tyme but fiftene weekes gonne with chield; it was said she tooke a fright, for the King ranne that tyme at the ring and had a fall from his horse, but he had no hurt; and she tooke such a fright withall that it caused her to fall in travaile, and so was delivered afore her full tyme, which was a great discompfort to all this realme.”2

So, it seems that Anne lost a son and not the “shapeless mass of flesh” that Nicholas Sander wrote of in 1585 – and note that he was the ONLY person to write of this, plus he said Anne had six fingers! – or “a baby hardly malformed, with a spine flayed open and a huge head, twice as large as the spindly little body”, which is how this baby is described in Philippa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl”. This was a normal miscarriage, a heartbreaking tragedy, but something which was a common occurrence in Tudor times and which still is today. It is so sad that this pregnancy did not go to term as I’m sure that a healthy son would have made Anne secure in her position as queen. Catherine of Aragon’s death and this miscarriage left Anne in a very vulnerable position and her enemies were to take advantage of this.

You can read more about Anne Boleyn’s pregnancies, her miscarriage and its impact in the following articles:-

Notes and Sources

  1. LP x.284
  2. A Chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559. by Charles Wriothesley, p33

Also on this day in history…

  • 1536 – Funeral of Catherine of Aragon
  • 1547 – Edward VI was informed that his father, Henry VIII, had died and that he was now King
  • 1555 – Bishop John Hooper and Bible editor John Rogers were the first heretics to be condemnedto death in Mary I’s reign.
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