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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.

25 thoughts on “29 January 1536 – Anne Boleyn’s Miscarriage”

  1. Felicity says:

    It always strikes me that there was quite a big gap between Anne’s first miscarriage and her second. If she miscarried around July 1534 and then again in January 1536, she must have become pregnant around Oct (?) 1535, over a year since the previous miscarriage. For a woman who conceived so quickly after (before?) her wedding, and then again straight after the birth of her daughter, the gap always strikes me as quite big …I know some suggest that there was in fact another pregnancy earier in 1535, but the evidence seems flimsy. I wonder then why it was that the final pregnancy happened when it did and whether the length of time that had passed before this pregnancy heightened the sense of loss? Had they waited a long time for it? Thanks for another great article, Claire! Xxx

  2. Emma says:

    Poor Anne. I can’t imagine the sorrow she must have felt. Miscarrying a child is painfull enough but to know that your husband is going to use your tragic lose as an excuse to get rid of you for someone he is courting under your very nose just makes me fell sick. I hope that if Anne ever saw Henry in the afterlife she gave him a good beating for that (although she may have had to wait in rather a long queue!).

    1. EmmaKat says:

      I hope she not only delivered him a good beating, but then waltzed off with her new boyfriend, Tupac Shakur, right in front of him.

  3. Jillian says:

    Spooky that Anne miscarried on the day of Catherine’s funeral…

  4. Anne Barnhill says:

    Felicity, perhaps the span of time had to do with Anne’s age…she was not at her most fertile at 34-35 and even a couple of years can make a difference in fertility in the 30’s from what I’ve read. Just a thought. I, too, think it is strange that Anne and Catherine are linked even in death in a way. Makes me shiver. Thanks, Claire!

  5. EmmaKat says:

    I can’t help but wonder what Rick Santorum would have had to say about this….

  6. WilesWales says:

    Felicity, Emma, and Jiliian all make very good points. I do wonder, however, even if Henry were strutting a mistress in front of Anne (who was not trained as Katharine was that it was part of being Queen and how to put up with the King’s fancies), why after that he didn’t try between January and May for Anne and Henry to try yet for another son, as that would have been his delight and her security as well. Maybe they tried, but it does seem to me that Anne had no trouble getting in the family way. Just a thought. Thank you, once again, Claire. WilesWales

  7. Cindermuffin says:

    Poor Anne, it’s just so horrible that the one you love gets bored of you so quick. Then has his lacky to add phoney charges to get rid of you and to marry another. But all’s fair in love and war, when Cromwell loses his head anyway.

  8. Fran says:

    I was thinking that this is spooky that on the day of Catherine’s funeral that Anne all so has miscarried on that funeral day and why on this day of all days?

  9. Eva says:

    Ah, so it wasn’t Anne seeing him with Jane Seymour that caused her to miscarry. I know it was on the Tudors but I’m sure I read it in a book somewhere, although I can’t state the academic validity of the book in question.
    It’s horrible that a miscarriage should be blamed on anybody though, especially if Anne did try to blame it on the Duke of Norfolk like Chapuys states. Incidents like these are unfortunately a fact of life that cannot be helped in most circumstances.

    1. yanice says:

      i think Eric Ives mentions it in Anne`s biography. I am not at home now, so i cannot check it immediately, but there were citations, how she was screaming at Henry (not unlike in the Tudors) that it causes her great stress and sadness when she saw him with another woman (Jane)…..oh, now i realized i have my school paper, partial translation right here….
      Chaypus had written in his reports that Henry talked to Anne only 10 times during last three months. He repeated his remark about the miscarriage – that he see God will not grant himn any male children and on his way out (of Anne`s chamber) he said he will talk to her, once she will get better. And she cried out that she lost the baby partially because of the shocking news about his jousting accident and partially because he broke her heart whenever he paid his attention to other woman.
      It was Nicholas Sander who claims Anne was screaming about the whore Jane sitting on his knees….
      Now, excuse me, ladies, i must go back to work, though digging in history is much more interesting

      1. Claire says:

        Thanks, Yanice. Yes, the Chapuys report is in Letters and Papers (LP x.351):-
        “I learn from several persons of this Court that for more than three months this King has not spoken ten times to the Concubine, and that when she miscarried he scarcely said anything to her, except that he saw clearly that God did not wish to give him male children; and in leaving her he told her, as if for spite, that he would speak to her after she was “releuize.” The said Concubine attributed the misfortune to two causes: first, the King’s fall; and, secondly, that the love she bore him was far greater than that of the late Queen, so that her heart broke when she saw that he loved others. At which remark the King was much grieved, and has shown his feeling by the fact that during these festive days he is here, and has left the other at Greenwich, when formerly he could not leave her for an hour.”

        1. Claire says:

          Sander, in Rise and Growth of Anglican Schism, says that Anne cried out to the King “See, how well I must be since the day I caught that abandoned woman Jane sitting on your knees” and the King replying “Be of good cheer, sweetheart, you will have no reason to complain of me again.” p132

  10. Kate says:

    Henry, like so many men of his time (and thereafter) probably paid Anne a lot of attention while he was trying to get her into bed. But after marriage, he believed she’d become the doting, patient, and docile wife while he started pursuing other interests as was his “manly” right.

    Add in the fact that they were relatively ignorant about the reproductive process, the rampant STD’s that were probably there, and the fact that a male fetus is more fragile than a female one, and I’m surprised she got pregnant a third time at all.

    I hate to say it, but if I knew there was a strong likelihood I might be replaced and if I certainly had any inkling my neck might be on the block, I think I might start looking for a red-headed groom, stable-boy, footman, or anyone. I always think of Anne as one of the earliest examples of sexual harassment ever.

    1. margaret says:

      i would be doing the same ie looking for the redheaded groom stable boy ect and i didnt know that male fetus was more fragile than female i wonder why that is so

  11. Dawn 1st says:

    Reading Felicitys post about the length of time Anne to concieve again, may this was about the time when Henry was meant to be having impotency problems, which were brought up at, was it George Boleyns? trial.
    It is not suprizing poor Anne miscarried, with the shock of Henrys fall, his philandering, and the sheer stress of trying to carry a child to term, let alone it being a son, her age would not have helped either. The poor poor lady had all the odds stacked against her, its heart breaking isn’t it .

    1. Baroness Von Reis says:

      Dawn 1, I do agree with all the factors, confused, worrired ,stress, had to have been over bearing to a women, that Must produce a son. We talked however, about all of Henrys dead sons,not just by Anne herself. I still think there was more to, this then we will ever no,so very tragect to both Anne and Henry. I also don’t think Anne cared if it was the day, of Catherine s funeral,she wanted Catherine out of the picture and as, Wiiles Wales said he already had Jane Seymour in the wing. Still the big what if it was this or that,I agree last we had a chat it was in the gene pool,as there were to many dead sons by to many different women, just my thoughts. Rgards B V R

  12. gina says:

    Forgive me Claire, but at the end of the post for the other ‘On this day in History’, you put Edward IV instead of Edward the VI I believe. :-/ Just for my own knowledge on history, I was a little confused at first reading it. Great site, I LOVE it and make sure the emails come priority to my phone. I look forward to them pretty much daily. A nice break in the work morning 🙂 Keep up the awesome work!!!

    1. Claire says:

      Ooops, sorry about that, I’ll go and edit it now!

  13. Baroness Von Reis says:

    My thoughts on these sons born dead ,maybe had alot to do with all facters,worried she would lose the King and also, Henry was already chasing Janes Seymour. Poor Anne must have had so much put on her,she new if she didnot produce a son there marriage would end. The King wanted one thing a son,thats it and thats all, so I’m sure this had alot to do with the dead sons, how sadden and afraid she must have been,she had already lost his love,now the olny thing to save her would be a son. I don’t think she expected to lose her head over it,the pain of her must have been unbareable to lose all she loved,olny to be put to death,such a tragic life. But I still think there was more going on then we no,so many dead sons, does’nt make sence.

  14. Dawn 1st says:

    Just a couple of queries on Annes miscarriage that I get mixed up about Claire, she was only meant to be 3 1/2 monthes pregnant though it seems that in some books/references she seems to be further on into her pregnancy, more of a still born than miscarriage, which is it? Did Nicholas Sander see the miscarried child for him to make this comment or was his source from court gossip, because in some respects if the child was an early miscarriage it could have well looked as he decribed/or others passed on to him because of its inmaturity, don’t mean to gross anyone out or offend but when ever this crops up it always sets me thinking…

    1. Baroness Von Reis says:

      Dawn 1, You are correct,as the second son was a still born,not a miscarriage,nor would the 3rd child as miscarriages ,were early in the pregnencies. Anne was in laybor when the 1rst son was still born,so I really think that she had to have been further along,still very sad. When I say Elizabeth 1 son 2 son 3 in that order.

  15. margaret says:

    maybe not giving herself time to recover caused these miscarriages but agree withwiles wales and hope i get this right ,why not another pregnancy between january and may ,given that anne was so deperate for a son ,could it be that henry had really finished all relations with her by this stage .

    1. Claire says:

      Henry was suffering from on/off impotence by this stage so it may have been difficult for Anne to get pregnant anyway at this stage because of him.

      1. margaret says:

        i guess you are right about that thanks for answer

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