On this day in history, 31st January 1510, Queen Catherine of Aragon gave birth to a still-born daughter. Her confessor, Fray Diego, reported that the miscarriage occurred “without any other pain except that one knee pained her the night before.”
Henry VIII and Catherine had married on the 11th June 1509 and had been crowned together on the 24th June. The months following these events were like one big honeymoon as the couple celebrated Henry’s accession and their marriage bu holding jousts, banquets and going hunting. They also went on a royal progress in the August and September of that year and it seems that this was when Catherine became pregnant. Henry VIII was ecstatic that his wife had become pregnant so quickly and wrote to his father-in-law, Ferdinand of Aragon:-
“Your daughter, her Serene Higness the Queen, our dearest consort has conceived in her womb a living child and is right therewith.”
The news was also announced to the general public who rejoiced at the news. Unfortunately, on the 31st January 1510, Catherine went into premature labour and gave birth to a still-born baby girl. Although she had lost her baby, Catherine’s abdomen stayed rounded and actually began to increase in size, leading her physician to conclude that “the Queen remained pregnant of another child and it was believed”. It appeared that Catherine had lost one of a pair of twins. The couple, who had obviously been saddened at the loss of their little girl, clung onto this diagnosis even when Catherine began to menstruate again. At the end of February 1510, Henry ordered the refurbishment of the royal nursery and Elizabeth Denton, the former Lady Mistress of Henry’s own nursery, was brought out of retirement in anticipation of the birth. In March 1510, Catherine entered her confinement and waited for her labour to begin. It never did. Eventually Fray Diego reported that the swelling had decreased and that Catherine was not pregnant after all. It seems to have been a phantom pregnancy.
A shaken and embarrassed Catherine finally wrote to her father on the 27th May 1510 telling him that she had just miscarried, a blatant lie but understandable considering what she had been through. Rumours then began to circulate that Catherine was barren and that she would never conceive but Catherine proved these wrong. As she was writing to her father about the miscarriage, she was actually pregnant and on New Year’s Day 1511 Catherine gave birth to a son, Prince Henry. However, the celebrations were short-lived as the little prince lived just 52 days, dying on the 22nd February 1511.
- Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII, David Starkey,
- Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen, Giles Tremlett