I have recently been corresponding with Kyra Kramer, the American researcher whose work I discussed in my article “Should Henry VIII be Exhumed and Would it Provide the Answer to his Tyranny?”, and she very kindly offered to explain her theory to Anne Boleyn Files visitors in a two part post.
By the way, Kyra and Catrina never actually asked permission from the Queen to exhume Henry VIII’s body, that was simply the newspaper doing what newspapers do!
Over to Kyra…
Hi there! My name is Kyra Kramer, and I am one of the co-authors of the article “A new explanation for the reproductive woes and midlife decline of Henry VIII”, which Ms. Ridgway has discussed here on her blog and in her book. The theory put forth in the article is that Henry VIII had a Kell positive blood type, and then developed McLeod syndrome as a complication. Ms. Ridgway has graciously offered me the chance to explain more about the theory, which I was very pleased to accept. I thought it would be best to discuss the theory one part at a time, starting with the reasons why it seems likely that the Henry’s blood was Kell positive.
It has long been argued that Henry VIII legally murdered Anne Boleyn because she miscarried a male fetus in January of 1536. He certainly used his lack of male heirs as an excuse to annul his marriage to Katherina of Aragon (her name is usually spelled Katherine/Catherine, but she signed it Katherina). Henry had six wives and at least three mistresses, but he only had four acknowledged children who lived past infancy. He and Katherina also had one son who lived for almost two months, but all of the other pregnancies fathered by the King either ended in a late-term miscarriage or stillbirth.
This was, even during this time period, an abnormal reproductive pattern. According to the historical research of David Cressy, who wrote Birth, marriage, and death: ritual, religion, and the life-cycle in Tudor and Stuart England (1997), even though pregnancies only had a 50% chance of being carried to term (p. 47), if the pregnancy continued then only about 2% of newborns died in the first day and only 5% in the first week (p. 117).
If Henry had a Kell positive blood type then it would explain the odd reproductive pattern of his partners. A Kell positive man can cause serious problems for his reproductive partners after the first pregnancy, because a Kell negative mother’s body will develop a Kell alloimmunization — which means that her body would attack a Kell positive fetus as “foreign” and the result is fetal or neonatal death. This could have been what happened when women had multiple pregnancies with the King. At least three of his children who survived infancy were the first children born to their mothers — and would have therefore been completely unaffected by Kell alloimmunization. Even if the first baby had gotten the Kell gene from Henry, the mother’s body wouldn’t attack it. However, any fetus conceived after the first baby which inherited the Kell gene from Henry would have been killed by the mother’s antibodies.
Three of Henry’s children who lived past childhood — Henry Fitzroy, Elizabeth I, and Edward VI — would have been expectedto survive if Henry had a Kell positive blood type. The subsequent pregnancies his first two Queens lost (even if you agree that Anne had only one other pregnancy other than Elizabeth, she incontrovertibly miscarried the fetus) would have been unsuccessful because they had inherited the Kell gene.
Katherina, who was married to Henry for more than 20 years, was the woman who became pregnant by the King most often; she conceived more of his offspring than all of his other wives and mistresses combined.The first child Katherina lost was stillborn, probably for reasons other than Kell alloimmunization — as just one example, the labor was a long and difficult one, and the baby may have died from a lack of oxygen. After the tragic loss of their daughter, Henry and Katherina’s second child, the little boy known as the New Year’s Prince, survived his birth. He was almost undoubtedly a lucky Kell negative baby and was delivered healthy. Unfortunately he died at the end of February from one of the myriad things that killed infants during the Tudor era. The Queen then suffered repeated miscarriages until the birth of her only living daughter, Mary. If the theory about Henry having a Kell positive blood type is correct, then Mary would have been another one of the King’s children to have not gotten the Kell gene from her father and was thus able to be carried to a healthy full term. It is very reasonable and consistent with the theory that at least two of Katherina’s many pregnancies did not inherit the Kell gene from the King. The Queen then miscarried any pregnancies that were conceived after Mary’s birth.
To highlight the difference between Katherina’s reproductive record and one that is more common to the Tudor era, you need look no farther than Henry’s sister, Queen Margaret of Scotland. Margaret, like Katherina of Aragon, had six known pregnancies during her marriage to James IV, King of Scotland, and both women had only one child who lived to adulthood. However, the similarity ends there. Margaret’s first son died just after his first birthday. The second child, a daughter, died shortly after she was born, but the third child, a boy, lived for approximately six months. Margaret’s fourth child, a son, reached adulthood and became James V, King of Scotland. The fifth child, a second daughter, died shortly after her birth and Margaret’s final child, a son, died when he was eight months old. She had a second marriage that produced a surviving daughter, and her third marriage produced a daughter who died in infancy. As Margaret’s case exemplifies, even in an age of horrifyingly high child mortality, most women carried their pregnancies to term and their offspring lived at least long enough to be christened. In contrast, Katherina of Aragon lost the majority of her children from either spontaneous abortion or neonatal death.
Anne Boleyn’s first child with Henry was healthy, and would go on to rule england as Good Queen Bess. Anne may have had two more pregnancies after the birth of Elizabeth, but only one was confirmed for sure when she miscarried a son. Soon after her loss, her enemies convinced her husband to have her legally murdered, curtailing any further reproduction on her part. If Anne had lived long enough to have more pregnancies, who knows how many lucky Kell negative babies she would have carried to term. One? Two? Would she have had the same appalling bad luck as Katherina, and have had to have borne many Kell positive babies that she then had to watch die?
Henry infamously married Jane Seymour just a few days after Anne’s beheading, and his third Queen dutifully bore him his only legitimate son. She died soon after the birth of the heir, and Henry never impregnated a woman again.
Henry was known to have had multiple mistresses (although not as many as other monarchs of his time had; he was really quite prudish), but only one mistress is known for sure to have given him a baby: a son named Henry Fitzroy. Since Fitzroy was the only child Bessie Blount had with the King, the fact he was a healthy infant is very consistent with the theory. As for the children of Mary Boleyn, even if both of her children were Henry’s (which most prominent historians doubt) they would not disprove the theory. Mary’s daughter was the first born, and would be expected to be healthy even if she had gotten Henry’s Kell positive gene, and the survival of Mary’s son could be explained by the postulation that he had not inherited the Kell positive gene from the King.
In short, all of Henry’s surviving children, even the speculative ones, can be easily explained if the King had a Kell positive blood type, and the odd pattern of unsuccessful reproduction by his first two wives can be best explained by the same theory.
Blood Will Tell by Kyra Kramer
Kyra’s book on this theory, Blood Will Tell, is due to be released on 21 August 2012.
Here is the blurb:
With his tumultuous love life, relentless pursuit of a male heir, and drastic religious transformation, England’s King Henry VIII’s life sounds more like reality television than history. He was a man of fascinating contradictions — he pursued a woman he loved for almost a decade only to behead her less than four years after their marriage. He defended Catholicism so vigorously that he was honored as Defender of the Faith, but he went on to break with Rome and have himself declared Supreme Head of the Church of England. Worst of all, the King who began his reign praised as “hero” and “lover of justice and goodness” ended it having metamorphosed into such a monster that he was called the “English Nero.” What could have caused these incredible paradoxes? Could there be a simple medical explanation for the King’s descent into tyranny? Where do the answers lie?
Blood Will Tell.
I will be reviewing it and sharing news about its availability as soon as I can. People who go to Kyra’s Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/KyraCorneliusKramer?ref=hl – will be notified when the book is released.