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.

Related Post

83 thoughts on “Henry VIII, Kell Positive Blood Type and McLeod Syndrome: Part One – Guest Post by Kyra Kramer”
  1. hum i’m not convinced by the article. It states only 50% of pregnancies made it to full term but then later on says ‘most women carried their pregnancies to term and their offspring lived at least long enough to be christened’.
    It also seems to me it is argued he had this blood type whatever happened to the children, Katherine lost her first child due to other reasons, just to back up this theory by any chance? There are too many ifs and buts for my liking.
    There are many people in this day and age that require help due to unexplained miscarriage/infertility, I suspect Henry and his first two wives suffered the same problem. A good idea though and thanks for sharing

  2. Interesting, and sounds pretty convincing on the face of it, though of course unless you can actually dig up Henry VIII there’s no way to totally prove it. I’ve always been interested by the arguments that Anne and/or Catherine may have been Rh negative, but for them both to be affected by that would have been quite a coincidence, whereas a scenario with Henry being Kell-positive requires only one person to be affected. It certainly wouldn’t be the only time a random mutation wrenched history into an unexpected course — Queen Victoria’s status as a carrier of Hemophilia B being one that every student has heard about.

    1. Hello, I know this post is old, but I’ve recently stumbled on the henry is kell positive theory and as a lab technician and history lover, I wanted to add some speculation. I actually think it would be more likely that Katherine and anne could’ve been rh negative in terms of percentages. 15% of the population is rh negative. Rh ,or D is another antigen, but one that most commonly affects miscarriages. Kell is quite rare (I don’t remember the percentage offhand). There could be other reasons for Henry’s personality change as well. The posibilities are endless as to the causes for the difficulty in child bearing for those ladies, I think the rh is most likely, personally, but it is quite fun to speculate and hear everyone’s ideas.

      1. I agree Rh D positive.
        Also, the McLeod clinical features do not fit with recorded.
        Given Malaria and other maladies, and his injuries, could account for other health issues, even if secondary. Of course, awful unhealthy diet and lack of mobility compounds things.

      2. Your right Harry was likely positive blood and the women rh genitive.anne probably wasn’t and would of had more but guessing his best friend Charles Brandon fathered,not even sure if Katherine children was also Brandon,I was wondering if queen Elizabeth1 or Katherine of aragon have DNA results out there to seek,to confirm the rh factors.There is 5 generation of Brandons from king henery the 5th,and even his father was dealing with the Brandon’s.even listed as king generis best friend,2nd king and even played for his funeral.Is there any blood info on Hendry 8ths blood,and his parents.

        1. Spelling bad played for Charles funeral,and was king henery 8th best friend,the father son was mixed up with king henery,king Richard,Hendry 6th and 5,and maxamillion 1,and Charles father John and GF Robert.i find hard to believe DNA not there to prove all this I’m guessing even his son William and Charles who is illegitimate son and wrote about and mother unknown.i believe the Brandon family carries the rh factors negitive and could have tons of children,duke of Suffolk came to England as pirates and crooks but yet held seat and got pardon for even marrying the kings sister I’m thinking part of king Henry the 7th made deal with Brandon.yes let’s find them 200,000 dollars but pay his funeral even a royal burial with the family,crazy…I will say that almost all royal children in Tudor and langcastrien family was Brandon’s off spring even Neville and Grey and probaĺy bolts children too,the family came plundering in and in the end all taken away and left on ships to north America to take havoc on the women here.

  3. Interesting theory for sure. The fact is, in the Tudor era, a child was extremely lucky to make it full-term and into adulthood. Hygiene, personal care, and diets were so different then than now, it was a miracle when women even made it through giving birth. We’re talking about an era where when you were sick, a physician would “bleed” you, which could not have helped, and in many cases, definitely made it worse.

    I once read that Catherine/Katherine/Katherina would fast for religious purposes during her pregnancies. This would certainly not have been good for the developing baby.

    Claire, out of curiousity, do you know of any research (or perhaps it’s already on your extensive, wonderful site!) of Tudor women and their common practices during pregnancy. This would be an interesting read!

    I do find this article refreshing in that it puts Henry under the microscope, and not just his wives.


  4. Claire….this article fascinated me…!! I am one of those how are hoping that the present Queen will grant the right for King Henry VIII to be exhumed and a study to be done so we can maybe better understand Henry as a man. Actually I am confused as to why this has not been put into action by now. Maybe they do not want to damage any part of St. Georges Chapel in the progress although Henry is situated in a crypt below the chapel right. Could they maybe find something if they exhumed Henry Fitzroy, his son by Bessie Blount?? Maybe his DNA would bring something to the surface as to why Henry had these dangerous mood swings mostly directed at women but really at many around the court during his reign. This is so interesting and they study the Pharaohs of Egypt, why not the Kings and Queens of England….Hummmmm

    1. I’m thinking she won’t,not sure they share much well I guess a bit it did come back to queen of Scots so there’s a little but the Brandon’s got there too,with ancestry avaible it’s the last thing they want coming out I’m guessing king Richards line also Brandon riddled,I would like to think she would be okay if the royal family got bigger buy finding the blood line,I’ve never found out what blood type queen is but I’ve hears that less then 5 percent are rh negitive and all the women queen Elizabeth 1 Catherine of Aragon queen of york where all rh negitive in sure.

  5. I believe Henry was a diabetic.He had every sign of the condition, and remember he would have had uncontrolled diabetes with raging sugar highs. The leg ulcers that would not heal, the mood swings, the weight gain, all lead to this conclusion.It has nothing to do with his baby making abilities, but the would explain the impotence.

    1. I feel you are correct in your theory of Diabetes, tho’ I would suspect Type 2. As for fertility, issues, as someone who experienced this problem, I suspect an Rh problem, especially in Anne’s case, and probably, to some degree, with Catherine. I would really like to see Science being given a chance to solved these mysteries.

  6. Interesting theory, but I find this no more or less likely than other theories presented about Henry’s reproductive woes (syphilis, Rh +/-, etc). Until more comes to light that gives this theory more of a lead in the running, I can’t see buying/reading an entire book about the idea.

  7. Claire:
    Thank you for your remarkable site! DNA may one day prove significant to Tudor history. I do not think it’ll happen in our lifetimes! Literally, too many skeletons! Ha Ha!

  8. Interesting theory. I agree that some of the pregnancies cited do not seem to support the theory proposed, but that might be caused by the readers not understanding the exact genealogical chronology put forth–maybe a chart or some visual graph would explain it better.

    I’d love for Henry to be exhumed, although I do wonder if DNA would have deteriorated too much over time to address some of the health conditions put forth for his madness, such as syphilis or diabetes. Still, if they can get DNA from Ramses The Great, perhaps they could from Henry VIII–and then, maybe, that would address the Kell gene theory as well as the Rh factor theory.

    I’d read a book about this if it were well researched and well cited, backed by accurate historical facts laid out to coincide with the pregnancies in question.

  9. Claire, thank you very much for investigating this matter, I was pondering about it after the first mention on AB Files and I find it really intriguing. I will wait with further comments until I read Part 2.

  10. This does give you food for thought and is a great theory but I, like some of the others, am not completely convinced. I also agree and feel 100% confident that ol’ Hal had diabetes. The tyrannical personality in his later years, unhealing wounds on his legs and impotence are all symptoms of diabetes. I have also wondered if he was not a bit bipolar as well but there is no way of knowing that.

  11. It’s me, the author. I asked Claire, and she said it was fine for me to use this site to tell you all that many of the questions/concerns you have expressed in the comments are addressed in the book.

    Here are four, just as an example:

    1) The way pregnancy was addressed and how the 50% of pregnancies that made it into the third trimester were usually (not always of course!) going to deliver a baby that would live for a little while at the very least.
    2) Tudor midwifery practices.
    3) The astounding intricacies of Tudor medicine (they actually knew not to bleed pregnant women, children, or the very elderly, but they told you to wear light colors to help bring down a fever)
    4) Henry’s co-morbidity. Yes, he very likely had Type II diabetes, as well as osteomyelitis, among his health issues.

    It was, beyond contestation, a fascinating and remarkable period of English history.

    1. I was just wondering if you had any further information on the potential osteomyelitis in Henry VIII? As someone who has studied human remains, I find the topic of palaeopathology fascinating. I would also like your view on the theory that Henry had syphilis, although I don’t believe this was ever the case…

      1. There’s absolutely no evidence that Henry had syphillis. Sexually transmitted diseases were well known and already widespread by the 16th century. Furthermore, a King’s health was a matter of state – there was no question of keeping a health problem a secret. For example. Francis I of France DID have syphillis, and everyone knew it – his physicians, the court, foreign rulers and dignitaries. It’s well documented that Francis underwent mercury treatments, which were the only remedy for syphiliis at that time. As you can imagine, the side effects were worse than the disease; usually, the patient’s hair and teeth fell out – and it often wasn’t effective – it wasn’t for Francis. There is absolutely no record that Henry had been subjected to mercury treatements – we would know, just as we know about every other medical issue he had.
        Osteomyelitis would explain the chronic ulcerations and infections in his leg; if he suffered a fracture of the femur or tibia – let’s say, during a fall while jousting – and fragments of bone were leftin his flesh, they would be the perfect place for infection to develop – an infected bone fragment is called a sequestrum. These fragments would work their way to the surface, form an ulceration, and eventually burst, providing temporary relief. Of course, other pathologies could explain these symptoms as well – ucleration caused by circulatory problems as a result of diabetes would also cause this.

  12. Very interesting article–thank you! I wondered if there were statistics showing how many children of Kell + fathers did not get the gene and survived? That would be interesting to then compare the possibiilyt of Henry have, you thought 2 lucky one?

  13. A fascinating article. I don’t know enough about the Kell blood issue (or any other blood disease for that matter), but would this disease be hereditary? If so then presumably Henry VII would be a carrier, yet he had 4 surviving children with Elizabeth of York (as well as 3 who died young).

    Kyra – I think you might want to consider, or at least explain whether or not Kell is an hereditary disease.

  14. Interesting idea to ponder on about Henry VIII. It is true that he should have had more living children, but as interesting as this idea it will be hard to prove. But still it is as good an explanation as some others that have been given. It has been suggested that Anne Bolyen wa RH neg and while her first born Elizabeth was carried to full term, any further pregancies would not be carried to term. This theory about Henry himself being the cause is an interesting article; however, I don’t know, like others, if reading a whole book about it would keep a person’s interest. Yes, I read everything I can about the Tudors so I’ll probably give the book a read.

  15. It certainly sounds possible that Henry had a kell positive blood type, but there were more variations in the histories in childbirth of contemporary women than the article would suggest.

    For example, Anne of Brittany, Mary Tudor’s predecessor as Queen of France, had a far worse record than any of Henry’s wives. She became pregnant at least fourteen times by two husbands, but only two daughters lived to adulthood. She lost her eldest son to measles at the age of three, and her other children were stillborn, lost to miscarriages or lived no more than a few weeks.

    In contrast, Queen Katherine’s sister Juana of Castile, wife of the Archduke Philip of Habsburg, had six pregnancies and gave birth to a healthy child who lived to adulthood every time. Her other sister Maria, Queen of Portugal had ten children and only two died in childhood. Anna of Bohemia, who married Juana’s son Ferdinand, had no less than thirteen children who reached maturity out of a total of fifteen.

    The Habsburg males seem to have had much better genes than the Tudors – at least until they developed the habit of marrying very close relatives. This, and the positive obstetric histories of the sisters of Katherine of Aragon and of Mary Boleyn, certainly suggests that the reproductive problem lay with Henry rather than his wives.

  16. Kell is hereditary, and if Henry VIII it is most likely that he inherited it from his mother, Elizabeth of York. If a female is Kell positive, her body will NOT harm her fetuses, even if they are Kell negative, so you’ll never see a problem there. For the Kell positive men, most would have a recessive gene as well as the dominate Kell gene. You remember the Punnet squares from genetics? So that means that there was only a 25% chance for each baby to get the Kell positive gene. Henry and Katherina were just VERY unlucky that they lost the first baby (who would have been unaffected by Katherina’s antibodies) and the New Year’s Prince (healthy at birth but died at less then two months) and then for so many of her other pregnancies to get the Kell gene. Remember, just because there was only 25% chance doesn’t mean all, or none, of the pregnancies could have gotten the Kell gene. Its a bit like gender. It’s roughly 50/50 but there are plenty of families with 5 children who have either all girls or all boys. Anyway, if two or three of Henry’s and Katherina’s children would have lived to adulthood, or if the children who died passed away at <5 years instead < one day, then their reproduction would have looked like everyone else's in that time of high childhood mortality.

    The reason Kell kept passing down is because 1) female reproduction was unimpeded and 2) male reproduction could have easily been lucky. Think of it this way — if a Kell positive man and his wife only had two children out of six pregnancies to survive, he would still pass on his genes. Thus, Kell continues. They can treat it today, and it might not even come up for modern couples. If your first baby will always be fine (vis-vis Kell only, of course) and your second baby was 'lucky" and then you stop having children because you only wanted two … no one would ever know there had ever been a genetic possibility of trouble.

    I try to cover some of this in the book, but don't dwell for fear of putting readers who weren't genetics majors to sleep from boredom. I am thinking I do need to explain it more fully on my website, for those who are curious.

    1. Kell Antibodies can cause HDN, which is most likely the reason the babies died. Their livers could not deal with the destruction of their red blood cells by their mother’s antibodies. Back then they would not have had the ability to do an exchange transfusion, which would be the method used to treat the elevated bilirubins caused by HDN. But Kell is not the only antibody that can cause HDN. Besides, ABO incompatibility and Rh antibodies are more of a culprit than Kell antibodies. I am not sure how you can conclude that is is most likely Kell as opposed to any other HDN causing Antibody.

  17. I really think that there was something very wrong with the King and the getting of a son,to many different gene pools,The male detemens the sex,therefore I truley think this was genetic,and therefore we may never know,without dna.To late now. Let Henry rest in peace if he can?? THX Baroness

  18. Personally, I will stick with the Henry infected with syphilis theory which also explains the awful, early death of Edward. However it would be good to test the dna. Wasn’t Horrible Henry exhumed at some time? The skeleton still had copper red hair strands.

    1. I am curious to know where you read the theory that Henry had syphilis? From the research I have done the signs/ symptoms of the disease do not necessarily match up to Henry’s conditions.

      1. Dear Chelsea, Thank you for your interest. I saw the theory expounded on TV. I will do a bit more research later but I am a student and next week is Exam week.
        The main support is the ulcer on his leg which rendered bone splinters…

        1. Henry Viii did not have syphilis. The treatment for syphilis was until the 1960s, was a six weeks course of mercury. Henry would have to withdraw from public and there is no record of this. Everything he did was in public, every time he went to the loo, his product and urine were examined and a report made. Just how was he meant to hide syphilis?

          The theory was abandoned back in the 1930s when a brilliant doctor and historian Sir Frederick Chamberlain studied all of the records of Henry and his wives for clues about his health. The syphilis idea pops up every now and then on documentaries, normally by amateur television presenters who don’t know what they are talking about and they are usually corrected by historians like Robert Hutchinson who do. Henry had ulcers on his legs for two reasons, one being the tight garters he wore causing thrombosis and one being an unhealed sore deep in his thigh which ulcerated and never cleared from a jousting accident in 1527. A later accident in 1536 opened them up again and they were constantly infected. Half of the stuff he was treated wuth would have made them worse and they spread. If he had syphilis however they would have been everywhere and there is no record of that. There is no conclusive proof that he became sterile later in life either. Henry Viii and his wives did not have V.D end of story.

  19. Hi Claire,
    This seems very reasonable theroy and i have read it on many books about Anne Boelyn. I wish we could prove it and it would answer a lot. I wish Her Majesty would give permission to exhume Henry so it could be proven.

  20. This is another interesting theory, but frankly, I do not believe even if we had unanimous scientific proof of Henrys blood type will make any difference to history and how we percieve it. if it is actually true that the Queen has disagreed to have him exhumed, then I believe she is right to deny it. Firstly, she is herself the Head of the Church of England, and from what i understand, like Henry it is a job she takes very seriously, consider her objections to her sister marrying a divorcee, and even her uncle having to give up his throne to marry a divorcae. Secondly, even in Church of England terms, it is a sin to exhume the dead, or at least greatly frowned upon.
    I am constantly amazed that so many theorists discount the fact that Henry would have suffered severe mental illness, possibly bi polar, maybe even paranoid schizophrenia, and all of the drugs and potions he would have been taking, the fact that people drank small ale and wine instead of water also leads one to believe that he may have been medicating his moods with drink (which is a very common thing even these days) without anyone even noticing or caring.
    As for his wives constant inability to bare children, from my own experiences with miscarriages, I can see 2 large factors involved, severe stress, and do not discount this as a cause of miscarriage, it is as much a killer as anything else, and hysterical pregnancy. Anne miscarried around the same time as Kathryns funeral, and perhaps Katherine did have some gyno problems that led her to lose babies, she was recorded to be “plagued with gynocaelogical problems” by the time Henry met anne.
    As far as hysterical pregnancy is concerned, and I have experienced it myself, the womans body starts to display the clear signs of pregnancy, and it can happen over many months, the belly seems to grow, the breasts become heavy and achy, it is almost impossible for the woman to accept that she is not infact pregnancy without clear proof, ie an ultrasound, and for Anne or Kathryn to have had all that pressure to create an heir, it would not be suprising that they would have honestly believed they were pregnant. I know there is much evidence that Kathryn miscarried many feotuses, but if they were very early, it is sometimes very hard to tell if it is just a very late period. I also know that the last pregnancy Anne had was the feotus of a four month old boy, but I have read elsewhere that she was also believed in records to have had at least 2 other failed pregnancies before this.
    I am by no means an expert on Henry or Tudor England, but I am an expert on failed pregnancies and this theory makes sense to me, but it is just that, an uneducated theory.
    I found the article quite interesting, and I dont mean to discount it, but as someone else said, I dont think I could read an entire book on the subject, that being said, I certainly wouldnt do research on my own theories and expect to write a book and have it stick. So good on her for taking a chance and following her trail.

    1. Hog Wash! He was a psychotic evil man. The Plantagenets should have stayed on the throne. This sickly Tudor got what he deserved.

  21. BTW i am myself Rhesus Negative, and had to have injections with my first child so I would not build up antibodies and attack subsequent babies, I dont entirely understand the concept of Kell negative, so look forward to reading part 2. I am given to understand that Rhesus negative used to be very rare, especially O negative, which is my own blood type, but it has become less rare due to increasing blood donors. I know that it is hereditary, but also that that doesnt mean any of my children or their children will have it, blood type is not directly translated, that being said my grandma is o negative also. Theres no doubt that there were many heriditary diseases in the european royal families, due to inbreeding. The hapsburg lip and the heamophililia are a couple of good examples. Cant wait to read on Kyra…

  22. I have read about this theory before and its very interesting, and quite different to any other put forward, but I’m not convinced. There is probably a good chance there was a genectic fault, as there must be more to it than sheer bad luck considering he had 6 wives, and mistresses, or it could have been, as many think, that he had diabetes, maybe from birth or a young age, and it got progessively worse as he got older.
    From what I have read ,Diabetes in a man lowers fertility because of malformed and dead sperm, therefore has less chance of impregnanting his partner, rectograde ejaculation ( the sperm not going the normal way but backs up into the bladder) and worse still can cause serious DNA damage to the sperm which can inhibit a pregnancy, live birth, and even healthy normal fetus. There is erectile dysfunction, though when he does manage to impregnate a woman there are higher chances of miscarriage and deformity, (Anne?).
    If any of his wives were diabetic, which they may have been, there are many high risk problems here too. Baby being too large, (Jane? she had a long and difficult labour), therefore increased risk of infection. Higher risk of miscarriage, babies also being too small as well as large, risk of premature birth, babies having respiratory problems/distress, heart problems, bleeding in the brain, intestinal and eating problems, fighting infection and keeping warm, to name but a few, (K of A?),. I would imagine that if both parents had this medical condition, that the risks to babies would be even higher.
    Lastly, women who have diabetes and give birth to larger babies, these babies are more likely to become obese and develop type 2 diabetes later in life…was Henry a ‘large baby’?, did his mother Elizabeth have diabetes?…just a thought

    1. Hmmm, the problem here is the very important distinction between Type 1 and 2 diabetes. Despite their similar consequences in the body (though often worse for Type 1), the diseases are caused by very different factors and require different treatment quite often. I’m not sure what type you’re referring to, but at least in parts it is clear you are referring to Type 1. Henry couldn’t have had Type 1 diabetes but Type 2. Type 1 manifests itself usually in the teens and sometimes in the earlier to mid twenties, and the result in the 16th century would have been a relatively swift death at a young age.

      However, it is likely he would have developed Type 2 later in life given his lifestyle choices and resultant enormous bulk. At the least he would have been in the ‘danger zone’ of developing it. Death from it is possible of course, but an alteration in diet and lifestyle would have improved symptoms and if altered early enough the disease can be reversed.

      It is only Type 1 that could possibly be ‘passed down’. Type 2 may have an underlying genetic risk factor but lifestyle in mid life would trigger it.

      1. I agree. It would have had to be Type 2 diabetes. Age 40 is often when it rears it’s ugly head, and that would have been just about right for Henry knowing what we do know about this health, mood changes and reproductive troubles.

        1. Sorry yes it was type 2 I was referring to, and I don’t know all the ins and outs of it by a long way, only what I have read, might be wrong here but…it can run in families, and chances are high if it is in ‘the genes’, Prediabetes, it may not be apparent at a young age, but the effects on fertility could be I suppose. Not everyone is over weight for it to be there, Henry was very active before his falls, and although the average age on on set is around 40-45 now, it may have been earlier in those days considering 45 was the expected life span then, considering KofA failed pregnancies, still biths etc it seems the problems were from the start of married life, Henry was 17/18 yrs old, unless of course she had diabetes too! but it’s all guess work, and its great to hear other peoples ideas.

        1. just in agreement with your statement. I am not a diagnosed type 2 diabetic, but had symptoms that started in my late 40’s. I have an autoimmune disorder that has created it the disease. However, I remain “non-diabetic” as long as I eat gluten free. This type of diet, subsequently causes low blood sugar episodes due to the lack of carbs in my diet. (thus potatoes, rice and rice products, certain lentils, etc)
          This auto-immune disorder also causes me to have low iron and oxygen stores, being the underlying cause of many of my ailments, including diabetic type symptoms. I do not take any diabetic medications. Type 2 is hereditary in my family….I sometimes wonder if I don’t share the same father? lol. That’s another can of worms. (out of a whole family of brown eyes, I’m the only one with hazel eyes too)

  23. I have always suspected King Henry to be the “culprit” in the whole reproductive debacle his wives went through. I would like to have the blame laid on him for this, because he treated his wives so awfully and was the poster-child of an abusive husband! (I don’t care if women were their fathers and later their husbands property! He was cruel!)

    On the other hand: if you consider that only 50% of all pregnancies made it to the third trimester and to live births in Tudor times and of those 50% that resulted in a live birth 25% of the babies died before their first birthday and another 50% died before their tenth.
    Queen Katharine’s six pregnancies resulted in four live babies, three of whom died before their first birthday (two Henry, Duke of Cornwall, one of whom was born prematurely and died soon after birth, and an unnamed daughter that died within a week of her birth) and one (Mary) making it through to adulthood, plus two still births. (yes, in no particular order)

    When one takes the numbers into consideration, it is starting to look rather normal for Tudor times, albeit not making it any less tragic for the parents!!!!!
    Could it have been only Henry obsessing over it as he did, because he wanted a son so badly, that made it all the worse? His constant complaining and his using this as an excuse for his divorces and annulments, that put the spotlight on his wives and their pregnancies?

    1. Bridgett. I agree with you whatever the problem was it came from Henry VIII. Since he was the king a spotlight will always be on his life and his wives and mistresses. I do wish they would exhume all of the British royals and analysis DNA. This is done with other people royal or not, British royals shouldn’t be exempt.

  24. I too prefer the syphilis theory. Nothing else explains those large ‘blocks’ in the family tree of a succession of people failing to make it to adulthood. Syphilis also explains KOA’s higher number of miscarriages, as well as explaining why so many of the children born to KOA were weak and failed to live long. It also could possibly explain why Mary suffered ill health from childhood, though obviously it was effected by stress and later the illness that killed her. It’s possible she wasn’t effected at all by congenital syphilis.

    It is possible that Henry gave KOA syphilis at some point, and like most sufferers, the disease worked its way out of both their systems, leaving a succession of miscarried and stillborn and weak young dying infants in its wake. In this case, you would expect the LATER children to be more likely to thrive, which we see with Mary, the second to last child born. I theorise that for the infant conceived after Mary one of two things happened; either a mistress reinfected Henry and thus reinfected KOA, or the very last pregnancy was simple bad luck, and we would expect children born after one survives to also survive.

    By the time Anne’s pregnancies come along much later, the disease had most likely worked its way out of Henry’s system. I theorise that after Elizabeth’s birth Henry was reinfected by a mistress – which we know he had around this time – and Anne’s later pregnancies failed as she too became infected. You must understand that for many people, syphilis didn’t mean huge blisters and going mad. Many were blissfully unaware and did not suffer greatly. Alternatively, as I really suspect, stress contributed to her miscarriages and syphilis may not have been a factor at all.

    We also must remember that the sexual partner doesn’t necessarily become infected. We just don’t know. It is entirely possible that Blount and Seymour were not infected and thus not troubled with their pregnancies, and it is also possible Henry no longer was infectious at these stages. But the disease can lie dormant, waiting…

    And we all know what syphilis can do to a mind even decades after infection. It certainly explains his change in behaviour. But again, so does a head injury. I’m not sure of any of this but I do strongly suspect syphilis played some sort of role here somewhere. It was after all, the new age of the disease just after it was first described so. It was becoming rampant and there was little understanding of it. It has long been lore that Henry was a syphilitic King, and sometimes where there’s smoke there IS fire. Syphilis is too complicated a disease to be ruled out in any case.

    1. Modern historians have largely ruled out the possibility that Henry had syphilis, which writers in the nineteenth century suggested.

      The main reason for this is that we have quite extensive medical records about the various treatments he received throughout his life, and there is no mention of mercury, which was the standard remedy for the disease at the time. In addition, there were no contemporary rumours that Henry had syphilis, which there surely would have been if he had suffered from it, as there were with Francis I of France.

      Dawn’s suggestion of diabetes certainly sounds more plausible. Whatever the cause, Henry’s record of fathering children was markedly poorer than that of contemporary rulers, despite the fact that he had so many wives. It strongly suggests that he, rather than his queens, was the problem, despite his efforts to shift the blame!

      1. Yes, Jillian, don’t worry I am aware of the lack of mercury use in H8’s medical records. I’ve given this much thought and wouldn’t miss such a piece of evidence. That there was no mention of mercury does not mean Henry didn’t have syphilis! All it means is that there is no record of him being on mercury. It is incorrect to conclude from that that syphilis can be ruled out, when really a proper researcher can ONLY deduce from that that is if Henry did receive mercury, there is no record of it. I hope you understand what I mean; to rule out syphilis based on that would be erroneous and only a poor researcher would conclude so. It doesn’t prove Henry didnt have syphilis, but is simply a circumstantial piece of evidence that does fairly denounce the ‘syphilitic King’ myth. To claim Henry was definitely syphilitic is wrong, as is to conclude he definitely wasn’t. We just don’t know.

        As I said, it is an incredibly complex disease, and even experts on it (and there’s few given its lack of relevance in our post-penicillin age!) still have ifs, maybes and possibly’s dotted through their research. The fact is the disease had largely become rare and irrelevant by the time our medical profession had become really modern and amazing. Ethics boards of course mean that extensive research into the latter stages of the disease are almost impossible. I believe there were some highly unethical disgraceful experiments undertaken on minorities in the US in the 50’s and 60’s in which people were unknowingly deliberately infected with the disease and studied and not treated so the mysterious latter stages could be observed as what we have is mostly medieval level doctors attempting to understand the disease in historical archives. That experiment demonstrates the desperation that researchers had toward the illness, and the lack of understanding we had of it in the modern era too.

        The thing is, it doesn’t matter that Henry was never treated as such, because as I said, in many cases, people remained blissfully unaware of the disease. They might get some mild symptoms and the (painless apparently) genital chancre, but for many sufferers that was it! It is entirely possible that these symptoms either a) went unnoticed by Henry or b) were deemed unimportant by Henry and/or his physicians or c) Henry noticed the symptoms and was embarrassed and unaware of the seriousness and forgot it when that was it and he got better, and even possibly d) Henry’s doctors misdiagnosed the disease and treated it otherwise. The latter possibility is certainly plausible! Truth is that people in those times generally had a better chance of survival if they avoided doctors altogether; doctors were really playing a terrible guessing game and probably only rarely diagnosed a condition correctly! Even if they managed such, their treatment would 9 times out of 10 make the condition even worse! If lucky the patient would escape without too much harm done!

        To reiterate the complexity of syphilis, I must stress that the disease has exhibited an amazing ability to ‘work its way out of the system’ somehow. We know this because people often got over one bout and went on to be infected twice, thrice! I also must add that one can be a virgin and have the disease. Congenital syphilis was an enormous problem and as I said, left many families with these ’empty gaping holes’ in their family trees. Genealogists, when they see that pattern, immediately look to syphilis as a possible culprit. I also need add that it may not be the case that Columbus’ ship brought the disease to Europe. It’s possible the disease existed before that period in Europe, which opens up the possibility of our principal players having congenital syphilis (I had previously ruled this out based on the Columbus theory and the birthdates of KOA and Henry).

        And of course, this (to my best knowledge) can probably never be proven either way satisfactorily. I just offer it up as an interesting possibility, a theory. I’m no doctor, nor expert on the disease, but to my best current knowledge there is nothing that can fully RULE OUT this hypothesis. I do appreciate getting new info on it, and hearing feedback, so thanks for replying!

        1. That is very interesting, Tania.

          However, when I said that modern historians had ‘largely ruled out’ the possibility that Henry suffered from syphilis’, I meant that they considered it very unlikely, not that it was completely impossible.

          A number of modern writers have looked at this question, often in conjunction with medical experts – there was a documentary with Lucy Worsley, Robert Hutchinson and Dr. Catherine Hood a few years ago. The lack of mercury treatment is a significant factor, although it is possible as you said that no-one realised that Henry had the disease. However, sixteenth century doctors did have some knowledge and experience of the illness and one would have thought that they would have tried mercury had they even suspected it.

          In addition, the most common form that syphilis took in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries involved the appearance of the characteristic pustules, so that it was often obvious to observers if a person suffered from it. It was even said in Rome that the citizens could tell at a glance which cardinals were celibate!

          There also seems to have been little stigma attached to syphilis at the time, in contrast to later centuries. The Emperor Maximilian cheerfully admitted to have contracted it in Italy, although he also claimed to have been cured by praying at a German shrine. There would not appear to be any motive for Henry to be embarrassed or secretive if he had himself suspected that he had syphilis, particularly as he was health-conscious to the point of hypochondria and keen to try different remedies. And, as I said before, there were no contrary rumours that Henry was syphilitic.

          It is an interesting question and a possibility worth examining. However, on the weight of evidence, it would seem more likely that Henry’s difficulties were caused by diabetes, kell positive blood, or some other disorder unknown to the doctors of the time rather than syphilis.

      2. Also, I too agree that Henry had Type II diabetes. You see, theorizing that he had one particular disease does not mean that I must also be denouncing other theories. In fact, I think it most likely he had co-morbidity of some kind. The theory this article is on is interesting to me and seems certainly possible. When you think about how the diseases work, all three in discussion (Kell positivity, syphilis and diabetes) are not mutually exclusive. Even if we managed to prove one disease, the possibility he had the others is no less! It is practically a given that he would have suffered for his diet and lack of activity later in life. If he didn’t have type 2 diabetes, he is one LUCKY man! The Kell positive theory is interesting and entirely plausible. And that theory has no impact on the theory he suffered from syphilis. Although it would be poor luck, it is possible he had all three.

        Regarding the tyrannical behaviour change I think it probably was a result of a number of factors. We will never know which one was the main culprit but my goodness we have NO shortage of explanations; major head injury, syphilis, McLeod disease, diabetes, irritability from general pain and frustration, and other unspecified mental illness too. Any of these things or all, could explain it. Just one – the chronic pain – alone, is enough to do it. For anyone that lives with chronic long term pain like myself (in my twenties had major chronic back and head pain for 6 years now) we understand. Aside from the physical pain, the hardest thing to deal with is how aware you are of your own irritability and occasional curtness. It’s very difficult for people in pain to see themselves lash out over small things, I cope with this by avoiding social contact when I am in a bad state physically (or addressing it with medication to lessen the pain temporarily), but for a king being alone and quiet was close to impossible. I sometimes even feel sorry for the old tyrant when I imagine those long years of terrible pain and suffering with no modern fixes and medications. It must have been unspeakably awful at times :(. I’m not excusing it, but explaining it.

        1. Of course all this is right, nothing can be ruled out about Henry’s health physically and mentally unless tests are done on his remains, with a good probability he would have more than one condition. I completely agree with Tania that the man must have been in constant, excruciating pain for the last part of his life, and yes I can empathise and feel sorry for him in that respect too

          I tend to go with the modern historians, and Jillian though, that Henry having syphilis is unlikely, but then again not impossible, edging all my bets here girls, lol , :)….but what I would like to add is that now modern historians also question the idea that Henry was as promiscuous and debauched as has been made out to be over the centuries. I found the books written by Kelly Hart, and Philippa Jones very interesting on this subject, although he was no ‘Angel’ he certainly doesn’t appear to be the ‘Lothario’ of legend, or as bad as those around him, and it does seem, to me anyway, that all the ladies he bedded were, shall I say, of good social standing, ladies that probably did not ‘sleep around’ unless a King was involved. To put himself at risk of contacting syphilis when he was so health conscious, and studied medicine as an interest, seems contradictory to his own self interest and preservation, he seemed to enjoy the game of courtly love and the chase more, but this is just a theory of mine…but yet again I doubt we will ever know, and Henry was a man with many sides to him.

        2. Although Henry’s behaviour certainly became more tyrannical as his reign progressed, I don’t think that his his personality changed drastically.

          Although he was generally viewed as a ‘golden prince’, he showed signs of what was to come early in his reign. He executed his father’s chief counsellors, Empson and Dudley to mark a new beginning, not because they had actually done anything illegal. And his reasons for beheading Buckingham a few years later were largely specious. I believe that the strongest element was probably his growing realisation of how much power he could wield – and how much he could get away with. And years of sycophantic courtiers treating him like a god must have fed his already considerable ego and convinced him of the rightness of his actions!

          I have no doubt that chronic pain, and his frustration at his inability to take part in the sports he had so enjoyed in his youth were also a major factor as Henry grew increasingly brutal and dictatorial. But the seeds were already there

    2. Henry Viii didn’t have syphilis! What is wrong with people? The evidence has been presented on this site and other sites and this was debunked before 1935. It only arose in the 1880s to begin with.

      There is no evidence Henry Viii had syphilis and for people to still believe this in the face of clear evidence is ridiculous.

  25. Love it, love it, love it. What a great collection of responses to a very thought-provoking article – and chances are very good that I’ll get myself a copy of this book. It will make for wonderful winter reading, by the blazing fire in the wood stove!

  26. my thoughts on henrys crazy behaviour later in his life are this ,he was in a lot of discomfort ,he was getting older by tudor standards,he was very disappointed in katherine and anne and his lack of male issue,all this together would have been intolerable for him ,and possibly he went through a mid life crisis as he realised he wasnot the young handsome henry anymore ,all this and anne surrounded by YOUNG FIT MEN

    1. possibly to maybe it was not his fault the failed pregnancys stillbirths and so on ,katherine and anne might just both have been unlucky at producing children ,henry did have chilren that survived and i would not say that because henry fitzroy or edward died young that this was anything at all to do with henry anything in tudor period could kill a person ie no antibiotics ,just a sign of the times ,no one know what anyone had back then, maybe anne boleyn had congenital syphilis passed on by her father,crazy notions i know but no one knows for sure

    2. Margaret you spoke my mind. Henry was not the only king that had killed and acted as he did. The only difference is he beheaded his own wives. But there were other kings in other countries at that time with more mistresses and more murders on their hands. The fact that Katherine’s sisters had more live babies can be just that they were in different countries with different practices and different life styles. Also who is to say some of his children like the boy that lived for 2 months were not smothered and murdered by someone who was trusted but held grudge against Henry and Tudors all together? Women drank wine instead of water what effect alcohol had on this poor fetuses on top of the hygiene issues and all other issues of that time. The fact is we don’t know the whole story and we may never know.

  27. Its fascinating to debate all the theories, but one thing still hasnt been mentioned which is the real case. Either way, whether he had any sort of problem or not, ultimately it was in God’s hands. I do not say that lightly. I have had 6 miscarriages myself, 4 of them between Sept 2011 and March 2012, so this is not something i would ever say “in passing”. But it was in the hands of God. And because of that we had the Reformation and Queen Elizabeth I. If there had been any other sons or daughters who survived into adulthood we would not have had one of the greatest and most influential Queens in British history, and i absolutely believe that was Gods will.

  28. This is a very interesting article and I am looking forward to this book coming out!

    I am now to curious to know rather or not my Grandfather’s brother from my Mother’s side of the family may have been Kell positve or not? He and his wife would have had a total of eight children but they all barely made it to full term and as far as I know only one of them was stillborn and one of them that made it to full term was a boy and he seemed to be born healthy according to the doctors but he died shortly after his birth.

    My Mother has a ton of family records dating back to Kilkenny castle on her side of the family “the Butler’s ” about some of the births that took place in the family and there are a lot of them that has had a similar issue as I have stated above.

    It could have something to do with “kell” or something entirely different but none the less this article is a great read and has me wanting to find out even more information now.

    Thanks for the article Kyra!

  29. I am not convinced by the article. Or by any of the syphilis theories. It feels like the facts are being molded to fit the theories as opposed to the facts creating the theories…..if that makes sense. Diabetes is the most probable cause of Henry’s condition later in life and I really dont think the number of failed pregnancies among his wives were really that rare during that period. I agree that Henry’s obsession with a son has trickled down 500 years so that now we are looking for “answers” to a common problem. When you hear holves you think horses not zebras. That is how most doctors think. I am more inclined to believe the theories that support the women having Rh – blood types. Not all of them of course but some. Also, why does there have to be a mental condition to Henry’s behavior. I also agree with the previous commentor who said the seed to Henry’s behavior was already planted very early in life. Raised to be in the church he was bound to have very strict religious beliefs. Combine that with becomming King, ordained by God, and the pot starts to stir with his “Supreme Head of Church” doctrine. I think mental illness is thrown around too loosely these days. I see children all the time who are like 4yrs old in the ER on ADHD meds becuase “they come home and want to run around all the time”….no kidding…their 4. Suspecting a mental illness takes all responsibility away from the individual and the individuals upbringing. Henry turned out exactly as he was going to under his circumstances.

    1. Yes, I can understand where you’re coming from. He certainly was never an angel in earlier life, but he was obviously considered a superior young king and charmed his subjects for the first 20 years of his reign. His behaviour during that period is tyrannical by today’s standard, but it was normal king behaviour at the time, or even slightly liberal, considering his much loved status. By contrast, from 1536 til death, his behaviour was considered rather tyrannical even for the time period. I think that’s the difference. The sudden turn around on Anne; could you see yourself turning from love to hate for someone you had been head over heels for, in just a few short months? It doesn’t make sense. Even in those very different times, where life was cheap and death was everyone’s long term courtier, many people who disliked Anne personally looked at what the king was doing in 1536 and thought ‘This is bad’. That’s exceptional I think. There was the occasional Buckingham before the 1530’s but the mid 30’s onwards brought the deaths of many of his former closest friends and allies. It must have gotten to the point where new favourites quaked in their shoes when small things went awry, and certainly Anne of Cleve’s and Katheryn Parr were aware of the danger they were in and trod extra carefully. If you think about it, if just a few things had gone differently there could have been four wife executions quite easily. Add to that the possibility that if KOA wasn’t a Spanish royal she too might have climbed the scaffold, and the fact that probably the reason Jane S was Henry’s true love and not his headless wife was simply she died before she had grown tiresome to him!
      I think that even his contemporaries thought poorly of him shows that there was something off there in his later reign. Add to that the remorse he had for More and Cromwell’s deaths. If true that shows he must have been in some sort of internal struggle. One part of him reacted in pure fury without reason, then the old Henry occasionally flickered back on and reasonably questioned his ruthless response.
      I do think it a combination of factors since it cannot be just the head wound, given More et al’s deaths pre dating that, as well as the poor treatment to the point of evil of KOA.

      1. Ok so he had maybe an anger mangement problem. He acted upon reaction and then when he could sit down and think about what he did post execution he could think to himself “hmm perhaps I acted abit irrational” then he starts to miss who he just sent to the scaffold. I dont really want to play with the “what if jane didnt die/ what if KOA wasnt a royal from spain” becuase its history so the past cant be altered and so many “what if’s” is again molding a theory to the facts instead of the facts creating a theory. Also yes. At times when I have been in very unstable relationships where insecurities and anxiety and desperation abound it does seem like one day I am the love of someones life and the next I am some demon who was put upon this earth to torture them. That is due to basic psych 101 that if a man uses a woman (or vs versa) for their own self worth/affirmation and the woman “does something” percieved as being against the man he will probably turn on her becuase what she is doing is being interpreted by him as his own short cummings…or she “confirms” his own doubts/insecurities that he already has within himself. The fact is both KOA and Anne promised to give Henry a son and they didnt. That is what Henry NEEDED to feel like a good king. A superior king. Both of them “failed” making him look weak, impotent, and cconfirming all the whispers that he and his lineage were usurpers and not proper for the thrown. “If jane hadnt died” Jane in my opinon would never have been set aside. She fulfilled her duty as a woman and gave him a male heir. Would he have taken another mistress? Most likely but he would have kept her as queen and wife until they died. Henry’s behavior just does not seem that erratic to me. Maybe ive been exposed to too many insecure volitile men in my life but I will always believe that nurture can trump nature (not always) and being raised to be in the church never expected to king then being hit with that responsibility that im sure at some point in his head turned into entitlement. And I feel with the overbearing grandmother running the household and scources that ive read that said Henry was enthrall of his own mother you begin also to nourish that “mommas boy” stereotype where he is raised pampered then becomes king with MORE pampering and then we are all shocked when he violently reacts to not getting what he wants? For me Henry’s issues are mostly enviornment.

  30. All these theories and suppositions are fascinating. I will certainly read the book which will, I’m sure, go more deeply into the whole matter of whether Henry was Kell positive. My own thoughts on the failure to produce live children are fairly simplistic and unscientific. I feel that the only wife we can really take into account is Katherine of Aragon who was married to Henry for more than twenty years. Anne was only Henry’s wife for three years and in that time gave birth to a healthy girl. Who knows if things had been different how many children she would have gone on to bring to term. Jane Seymour gave birth to a son in express time, and Henry was not married to Anne of Cleaves or Catherine Howard for very long. I am sure Henry’s advancing years, in Tudor terms, and ill-health would have ruled out further children with Catherine Parr.

    As for Katherine of Aragon’s bad luck, surely this could have been one of those things. My own mother in the 1930s had 2 stillbirths, 1 miscarriage and another child died at 4 years with a burst appendix. Out of 5 pregnancies, I was the only one who survived. How much more dangerous would childbirth have been in the 16th century when one considers that even in the first half of the 20th century many mothers suffered the same loss as my own.

  31. Yes I agree that Henry’s personality had a ‘temper’, as we all have somewhere inside, some not as bad and some not as quick. As a young man and King, where he was seen as near perfect as one could get, and treated accordingly by everyone around him, he had been put on a pedestal and was used to it all his own way, so I imagine that the sheer fustration of not being able to produce a nursery full of ‘strapping lads’ to carry on the family name must have been tremendous, nagging at him all the time, even the most lowly of his subjects managed to reproduce sucessfully, though this is by no means an excuse to go rampaging through his kingdom like the Grim Reaper. But if you add this to all the head/other injuries sustained by his sporting and hunting activities, the illnesses that he seemed to be developing for one reason or another, constant pain, and even more frustration in the fact he couldn’t participate in his favourite past-times, even dancing, there is no wonder a serious personality disorder started to immerge at its worst. He must have sank into severe depression at times, the ‘Black moods’, all these things take toll on ones mental state, where the irrational becomes the norm, even more devastating to those around when the problem lies with an Absolute Monarch. Modern medicine has come on leaps and bounds about the understanding of the human mind and its illnesses, to the fact that, as Chelsea says, that the term mental illness can be used and applied all too often, at times, as excuses for ‘bad/inappropiate behaviour’ etc, but in Henry’s case I am one of those that think that he did developed a mental illness or personality disorder, which ever you want to call it, not through one thing, but many. It’s hard to say if he would have been come the Monster he did in later life if he had managed to have his sons, I like to think not, as life and fate would have run differently. One small thing in a life can change so much, I think many of us could vouch for that….

  32. What a great debate evoked by a great and groundbreaking article. The thought out responses just show me sadly how very little I know about all of the intricacies of henry and his reign. I think I all but too often put down my theories forgetting how little I know and the limitations of my research.

    There are two things I have been considering however as reasoning for the kings fertility issues. The word impotence keeps popping into my head. It seems obvious to me that Henry suffered greatly from erectile disfunction. I think there is evidence for this with AB and certainly with AOC. It is a frustrating ailment, and even now, one can tell by the myriads of junkmail in our inboxes offering cheap viagra that there is still a great deal of it going on without medical reasoning. Drinking alchohol for one makes it hard (pardon the pun) to acheive an erection or the end result never occurs. It would have been frustrating for henrys partners if this is so, he kept demanding his wives to become pregnant yet if he was unable to do the deed or finish the deed then there would have been little his ladies could do about it. It is a frustrating and embarrassing condition at best.

    Another thing i have been toying with is the results of inbreeding. As everyone would be aware, there was a considerable (and still is!) amount of inbreeding not just within the european royal family but also the english nobility, which as many may know is a sure fire way for infertility and birth deformations to occur. Consider heamophellia and the Hapsburg lip. I grew up in a tiny rural farming community in Australia, and there was at that time, a whole generation of inhabitants whom had to adopt children as they were unable to concieve due to the intermarrying of people within the district. It seems a little implausible, but when you take into account how isolated towns in australia are, and the fact that the generation I speak of had little contact even with those in the next shire (which would be more than 50 klms away) and the fact that all of the inhabitants had come out on the same boat in the same family from germany only 120 years ago, its a clear indication of how quickly and effectively infertillity is acheived by not adding to the pot.

    Obviously my inexperience and lack of knowledge indicates that this is just an idea of mine and probably holds no grounding as everyone else in this debate has shown their great awareness of the finer details of the subject, I just thought i would put it out there.

    Thanks to everyone for being so polite and receptive in their comments, and thanks to Kyra for the great article, it has been a great jumping off point 🙂

  33. okay but Elizabeth 1 was Anne Boyle second pregnancy by the king so wouldn’t she have birthed the first one and miss carried Elizabeth 1

  34. This is one of the most interesting theories regarding Henry VIII that has come along in quite some time. I am very excited about this new take on Henry’s unfortunate ailments, both physical and mental.

    I have never entertained the idea that Henry had syphilis. Symptoms notwithstanding, there are no records that indicate he had been treated with mercury, the standard of the time for dealing with syphilis. (Unlike Charles II, who many now believe actually died from overdosing with mercury due to his syphilitic condition.)

    To me, it’s almost a given that Henry would have developed diabetes Type 2. With his huge girth, to say nothing of his eating habits, it would have been only a matter of time before his body would have been unable to cope with his physical demands. The non-healing of his leg wound must have at least been due partly to having diabetes.

    Just my two cents, but having seen quite a few theories come and go, I have to give the Kell perspective a thumbs up as far as validity is concerned. So many of the facts certainly do seem to support the premise quite well.

    1. contrary to belief, type 2 diabetes, excessive weight gain ‘and’ weight loss is a “symptom” NOT the cause. However, weight can complicate the disease and it’s treatment to stabilize the body’s natural ability to process sugar. (which our brain, for instance, needs sugar to function properly: lack of sugar, affect memory, mood, and thinking processes).
      Besides this, diabetes can be a symptom of an underlying condition or disease.(besides being genetically hereditary)

  35. It’s impossible to tell without exhuming the body and doing a DNA test on the teeth. Which is probably a step too far for the Royal Family.

    Many of the problems, in particular heart disease and reproductive difficulties experienced by Henry and his wives can also be explained as chronic arsenic poisoning. Tudor women, especially those with a darker complexion (e.g. Anne Boleyn and probably also Catherine and Mary) used an arsenical mixture to whiten the skin. Some would inevitably be absorbed. Result: miscarriage, low birth weight, death shortly after birth.

    And it wasn’t just the women – Henry was terrified of being struck down by the ‘sweating sickness’, a still-unexplained disease which in his view, mainly affected men. He mixed up a medicinal compound in which arsenic featured heavily and smeared it onto his own skin. Maybe it did stave off sweating sickness, but it is known to cause male infertility.

    Arsenic is cleared quite efficiently from the body, but the damage it does is permanent. But long after exposure has ceased, significant amounts remain in the teeth. I don’t suppose the Queen would part with one of the old monster’s teeth…

  36. I forgot also to mention that arsenic can also be a factor in mental illness. It is a common problem in parts of Bangladesh where arsenic is found in the groundwater, and George III was found to have very high levels of arsenic

    1. Rhodri,I diagree with your theory on arsenic, as back in those day’s the people did not drink the water,as there were parasites in all the water.The drinks of choice were wine and beer ,drink the water back then you would most likley ,die from geardia or disentary.They new very well what the out come of water would do to one,hence the dawn of beer and wine.Queens would have wet nurses to feed the babies as they did consume alot of wine and beer ,aille?But you can rule out arsenic ,although it’s a good thought. But not true. THX

  37. I don’t understand why commenters on this post are bending over backwards to explain Henry’s problems as anything and everything BUT Kell antigen.

  38. I have heard in the past about the possibility of Rh being involved in the loss of the babies. And, in most cases here, the pattern does seem to fit Jane, Anne and Bessie. However, it really doesn’t fit Katherine. Diabetes wouldn’t have come into play until later – he was healthy and fit up until around 35 or 40. I’m not sure about Katherine’s occasional fasting harming a child, unless she did it for days on end – the baby would just keep getting nutrients from her and she would have been greatly weakened – been there myself, not from fasting but from morning sickness; and there doesn’t seem to be references to Katherine taking to her bed or being ill during her pregnancies. So I think we’ll all be guessing what happened with her. As far as anything affecting the health of the 4 surviving children, girls are usually stronger than boys at birth. Edward and Fitzroy both died of tuberculosis, a common illness back then. Mary lived to around 40 and Elizabeth to over 70 – neither had a child, but those problems can easily be attributed to stress and nerves. Still loving all the responses and theories though!!!!!! Who knows – maybe when William becomes king, he may be more open to such ideas, and maybe even to moving Anne for a decent burial!!!!!!!!

    1. Anne’s body was removed to a different location from her original internment within the same church with a bronze panel to her memory by one of her descendants. I think it was the Queen Mum.

      1. Anne’s body was exhumed during the restoration work of 1876/77 in the reign of Queen Victoria and then, as with the other remains found, “soldered up in thick leaden coffers, and then fastened down with copper screws in boxes made of oak plank, one inch in thickness. Each box bore a leaden escutcheon, on which was engraved the name of the person whose supposed remains were thus enclosed, together with the dates of death, and of the year (1877) of the reinterment.”
        She was reinterred where she had been found. See https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/anne-boleyns-remains-the-exhumation-of-anne-boleyn/

  39. Rh – blood and Pos blood mixing is dangerous to mother and child. the first baby will be ok.. the second babies bit so much. and if the blood mix’s it will kill the Mother Especially if the Mother is O-… All the Royals have O- blood..I have this O- blood.. Without the shot called Rogham we have now day’s it was not easy for O- to reproduce with Pos Blood..

  40. Claire:

    If you can find my post asking about syphilis, which I just posted, please delete it without posting, if you can. I just did more reading and see how behind the times I am! Thank you!

    (Although I am still curious if that theory is addressed in Kyra’s book.)

  41. I did not read the comments, so please forgive me.

    However, I have Kell negative blood. I’ve found lately that numerous Doctor’s are always interested on performing more tests on me than normal. I had B positive then after a blood transfusion my blood type changed to Kell negative.

  42. This genetic puzzle is crazy.This should be a “syndrome” of bad choices and a genetic disaster. Henry 7 was not as closely related to Lancaster as Kathrine of Aragon was. Though both come through John of Gaunt, their predecessor from marriages to three women. Henry 7 was not a blood relative to John’s 1st wife Blanche of Lancaster.
    Kathrine was a Lancastrian through Isabella her mother& and John the Duke of Beja, the son of Phillipa of Lancaster, who was a direct descendant of Constance, Gaunts 2nd wife, thereby a direct descendant of Blanche, Daughter of Henry Grosmont Duke Of Lancaster.
    JOHN OF Gaunt was the son of Edward 3 ( usurper of French crown from mother Queen Isabella and lover Rogero Mortimer Earl of March) and Phillipa the daughter Charles Of France Count of Valois) starting 100 yr war. Phillipa was John of Gaunts mother. I guess Henry 8 decided to use this Valois relation to say he was King of France, once again Kathrine had a closer blood tie. Blanche of Lancaster had a daughter Phillipa married John 1 King of Portugal parents to John Duke of Beja that married Isabella, daughter to Alfonso 1Duke of Braganza. He was the son of Constance ( John of Gaunts 2nd wife) John of Gaunt took the title from his 1st wife and passed it along to his bastard children by Kathrine De-Roet- Swynford, surnamed them Beaufort to which the crazy “Lady the Kings mother Margret comes from. She married Owen Tudor. The Holy Father granted Gaunt-Swynford as legimate issue and was able to finally marry Kathrine DE Roet-Swynford. I don’t see any royalty to Edmund Tudor, his father was Owen Tudor a lover to Kathrine Valois. She was wife to Henry 5, daughter of Charles 6 Valois King of France and Isabella , the daughter of Stephen 2 Duke of Involstadt-Bavaria. By the way….This Kathrine was the sister of Richard 2, who’s parents were Edward Plantaganet and his cousin Joan Plantaganet. Edward Plantagenet The Black Prince was John of Gaunt’s brother, who should have been the next king. Joan Plantaganet Father was Edmund and was brother to Edward 3. I am sorry if there are any errors as I did this from my iPhone with out any books. I do however give all correct credit to Allison Weir as she has so inspired me, that I can do this from memory.

  43. Whitley and Kramer’s postulate contains errors of fact that invalidate their conclusions. First, the McLeod syndrome (MLS) does not occur solely in Kell-positive individuals, as they claim;Hugh McLeod,after whom MLS was named, was Kell-negative. So, irrespective of Henry’s Kell blood group, he would have been no more likely than the rest of the population to have MLS. MLS is extremely rare; at the time of writing a mere 150 cases have been recorded worldwide since it was first described in 1961. Its occurrence is therefore difficult to estimate, but is likely to be less than 1 in several million. Therefore, the second error is try and connect Henry’s disabilities (which are not typical of MLS) via his postulated Kell blood group to his wives’ pregnancy losses. The third error is to assume that all pregnancies of Kell-negative women with Kell-positive partners will be affected by haemolytic disease. In fact, less than 2% of these mothers are likely to produce the antibody needed to affect their fetuses. Furthermore, the liklihood of a Kell-positive man having 2 consecutive Kell-negative wives whose pregnancies might be affected is less than 1 in 3,000. The odds of MLS and Kell-related haemolytic disease coming together in the circumstances of the Tudor families is remote indeed. Spread the word!

    For the record, I am a retired haematologist. I spent much of my professional career managing the pregnancies of women whose fetuses were affected by haemolytic disease. I have recently written an article for the Tudor Society’s Tudor Life Magazine which provides a fuller account of the science behind the subjects described above.

  44. I recently had 2 DNA tests taken and am related to Richard III, Marie Antoinette, Marie Therese. Queen Victoria, Margaret Stuart, George Washington, Ben Franklin….all my way back relatives are “spares”. I am Kell – and have had several miscarriages. Being related to so many royals and nobles in my tree it is amazing how some things make sense as far as autoimmune disorders and birth defects. Could this be a result of inbreeding sad to say? You would think after 9 or 10 generations it would be resolved. Yet the same issues reappear in the down line. My family on my mother’s side were original colonists in Massachusetts, Jamestown, the Potomac Valley, the Great Smokey Mountains ( Cade’s Cove), they kept intermarrying within the Royal colonies until the 1900’s. I just chalk it up to the curse that Elizabeth Woodville placed on the Tudors lol. We also have “the sight” that runs in our family. Highly intuitive. I also find it fascinating that many western elected leaders are in the Royal bloodline. I am also related to numerous presidents, Winston Churchill, Diana Spencer…..anyway I love reading about the Plantagenet’s and the Tudors. I never imagined or knew that we were related!

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