On this day in Tudor history, 9th November 1518, nine years into her marriage to King Henry VIII, Queen Catherine of Aragon gave birth prematurely to a stillborn daughter at Greenwich Palace.

Sadly, this sixth pregnancy would be Catherine’s last.

Let me explain exactly what happened on this day in 1518 and what we know about Catherine of Aragon’s pregnancies…


On this day in Tudor history, 9th November 1518, Queen Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s wife of nine years, gave birth prematurely to a stillborn daughter at Greenwich Palace.

On 10th November 1518, Sebastian Giustinian, the Venetian ambassador, reported:
“In the past night the Queen had been delivered of a daughter, to the vexation of everybody. Never had the kingdom so anxiously desired anything as it did a prince.”

In the Sanuto Diaries, a diary kept by Marino Sanuto, in Venice, is the following record:
“The Queen bad been delivered in her eighth month of a stillborn daughter, to the great sorrow of the nation at large.”

In her book “Sisters Queen” on Catherine and her sister, Juana, historian Julia Fox notes mention of a payment of £4 from the king for the “carrying and recarrying” of the christening font to Canterbury. This same font had been used for the christening of Princess Mary in 1516 and borrowed when Henry, Duke of Cornwall, was born in 1511. It had been ordered from Canterbury Cathedral to christen the expected prince, but was now no longer needed. There is also record the ermine trimmed purple tissue, which had been used to cover the queen’s bed during her confinement, being taken from the palace to Baynard’s Castle, the queen’s London residence.

Catherine must have been devastated by the tragic result of her sixth pregnancy, but she didn’t give up hope of providing her husband with a living son. Historian Julia Fox writes of how “she went on pilgrimages, she attended Mass after Mass, and she prayed for hour upon hour”, but it was not meant to be, Catherine never got pregnant again.

We have evidence for Catherine experiencing six pregnancies:

  1. On 31st January 1510, 33 weeks after her marriage to Henry VIII, Catherine gave birth to a stillborn daughter.
  2. Just under a year later, on 1st January 1511, Catherine gave birth to a son, Henry, Duke of Cornwall. Unfortunately, little Henry died on 22nd February at just 52 days old.
  3. On 17th September 1513, Catherine gave birth to a son who was either stillborn or who did not survive long. The Venetian Calendar of State Papers records that the child was alive at birth: “a male heir was born to the King of England and will inherit the crown, the other son having died.” but we don’t know for sure.
  4. In November 1514, the Venetian ambassador recorded that “The Queen has been delivered of a stillborn male child of eight months to the very great grief of the whole court”, chronicler Raphael Holinshed reported that “in November the Queen was delivered of a prince which lived not long after”, and John Stow wrote “in the meantime, to Whit, the month of November, the Queen was delivered of a prince which lived not long after”.
  5. On 18th February 1516, Catherine gave birth to a healthy baby girl, a daughter who would grow up to be Queen Mary I.
  6. And then the final pregnancy which ended on this day in 1518 with a stillborn daughter.

Catherine did her very best to provide King Henry VIII with a living Prince of Wales and it’s so sad that she was cast aside the way she was.

Book recommendation: “Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile” by Julia Fox.

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One thought on “November 9 – Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon lose a daughter”
  1. Obviously there was something biologically wrong with Katherine that she just could not give birth to living children, Henry her first born was alive and healthy yet died in infancy, and Mary the only living child who grew to adulthood, but she had four several still borns male and female and the sad fact is she never gave her body a chance to recover after each birth, today if doctors suspect they might be something g wrong with the mother, a period of several years is advised but in Katherine’s day and especially being the consort of the king, her duty was to provide her husband with a male heir, it is so very tragic that had her doctors advised both Henry and Katherine to wait before resuming sexual relations or just to adopt the methods of contraception (crude though they might have been), it would have been much better for her battered body to recover, my grandmother after giving birth to her only daughter was advised not to have anymore children for a lengthy amount of time, so there must have been complications with the pregnancy and or birth, ten years later my father was born perfectly healthy and my uncle followed four years later, but in Henry’s day medical knowledge was zero and so year after year poor Katherine prayed and went on pilgrimages all to no avail, Sir Thomas Boleyn after the deaths of his two children, told Thomas Cromwell that his wife gave him a child every year, we know of two that died but there could have been others, it was the mother who was regarded as solely responsible for her children, what she ate how she behaved, she had undue pressure on her every minute of the day, the death of her final infant must have caused many more tears to be shed had both Katherine and the king had any left, but this was to be the last time she would get pregnant, now approaching the menopause she was past her fertile best, the king knew it and in secret began discussing with Cardinal Wolsey about entering into a new marriage, he read the scriptures ‘ and if a man marries his brothers widow he has uncovered his nakedness and the marriage will be childless’, before Anne Boleyn ever came on the scene he was perturbed about the many deaths of his infants and although in his own way he still loved Katherine, he still respected her and admired her, he was genuinely worried that God disproved of his marriage, Wolsey being a French admirer favoured a French marriage, but then a ‘ fresh young damsel’ appeared at court and the king lost his heart and very soul to this lady, her refusal to be his mistress set Henry on the course for his next six marriages and split the Christian kingdom in two.

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