If Henry the 8th had syphilis, why didn’t Mary Boleyn have the same problem?

Full question: Henry the 8th had syphilis, which is why Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn had so many miscarriages, why didn't Mary Boleyn have the same problem? She slept with Henry about as much as the other two did but she also had four healthy children.

Historians today tend to discount the theory that Henry VIII had syphilis because there is no record of him being treated with mercury, the standard Tudor treatment for syphilis, or suffering with the illness. Also Henry did have three perfectly healthy legitimate children, as well as at least one (and probably more) healthy illegitimate child. So, I don't think that Henry had syphilis and that's why Mary Boleyn did not suffer any problems.

For information on the miscarriages and troubled pregnancies of Anne and Catherine, you can see https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/the-pregnancies-of-anne-boleyn-and-catherine-of-aragon/4132/ - I think they were just unlucky women. Miscarriages are still quite common today and were even more so in those times, but one theory is that Anne was Rhesus Negative and therefore would not have been able to carry another child to term.


24 thoughts on “If Henry the 8th had syphilis, why didn’t Mary Boleyn have the same problem?”

  1. M Dageforde says:

    There are any number of reasons that Henry’s wives miscarried. Syphillis is the most common STD. Rhesus factor was unheard of during Tudor times as well as Gonorrhea and HPV. http://www.cdc.gov/hpv/whatishpv.html. My best guess for Catherine of Aragon to continually miscarry is genetics. Henry and Catherine were too closely related. It could also have been a factor in Mary Tudor’s lack of progeny. And personal hygiene. Henry took a bath once a year. Would you want to have intercourse with him?

    1. Masami C Rockefeller says:

      Hell no!!!!

    2. Elizabeth says:

      I have never heard the statement that Henry and Catherine of Aragon were blood related? Only threw Catherine first manage to Henrys older brother Author who died.

      1. Caroline Elias says:

        they weren’t blood related. I have done research and created many family trees. They do not connect in the slightest. I don’t know where that person got the info from.

  2. Sheila Hamilton says:

    I hadn’t heard the Rhesus negative theory before in connection to Anne Boleyn, it is perfectly possible: the healthy first child, then later miscarriages due to the mother’s blood having contaminated the blood of the foetus. I am Rhesus Negative too, but now women with this (who have a rhesus positive partner) are monitored carefully during the pregnancy, and after the birth of Child No 1 are in any case given an injection which will prevent further problems.

    Henry VIII almost certainly did not have syphilis. If he had it, his wives and mistresses would likely have caught it off him. . there would be some documentary evidence for this.

    I read recently that he might have been Kell positive. Men who are Kell positive are not ill in themselves but any woman whom they father children with is likely to have more than one miscarriage, maybe a whole set of miscarriages. Of course, this condition was not known about in Henry’s day.

    1. M Dageforde says:

      I unfortunately made one of those blanket statements and am now paying for it. Forgive me for using syphilis as a generic STD.

      Henry could have had any number of sexually transmitted diseases. HPV has been probably been around for a long time, but doctors thought it to be harmless. In recent years it has come to light that HPV will cause cervical cancer in women. Recently it has been linked to penal warts in men.

      Mary could have had: endometriosis, uterine fibroids, fallopian tube cancer, or simply not ovulating (Anovulation).
      Mary’s parents were cousins (of what degree I do not know) that can also be genetic Russian roulette
      Stress could have easily exacerbated her problems.

      1. Nora says:

        I think the role of extreme stress during their pregnancies has been widely overlooked for all of Henry VIII’s wives. Whether as a prime cause or contributing factor, I imagine his consorts experienced a virtual living hell in that hotbed of scandal, intrigue and violence.

      2. LaLaLara says:

        M Dag. Don’t be daft. There are only 4 strains of HPV that are harmful. These are the smaller variety. “Will cause cervical cancer in women”? That’s all you needed rto say for me not to care a thing about anything you just said. If it’s not a fact, or if you can’t state opinion as opinion, then probably you should shut your yap & let people who actually want to learn a thing or two get on with matters. Practice not to lie, & then let’s see what you come up with.

        1. Claire says:

          I love hearing people’s different opinions in comments but I do ask that people are polite and friendly in their comments, there really is no need to tell someone to “shut your yap”. Thank you!

        2. Mary says:

          What? HPV does cause cervical and penile cancer. We knew this in 2015, as well, so even though it is an old post, I am still baffled by this response. HPV also can be transmitted even by places not covered by a condom, meaning that you need the vaccine if you want to have sex without exposing yourself.

          It horrifies me to think someone might believe HPV is no big deal. Getting the vaccination and pap smears can save lives, whereas ignoring it could kill you.

          My sources are multiple doctors and peer reviewed science.

        3. Amanda Bloom says:

          He may have worded it a little strongly, but he isn’t wrong. High risk HPV strains like 11,18, 31 and 33 do carry an increased risk for cervical cancer development.

  3. judith says:

    who cares if Henry had syphilis or not? Why place importance on such stupid rumors?

    Tony Blair looks like he may have the disease!!! LOL

    1. Claire says:

      It’s one of those myths that keeps being repeated, and which appears on many webpages, and I don’t mind people asking me questions about the disease.

  4. Carole Heath says:

    I think he also had a genetic problem regarding male children as his daughter’s seemed to be ok.
    Most of the male children died either at birth or shortly afterwards. But of course with such a big ego like Henry must have had it would have been his wives fault not his. I often wonder did Henry love any of his wives or where they purely just for producing a male heir. Terrible times for women I think.

    1. Jennifer Debassige says:

      But Mary Boleyn had a bastard son that was his

      1. Claire says:

        There’s no evidence to prove that he was the king’s, Henry VIII certainly never acknowledged him.

    2. Amanda Bloom says:

      True. But he had two sons who lived into their teens and died of other unrelated causes. Also if Henry did have an X linked genetic disorder, he would have passed it on to his daughters not his sons. Y chromosomes do not generally carry important genetic information

  5. Elena says:

    Having the same discussion in another group. Seems as though Henry could have suffered from McLeod Syndrome…..which would have accounted for his physical and mental changes later in life. Also, because all of his wives suffered an extremely high rate of miscarriage, researchers are looking at the Kell factor. Very interesting information.

  6. Christine says:

    It’s all interesting to me but it’s also important to remember that Henry was seriously injured during a jousting tournament and the wound never healed properly which is why he couldn’t exercise and then that lead to his obesity, he also may have hit his head quite hard which may have led to his behavior later in life. He claimed that Jane Seymour was the love of his life but that might be because she didn’t live long enough for Henry to have grown tired of her. Syphilis is an interesting hypothesis but there doesn’t seem to be enough evidence or even information to come to that conclusion.

  7. Charlene Robinson says:

    Wow! Such interesting opinions. We have been watching The Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon, and you can certainly see the enmity they had to live with. The King, Henry VII’s, mother was a piece of work all by herself!
    I had wondered about the Rhesus Negative possibility, as well as a venereal disease on Henry’s part. The combination of the two may have been overwhelming.
    Thank ou for so much information.

  8. Cntrywolf says:

    This thread is very interesting, however is the opinions based on the fact that Henry had an horrific ulcer on his leg?
    It a more then likely Henry was a Diabetic II.
    I say this due to his eating habits, as well as his weight.
    History states He had a wound on his leg that would not heal correctly, ( signs of DMII)
    He didn’t show any other signs except that leg wound.
    As for syphilis I agree on the fact non of his wives showed signs of having it. Surely Some where one would think that Henry health facts would be documented.

    1. Amanda Bloom says:

      There is really no evidence that he had type 2DM. If he gained weight due to immobility resulting from a chronic ulcer that refused to heal, then he probably didn’t have diabetes then. He could have developed it later,but if he was not obese before the jousting injury, then he could have had anything ranging from a connective tissue disorder or vascular problem to a simple vitamin deficiency

  9. Caroline Elias says:

    I believe that Henry did not suffer from syphilis. You see, syphilis is a really dangerous STI and can cause serious health issues, possibly death. So if he had it, he would most certainly have passed it on. Not much is known about Mary Boleyn, but it can be assumed from her fertility that this is not the case. Mercury was the treatment for syphilis at this time as it did actually help with the infection, but it did not help everyone. It is very dangerous and toxic and would have caused Mary many issues during the time and affected even her fertility. So I strongly believe that Henry did not have syphilis. If he did, I also believe he would not have documented it. He as very proud about these things and probably would have kept it very secret. It is possible that Anne’s fertility issues were caused from other environmental factors. Some women simply are not as fertile as others and Anne could of also suffered from sicknesses that can affect these the body as well. It is also believed that Anne was actually only pregnant four times which is all that there is proof of. There are no records saying Anne was pregnant more than that. It is believed she also suffered from Phantom pregnancies as there are records of people saying that they think she was pregnant. So Anne might not even of had fertility issues. She might have just not been having sex when she was ovulating, the best time to actually get pregnant. The couple was also only married for about 3 years and we know that she was pregnant four times. That is a lot of pregnancies in the span of three years, especially when she had two children pass vaginally. I think we forget to take in the time it takes to recover from delivery and how painful penetration is after. Yes, she did suffer three miscarriages, but we know one was after Henry’s accident, where he had obvious damage to his frontal lobe, which caused him a personality change. She was also under high amounts of stress and pressure during their marriage, especially after she delivered a girl. I personally do not believe Anne had infertility issues especially since she had gotten pregnant so quickly the first time. The only wife who clearly had a real issue was Catherine of Aragon and it many factors could play into that as well.

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