Pregnancy and History: The Destruction of the House of Tudor

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As a child, I was always fascinated by English history. My own daughter, Elizabeth, was born on the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s beheading. In media, we see so many portrayals of the Tudor reign and few focus on the loss of the children, the pregnancies of the women, instead they largely focus on the destruction of the Tudor dynasty through Henry’s desperation to create an heir.

This article discusses the obstetric history of both Queen Catherine and Queen Anne. THE ALLEGED MISCARRIAGES OF CATHERINE OF ARAGON AND ANNE BOLEYN – Cambridge … (

A summation is here:

“Sir John Dewhurst has looked at primary sources and argues that there is only evidence for six pregnancies:-

  • 31st January 1510 – A stillborn daughter born 33 weeks after the marriage. This is reported by Diego Fernandez, Catherine’s chancellor, in the Calendar of State Papers (Spain)
  • 1st January 1511 – Birth of a son, Henry, who died on 22nd February at just 52 days old.
  • 17th September 1513 – Birth of 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.”
  • November 1514 – According to Dewhurst, the Venetian ambassador, wrote to his senate in November that “The Queen has been delivered of a stillborn male child of eight months to the very great grief of the whole court”, Holinshed, the chronicler, ” 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 Q was delivered of a prince which lived not long after”.
  • 18th February 1516 – Birth of a daughter, Mary, the future Mary I.
  • 10th November 1518 – Birth of a stillborn daughter. The Venetian ambassador wrote “The Queen has been delivered in her eighth month of a stillborn daughter to the great sorrow of the nation at large”.” –The Pregnancies of Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon – The Anne Boleyn Files

An interesting aspect of the discussion is miscarriage. How death of a child, birth of a stillborn child, or a pregnancy that did not come to fruition are all considered a miscarriage of pregnancy. (Also interesting that he defines in 1984 that miscarriage is expulsion before 28 weeks and that has significantly changed in recent years.)

Another fascinating point is that most historians refer to her stillbirth as dated from her marriage, 33 weeks, and that the Spanish believed the child to be due in April. Catherine’s history of repeated stillbirth in the 8th month is fascinating, for what could have been the cause of such loss? The speculation has run rampant through the ages and currently rests at possibly a Kell Factor or perhaps Rh- in the matter of Anne.

I’m currently watching The Spanish Princess to see how her pregnancies are treated.

Primary sourcing of Catherine’s loss of pregnancy: Catherine of Aragon’s Stillbirth on 31 January 1510 – The Primary Source – The Tudor Society

I plan to write more on this as time permits and to further discuss how this affected the women in this historical account and will edit this article accordingly.

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