Katherine of Aragon’s First Miscarriage

On the 31st of January, 1510, Katherine suffered her first miscarriage, giving birth to a still-born daughter.
Henry and Katherine were married on the eleventh of June 1509 and crowned thirteen days later. Henry wrote enthusiastically to Ferdinand of his joy of being married and on November the first informed him that “the Queen is pregnant, and the child in her womb is alive.” At the end of January Katherine went into confinement. When they learned of the tragedy, they did their best to cope with their disappointment but soon their grief was abated when her physician informed them that she had been carrying twins and one of them was still alive. Ecstatic, Katherine and Henry’s hopes were renewed and Henry ordered the nursery to be refurbished but on March when she went into confinement once more, her swelling began to decrease and it became clear to everyone that she had never been carrying twins.  
To make matters worse for her, people began to talk that she could not bear anymore children and she caught wind of her husband’s first affair with Lady Hastings, the Duke of Buckingham’s sister. Caroz, the Spanish Ambassador at the time tried to placate Katherine who (unlike the passive woman she is often believed to be) was livid and made her “ill will” very plain to William Compton (who had been the first to receive the blame for Henry’s attentions to Lady Hastings) and her husband and very soon the whole court knew. Very soon she put the whole episode behind her when she learned she was pregnant again by the end of May. She wrote to her father (who had been left completely in the dark regarding the status of her first pregnancy) informing him that she had miscarried “some days before” but she was pregnant again and that she and the King could not be happier.
Sources:
  • Katherine of Aragon by Patrick Williams
  • Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana I of Castile by Julia Fox
  • On this Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway.

29 JANUARY 1536: Anne Boleyn loses her “savior”

"Anne suffered a miscarriage. The child had the appearance of being a male, of about three and a half months' development. Later Catholic writers would claim the fetus showed signs of deformity, which was seen at the time as the result of sexual immorality, but there is no contemporary evidence for this. As Chapuys wrote, she had 'miscarriage of her savior.'" (Licence)
“Anne suffered a miscarriage. The child had the appearance of being a male, of about three and a half months’ development. Later Catholic writers would claim the fetus showed signs of deformity, which was seen at the time as the result of sexual immorality, but there is no contemporary evidence for this. As Chapuys wrote, she had ‘miscarriage of her savior.'” (Licence)
On the day of Katherine of Aragon’s funeral, Anne Boleyn miscarried. In fiction she has been shown jubilant at the death of her former mistress and predecessor but there is no way of knowing how Anne felt.
In Chapuys’ accounts, Henry is the only who was wearing yellow, a color mistaken believed by historians to be the color of morning in Spain. Yellow was in fact, the color that meant renewal. Henry was making a statement that Katherine’s death meant he was having a spiritual and physical rebirth and he even exclaimed he was happy because her death meant that England was free of the “threat” of invasion. There is no mention as to what Anne felt, some sources hold that she was sad and afraid after hearing of her predecessor’s death. And there is good reason to believe this, since Katherine’s death meant that Anne was more in danger than ever. With Katherine alive, any rival that Anne had would have to contest over the shadow of Katherine. But with her death, left Henry free of suspicion that any marriage he sought was invalid. It is unclear what caused the miscarriage, it could have been a natural abortion brought about stress, the news that her husband had fallen five days earlier from his horse during a joust, or as another tale has it, that she surprised him and Jane Seymour, and got angry and later became very distressed by it.
 
"Just how far did Anne's miscarriage of 1536 really seal her fate? Historians have interpreted the months of February to April in very different ways and, as Anne herself said that year, 'if any person will meddle with my cause, I require them to judge the best'." Amy Licence in her latest biography about the six wives and mistresses of Henry VIII writes, and she is not the only one. Other historians note that Anne was still being treated with respect, and Henry VIII even reminded the ambassador and others to treat her as his wife shortly before the proceedings started against her. So what happened then? If not her miscarriage, what contributed to her fall?
“Just how far did Anne’s miscarriage of 1536 really seal her fate? Historians have interpreted the months of February to April in very different ways and, as Anne herself said that year, ‘if any person will meddle with my cause, I require them to judge the best’.” Amy Licence in her latest biography about the six wives and mistresses of Henry VIII writes, and she is not the only one. Other historians note that Anne was still being treated with respect, and Henry VIII even reminded the ambassador and others to treat her as his wife shortly before the proceedings started against her. So what happened then? If not her miscarriage, what contributed to her fall?
Some historians also point out, that as terrible as her miscarriage was, it was not the principal reason why Henry turned against her. There were other factors, such as the fall from the joust that had altered his personality even more. On the other hand, Henry was in dire need of a male heir; he had two daughters, and his only son was Henry Fitzroy but he was illegitimate. The wars of the roses was still fresh on everyone’s mind, and then there was the bloody civil wars brought on for female succession when Matilda fought her cousin Stephen, who had usurped her throne in the twelfth century. If he were to die, he thought, the country would be looking at three claimants and years of civil unrest. And then there were also the many factions at court that could be just as merciless as the King. In her analysis of Anne Boleyn, Susan Bordo also points out that Henry VIII continued to treat Anne with respect and pressed others to continue to do so. However this suddenly changed. He started having violent mood swings and in her analysis of Henry VIII, historian Suzannah Lipscomb notes that the joust that Henry suffered five days before Anne’s miscarriage might have something to do with this. But if we want to talk about Henry’s cruelty, he had shown such cruelty before. Could it be then, as Kyra Cornelius Kramer stressed in her medical biography of Henry VIII, that he suffered from multiple illnesses? Sounds incredible, but it is not impossible. If Henry was Kell Blood Positive which would explain his first two wives many miscarriages, it explains his mood swings as well. Add also the element of nurture. Genetics can shape our character only so far. A lot of what makes us “us” is dependent on the life we lead, or the experiences we’ve had. Henry was pampered almost his entire life, then one day his brother died, and he was made the heir. As a result he was closeted with very little freedoms. This changed again when his father died and he was free to make his own destiny. Such freedom was a godsend, but it had its consequences. And Henry as many in this era, believed that his reign was literally justified by God. He believed in the divine right of Kings, if he was King it was because God wanted it, and as such, nothing he did could be wrong. As Head of the Church, he was given more freedom over every matter, especially spiritual matters. Genetics and the fall from his horse only made things worse. And regardless if he wanted to be with Anne or not, like with Katherine, his need for a son outweighed all his other needs or possible sentiments.
Then there were her disagreements over where the money taken from the dissolution of the monasteries should be directed at. Anne contrary to the popular image of the “seductress” wanted the money to be directed at educational programs to further the new religion. Although she was not entirely committed to it as her last successor, Katherine Parr would be, she believed that education was the key and she also engaged in charity. Thomas Cromwell wanted it to remain in the King’s pockets. This disagreement would add more fuel to their rivalry.
Anne would have known this, and prayed daily that nothing befell on her, for her fall meant her daughter would become a bastard as her eldest sister, and her  other immediate family would also pay the price.

Sources:

  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives
  • The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo
  • 1536 by Suzannah Lipscomb
  • Blood Will Tell: A Medical Study of the Tyranny of Henry VIII by Kyra Cornelius Kramer.
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle