środa, 13 lipca 2011

Inability to Provide a Male Heir

Anne Boleyn bore only one child to her husband Henry VIII - a princess who grew up to become one of the greatest monarchs in English memory, Elizabeth I. Yet one princess and two miscarriages were not enough to secure Anne's position as Henry's queen consort. Like her predecessor Katherine of Aragon, Anne was unable to deliver a living male heir. Theories have developed over the centuries to explain Anne's predicament was more than just a case of bad luck.

  • Witchcraft? Anne's last miscarriage, presumed to be a male child, occurred on January 29, 1536. Wriothesley indicated Anne believed she was approximately fifteen weeks into the pregnancy. No contemporary evidence supports any deformity: Nicholas Sander, the Catholic recusant, was the first to mention a "shapeless mass of flesh" in the 1570s. In the sixteenth century, miscarriages were blamed on the mother and 'monstrous births' were believed to be the result of the moral deviance of the parents. 'Monstrous births' were also increasing reported after times of great social and moral upheaval, such as the English Reformation. Proponents of this theory, such as historian Retha Warnicke, claim that Anne's series of miscarriages and the condition of her final miscarriage sealed her reputation as a bewitching adulteress. Other historians, such as Eric Ives, argue there is no evidence that the fetus was in fact deformed and that Anne's inability to provide a male heir was an indirect causation of her downfall.

  • Bad Blood: Another theory proposed by Retha Warnicke surrounds the possibility that Anne had a rare blood abnormality which prevented her from giving birth to more than one child. Warnicke hypothesised that Anne's blood type was Rh negative (rhesus blood system) while Henry's blood was Rh positive. This genetic combination was lethal for infants who inherit the Rh antigen from their father (Rh positive) instead of their mother. The mother's antibodies attack the infant's Rh positive red blood cells as it would an infection. However neatly Anne's circumstances fit this diagnosis, it is impossible to prove Anne was indeed Rh negative and her pregnancies after Elizabeth inherited their father's Rh antigen.

  • Henry Himself: As stated previously, Anne was not the only wife of Henry's who experienced difficulty equipping the royal nursery with a prince. Katherine of Aragon's six pregnancies across nine years yielded one living daughter. Historians believe that Anne's sister, Mary, became pregnant only after she returned to her husband William Carey after having been the King's mistress. Similarly, Catherine Parr, Henry's last wife, became pregnant after Henry died and she took a new husband, Thomas Seymour. According to historian Eric Ives, "This case history realizes the possibility that is was Henry and not his wives who were responsible for silence in the royal nursery". Over the years, revisionist scholars have speculated that Henry could have had a venereal disease that affected the quality of his sperm. Syphilis is a popular scapegoat, however there were no medications or remedies listed in the King's medical history that indicate he had been undergoing treatment for syphilis and no record that any of his children had congenital syphilis. Most likely, a genetic or physical reproductive disorder of Henry's was to blame for his wives inability to conceive healthy babies.

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