Guest Post by P. Deegan
Recently, I saw an older article that mentioned the Holbein sketch of a woman in night attire probably is Anne Boleyn as it is labelled (the labeling having been done later, some questions have been raised about the accuracy of the attribution). I was quite taken by the pudgy looking chin she seems to have in the portrait. Especially when Chapuys referred to her as that ‘thin old woman’ and then there is Nicholas Sanders claim that she had a ‘large wen under her chin’. Nobody takes Nicholas Sanders seriously as he claimed all sorts of things but I thought I’d do a minor root round on the web and see if there was a possible cause. I’d now like to make a suggestion…
Often a lump in that place is due to an infection – there’s a lymph gland there – but that should go down when the infection finishes and not be long-term. I’m not 100% sure but it might have been the effects of a goiter – indicating a thyroid malfunction. It’s a little high but some images on the web seem to indicate that sometimes there is swelling under the jaw as well as in the neck. If she didn’t dress tightly, hiding her build, then a casual observer may just have thought she’d put a few pounds on with the puffiness under her chin.
Apparently if the goiter causes hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid being produced) this can cause fetal tachycardia when the woman becomes pregnant. Which might explain the loss of the child in January.
It also might explain her dreadfully fast fall from grace. The historian Retha Warnicke built a fascinating hypothesis on the basis that she had given birth to a deformed fetus. What if her reasons on the fast processes were true but not because of the child she lost but because she had developed a lump under her chin, round her neck that indicated some illness. We know how paranoid Henry was about illness – that would definitely motivate him to set in motion the processes that would eventually lead to her execution. Maybe he waited until she was back at court – to see if she was better? – then when he saw she still had the swelling, he got onto Cromwell to get things in motion.
Just an idea…
Note from author: Further to my slightly provocative post suggesting that maybe Anne Boleyn might have suffered from a thyroid malfunction, a further thought occurs to me on this subject. Problems with your thyroid can cause your eyes to slightly bulge and one of the insults supposedly said at her coronation was that she was a *goggle eyed* whore. Suggestive?