When Anne Boleyn miscarried what her midwife called a boy it was also reported by the midwife that the child was malformed*. In Tudor England, at the time, a malformed baby meant that the mother had gravely sinned, whether it be witchcraft, adultery or incest. Are these the events that began the downfall of Anne Boleyn?
Henry was an extremely religious man and this miscarriage caused him to question everything. What had he done wrong to not be given a healthy, legitimate male heir? It was reported that Henry VIII had told a courtier the day after Anne’s miscarriage that he had been charmed into marriage with Anne due to magic spells or witchcraft. This is when, some believe, that Henry began to question all the actions he took to make Anne his queen. He set aside Katherine, broke from Rome and executed close friends like Thomas More.
We don’t know exactly how far along Anne was in her pregnancy when she miscarried but in my mind it is quite possible that the child was reported as malformed because of the gestation period. Although, having said that, one would believe a midwife would know the difference…so….is it possible the child was malformed? Yes, of course and that could be the reason her body rejected it. It was not a viable fetus.
If Anne had delivered Henry a healthy son things may have turned out much differently for the Queen. Or would it? In my opinion, I feel it would have been a temporary fix for Anne as Henry still may have put her aside. He would have been happy to have a male heir but I don’t believe that would have permanently changed his frustration with his wife. It may have been several months or years after the birth of a son but it would eventually happen. Henry would have had to be careful on the timing of this as not to concern his subjects with the paternity of the child if he accused her of adultery or incest.
I am of the belief that Henry was already tiring of Anne – he was courting Jane Seymour and growing increasingly frustrated with Anne’s boldness. This miscarriage was the catalyst for the events to come. If Anne could not give the King a son, then maybe Jane could. But, as many of us believe, Anne would not have gone down without a fight – she had her daughter’s future to be concerned about.
Some will argue that had Anne delivered of a healthy son that all would have been well for the couple. Is it possible? Well, of course, but I truly believe we have to look at all the events of the time. Henry was already pining for Jane, just as he had done with Anne and we know in that instance that he would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. Would Jane have eventually given in to become his mistress? I don’t believe so. Around this same time Anne was attacking the King’s closest adviser, Thomas Cromwell. Anne believed that Cromwell had gone too far with the dissolution of the monasteries. Anne had even threatened to have Cromwell executed. It was only a matter of time before Cromwell had had enough.
Queen Anne did not agree with the total dissolution of all monasteries and nunneries. She wanted reform, not complete destruction. The queen understood that many of the poor and sick, orphans and widows, indeed, all those in need, flocked to the open doors of the monasteries for help in time of trouble. Not only did they provide a help to these unfortunates, they also kept the country in better shape, with fewer beggars on the streets and fewer ruffians who had been forced to turn to crime to survive. The Queen wished to rid these religious houses of their ‘superstitions’ but she did not wish to see them destroyed. This put her in direct conflict with Master Cromwell. -The Anne Boleyn Files
With a son, Anne would have understood that the child would be the future King of England. Henry knew the history of past kings of England and could look no further than King Henry II and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor joined forces with her son(s) to dethrone her husband and king. What would stop Anne from doing the same when her son came of an adequate age to rule?
Four months after Anne’s miscarriage it appeared that Henry was once again on her side when he helped to arrange an uncomfortable confrontation in church between Anne and the Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys. Chapuys, as the envoy for his master Charles V had no choice but to bow to the Queen – acknowledging her in front of witnesses. This must have been humiliating for Chapuys but a victory for Anne and Henry. Only two weeks later Anne would be arrested. So was it really Henry after all who instigated the downfall of his wife, or was it Cromwell? And what was the catalyst to propel Anne to the inevitable? It is believed that one of Anne’s ladies, Elizabeth Somerset, Countess of Worcester blamed her own behavior to her brother (who had scolded her for loose living) that she was not as bad as the Queen. Saying that Anne was entertaining men late at night in her room, including Mark Smeaton. It wasn’t only Lady Worcester but other ladies in Anne’s household were also spreading rumors. The question will always be: Why?
There are so many “what ifs” and questions when it comes to the story of Anne Boleyn’s downfall. We cannot change the fact that Anne Boleyn was unjustly executed, but I am of the firm belief that we do her a great service by still discussing her 482 years later.
*Note: The reference about the malformed fetus was taken from “The Last Days of Anne Boleyn” – the statement is believed to have originated from Nicholas Sanders a Catholic recusant writing in the reign of Elizabeth I to discredit Anne (and Elizabeth). We will never know for certain if the child was indeed malformed, however, we do know that things really began to change between Henry and Anne after that miscarriage.
Fraser, Antonia. “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” (1989)
Ives, Eric. “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn” (1986)
Licence, Amy. “The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII: The Women’s Stories” (2016)
Loades, David. “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” (2010)
Richards, Natalia. “Falcon’s Rise” (2016)
Weir, Alison. “Six Wives of Henry VIII” (1971)
The Last Days of Anne Boleyn