Anne Boleyn’s Pregnancies and Motherhood: Part I

Anne Boleyn, Queen of England; the woman who tamed the heart of a wild Henry the VIII; to the point that made him break with centuries of Catholic Traditions.  She is recognized by her strong temper, her charm and her spiritual strength that made her as equal as her King.   But little is known about her role as a mother; her feelings towards her motherhood and the fact that in the end… only Elizabeth was her legacy.

There are also many theories about why Queen Anne suffered from two documented miscarriages after an almost perfect first deliver of a healthy daughter. As far as it is known in history records; Anne Boleyn was a healthy woman, full of life; she was a marvelous dancer, musician, she used to enjoy riding horses and hunting.   She suffered from a touch of the sweating sickness, but there is no medical statement that can relate that with her failure to produce a male heir.

Anne Boleyn played her cards well with Henry VIII.  She refused to have carnal relations with him until she was completely sure of his love, and his desire of making her his Queen.  The process of divorce was long and stressful but in the end, Henry was close to get what he wanted, and Anne saw that as the sign to fulfill her dream of love and power.  Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn finally consummated their relationship in around November 1532 after a successful visit to France, where Anne was treated as Henry’s consort. The couple had planned to sail back home from Calais on the 8th November but were held up by a storm and did not set sail until the 12 November, arriving at Dover early on the 14th. However, they did not arrive at Eltham until the 24th; and the explanation we can guess; somewhere, sometime, perhaps as the wind tore through the Calais streets or in a manor-house in Kent, Anne at last slept with Henry.

Before the couple’s secret marriage, it is known that they were living together since their return from Calais.  With that said, is proper to believe that Anne’s baby was conceived somewhere between the 11th and 19th December 1532. By February 1533, Anne’s pregnancy was common knowledge at court, with Anne herself joking about her craving for apples. On Easter Saturday 1533, Anne finally attended mass as queen, after Cranmer was made Archbishop and convocation had pronounced Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon invalid. Finally Anne Boleyn had everything she wanted; the man she loved, the title of Queen, and a baby in her womb.

The first months of Queen Anne’s pregnancy were normal.  The King was overjoyed and they also visited an astrologer that assured them that the child on the Queen’s belly would be a boy.  With that idea on her mind Anne did everything to stay healthy.  Anne was able to manage her coronation ceremony and celebration, even when her pregnancy was more advanced.   But the last trimester of Anne’s pregnancy was not a good one.   Anne’s health deteriorated at the point that the King was really worried about her and the unborn child.   Anne did not gained too much weight during her pregnancy, in fact, she looked thin; that could be a reason for the problems in the last three months of her pregnancy.   It is difficult for a thin woman to deal with the extra weight of an almost full developed infant inside her body; and besides the confinement custom of the time made all worst.

In August 1533, a chamber was prepared for Anne’s confinement at Greenwich Palace, the palace where Elizabeth of York had given birth to Henry. David Starkey writes of how the chamber was prepared:

“The walls and ceilings were close hung and tented with arras – that is, precious tapestry woven with gold or silver threads – and the floor thickly laid with rich carpets. The arras was left loose at a single window, so that the Queen could order a little light and air to be admitted, though this was generally felt inadvisable. Precautions were taken, too, about the design of the hangings. Figurative tapestry, with human or animal images was ruled out. The fear was that it could trigger fantasies in the Queen’s mind which might lead to the child being deformed. Instead, simple, repetitive patterns were preferred. The Queen’s richly hung and canopied bed was to match or be en suite with the hangings, as was the pallet or day-bed which stood at its foot. And it was on the pallet, almost certainly that the birth took place… At the last minute, gold and silver plate had been brought from the Jewel House. There were cups and bowls to stand on the cupboard and crucifixes, candlesticks and images for the altar. The result was a cross between a chapel and a luxuriously padded cell.”

 On the 26th August 1533, after a special mass at the Chapel Royal, Anne and her ladies then went to the Queen’s great chamber, which Starkey explains was the outermost room of Anne’s suite. There, they enjoyed wine and spices before Anne’s lord chamberlain led a prayer, praying that God would give the Queen a safe delivery. Anne then processed to her bedchamber, with only her ladies in attendance. Her chamber was to be a male-free world.

On September 7th 1533; at 3 o’clock on the afternoon, Queen Anne Boleyn gave birth to a baby girl: Elizabeth named after her paternal grandmother Elizabeth of York, and possibly also her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Howard. The little girl had her father’s red hair and long nose, and her mother’s coal black eyes.

The birth was straightforward, the baby was healthy and so was Anne, but something was very wrong; the baby was a girl and not the promised son and heir promised by Anne, astrologers and doctors. A celebratory tournament had been organized and a letter announcing the birth of a prince had been written. The joust was cancelled and the word “prince” had an “s” added in the birth announcement letter, but it is easy to read too much into the cancellation of the festivities. As Eric Ives points out, the celebratory jousts were cancelled in 1516 too, when Mary Tudor was born, and it was traditional for the celebrations of the birth of a princess to be low-key. Although the joust was cancelled, Ives writes that “a herald immediately proclaimed this first of Henry’s ‘legitimate’ children; while the choristers of the Chapel Royal sang the Te Deum and preparations were already underway for a lavish christening.

Henry was disappointed, but at the same time he was probably happy; Anne delivered a strong and healthy baby girl, also, she managed to survive the dangerous process of give birth.  To him this was a sign that in time boys would follow; Anne was still young and strong; there was no reason to think otherwise.

At first, Anne was disappointed; but then, her feelings of motherhood were stronger than her pride and fear.  She fell in love with her baby; and is recorded that Courtiers were often embarrassed by Anne’s displays of affection for her baby and that she loved to have Elizabeth next to her on a cushion, rather than shut away in a nursery.

It is said that Anne almost broke the royal protocols, and dared to breast feed her daughter; but Henry stopped her only because he did not want his sleep to be interrupted.  This is more a fictional statement since there is not a historical element to prove it; but the legend or rumor is there.  But if it was true, is probably that Henry did not want that Anne breast fed Elizabeth only because he wanted to get her pregnant again as soon as possible.

Elizabeth’s removal from court to her own household at Hatfield on the 10th December 1533 must have been a huge shock for Anne. Even though it was just a few miles away, Anne would not be expected to visit her daughter very much but would be expected to get on with her queenly duties and leave Elizabeth’s care and upbringing to Lady Margaret Bryan and her staff.

But distance was not a problem for Queen Anne; even when she was not with Elizabeth as much as she wanted; she showed her love for her child in other ways.  Anne ordered wardrobes for Elizabeth with the best line of fashion; the best for her little princess; also toys, tapestries, ornaments, jewels; she also increased the members of Elizabeth’s household and the Queen received constant reports about her child’s development.

In Time; almost three months after the birth of Elizabeth; Queen Anne was pregnant again.

To Be Continued….


Sources: Ives Starky.







Mercy Rivera

Mercy Rivera is a popular short deep introspection fiction and non-fiction history writer composing in both English and Spanish. Mercy is also well known for her beautifully crafted historically themed videos.

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