Monday, May 24, 2010

A Phantom Pregnancy

The tragic case of Mary Tudor.
Historians frequently state that Mary suffered from Pseudoycesis, that is phantom pregnancy, a biological and psychological condition whereby a woman exhibits various symptoms of pregnancy yet is carrying no child. Mary suffered from this on two occasions and ultimately died childless. Why she suffered from this remains a mystery, as indeed the condition is regarded with uncertainty by medical experts today. In her biography on Mary, Judith Richards provides detail on modern discussion on Pseudoycesis to better our understanding of the condition Mary probably suffered from. This is undoubtedly interesting, but what of contemporary attitudes to false pregnancy? How did Mary’s contemporaries understand this condition; how common was it back then?
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4 comments:

aLmYbNeNr said...

I recently finished reading Linda Porter's biography on Mary, The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary" and she goes into some detail on the phantom pregnancies as well. I feel so bad for Mary, even though she is long gone...as a woman and a monarch with all eyes on her, how humiliating that must have been for her!
Linda Porter tells us that Lady Lisle, who had many successful pregnancies, did have one phantom pregnancy after all of those so though it might have been rare, phantom pregnancies were not unheard of.

Gareth Russell said...

G.W. Bernard and J. Dewhurst both suggest that Anne Boleyn suffered a phantom pregnancy in 1534, although a lot of other evidence points to it having been a genuine miscarriage at about the 7-month mark. David Starkey makes a very good case for Katherine of Aragon suffering from one, in the aftermath of an early term miscarriage, early in her marriage. Even going so far as to take to her chamber, much as her daughter was to do, years later, waiting for a baby that would never come.

A really, tragic, tragic thing to happen to any woman. I think the waiting and the waiting for a baby that would never come is probably the worst thing to imagine. And the only one of Queen Mary's ladies-in-waiting to tell her the truth - that she wasn't really pregnant - was a woman called Frideswide Strelly (or Stelly... my memory's a bit faulty on that one.) And she suffered temporary disfavour, despite the fact that her fellow ladies-in-waiting were telling an unforgivably stupid lie to please their mistress!

elena maria vidal said...

Yes! And there are still women today who have phantom pregnancies.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you for the additional information, Gareth!