Sunday, November 23, 2014


Science may have found the key to Henry VIII's marital woes. From the SMU blog:
Blood group incompatibility between Henry VIII and his wives could have driven the Tudor king’s reproductive woes, and a genetic condition related to his suspected blood group could also explain Henry’s dramatic mid-life transformation into a physically and mentally-impaired tyrant who executed two of his wives.

Research conducted by bioarchaeologist Catrina Banks Whitley while she was a graduate student at SMU and anthropologist Kyra Kramer shows that the numerous miscarriages suffered by Henry’s wives could be explained if the king’s blood carried the Kell antigen. A Kell-negative woman who has multiple pregnancies with a Kell-positive man can produce a healthy, Kell-positive child in a first pregnancy; But the antibodies she produces during that first pregnancy will cross the placenta and attack a Kell-positive fetus in subsequent pregnancies.

As published in The Historical Journal (Cambridge University Press), the pattern of Kell blood group incompatibility is consistent with the pregnancies of Henry’s first two wives, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. (Read more.)


boinky said...

There was a lot of intermarriage in the British aristocracy, so if this was true, we should see more cases of multiple miscarriages in Henry's extended family. Is there any history here?

Catherine's poor obstetrical history could also have been from incompetent cervix. But why did Anne miscarry? what about Henry's other children born of his mistresses? Did these women too miscarry after their first normal birth?

On the other hand, the history is consistent with other problems, such as congenital syphilis, and his paranoia could have been either from neurosyphillis or mercury poisoning, from the drug used to treat the disease.

A DNA tissue sample could tell us if this is true.

elena maria vidal said...

Excellent insights! I personally think Henry had some kind of STD.