Queen Anne – 18 Pregnancies, No Living Children

I’ve been very interested in British history since I’ve been living in the UK, especially reading about the people and events that surround places that I’ve visited. I also really enjoy reading historical fiction.
In several stories I’ve read, especially about Henry VIII’s many wives, you get a feel for how common it was to have babies die in the womb or in infancy. Catherine of Aragon experienced several miscarriages and stillbirths, and was left with only one child who made it past infancy who ended up becoming Queen Mary (Bloody Mary). Then you have Anne Boleyn who’s first child ended up becoming Queen Elizabeth I, but who had at least one miscarriage and one stillbirth that they can verify.
Whilst Steve and I were recently visiting Windsor Castle, we were walking through St. George’s Chapel when we literally stumbled upon Henry VIII’s grave. I was surprised at my own lack of knowledge about the fact that he had been buried there, but I was more surprised by the fact that his tomb wasn’t marked by an elaborate stone or sarcophagus – just a simple, flat stone on the floor.
What also struck me, was that he shared his tomb with “An Infant Child of Queen Anne.” When I saw that I had tears in my eyes. I didn’t know much about Queen Anne, and so today I started reading about her and her infant child that is buried with Henry VIII.

Infant Child of Queen Anne grave
Tomb of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, King Charles I, and Infant Child of Queen Ann.
Photo taken at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle
I wasn’t prepared for what I discovered. Queen Anne had been through between 17-19 pregnancies (the actual number is debated among historians), only three of her babies survived past infancy, and even then ALL of her children died in childhood.

12 May 1684 – Stillborn Daughter
2 June 1685 ~ 8 February 1687 – Mary (died of smallpox)
12 May 1686 ~ 2 February 1687 – Anne Sophia (died of smallpox)
21 January 1687 – Miscarriage
22 October 1687 – Stillborn Son (Anne gave birth at 7 months, but the baby was dead a month inside her)
16 April 1688 – Miscarriage
24 July 1689 ~ 30 July 1700 – William, Duke of Gloucester
14 October 1690 – Mary (was around 2 months premature and lived about 2 hours)
17 April 1692 – George (lived just a few minutes)
23 March 1693 – Stillborn Daughter
21 January 1694 – Stillbirth
17 or 18 February 1696 – Miscarried Daughter
20 September 1696 – Miscarriage/Stillbirth (twin one of 7 months gestation, twin two of 3 months gestation)
25 March 1697 – Miscarriage
Early December 1697 – Miscarriage
15 September 1698 – Stillborn Son (foetus might have been dead 8 or 10 days)
24 January 1700 – Stillborn Son (born at 7.5 months after the foetus had been dead for a month)

These are the pregnancies that are detailed on Wikipedia. I can’t help but look at that list and just want to cry for her. I’m attempting to find documentation about how these losses affected her, or generally people of the age when stillbirth and infant death were much more common. Surely after witnessing more than 15 of your children die, there must not be much hope left in the world. And how would so many pregnancies have affected her physically?
None of the babies who had died before birth were given names as far as I can tell. I wonder if the world counted them as people. I wonder if she had been allowed to see them before they were taken away and buried. I wonder how she found the strength to keep attempting to get pregnant to secure heirs to the throne. I wonder so many things.
Queen Anne died with no living heirs to the throne.

19 thoughts on “Queen Anne – 18 Pregnancies, No Living Children

  1. How absolutely horrific. That poor woman!! My first baby died when I was 5 months pregnant. I was devastated and afraid that any following pregnancies would end the same way. I had to have the dead fetus surgically removed. I too am fascinated by British history and anything about the royals and found your article extremely interesting.

    Kathy
    http://gigglingtruckerswife.blogspot.com

  2. Thats terrible… I think at the back of my mind, where the facts I learnt at GCSE history live, I did know about this. One bit that strikes me is that at the start of 1687 she had a miscarriage and then lost both surviving children to small pox within a month!

    It is totally tragic but I bet this kind of thing happens today in developing countries. I spent some time working as a teacher in rural Kenya and there was a clinic in the same compound as the school (it was a convent community centre type place) Anyway in the month I was there we had several people bring in babies dying of tummy bugs that would be so quickly treated in the U.K and if you were premature then that was it, no NICU. Also, no proper operating theatre so if the baby was in distress there were no ceaserians, you just had to wait and see unless you had money and transport to go several hours in to the city to the big hospital- which most people didn’t. At least my boys, at 24 weeks +3 stood a chance here and were well cared for. they certainly wouldn’t there or indeed in the 1600s!

  3. Oh. Oh, how awful! How tragic! How did she manage to keep going? I can’t even imagine. I’ve had my own miscarriages (one in England when we lived there in 1994), and I eventually just stopped getting pregnant because I couldn’t deal with losing them all.

    What depth of tragedy for the women of earlier times.

  4. What a terrible way to live back then, really horrific to lose so many babies. I can’t imagine how she could go on trying, how much heartbreak can one person hold I wonder.

  5. Wow. I can’t even imagine what her life must’ve been like losing that many children.

  6. Missymaise

    Wow that is incredibly sad – and to think she was one of the priviledged people what happened to the poor?! I heard a programme on the radio a while ago about a figure from history (I don’t recall who) Who had had 9 pregnancies and only 1 surviving child. In so many ways I’m so grateful to be alive now and have the health care that I do, knowing that my stillbirth was due to a placenta problem and that they will induce me early to try and prevent it happening again, along with loads of scans, aspirin and monitoring cord blood flow. I guess there are still places in the world where this could happen. It reminds me to count my blessings even after stillbirth. Thanks Fiona

  7. oh how awful. Given the time, the lack of support for such a horrible thing and how she was just expected to, and did, continue to try and produce a living heir to the throne – all the while probably not being allowed to publicly grieve for any of those babies. Just awful. So heartbreaking.

  8. Nick

    A particularly dreadful feature is that the one child who did survive infancy died at the age of eleven – William, Duke of Gloucester. It may reveal something about the other tragic deaths that poor William’s life was beset by illness – fevers, fits and water on the brain. Of course, he was so precious to the Stuart lineage that every quack remedy available was administered, making his short life all the more miserable.

    However, from a medical point of view it is worth pointing out that Anne’s sister Mary married her first cousin William (becoming William and Mary in the Glorious Revolution) and the two failed to produce any children – inter-breeding was a feature of European royalty with fairly tragic results at times. Anne married a relative – although a little more distant – in George of Denmark … perhaps no co-incidence that they produced so many frail offspring.

    Astonishingly, Anne did her duty and ascended to the throne on the death of her brother-in-law even though she was destroyed physically by her preganacies. Legend has it that she became so inactive she gorged herself half to death and had to be buried in a square coffin.

    Terribly sad – she was bitterly unhappy but felt unable to side-step her royal duty to produce an heir, then take the throne when she couldn’t.

  9. Anonymous

    Just returned from the U.K. and discovered that she was wed to a man who came to her with rampant veneral disease. this is most likely why her children died as the disease is fatal to a fetus or young child.

  10. Anonymous

    The guides at the palace of the Duke of Marlborough told us the story that when Queen Anne was told that her husband to be Prince George of Denmark was a round about and had veneral disease that she cried and cried but did her duty. The result was 18 dead children now thought to have died because of infection in utero. Horrible that she was forced to marry a diseased man out of royal duty.

  11. Bibiana

    You know, it was not so long ago that families EXPECTED to lose at least one child. This was a fact of life. Thank God for modern medicine.

  12. Yvonne Raptis

    Hello, I’m very interestd in British history and the story of Queen Anne is very sad. However the Queen Anne referred to on Henry VIII’s tombstone is more likely to be Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife and mother of Queen Elizabeth I. After giving birth to Elizabeht, Anne had several miscarriages, probably because she was resus negative.

    • sissons.lisa@gmail.com

      Anne Boleyn was not buried with Henry VIII. He chopped off her head for goodness sakes. Do some research.

      • dawon

        Why she keeped getting pregnant over and over and over again i think the reason she kepped misscarring is probaly of diebeties or weight gaining

  13. Tessa

    How absolutely horrific! that must have been terrible to go through!

  14. Marianne

    Until recently, it was fashionable for historians to argue that parents in the past didn’t feel much affection for their children. They couldn’t afford to. They knew they were almost certainly going to lose some of them so they hardened themselves.
    This is no longer a popular viewpoint. There is a touching story of Anne and her husband holding hands and crying after one – or was it two of their children in quick succession – had just died of smallpox.

    Given the sad story of the Indian dentist who died of blood poisoning because fanatical doctors in Ireland refused to remove the foetus that was poisoning her, I am a little surprised that Anne managed to survive with a foetus dead inside her for a month before it was expelled naturally.

    People spoke casually of how fat Anne was when she came to the throne, almost unable to walk, and that in the end her coffin was almost square. She was also known as Brandy Nan, implying that she had hit the bottle. All this was recounted with no sympathy whatsoever but rather with mockery. Is it that a lifetime of almost constant pregnancies, all ultimately futile, was such a common experience, that people of the time were callous about it?

  15. laf

    The Anne mentioned on the tomb is Queen of Anne of the Stuart family. She had around 15 (at least) miscarriages and still births. It’s theorized her husband had venereal diseases before they were even wed, which could account for the obstetrical issues with Queen Anne. But obviously, we can never know for sure.

    But yes, it’s definitely not Anne Boleyn that’s mentioned here on the tomb.

  16. Tara Roberts

    Absolutely broke my heart. There is a room in Kensington palace that is full of tiny chairs and high chairs that represent all her littles. So sad. I can’t figure out how to attach a picture.

  17. You can see the photo of the room with the chairs here: http://london2012nh.blogspot.com/2012/08/kensington-palace.html

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