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.
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.