The Year of Mary I: Mary’s false pregnancies

by Hans Eworth, oil on panel, 1554

For me, one of the saddest parts of Mary’s life are the false pregnancies that she suffered. Mary had become Queen of England in 1553, and she had married Philip of Spain in July 1554. She was at 37 years old at the time, and that was considered to be near the end of her childbearing age. So if she wanted to have children, and she did desperately, she would need to have them soon. By September of that same year, one of the Queen’s physicians confirmed that was ‘probably’ with child. Naturally, at the time they had no means of confirming the news in the early stages of the pregnancy.

Mary was overcome with joy. Public rejoicing would have to wait until she had felt the child move, as per tradition. This happened at the end of November. She wrote to her cousin and father-in-law, ‘As for that which I carry in my belly, I declare it to be alive and with great humility thank God for His great goodness shown to me’. She was experiencing morning sickness, her belly was growing, and she had felt the child move. There was no reason to think she was not pregnant. Philip had his doubt, however. Mary needed this baby, securing the kingdom was her ultimate goal. Around Easter Mary withdrew from the public for her lying-in at Hampton Court. By 30 April rumours had spread that she had given birth to a son. The rumours proved not be true. The due date was revised, but it was maintained that she was definitely pregnant. By May letters were prepared to announce the arrival of a child.

By August Mary had to face the truth, there would be no baby. She left Hampton Court on 4 August. Mary must have been in despair and humiliated. There is a possibility that she was pregnant and miscarried, but it was probably a false pregnancy. To make matters worse, Philip left for the Low Countries, and any possibility of fathering a child was removed. She would have to wait for his return.

She would suffer another false pregnancy in 1557 that would prove to be fatal. She, who so desperately needed an heir, would be killed by what she believed was a pregnancy. How awful. [ref]Porter, Linda (2007) Mary Tudor: The First Queen. London: Little, Brown. ISBN 978-0-7499-0982-6. [/ref]



About Moniek 1061 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

4 Comments

  1. Technically, this time it wasn’t a false pregnancy which is a true medical condition. Mary thought she was pregnant, falsely. It is thought she died from a cancerous tumor which gave her the appearance of pregnancy.

  2. Hi,love this site and your Facebook page!😊 I make a point to visit daily. So to my question…
    When you stated that “Philip had his doubts”, what did you mean exactly? Was there contemporary sources regarding his opinions or thoughts on Mary and her false pregnancy(ies)? I would love to read more on this side note of yours, Moniek.

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