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I Wonder...? Could Katherine of Aragon Have Been...

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by AragornElessar, Mar 22, 2011.

  1. AragornElessar

    AragornElessar Well-Known Member


    I was reading my copy of Royalty Magazine last night that commemorates William and Kate's Engagement and there's quite the interesting tidbit mini article in there about Katherine of Aragorn.

    Apparently, researchers have found letters sent by Pope Julius II to the Prince of Wales (Whether this is Arthur or Henry isn't clear) to let his concerns about the religious fervour of the Princess of Wales and her health be known. Apparently, Katherine was going overboard, in his eyes, when it came to her fasting ritiuals. To the point she was ignoring his orders when it came to not going through w/fasts so often.

    Here's the *really* interesting thing...

    They're wondering this. If Katherine was fasting so often and not eating as well as she should have been eating due to the restraints of whatever fasting ritual she was following at the time...Could this actually have been a form of Anorexia/Bulimia and *this* was the real cause of the fertitlity problems Katherine and Henry had?

    It makes sense when you think of it. If Katherine wasn't eating due to doing a fast, *and* she was pregnant, the baby wouldn't be getting that vital nutrition it needed and in turn...A still born baby.

    Dad turned to me when I let out a "Oh my GOSH!!!" after I'd read that wondering if I hadn't lost it. :D After I had him read the little tidbit article, he looked at me w/that same realization of shock and says to me, "That could explain everything right there!!"

    It could too. Just putting that out there for discussion.
  2. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

    what exactly would be changed if it turns out she was anorexic?
  3. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    It would be of interest to both Tudor and medical historians, I would imagine.

    I am not aware of cases of anorexia going so far back in history but who knows. It would certainly be interesting if confirmed.
  4. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

    Would it be anorexia as we know it today? If she was just so completely fervent in her religious beliefs, it certainly wouldn't fit the idea of anorexia that we have today. She wasn't doing it because of fear of gaining weight. I find that hard to believe because wasn't it seen as a good thing to be a little plump because it meant you had the money to afford to eat more than needed? Something like that. I just doubt she was doing it for physical reasons but more for spiritual and to me that is a different issue than anorexia. However, it could very well explain her child bearing issues.
  5. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    Well, anorexia really only means lack of appetite. While in modern setting it is associated with preoccupation with one's weight and body dysmorphic disorder, it doesn't have to.

    Anorexia nervosa is a more specific name for the weight-related eating disorder.
  6. victoriajh

    victoriajh trying to ignore rod and find the eurosport feed

    interesting for sure- but Henry was believed to be the one with the challenges in the fertility department!! lol I was watching the Tudors last night- man i wish they had also done Elizabeth and Mary's reigns as well- that show was epic!
  7. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    That is unlikely since he did have children by other wives and mistresses. Also, Anne Boleyn does fit the profile of the Rh factor problem. I don't think we will ever know for sure.
  8. attyfan

    attyfan Well-Known Member

    Also, I doubt that Katherine would have been fasting while pregnant. Furthermore, considering that Anne Boleyn also had several miscarriages, I doubt that the problem was Katherine's.
  9. oleada

    oleada Well-Known Member

    Anne Boleyn is speculated to have been RH-, and Henry VIII to have been RH+, hence the complications in the pregnancies following Elizabeth's birth. I doubt that had anything to do with Henry, nor did it have anything to do with Katherine.

    Later in life when he was obese and ill, yes, I believe that had to do with him, but not with his first wives. Jane Seymour and possibly the deaths of the early children with Katherine of Aragon are attributed to the lack of hygienic conditions at the time.
  10. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    Infant and maternal perinatal mortality was generally high at the time due to various reasons.
  11. oleada

    oleada Well-Known Member

    Yeah, you're right. I was referring to the fact that Janey Seymour was speculated to have died from an infected perineum, and I think there were some hygenic corners re: the first son too.
  12. dbell1

    dbell1 Well-Known Member

    I read that she was quite fat near the end. But, if she was thin in the beginning, remember that Henry VII kept her dowry (from the Arthur debacle), left her to pawn her own plate for household money while looking around for better offers for Henry. Only when VII died, did her lot in life improve (or not, considering what VIII did to her). Must suck to be a princess by birth and then marry a philandering jackass. Of course, 3 of the next 4 didn't make it out of the marriage alive. :yikes:
  13. attyfan

    attyfan Well-Known Member

    Henry set down a lot of hygenic rules and restrictions (including frequent cleanings of everything) when households were set up, for his three surviving children ... so I am sure he did the same for the children that did not live as long.

    You are right, that the Rh issue is unique to Anne, just as the (possibility) of anorexia would be unique to Katherine. However, often times a common result (lots of miscarriages), indicates a common cause (something about Henry)

    However, a lot of the evidence indicating fertility troubles on Henry's part is debateable. For example, historians disagree as to when Henry had his affair with Mary Boleyn ... and if so, whether he was the father of her two children (one of whom was a son, BTW). Certainly, the number of illegitimate children he may have had bears on whether or not he had fertility problems.
  14. oleada

    oleada Well-Known Member

    Henry had one illegitimate son that I can remember - Henry Fitzroy. Personally, I don't think Mary Boleyn's kids are his, but that's my non-historian opinion. It's been a while since I re-read or read anything new on that era.
  15. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    One thing I've always wondered about - how difficult it must have been for women to use the toilet in the days prior to plumbing, especially given the types and layers of clothing they had to deal with. Maybe there were hooks on the walls of outhouses for skirts. I've also heard that women used the bathroom in pairs.

    I would think it would be natural to become very controlled with eating and drinking habits if you faced that difficulty. It's not the same thing as an eating disorder, but could certainly lead to an eating disorder.
  16. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

    Ehhh..."anorexic" in the literal sense of not eating, but unlikely for the exact same modern psychological reasons. It is not unheard of for people of extreme religious beliefs to have taking fasting to extremes, probably at least in part inspired by stories of saints who existed only on the Eucharist (and Katherine WAS a very devout Catholic, who probably could have kept a lot of problems from occurring if she HAD decided to retire to a convent.) Combine religiously devout with any sort of predisposition to obsessive behavior and it wouldn't be a big stretch.

    As for..ah, using the facilities...having worn a variety of period garments, it's not actually as hard as you'd think. (Hoops are actually easier than Tudor clothes, if you know how to sit in them--bend the knees and 'break' them, don't try to sit like you're in pants!) Not least because while there are layers and the UPPER body was often constrained in one way or another, usually, there wasn't actually that much under the skirts. (I vaguely recall a book or paper on the subject noting it's a little conflicted--the upper body's often practically in armor, but all you really need to do for 'access', If You Know What I Mean, was flip up the skirts and maybe yank a pair of pantalettes down at most.) There isn't actually much going on to prevent you from doing your business, certainly less of a hassle than a modern bodysuit or leotard or a mid-20th-century girdle.
  17. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

    It would have been Henry. Arthur died in 1502 and Julius II was elected Pope in 1503.

    Anyway, it's an interesting theory. It would explain what could have happened with the stillbirths and the babies who didn't live long. But it wouldn't explain why Mary was so healthy and why she lived, when all the others didn't.

    The thing I always assumed was that there was some genetic disorder within either Henry or Katherine that was passed on to all their babies, save Mary, which made for a short life span.

    But we will likely never know. Not unless everyone was exhumed and tested, and even then, it might not explain anything.
  18. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    This link gives a relatively good summary of Henry's legitimate and acknowledged children (in dispute naturally, but this is the most generally agreed on):

    Note that all Catherine's children were in the first 10 years of their marriage, when many historians believe that she and Henry were actually quite happy. Elizabeth Blount's child (who he acknowledged and who is listed on the link) was at the end of this period, and arguably, could have been either a symptom or a catalyst in the marriage starting to deteriorate.

    Note that Anne Boleyn wasn't in the picture for another 5 years or so after that, when Henry's marriage to Catherine was all but over. Sandwiched in between is the time when Henry reportedly had the affair with Mary Boleyn and she bore two children, whose paternity is still up for debate. (My belief is that Henry is his, Catherine is not.)

    So, if we look at the health of Henry's known children -

    • Mary - died age 42
    • Henry Fitzroy - lived to age 17, but is rumoured to have been murdered
    • Henry Carey (possibly) - lived to age 71, had 6 children, at least half reaching adulthood
    • Catherine Carey (possibly) - lived to age 45 and bore 14 children, at least half reaching adulthood and one infamously living to age 95
    • Elizabeth - died age 59 and was apparently quite healthy
    • Edward - died age 15, was sickly from childhood
    Henry's record is likely in line with the times.

    As for Catherine's eating, I agree it's most likely about religious fervour. As I understand it, the main motivation for eating disorders is not necessarily weight loss, but control over one's body, which in Catherine's case might be a morphing from the discipline that she hoped would achieve some kind of religious fulfillment.

    Either way, if it caused her stillbirths and miscarriages - three of the five were thought to be boys, so yes, if they had lived, the history of England would be completely rewritten.
  19. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

    I had heard that the ancient Romans used to binge and purge at their banquets. Also the upper class women women in earlier times (Medici court, French courts,) used to pride themselves on having 10 and 14 inch waists (with the help of corsets) so I would bet they were weight obsessed as well.
  20. Civic

    Civic New Member

    I always thought it was cruelly ironic that the Henry VIII blamed his wives for not giving him a son when it was up to him to contribute the necessary Y chromosone. Of course, the biological mechanics of gender selection were unknown in Tudor times. Nor was Henry the only husband throughout history who laid a guilt-trip on his wife for not giving him a male heir.
  21. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    Yes, I've heard it too. They did it so that once they get full, they could purge and start eating/drinking all over again. :scream:
    This I haven't heard. Where is your information coming from?
  22. DarrellH

    DarrellH New Member

    I had always thought that Henry was STD riddled. With all the affairs he had during his marriage to Catherine, he picked up a few unwanted diseases. If he passed these on to his wives, they could have had one or two children before each was too infected. I assumed the passing on of STDs inhibited the fertility of the wives.
  23. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    We've had a lively discussion once before about Henry possibly having had syphilis.
  24. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    Just did a little rechecking around the internet, and it appears that was likely not the case. Several articles point out that syphilis was well known at the time, and would have been recorded by Henry's doctors, along with the treatments of the day. His wives were all able to bear children, and there's no evidence that any of his surviving children had symptoms of STDs.

    Further, it's generally agreed that Henry was faithful for the first half of his marriage to Catherine, which lasted 20 years, and only two mistresses are actually documented. Of course there could be many more, but given the scrutiny on his life you'd think more of them would have turned up by now.
  25. purple skates

    purple skates Shadow Dancing

    He had many more, most of whom were stars of historical romance novels. :p

    Seriously, it is pretty well known how pious Catherine was, so the fasting thing is an interesting angle. Childbearing was such a dicey thing back then, though, it's hard to say if it had an effect on her.
  26. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

    10"? I'd like a source on that, too. Unless women were MUCH smaller overall than they are today, that's bordering on physically impossible. I can take four or five inches off my waist (natural waist, beneath the floating rib) with a late 19th-century replica compression corset without losing too much beyond the ability to take DEEP breaths or bend too far, and with some training from an early age I *might* have been able to go one or two more, but unless you were STARTING from a natural waist of only 16-17" to begin with, 10" around is incredibly tiny. That's only four inches wider than my WRIST.
  27. Bunny Hop

    Bunny Hop Perpetually learning Dutch Waltz

    The pedant in me needs to point out that this is a popular misconception. There is actually very little evidence that Edward was a sickly child. Certainly, his last years were problematic, but it's generally accepted now that he was pretty healthy as an infant and young boy.
  28. GaPeach

    GaPeach New Member

    But one of his mistresses had been very active in the French court, that was riddled with STDs.

    On the flipside: K.H had an old man with medical issues, possibly problem in the bedroom. K.P was his nursemaid. So I don't think children were possible.

    Interesting about Catherine-I can see her fasting like mad for religious purposes.
  29. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    Yes you are right - after I posted that and when I was looking at Henry's medical history, I saw many references to Edward being born a healthy child.
  30. Tinami Amori

    Tinami Amori Well-Known Member

    Neah……. :lol: She was a rabid Catholic….. :D.

    Devoted and fanatical Spanish Catholics often went further than fasting and abstaining from meat and other foods on the days prescribed by the Canons.

    They often limited their food intake during several days in every week of the year to service penance for their sins, to cleanse the soul and to show willpower and endurance and solidarity with the struggles of Christ.