A Sad Story of Royal Obstetrics: Part 1/4

I’m so pleased to host JoAnn Spears again. Her nursing musings on the medical ailments of some famous and not so famous royals has been a real crowd pleaser. In this series, she focuses on Queen Anne the Good and her very interesting obstetrical history. 
Personally, I found this fascinating.
Welcome back, JoAnn!

Part One: Who was the woman this happened to?

By the time Queen Anne the Good ascended the throne of Britain in 1702, she had been pregnant a remarkable seventeen or eighteen times. She died, twelve years later, childless. What was this remarkable woman’s story?

Part One: Who was the woman this happened to?
Henry VIII is the British monarch most associated with serious fertility issues. The failure of his first marriage to produce a surviving son led to the English Reformation, the execution of Ann Boleyn, and ultimately, six marriages. Henry in his youth was tall, healthy, vigorous, athletic and intelligent. In old age, he became markedly corpulent.
Queen Victoria is the monarch most associated with royal fecundity. Her nine pregnancies produced nine children and made her, through carefully orchestrated intermarriages, ‘The Grandmother of Europe’. Unfortunately, Victoria also appears to have been the point at which the hemophilia gene entered Europe’s royal houses. Victoria, like Henry VIII, was obese in later life.
Pretty much midway between these two extremes of royal fecundity, Britain was ruled by a queen named Anne, known as ‘the Good’. She is little remembered today. As a study in fertility and infertility, Ann deserves to be better remembered.

Ann was a Stuart, a descendant of the Tudors and of the romantic Mary Queen of Scots. Her father and mother were controversial figures. James II seems to have been always out of step. Anne’s mother, Ann Hyde, was a non-royal that James married, typically, against absolutely all advice. When Ann Hyde died–corpulent– in 1671, she had experienced eight pregnancies and left behind two living children.

The ‘good’ moniker is probably the best description of Anne as a child and young woman. In looks and intellect, it’s most likely that she was pretty average. She was a good and serious English Protestant. Her father, out of step as usual, was not. This political liability led to his losing his throne and to the reigns of Anne’s brother-in-law and sister, William and Mary. When Mary and then William died, childless, Anne ascended the throne.
At an appropriate age, Anne had married an appropriate young man: Prince George of Denmark, a cousin once removed. They were married for about twenty-five years and were a devoted couple. George seems to have been a lot like Anne, both unexceptional and unexceptionable. The wittier members of the English court found him boring, joking that the loud breathing caused by his asthma was the only way they had of knowing that he was actually alive.
Anne’s reign lasted from 1702 to 1714. It was notable for being the time when the two-party system emerged in British politics. It was also notable as a time when female friendships had more of an impact on government behind-the-throne than romantic alliances did. Anne’s friend Sarah Churchill, a distant relative of the modern Princess Diana, was a key political player of the day.
Anne’s obstetrical history was over and done with by the time she became Queen. The year 1700 had seen her final pregnancy. That pregnancy had been preceded by another sixteen or seventeen. The number of living children she had when she ascended the throne–sadly, and almost unbelievably to modern minds–was zero.

JoAnn Spears is a registered nurse with Master’s Degrees in Nursing and Public Administration. Her first novel, Six of One, JoAnn brings a nurse’s gallows sense of humor to an unlikely place: the story of the six wives of Henry VIII. Six of One was begun in JoAnn’s native New Jersey. It was wrapped up in the Smoky Mountains of Northeast Tennessee, where she is pursuing a second career as a writer. She has, however, obtained a Tennessee nursing license because a) you never stop being a nurse and b) her son Bill says “don’t quit your day job”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s