Saturday, November 15, 2008

Question from Liz - Mary I's pregnancies and "Bloody Mary" game

As a kid, I remember playing "Bloody Mary." My sister, her friends, and I would light candles,turn off all the lights, and and whisper into a mirror: Bloody Mary, I've stolen your baby." The legend was that, if you chanted it so many times, Bloody Mary would jump from the mirror and kill you.

In retrospect, this game sounds morbid, but it was kinda fun in a spooky way. I've heard other kids have played this game and I wonder where it orgianted from and if its connected to Mary I.

I did a little search and found this: "On the other hand, various people have surmised that the lore about taunting Bloody Mary about her baby may relate her tenuously to folklore about Queen Mary I, known in history by the sobriquet "Bloody Mary".[3][1] The queen's life was marked by a number of miscarriages or false pregnancies. Speculation exists that the miscarriages were deliberately induced. As a result, some retellings of the tale make Bloody Mary the queen driven to madness by the loss of her children"

I was wondering if anyone knowns the validity of these claims


Anonymous said...

Mary Tudor had one well-documented false pregnancy after her marriage to Philip of Spain in 1554. The pair met for the first time in June, and by September it was determined that Mary was "pregnant." But by the following summer Mary had failed to give birth and it was realized the she was not, in fact, pregnant. She did not suffer a miscarriage ... she simply failed to give birth to any child. The "pregnancy" essentially "faded away."

Mary had a second, less well documented false pregnancy in late 1557 that extended into early 1558. By the early summer, that pregnancy too had "faded away" without any miscarriage.

Mary died in November 1558.

Medical historians today speculate on the nature of her two false pregnancies. Some attribute the first one to a well-known medical phenomenon known as "hysterical pregnancy," properly called "pseudocyesis." In this condition, women actually convince themselves that they are pregnant, their periods cease or become irregular, they gain weight, suffer nausea and breast enlargement ... all signs of an actual pregnancy. Mary was apparently desperate for a child and may well have suffered the psychological stressors that often induce pseudocyesis.

Others speculate that the false pregnancy may have had a genuine physical source, perhaps an large ovarian cyst or a condition known as hydatidiform mole. In the latter, a woman has a non-viable pregnancy that produces fluid filled vesicles within the uterus. These can sometimes resolve spontaneously, though moden medicine prescribes surgical removal.

Her second false pregnancy may have been anything from an ovarian cyst or tumor to uterine cancer or some other kind of lower abdominal and pelvic mass or malignant growth. One possibility is choriocarcinoma, a type of cancer that can evolve from of a hydatidiform mole that has not been surgically removed. I tend to suspect Mary died as a result of this last possibility.

djd said...

I have always wondered if it was choriocarcinoma that done her in. I remember the day I learned about it in an embriology class and immediately thought about Mary I's symptoms. I kept that to myself, of course :). If Mary did have a hydatidform mole, she would have had all the symptoms of pregnancy initially, but it wouldn't have been a baby growing inside her. If it differentiated into a cancer later, it would most likely be the cause of her death. Is there any cause of death documented for Mary I??

Anonymous said...

"Spectulation exists that the miscarriages were deliberately induced"

By whom?

I don't think that Tudor medicine was far enough advanced to terminate a pregnancy due to an ill fetus while also protecting the mother's health. I also doubt that Mary would have agreed.

Perhaps a mistake by a doctor while treating Mary would have prompted a spontaneous abortion.

Maybe done on purpose? England married to Spain was not popular, and having a child of the union could only, in some opinions, have made the future rather dim.

This is the first instance where anything has been offered that Mary's pregnancies were actually ended with some kind of help...or at least that is how I am reading the quote.

Merlin said...

What Mary died of is rather obscure. She suffered from chronic ill health throughout her adult life- stomach upsets, migraines, irregular and painful periods, palpitations- much of which may well have been psychological in nature. She was ill off and on throughout the summer before she died and developed a fever during her last few weeks. Speculation of what killed her at the time included 'dropsy' (a bit of a 'catch all' I think when no one really knew what was wrong) and a tumour- recent historians have raised the possibility of a form of influenza or similar viral infection. I don't think we'll ever know for sure.

Lara said...

I searched for the origin of the quote from the original question and it showed up in the Wikipedia entry for the Bloody Mary folklore:

which cites this page as the source:

so make of that what you will...

Anonymous said...

In my school some kids think that if you say Bloody Mary, BLoody Mary three times while twirling in front of the mirror that she will come and kill you.

Nancy said...

I also grew up with stories of spooky things that would happen to you if you performed some ritual involving the name "Mary" and a mirror. I think the main story was that you had to repeat "I believe in Mary Worth" five times, with your eyes closed, in front of a mirror, and then when you opened your eyes she would appear in the mirror. There is also a "Resurrection Mary" who is said to prowl local cemeteries.

Anonymous said...

Merlin's comment about Mary I's symptoms of ill health remind me a lot of Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. I suffer from this illness and can vouch for the migraines and irregular periods. It also causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome as well as depression and insulin resistance. It's possible that this may have attested for the false pregnancies and miscarriages in both herself and her mother. I don't know that it would have caused her death, but it's possible that it could have caused the reproductive problems.

Unknown said...

So I've come into this discussion 6 years late. I am a gynaecological cancer specialist and a few things don't add up. Ovarian and uterine cancer, although possible, are extremely rare at the age of 42. Choriocarcinoma (from a hydatidiform mole) is possible but incredibly rare. A Krukenburg tumour of the ovary from the stomach is again possible but rare. She could have had fibroids (very common) which posed as a pregnancy and this would also be a cause of infertility but then the cause of death would have to have been unrelated as this would not have caused her illness. I wonder if this is the most likely. The only other thing to note is that she married at the age of 37 or 38 which would have been past her most fertile time.

Anonymous said...

I'm posting this like late, late but bloody Mary was her nickname which she was granted by protestants for killing hundreds of protestants to try and attempt to bring back the Catholic faith. Perhaps by repeating that you are taunting her for the loss of her faith. Perhaps also it could be because protestants called her that, she when you repeat it, she believes you are a protestant, which is why she is said to kill you. Yet I doubt that it actually works if you do the bloody Mary thing.