Sunday, June 03, 2012

Question from Parisa - Literal promise of a son by Anne Boleyn

I love this site! Thank you.

I've developed an obsessive interest in "all things Tudor". One question which bothers me is did Anne Boleyn actually and literally promise Henry a son during their courtship, or did Henry assume this was the understanding between them? Or is it history's assumption? I cannot find any information on this, other than that astrologers and physicians assured the birth of a male heir once Anne was pregnant.

It would seem given her intelligence, the low rate of successful pregnancies, and the number of failed attempts from Henry's 1st marriage, Anne would know her odds of giving birth to a healthy boy weren't 100% in her favor. Wouldn't she have tried to down play the expectation as a precautionary, "better safe than sorry" measure?


Anonymous said...

Hello Parisa!
Throughout my research I didn't find any literal promise made by Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII, concerning their future sons.
But, during mass in the chapel, Anne and Henry passed love notes in illuminated Book of Hours. Anne wrote:

By daily proof you shall me find
To be to you both loving and kind.

And she wrote it under miniature of Annunciation (angel telling Mary that she will give birth to Jesus).

So, that's the only mention about Anne's promise to Henry. I think it was rather symbolic than literal, but we all know how serious Henry VIII was about male issue.

Hope that helps.


Laura said...

I don't think there's any way that Anne would have tried to "down play" the expectation of a male heir. You have to remember that at the time, failure to produce a living male heir was used as proof of God's disfavor, and therefore proof that the woman did something wrong. Since Anne always claimed to be a virtuous woman, it would be completely against her cause to have tried to down play her ability to produce a son for Henry.

Since there is no way that Anne wouldn't have been responsible for producing a son (women were always blamed for lack of male heirs, despite what we now know about human reproduction and the gender of a child being decided by the sperm rather than the egg), there would have been no advantage for her in downplaying the expectation. For Henry, the desire to for a son was the most important thing. While he loved her intensely at the time of their marriage, if he had known she wouldn't produce a male heir for him, he wouldn't have married her.

While there is no solid proof that Anne promised H VIII a son, I think it very likely that she did. She was banking on her youth (relative to K of Aragon) and health to give her plenty of time to be able to provide him with an heir.