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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 November 2010

Southern Methodist University
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Henry VIII's first two wives experienced multiple pregnancies culminating in late-term miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal mortality. After his fortieth birthday, the king's mental and physical health underwent rapid deterioration. In this article, we argue that both his reproductive troubles and his midlife pathologies can be explained if Henry VIII were positive for the Kell blood group. A Kell negative woman who has multiple pregnancies with a Kell positive male will suffer repeated miscarriages and death of Kell positive foetuses and term infants that occur subsequent to the first Kell positive pregnancy. This pattern is consistent with the pregnancies of Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Additionally, Henry VIII may have suffered from McLeod syndrome, a genetic disorder of the Kell blood group system, which is a condition that causes physical and mental impairment consistent with his ailments.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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We are indebted to the anonymous reviewers and editors of the Historical Journal whose astute comments and recommendations greatly enhanced this article. Kyra Kramer would also like to thank Indiana University for allowing residents of Bloomington access to its library resources, thereby making her independent research possible.


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49 Starkey, Henry: virtuous prince, p. 3.

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54 Lipscomb, 1536, p. 205.

55 Smith, Henry VIII, p. 264.

56 Lipscomb, 1536, p. 184.

57 Starkey, Reign of Henry VIII, p. 13.

58 Smith, Henry VIII, p. 106.

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60 Ibid., p. 266.

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63 Ibid., p. 293.

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66 Ibid., p. 67.

67 Ibid., p. 80.

68 Smith, Henry VIII, p. 125.

69 Starkey, Six wives, p. 523.

70 Ibid., p. 523.

71 Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 332.

72 Ibid., p. 167.

73 Ibid., p. 236.

74 Ives, Life and death, p. 155.

75 Lipscomb, 1536, p. 41.

76 Starkey, Reign of Henry VIII, p. 107.

77 Lipscomb, 1536, p. 195.

78 Ibid., pp. 193–201.

79 Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 332.

80 Ives, Life and death, p. 154.

81 G. W. Bernard, The king's reformation (New Haven, CT, 2007), p. 153.

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86 Ibid., p. 321.

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88 Walker, ‘Rethinking the fall’, p. 4.

89 Ibid., p. 5.

90 Ives, Life and death, pp. 316–21.

91 Walker, ‘Rethinking the fall’, p. 29.

92 Starkey, Reign of Henry VIII, p. 126.

93 Smith, Henry VIII, p. 198.

94 Ibid., p. 591.

95 Walker, ‘Rethinking the fall’, p. 29.

96 Ives, Life and death, p. 351.

97 Ibid., p. 355.

98 Lipscomb, 1536, p. 195.

99 Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 435.

100 Ibid., p. 353.

101 Lindsey, Divorced, beheaded, survived, p. 132.

102 Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 341.

103 Starkey, Henry: virtuous prince, p. 306.

104 Ives, Life and death, p. 105.

105 Lipscomb, 1536, pp. 193–5.

106 Smith, Henry VIII, p. 164.

107 Starkey, Six wives, pp. 620–6.

108 Ibid., p. 627.

109 Lindsey, Divorced, beheaded, survived, p. 142.

110 Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 373.

111 Erickson, Great Harry, p. 155.

112 Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 383.

113 Ibid., p. 235.

114 Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 380.

115 Ibid., p. 383.

116 Lindsey, Divorced, beheaded, survived, p. 156.

117 Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 482.

118 Ibid., p. 434.

119 Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, pp. 78–9.

120 Ibid., pp. 55–9.

121 Smith, Henry VIII, p. 304.

122 Ibid., p. 30.

123 Ibid., p. 34.

124 Ibid., p. 456.

125 Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, p. 470.

126 Lindsey, Divorced, beheaded, survived, p. 152.