26 January 2011

Queen Catherine gives birth to Mary

Mary was born on 18, February 1516.  She was Monday's child, born in the early hours of the morning.  Queen Catherine had endured a very difficult labor, and was undoubtedly hoping for a healthy baby boy.  Catherine would not have her heart's desire, as the baby was a girl.  She was also unaware that much sadder news awaited her.  Two days prior, news had arrived in London bearing the notice that Catherine's beloved father had died.  This news was deliberately kept from her, understandably, that she might face her labor and delivery in as good form as possible.

Catherine had endured much heartache, and great disappointment prior to Baby Mary's birth.  Catherine had suffered four miscarriages, a stillbirth, and the mysterious death of a seemingly healthy baby son at the age of two months.  It must be remembered that while Catherine was experiencing her long series of disappointments, she was also growing older. There clock ticked loudly for Tudor women, much more so than for women in their childbearing years, today.  Life expectancy was much reduced, and therefore the time to easily conceive was shortened accordingly.  There were still instances of women delivering viable infants in their mid-forties, or so, but these cases were rare.

Though Henry was disappointed at Mary's gender, he adopted a positive outlook, saying that her birth was proof that the couple could have healthy children. "We are still young," Henry replied to a Venetian ambassador who had offered what could nearly be taken as a condolence.

Henry may have been too optimistic.  Catherine was 31, and in Tudor days, a number of years which we now regard as youthful, was actually quite mature.

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