DALLAS (SMU) Blood group incompatibility between Henry VIII and his wives could have driven the Tudor king's reproductive woes, and a genetic condition related to his suspected blood group could also explain Henry's dramatic mid-life transformation into a physically and mentally-impaired tyrant who executed two of his wives.
Research conducted by bioarchaeologist Catrina Banks Whitley while she was a graduate student at SMU (Southern Methodist University) and anthropologist Kyra Kramer shows that the numerous miscarriages suffered by Henry's wives could be explained if the king's blood carried the Kell antigen. A Kell negative woman who has multiple pregnancies with a Kell positive man can produce a healthy, Kell positive child in a first pregnancy; But the antibodies she produces during that first pregnancy will cross the placenta and attack a Kell positive fetus in subsequent pregnancies.
As published in The Historical Journal (Cambridge University Press), the pattern of Kell blood group incompatibility is consistent with the pregnancies of Henry's first two wives, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. If Henry also suffered from McLeod syndrome, a genetic disorder specific to the Kell blood group, it would finally provide an explanation for his shift in both physical form and personality from a strong, athletic, generous individual in his first 40 years to the monstrous paranoiac he would become, virtually immobilized by massive weight gain and leg ailments.
"It is our assertion that we have identified the causal medical condition underlying Henry's reproductive problems and psychological deterioration," write Whitley and Kramer.
Henry married six women, two of whom he famously executed, and broke England's ties with the Catholic Church all in pursuit of a marital union that would produce a male heir. Historians have long debated theories of illness and injury that might explain the physical deterioration and
|Contact: Kim Cobb|
Southern Methodist University