Anne Boleyn. Unknown English artist. Late 16th century, based on a work-related of circa 1533-1536. Nationwide Portrait Gallery.

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Of all the wives of brothers King Henry VIII, the most famous is ann Boleyn. She is the woman who, one method or another, resulted in the split between Henry and Catherine the Aragon – and also the split between England and the Catholic Church. She has been asserted a martyr, a witch, a hero, a snake, and also a feminist icon. Regardless of her reputation, aspects of she health and appearance continue to be a mystery.

Following Anne’s death, the is reported the Henry destroyed many portraits of her, leaving only duplicates of paintings that may not be of the queen at all.1 most sources agree the she had actually dark hair and eyes, that she was tall, and also that she had a darker complexion. That was likewise believed she was unattractive, with a influential goiter and also six fingers on one or both hands. These ideas have even developed a supposed “syndrome” denote a link between goiter and polydactylism. However is any type of of the true?

Historians now say the is not. Most of the remaining records describing ann Boleyn were developed after she death, and many by those search to damage her reputation. Few of these files were created by world who had actually actually well-known the queen throughout her lifetime.

Her major detractor, Nicholas Sander, said she had a huge “wen” that she hid v high-necked dresses, and also a protruding tooth and also the notorious sixth finger on her best hand. Sander to be a Catholic scholar, and also his composing on the Anglican schism to be intended to counter pro-Anglican writing, an especially John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments. Considering Anne’s important association with the schism in England, the is not surprising she did no fare fine in his writing.2

Writing a story of his friend and also employer Cardinal thomas Wolsey, George Cavendish claimed that Anne had actually an extra nail, not whole finger, and that it was concealed well. He additionally stated that rather of a goiter she may have had small moles on she neck. Wolsey was closely affiliated in the chaos surrounding Henry and Anne. Cavendish was at court throughout the same period and may have actually had short encounters with the royal pair, yet his function in writing was concentrated on clearing the Cardinal’s reputation. Improvement of Anne’s picture was most likely to reduce any type of shadow cast on Cardinal wolsey by their association.3

Other sources describe her hands as “well-shaped” and make no mention at all of polydactylism.4 Later, an excavation was performed at the site where the queen was supposedly buried, and also when the skeletons discovered were examined, no one showed signs of an extra digit.5 Assuming the Anne’s body was among those discovered, and also that those who defined her many fingers and goiter had the explicit aim to skew late of her, that is skeptical she had actually either condition.

Further, it is hesitant that Henry VIII would have actually been so enamored through Anne – waiting 6 years for his divorce — if she had actually an imperfection as big as an extra finger. In his time “even a discolored spot on a fingernail” to be a negative omen, and also with the king’s quest for a healthy and balanced male heir, Anne would not have met his requirements if she were as unattractive as reported.6

What about the link between goiter and also extra fingers?

Two sources claim a connection between these conditions, the an initial written in 1953 together a thing on congenital anomalies7 and also the 2nd an editorial essay in MD newspaper in 1974. Both label it together the syndrome of anne Boleyn. One study analyzing goiter in Panama did uncover a regional prevalence the polydactylism, but the connection seems come exist i do not have anything else.8 The syndrome is discussed only in the writings from 1953 and 1974.9 Dr. Felix Marti-Ibanez, author of the 1974 article, uses the previous work-related as a feather board right into a wider discussion of the wellness of Henry VIII, but he nevertheless perpetuates the connection.10

Consequently, the is no fair come conclude that anne Boleyn stood for a famous situation of an undiscovered syndrome – together neither syndrome nor extra fingers seem come exist.

This does not median Anne Boleyn’s wellness is without amazing notes. In June the 1528 she contracted sweat sickness,11 i beg your pardon periodically brushed up through the English population until its critical epidemic in 1551.12 tiny is known around the English sweating sickness except that that was highly contagious and had a high mortality price – approximately 30-50%.12

Symptoms had chills and also tremors complied with by high fever, weakness, and also profuse sweating. The condition ran its food exceptionally fast, and also at the time the finest treatment to be confinement to bed because that 24 hours.13

When among Anne’s maids contract “the sweat” Anne and her attendants were sent to Hever come wait the end the sickness in quarantine. Henry VIII was worried for she health, and also perhaps much more so the he can contract the sickness himself,14 together the sweat appeared to have actually some choice for young guys of noble blood.15

But Anne would certainly recover16 and would then walk on to make her mark as queen and also mother come Elizabeth I, that would carry England right into its gold age.

End Note

Title quote from: George Cavendish, The Life of Cardinal Wolsey, 2nd Edition. Accessed via the net Archive (London: Harding and also Lepard, 1827), 424, https://archive.org/details/lifeofcardinal00cave/page/n8.

Works Cited:

Susan Bordo,The production of anne Boleyn” A brand-new Look at England’s Most notorious Queen, (Boston, brand-new York: house turn Mifflin Harcourt, 2013), xi.Nicholas Sander, Rise and also Growth that the Anglican Schism, trans. David Lewis. 1877 ed., accessed via the net Archive (London: Burns and also Oates, 1877), 25.George Cavendish, The Life of Cardinal Wolsey, 2nd accessed via the net Archive (London: Harding and Lepard, 1827), 424, https://archive.org/details/lifeofcardinal00cave/page/n8Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn: A thing of English History. 1527-1536, accessed via the net Archive (London: Macmillan and also Co., 1884), 49, https://archive.org/details/anneboleynachap00friegoog/page/n5.Doyne C. Bell, “Queen anne Boleyn” in Notices that the historic Persons buried in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower the London. Through an Account the the exploration of the an alleged Remains that Queen ann Boleyn, (London: man Murray, Albemarle Street, 1877), 26.Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and also Fall of anne Boleyn, 3rd ed., (Cambridge: Cambridge college Press, 1991), 246.Isidor Greenwald, “The an alleged ‘Syndrome of ann Boleyn’ (Goiter and Polydactylism),” Bulletin of the history of Medicine volume 38, no. <3> (May-June, 1964): 271, Accessed June 28, 2019, https://www.jstor.org/stable/44447065.Nevin S. Scrimshaw, “INCAP researches of endemic goiter and its prevention,” Food and Nutrition Bulletin volume 31, no. <1> (2010): 113, Accessed June 28, 2019, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/156482651003100111.Isidor Greenwald, “The supposed ‘Syndrome of anne Boleyn’”Felix Marti-Ibañez, “The ‘Anne Boleyn’ Syndrome,” 11.Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn: A chapter of English History. 1527-1536, 72.Paul Heyman, Christel Cochez, Mirsada Hukiĉ, “The English sweating Sickness: out of Sight, out of Mind?,” Acta Medica scholastic volume 47, no. <1> (2018): 103, Accessed June 28, 2019, DOI 10.5644/ama2006-124.221.Retha M. Warnicke, The Rise and also Fall of anne Boleyn, 80.Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn: A thing of English History. 1527-1536, 72.Paul Heyman, Christel Cochez, Mirsada Hukiĉ, “The English sweating Sickness: the end of Sight, out of Mind?,”105.Paul Friedmann, Anne Boleyn: A chapter of English History. 1527-1536, 73.


Bell, Doyne C. “Queen anne Boleyn” in Notices of the historical Persons hidden in the Chapel that St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower the London. Through an Account the the exploration of the an alleged Remains that Queen ann Boleyn. London: man Murray, Albemarle Street, 1877.Bordo, Susan. The production of anne Boleyn” A new Look in ~ England’s Most notorious Queen. Boston, new York: house Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.Cavendish, George. The Life of Cardinal Wolsey2nd ed. Accessed via the net Archive. London: Harding and Lepard, 1827. Https://archive.org/details/lifeofcardinal00cave/page/n8.Friedmann, Paul. Anne Boleyn: A thing of English History. 1527-1536. Accessed via the net Archive. London: Macmillan and also Co., 1884. Digital. Https://archive.org/details/anneboleynachap00friegoog/page/n5.Greenwald, Isidor. “The an alleged ‘Syndrome of ann Boleyn’ (Goiter and also Polydactylism).” Bulletin the the history of Medicine  vol. 38, no. 3 ((May-June, 1964): 271-275. Https://www.jstor.org/stable/44447065.Heyman, Paul, Christel Cochez, Mirsada Hukiĉ. “The English sweat Sickness: the end of Sight, out of Mind?.” Acta Medica scholastic vol. 41, no 1. (2018): 102-116. DOI 10.5644/ama2006-124.221.Marti-Ibañez, Felix. “The ‘Anne Boleyn’ Syndrome,” (October, 1974): 11-16. Print.Sander, Nicholas. Rise and also Growth of the Anglican Schism. Analyzed by David Lewis. 1877 ed. Accessed via the web Archive. London: Burns and also Oates, 1877. Https://archive.org/details/riseofschism00sanduoft/page/n5.Scrimshaw, Nevin S.. “INCAP studies of endemic goiter and its prevention.” Food and Nutrition Bulletin  vol. 31, no. 1 (2010): 111-117. Https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/156482651003100111.Warnicke, Retha M. The Rise and Fall of ann Boleyn3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge university Press, 1991.

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MARIEL TISHMA at this time serves together an executive, management Editorial Assistant through Hektoen International. She been released in Hektoen International, Bloodbond, Argot Magazine, Syntax and Salt, The Artifice, and Fickle Muses. She i graduated from Columbia college Chicago through a BA in creative writing and a boy in biology. Learn more at marieltishma.com.