Did an eating disorder prevent Catherine of Aragon having a son?
I agree with Giles Tremlett that Catherine of Aragon probably did have some kind of eating disorder. Tremlett quotes “one intimate observer” in 1510 as saying, “Irregularity in her eating and the food which she takes makes her unwell which is why she does not menstruate well”1 and, after being told of Catherine’s zeal for fasting and abstinence, by the Prince of Wales (the future Henry VIII), Pope Julius sent a missive saying that if “the devotions and fasting of the wife” were “thought to stand in the way of her physical health and the procreation of children” then they could be “revoked and annulled by men.”
Did Catherine’s Eating Disorder Affect Her Fertility?
Tremlett goes on to describe how Catherine’s fasting adversely affected her menstrual cycle and how “in her early twenties… she went more than nine weeks without menstruating.”3 However, although Catherine’s religious fervour and fasting may have had such a knock-on effect, as a woman I also know how worry and stress can also cause a woman’s menstrual cycle to be irregular.
Catherine was, as Tremlett describes, “a political bargaining chip”, a pawn on the chessboard of Europe, and she was left in dire straits after the death of Prince Arthur. Catherine suddenly went from being secure, both financially and politically, as the future queen of England, to being in a very precarious situation. Nobody wanted her, she was in limbo. She got herself into debt, she was a foreigner in a country where she couldn’t speak the language, her father was arguing with the King, her future was uncertain and she felt abandoned by everyone; it really is no wonder that she became depressed and ill and I am sure that this affected her menstrual cycle.
Did Catherine’s Eating Disorder Prevent Her from Giving Henry VIII a Son?
I’m not sure that we can blame the lack of a male heir on Catherine’s fasting or a possible eating disorder because I don’t see any evidence of Catherine having any trouble getting pregnant.
(Continued in the comments⤵)