Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Historical Twins Miscarriage

I stumbled upon the Google Books excerpt of A.E. MacRobert's book, Mary Queen of Scots and the Casket Letters which mentions the twin miscarriage that Mary (not my favorite historical figure) had while held in the castle of Lochleven. When I read his assessment of the historical evidence that this was a miscarriage of twins, I am reminded of a story told in one of the wonderful books by James Herriot. I believe it was in All Creatures Great and Small.

James Herriot was in veterinary school in Edinburgh and he had just attended his first great lecture - on the anatomy of the horse. He walked out of the lecture hall feeling a veritable expert, an insider, one with knowledge. He saw a carthorse standing on the street and came up to examine this creature as one with special knowledge. The horse grabbed him by the back of his collar and suspended him from his mouth until the driver appeared. The coalman reacted in fury, shouting that he shouldn't mess with things he knew nothing about.

Mr. MacRobert describes the scene on 24 July 1567, as related by Nau: Lindsay and Ruthven enter the queen's chamber, where she is lying prostrate from her troubles and a "great flux caused by the miscarriage of twins." MacRobert describes an envoy's letter dated a week before describing her as 7 weeks pregnant. He speculates on the date of conception as being before or after her marriage to Bothwell on May 15 - all historically debateable matters. What gets me is this paragraph on page 62:

A miscarriage of twins resulting from a pregnancy following her marriage on 15 May could not have been apparent to her attendants. Even if she had conceived as early as her abduction on 24 April it is highly unlikely that a twin miscarriage could have been recognised in the "great flux" reported by Nau. Perhaps an attendant made a mistake over the twins or Mary had been pregnant before her abduction.

By all evidence, she was at least 8 weeks pregnant and could have been as much as 12 weeks pregnant legitimately. Having just lost twins who died at 6 weeks and 10 weeks, to say that twins were "highly unlikely" to be recognized is ridiculous. In my opinion, especially if they were fraternal, it is highly unlikely they would not be recognized. With all due respect for your scholarship in a convoluted period peopled by unsavory characters, Mr. MacRobert, "Dinna meddle wi' things ye ken nuthin' aboot!"


John Irvine said...

Read my article that was published in History Scotland and can now be accessed on It is an in-depth study of the miscarriage and comes to certain conclusions which are persuasive.

Melanie said...

Mr. Irvine,

Thank you for a much more scholarly and persuasive account of Mary Stuart's miscarriage. Excellent work!


If you want to read this article, when you get to, search on "Miscarriage at Lochleven."