No, this post is NOT about Game of Thrones, but has been provoked by an article that, in general, is indeed about the goings-on of the above TV drama. This article attracted my attention because of the third of the quoted paragraphs below. But it is advisable to read all the quotes, for the background information.
“….Before the Middle Ages, abortions were allowed because they weren’t really considered abortions. From a medieval perspective, without a soul there was no human life, and souls weren’t understood to develop until sometime between four and 17 weeks.
“Because of this, women held quite a lot of control over their early pregnancies. We might note how this attitude accommodated the high rate of miscarriage in the first trimester, especially before modern nutrition and medicine. A lot can go wrong all on its own in those early weeks, and medieval midwifery and medical science left it to a woman and her advisers to decide how she wanted to handle that risky time. An abortion after the period in which souls were considered to develop was considered sinful, and might or might not be criminal, depending on where one lived, though prosecutions in the Middle Ages were rare.
“We may see the result of such family planning in the life of a famous medieval queen mother, Margaret Beaufort. Married and cohabiting at an unusually young age for an Englishwoman, Beaufort bore the future King Henry VII when she was just 13 and the delivery nearly killed her. Often widowed, Beaufort married twice more but never had another child. It is entirely possible that she sustained such significant injuries and scarring during her first delivery that she was unable to conceive or carry to term again. But it is equally possible that she or her medical advisers were convinced that it was harmful for her to try to carry another child to term, and so took precautions to ensure that she did not…”
Now you see why I have posted this. I have always accepted that Margaret Beaufort simply couldn’t conceive again. But what if she knew it would probably be fatal if she did? What if she took contraceptive action, such as it was in the 15th century?