“Judith Wilks: The Queen’s Trusty Midwife” by Jane Beal

MT123My biographical essay on Judith Wilks, royal midwife to Queen Mary of Modena, now appears in Midwifery Today 123 (Fall 2017), 48-51.


“When the Catholic Queen Mary of Modena, wife of King James II of England, gave birth on June 10, 1688 to a son, James Francis Edward, the Prince of Wales and heir presumptive to the throne, a vicious rumor sped throughout predominantly Protestant England: that Queen Mary’s own child was stillborn and that the boy presented to the public was a spurious changeling child who had been brought to the birthing room in a warming pan (Haile 190; cf. Corp 184, 190, 200).

This accusation outraged the Queen’s midwife, Judith Wilks, who had delivered the prince. She wrote a letter to her cousin, Mrs. Winifred Wilks, which was later published, that provides a historical document attesting to the legitimate birth and the midwife’s own strong feelings of loyalty to the queen, love for the newborn baby, and fury at the wide-spread slander (Wilks 1-2).

To better understand this letter, it is important first to understand the life of the queen whom Judith Wilks served as a midwife and the historical tensions between Catholics and Protestants that were so exacerbated in England in the seventeenth century.”


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