In September of 1533, a newly crowned Anne Boleyn gave birth to a “perfectly formed” baby girl, the future Queen Elizabeth I. To put it mildly, the child’s gender was a bit of a disappointment. Anne and Henry VIII had not simply preferred a boy—they expected one. All of the royal astrologers, physicians and sorcerers had predicted a boy, and the couple was relying on the birth of a male heir to do some public relations work. A son would help justify Henry’s historic divorce from Catherine of Aragon, who, in 23 years of marriage (following the death of her husband Arthur, Henry’s brother), had a total of six pregnancies, from which only one child survived, a daughter named Mary. Henry himself had been the spare to the firstborn heir, and was desperate for a son to whom he could pass the throne.
Anne felt her own sense of obligation. Years of strategic moves had finally earned her the position of queen, but at the cost of her reputation and the weight of expectation. Before Elizabeth was born, royal advisors drew up a birth announcement and planned a traditional celebratory jousting tournament.
Unfortunately, you can’t plan around nature. When the prince came out a princess, the tournament was canceled, and the announcement letters suddenly contained the wrong news. The royals opted for a quick fix, and simply added an s to the end of prince—proper spelling be damned. As a result, here’s how the birth announcement for one of England’s most pivotal monarchs read:
Right trustie and welbiloved, we grete you well. And where it hath pleased the goodnes of Almightie God, of his infynite marcie and grace, to sende unto us, at this tyme, good spede, in the delyveraunce and bringing furthe of a Princes, to the great joye, rejoyce, and inward comforte of my Lorde, us, and all his good and loving subjectes of this his realme; for the whiche his inestymable benevolence, soo shewed unto us, we have noo litle cause to give high thankes, laude, and praising unto oure said Maker, like as we doo mooste lowly, humbly, and with all the inwarde desire of our haste. And inasmuche as we undoubtidly truste, that this oure good spede is to your great pleasure, comforte, and consolation, We, therefore, by thies our letters, advertise you thereof, desiring and hartely praying you to give, with us, unto Almightie God, high thankes, glorie, laude, and praising; and to praye for the good helth, prosperitie, and contynuall preservation of the said Princes accordingly.