From whence came the Kell gene?

*(Since this blog post was written, there has been an article published in the Journal of Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh the posits the same theory of transmission from Jacquetta of Luxembourg. Follow the link and you can read the whole thing.)

From the earliest days of research on the theory, I wondered which side of the family passed a Kell positive gene down to Henry VIII. Since this gene could easily compromise male fertility, I assumed it was inherited from his mother, so I started with the King’s maternal linage. I went looking among Henry’s ancestresses for a woman who had either few descendants or mostly female descendants with only a few male lines.  Of course, it could all be a wild goose chase, since any son who was Kell negative (a 50/50 chance) could have oodles of children with no problems.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take me too long to find Jacquetta of Luxembourg, who came to England to marry a king’s son but fell in love with and married Richard Woodville, a mere earl, after she was widowed. It was very scandalous at the time.

Jacquetta was Henry’s maternal great-grandmother. Her eldest daughter, Elizabeth Woodville, married King Edward IV. When Edward IV died of an unknown illness in 1483, he and Elizabeth’s son, became the new King Edward V. Sadly, the young King’s paternal uncle decided the throne should be his and crowned himself as Richard III,  sending the deposed Edward  and his younger brother Richard of York to the Tower of London.

Whether or not either Edward V or Richard of York were carrying the Kell positive gene became moot when they were murdered, a murder that most academic historians believe was probably on the orders of Richard III.

However, I do think Elizabeth Woodville’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, was Kell positive. Elizabeth of York married Henry Tudor after he defeated Richard III and they had four children that survived past infancy. Both their daughters were able to have children, although the heinous amount of illness in that era claimed many of those children before they could have children of their own. Henry VII’s eldest son Arthur, the Prince of Wales, died without issue. Indeed he seems to have died without having consummated his marriage. His widow, Katherina of Aragon, married Arthur’s younger brother, Henry VIII, and I am not the only one who has written a book about his marital and reproductive problems.

Here is a list of Jacquetta and Richard Woodville’s male descendants:

1st Generation (sons)

1. Richard Woodville, was born in 1405 and died in 1469. He married Jacquetta of Luxembourg, in 1435. Jacquetta was born in 1416 and died in 1472.

i.    2.    Anthony Woodville, was born in 1442 in had illegitimate issue but no legal children and died in 1483.
ii.    3.    Lionel (Bishop) Woodville, was born in 1446 and died in 1484.
iii.    4.    Richard Woodville, 3rd Earl of Rivers, was born no issue and died in 1491.
iv.    5.    Edward Woodville, was born no issue and died in 1488.
v.    6.    Lewis Woodville, died at the age of YOUNG.
vi.    7.    Thomas Woodville was born no known issue and died on an unknown date.
vii.    8.    John Woodville was born in 1445 and died in 1469.
viii.    9.    John Woodville died in yes, a second son named John.

2nd Generation (sons)

i. Anthony Woodville, was born in 1442 in had illegitimate issue but no legal children and died in 1483. He married 1st Elizabeth de Scales. Elizabeth was born in 1436 and died in 1473. He married 2nd Mary FitzLewes.

ii. Lionel (Bishop) Woodville, was born in 1446 and died in 1484.

iii. Richard Woodville, 3rd Earl of Rivers,  had no issue and died in 1491.

iv. Edward Woodville,  was born no issue and died in 1488.

v. Lewis Woodville, died at a young age, exact date unknown.

vi. Thomas Woodville was born no known issue and died on an unknown date. He married Anne Holland. Anne was born she was rich and 40 yrs older than he was and died on an unknown date.

vii. John Woodville was born in 1445 and died in 1469. He married Katherine Neville no issue.

viii. John Woodville died in yes, a second son named John.

Notice that although Jacquetta was able to bear eight sons, only of those sons who grew to adulthood and married women their own age was able to produce any grandchildren at all.

Jacquetta and Richard, who were apparently fertile beyond the hopes of bunny rabbits and never got out of the bed to do anything else, also had eight daughters:

i.    2.    Elizabeth Woodville, was born in 1437 and died in 1492.
ii.    3.    Anne Woodville, was born in 1438 and died in 1489.
iii.    4.    Mary Woodville, was born 1433? and died in 1481.
iv.    5.    Jacquetta Woodville, ? was born in 1444 and died in 1509.
v.    6.    Katherine Woodville,  was born in 1457 and died in 1473.
vi.    7.    Margaret Woodville was born in 1439 and died in 1490.
vii.    8.    Martha Woodville died on an unknown date.
viii.    9.    Joan or Eleanor Woodville died on an unknown date.

And the daughters who grew to adulthood and got married had children, and their daughters in particular thrived and had several more generations. Here is an abbreviated list:

Second Generation (Daughters)

2. Elizabeth Woodville,  was born in 1437 and died in 1492. She married 1st Edward IV Plantagenet, ?? on May 1, 1464. Edward IV was born on Apr. 28, 1442 and died on Apr. 9, 1483. She married 2nd John Grey in 1452. John died in 1461.

Daughters of Elizabeth Woodville,  and Edward IV Plantagenet, (their eldest sons were murdered)

i.    10.    Elizabeth Plantagenet,  was born in 1466 and died in 1503.
ii.    11.    Mary Plantagenet, ?? was born in 1467 and died in 1482 at the age of 15Y.
iii.    12.    Cecily Plantagenet was born in 1469 in 1507 and died on an unknown date.
iv.    13.    Margaret Plantagenet, ?? was born in 1472 and died in 1472 at the age of INFANT.
v.    14.    Anne Plantagenet, ?? was born in 1475 and died in 1512.
vi.    15.    Katherine Plantagenet, was born in 1479 and died in 1527.
vii.    16.    Bridget Plantagenet was born in 1480 and died in 1513.

 

3. Anne Woodville, was born in 1438 and died in 1489. She married 1st William Viscount Bouchier. William was born 1427? and died 1471 or 1483?. She married 2nd Edward Wingfeild no issue.  She married 3rd George Grey, Earl of Kent. George died in 1503.

Anne Woodville,  William Viscount Bouchier had one son, who in turn had one daughter who lived to adulthood. Anne and Bouchier’s surviving daughter is listed in the third generation.

6. Katherine Woodville,  was born in 1457 and died in 1473. She married 1st Henry Stafford (2nd Duke of Buckingham). Henry was born in 1455 and died in 1483. She married 2nd Jasper Tudor.

Daughters of Katherine Woodville, and Henry Stafford (2nd Duke of Buckingham)

i.    20.    Elizabeth Stafford, Countess of Sussex, was born in 1479 and died in 1532.
ii.    21.    Anne Stafford, Countess of Huntingdon died on an unknown date.

3rd Generation (Grand-daughters)

10. Elizabeth of York (Plantagenet), was born in 1466 and died in 1503. She married Henry Tudor, VII in 1486. Henry was born in 1457 and died in 1509.

Daughters of Elizabeth Plantagenet, and Henry Tudor, VII

i.    23.    Margaret Tudor was born in 1489 and died in 1541.
ii.    24.    Elizabeth Tudor was born in 1492 and died in 1495.
iii.    25.    Mary I Tudor was born in 1495 and died in 1533.
iv.    26.    Katherine Tudor was born in 1503 and died in 1503.
4th Generation (Great-grand-daughters)

23. Margaret Tudor was born in 1489 and died in 1541. She married 1st James IV King of Scotland in 1488. James IV was born in 1473 and died 1513?. She married 2nd Archibald Douglas in 1514. Archibald was born in 1490 and died in 1557.
i. One son survived. He one child, a daughter who became Mary Queen of Scots, before he was killed in battle.

25. Mary I Tudor was born in 1495 and died in 1533. She married Charles Brandon in 1515. Charles was born in 1484 and died in 1545. They had two sons who died in their teens of the Sweating Sickness, and a daughter, Frances Brandon, who was born in 1517 and had daughters before she died in 1559.  Frances married Henry Grey in 1533. Henry was born in 1517 and died in 1554.

Daughters of Frances Brandon and Henry Grey
ii.    41.    Jane Grey was born in 1537 and was legally murdered by Mary I of England in 1554.
iii.    42.    Katherine Grey was born in 1540 and died in 1568.     — Katherine Grey married Edward Seymour. Edward was born in 1539 and died in 1621. She had two sons, and one of her sons had issue. Thru him she had grandchildren and eat grandchildren (9 generations from Jacquetta of Luxemburg).

Thus, there is evidence that Jacquetta brought the Kell positive gene into the family, affecting the reproduction of her sons and grandsons, but not her female descendants, who eventually had Kell negative great-grandsons who reproduced all over the place. This is not proof, by any means. It is only circumstance that adds a bit more toward the likelihood of Henry VIII having been Kell positive.

You can see why it would have been crazy to bog down the book with all this genealogy, but I thought that some of you would like to have seen from whom I suspected that Henry inherited his Kell positive gene.

You’re welcome.

5 thoughts on “From whence came the Kell gene?


  1. The high number of typos and missing words in this make it impossible to read for meaning. Please clean it up before saying, “You’re welcome.”


  2. There is a problem with your assumption that it was Henry VIII’s maternal line that had Kell +. First, you have no good reason to assume that to begin with. The reason you gave made no sense. Second, a mother with Kell + should not have trouble with giving birth to healthy children so explain why Elizabeth of York (Henry VIII’s mother) only produced 3 children out of 7 total births. She had at least one premature birth (Edward) who was born dead or soon after birth and a stillborn baby soon after. That would seem to more fit the pattern that it was her husband, Henry VII, who was Kell +.

    Margaret was I think second born after Arthur. Mary was Henry VII’s younger sister. That would sandwich Henry VIII in between them. Both Arthur and Margaret were likely Kell – or Henry VIII would have died. He must have been the first Kell + baby. Then Mary was the final Kell – baby or she would have died.

    From here, it is a difficult task to go backwards to search Henry VII’s ancestors to see if any fit the Kell + pattern. This becomes quite a task as it is necessary to find information about birth order, stillborn children and miscarriages, which is generally not available about lesser known or less documented individuals.

    You made a good find on Jacquetta. That might be the way to go. I will look at that line too. But I think it is too soon to rule out Henry VIII’s paternal line as the Kell + carrier. In fact, it could be both lines because he is very inbred and Kell + isn’t really that rare. Jacquetta could have had it but that doesn’t mean it reached all of the way to him. It could have died out before it got to his part of the line. So she could have had it but not be the ancestor he got it from. He could have gotten it from his paternal line instead.


    1. Actually, there is solid evidence the Kell gene would have come from Elizabeth of York … primarily that Elizabeth’ brothers and nephews all appear to have expressed the Kell positive reproductive issue. Here’s a medical journal article that might make it clearer: https://www.rcpe.ac.uk/sites/default/files/stride_5.pdf As you know, a Kell positive woman will have no alloimmuniazation and all reproductive patterns will be ‘normal’ in the context of her time period, as Elizabeth of York and her sisters have experienced; child/infant mortality was tragically high in the 15th century. Moreover, the children Elizabeth lost were ‘average’ losses in ‘average’ stages of development; she didn’t lose an exceptional number of children in the 3rd trimester. Finally, McLeod is passed from mother to son via Lyon’s effect, so if Henry had McLeod syndrome it could have only come from Elizabeth of York.


  3. Elizabeth Woodville married Grey first, Edward second. That was the whole drama – she was a widow.

    Richard III had nothing to gain from murdering ‘princes in the tower’ the issue of Elizabeth and Edward had been declared illegitimate when he took the throne. It was only when Henry VII wanted to marry Elizabeth of York that the illegitimacy needed reversing. This meant that Henry was faced with 2 suddenly legitimate heirs. He was the only one to gain from the murder.

    Mary did not murder Jane Gray, she executed her for thinking she actually had a right to the throne. And for being Protestant.

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