Strange medical mockery of the 18th Century: Mary Toft claimed that she miscarried a ‘rabbit’ and the several pieces of the animal flesh

Mary Toft The Rabbit Queen

Mary Toft was an English woman residing in Surrey. In 1726, she became a subject of remarkable controversy. She fooled the doctors into believing that she had given birth to rabbits.  This true story has inspired Dexter Palmer to write the novel namely Mary Toft or The Rabbit Queen.

In fact, she once claimed that she miscarried a ‘rabbit’, and the several pieces of the animal flesh impelled the local doctor, John Howard to investigate the matter.

Other prominent physicians were contacted to roll up their sleeves together in this examination. Dr Nathaniel St.Andre, surgeon to the Royal Household of King George I was equally in the crew. She also stated the case as genuine.

However another surgeon namely Dr Cyriacus Ahlers was sent by the King to elucidate the matter. Mary Toft had to move to London to be examined. When she was kept under observation for many days, then she had no choice but to confess that she never delivered rabbits. She was subsequently arrested for being a swindler.

After all she had made a mockery of the medical professional and ruined the precious moments of several prominent surgeons. After much time, she was then released without charge. She then returned to her hometown.

Since then, this issue has been satirised on many occasions. William Hogart, the pictorial satirist and social critic even went to the extent of criticising the credibility of the medical profession.

According to Mary Toft’s revelations although the animals were not real, the labour pain was real. She further confessed that an accomplice, under her say, placed parts of the dead animals in the former’s vagina.

This experience was difficult, painful, and dangerous. It was reported that the nails of those rabbits were sharp.

These animals’ remains were hidden in Mary Toft’s body for many weeks. In regard to this, Harvey underlines, “It’s astonishing she didn’t die of bacterial infection”.