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I have just come across the case of a woman who had triplets (a boy and two girls) baptised in Edinburgh on 9th April 1709. How long they survived after this, I don't know, but they survived to baptism anyway. Does anyone know of an earlier recorded case of surviving triplets, either British or worldwide?

[The entry is in a manuscript baptismal register on the ScotlandsPeople website. The parents were David Gray and Anna Haliburton and the triplets were Alexander, Anna, and Kathrine. They were baptised on the day they were born.]

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  • Do the Horatii and Curiatii count?
    – ed.hank
    Jan 24 at 15:18
  • There are the tags "britain" and "scotland", so is this question solely about those two countries?
    – user103496
    Feb 1 at 3:46
  • Scotland and Britain were my main interest and I used to have something to that effect in the title of the question, but someone edited it out.
    – user558840
    Feb 2 at 8:27

2 Answers 2

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According to History, Gazetteer and Directory of the West-Riding of Yorkshire, with the City of York and Port of Hull, Etc. (1837):

from 1572 to 1691 , there were eleven triple births in Leeds , as appears by the parish register

According to The Annual Register, Or, A View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1787, volume 29: (quoting from a 1674 reference):

on Thursday and Friday, the fifth and sixth days of this instant March 1673-4, was delivered four children at one birth, viz. three sons and one daughter, all born alive, lusty children, and perfect in every part, which lived twenty-four hours, and then died

then continuing, but not quoting the 1674 reference it says:

Dr. Plott, in his History of Staffordshire, p. 194, mentions Eleanor, the wife of Henry Diven, of Watlington , who was delivered of four children at a birth in the year 1675.

(See also the more-primary reference A remarkable case of numerous birth, with observations)

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There are mentions of this in ancient sources but their veracity is hard to prove or disprove. In ancient Rome there were the Horatii and Curiatii, two sets of triplets (one set from Rome and the other from Alba Longa), who fought a duel in place of their armies. This is the first mention of triplets that I can find.

Julius Obsequens in his book of prodigies mentions the birth of 3 male triplets and remarks how this is a bad omen.

In the Liber prodigiorum, Julius Obsequens mentions triplets in a series of threatening phenomena which happened in the year 163 BC: ‘at Terracina male triplets were born (pueri trigemini)... (1)

Phelgon of Tralles, a Greek writer in the court of Hadrian, tells of a story of an Egyptian woman that gave birth to quintuplets and then later gave birth to triplets

According to Phlegon of Tralles, the woman was from Alexandria. She gave birth to quintuplets, three boys and two girls, and the next year to triplets. (1)

(1) Dasen, Veronique. (2005). Blessing or portent? Multiple births in ancient Rome.

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    Thanks for this which I didn't know about. It is perhaps not obvious from the question but I am really interested in entries in ordinary public records rather than in lists of prodigies.
    – user558840
    Jan 24 at 22:19
  • Male triplets sounds like a 50% worse inheritance war.
    – fectin
    Jan 25 at 0:03

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