boys clothing: British royalty Victoria--hemophilia

British Royalty: Victoria--Hemophilia

Figure 1.--g.

The Brirish royal family seemns to hace suffered from two diseases, porphyria and hemophhilia. Neither were diseases thar contemporary doctors could properly fiagnose, let along treat. Porphyria was a strange delusional illness. George III was the best example. He has been referred to as Mad King George and porphyria was probably the reason. He seems to have passed the disease on to Queen Victoria, his granddaughter. Victoria also was a carrier for hemopjhilia. And through several of her children the disease was passed on to several geeratioins of European royals, most notably to the Czarevitch Alexei.


Porphyria is a group of disorders caused by abnormalities in the chemical steps that lead to heme production. Heme is a vital molecule used by all the body's organs. Heme is most abundant in the blood, bone marrow, and liver. Heme is a component of several iron-containing proteins called hemoproteins, including hemoglobin. the blood protein that carries oxygen from the lungs to the cells. s, porphyria and hemophhilia. Neither were diseases thar contemporary doctors could properly fiagnose, let along treat. Porphyria was a strange delusional illness. George III was the best example. He has been referred to as "Mad King George" and porphyria was probably the reason. One reasoin that the dignosis is common is that the King was quite competent for muchof his life, deranged for a long period, and then emerged as entirely normal. He seems to have passed the disease on to Queen Victoria, his granddaughter. Some authors claim that the Queen's anger could at times been delusional. An examole given is the Queen's treatment of her eldest son, Bertie who wold eventuallty become Edward VII. Of coiurse it is dffiucult to tell if the cause was Porphyria or Berie's infuriaring behavior. The British monarch's traditional antipathy toward the Prince of Wales was in keeoing with British royal traditions. Victoria never really forgave Bertie for what she thought to be his respomnsibility for her beloved Albert's death. [Morris] Bertie from his youth had been a very difficut child in sharp contrast to his older sister whon is best described as the perfect daughter. It is difficult to tell id Bertie was of limited intelectual abilities or had some kind of learming sisability. The Prince Consort had traveled by train to read the riot act to his mibehaving son at Cambridge, He wound up scolding his waywardcson in the rain which eventually led to his death. Victoria found her eldest son as an aduklt ton be "shiftless and irresponsible", not without cause. She refused to give hin any responsibilities. The Prince and his young wife, like all Hanoverian heirs, formed their own court and society. Bertie was not, however, not the only family member who experiuenced the Queen's ire. One author writes that trusted advisor, Baron Stockmar, "is alleged to have described the Prince [Albert] as 'completely cowed' and living in perpetual dread of bringing on the 'hereditary malady' in the Queen, the madness of which was then thought to afflict her grandfather, George III, now known to be the disease called porphyria." [Woodham-Smith] An obsever in the household wrote that as early as 1858, rumors were spread that the Queen was deranged, "The old legend which had been revived in 1858 burst again into vicious activity. The Queen was mad .... A letter from Vicky warned the Prince Consort of 'monstrous reports' circulating in Germany that Mama was attended by all the doctors of Europe!" [Longford]

The Curse of the Coburgs

Madness was the term used inthe mid-19th centuruy because medicakl rearch had not yet advanced to the point where porphyria could be diagnosed or understood. There were darker rumors of family ills more sinister than madness. Rumors included virtually medieval concepts of a blood curse and its horrible impavt on Victoria, Albert, and their heirs. This proved to be much closer to the truth than one might have expected, There was a rumor about the “curse of the Coburgs”. This was supposed to have originted in the early 19th century. A Coburg prince had married a Hungarian princess named Antoinette de Kohary. A monk who belonged to member of the Kohary family was enviou of the happy couple and cursed future generations of Coburgs.


What afflicted Victoria's descendents, the Saxe-Coburg family, was the at the time terrible and untreatable disease hemophilia. The disease is an inherited condition in which the plasma in the blood lacks the normal clotting material in its globulin fraction. his slows the coagulation time of the blood and as result the person aflicted with the disease could bleed to death from both internal and external cuts and bruises. An American physician, Dr. John C. Otto of Philadelphia, first diagnoised the disease (1803). This was only a few years before Victoria's birth. Dr. Otto wrote, "It is a strange affliction ... although the females are exempt, they are still capable of transmitting it to their male children ("Hemophilia")."

Victoria and Albert

The marriage of Victoria and Albert marked the beginning of hemophilia in the British royal line that would eventually infect most of the royal houses of Europe, earning the title of "the royal disease."One author suggests that the disease occurred through spontaneous genetic mutation when first cousins Victoria and Albert married. [Aronson] The Queen may have inherited the genes through her mother, the Duchess of Kent, a princess of Saxe-Coburg. [Longford] There is little evidence of this necause no cases of hemophilia can be traced on either side of the Duchess's family. And there is no evidence of hemophilia in the Duke's family as well. It was, howver, certainly present in Victoria and Albert's children. Queen Victoria herself was mystified by its occurrence which only became apparent fter Aklbert's death. It first appeared with youngest son, Prince Leopold. But then as her daughters Vicky, Alice and Beatrice. began to have her gradchildren, it became evident that something terrible was wrong. A condidenbt wrote, " cloud of worry and bewilderment henceforth overhung the Queen caused by her oft-repeated and perfectly correct belief that hemophilia was "not in our family"--meaning the House of Hanover. Where did it come from?" [Longford] The Queen insisted that the disease could not podsibly have originated in her side of the family. Two brothers argue explosively that spontaneous mutation is very unlikely and raise the issue that oerhaops the Duke of Kent was not Victoria's father. [Potts and Potts]

The Children

Prince Leopold was the only victim among Victoria and Albert's children. Butvthis is only because the disease only manifests itself in male children. He was alo the only male transmitter. Three of their daughters, however, the Princess Royal, Princess Alice, and Princess Beatrice, were transmitters and through their marriages spread the disease through the royal houses of Europe. Victoria had to watched the terrible diseas kill her own son Prince Leopold, then grandsons, then great-grandsons. Thecredoubtable woman in the world could only lament, "Our poor family seems persecuted by this awful disease." [Aronson, p. 172]


The first to actually die of hemophilia was Prince Leopold in 1884, at the age of only 29 years.



It was Queen Victoria’s third child, Princess Alice, who passed hemophilia to the German and Russian imperial families. Alice married Louis of Hesse. Three of thir six children were afflicted with hemophilia. Her son Frederick wo was only 3-years old bled for 3 dreadful days from a cut on the ear. Doctirs managed to stop the bleading, but a few months later tragedy struck. Frederick like any 3-year old was playing boisterously in his mother’s room. He ran headlong through an open window and fell to the terrace under te wibdow. Hedied that evening from internal bleeding. Alice’s daughter Irene proved to be a carrier. She married her first cousin, Prince Henry of Prussia--the future Kaiser's brother and son of Alice's sister Victoria. They gave birth to two hemophilic sons. The Hohenzollern's attempted to hide the fact that the hemophilia had manifested itself in the imperial family, especially as Alice and the Princess Royal Victoria we sisters. Prince Waldemar bled to death at age 4 years. Prince, Henry lived to age 56 years. Alice’s other daughter, Alix, also proced to be a carrier. Prince Eddy and his brother George both asked her to marry them. The result miht have been disaterous forv the British royal family. Alic instead chose to marry Russia's Tsar Nicholas. They had had four daughters (Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia). As they never married, we do not know if they were carriers. The Tsarevitch Alexis, however, was aflicted. The children and their parents were of course murdered at the onset of the Russian Civil War (1919).


Princess Beatrice was Queen Victoria's youngest daughter. As the older children left the royal household, she became her mother's personal helper. The aging Queen relied on Neatrice to constantly at her side. The Queen did mot want her to marry and finally consented ibly if German Prince Henry of Battenberg agreed to move to England and live at court. The four children of Princess Beatrice and Prince Henry of Battenberg grew up in the English court and were certainly more English than they were German. Although English to the core, the family still had a German name, which like the Saxe-Coburgs, anglicized their name during World War I. They became the Mountbattens. The “Battenberg kids” necame a source of comfort to Queen Victoria. Unlike any other royal kids, they were given full range opf the palsace and leave to barge into where ever the Queen was holding fort. The children were raised in a oving family. There father had no royal duties. His main occupation became to see to their education. Princess Beatrice proved to be a henophilia carrier. Two of her sons contracted the disease and one of her daughters was a carrier. Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg became Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain and passed the to the Spanish royal family.


Aronson, Theo.

Longford, Lady Elizabeth.

Potts, Malcom and William Potts. Queen Victoria’s Gene (1995).

Woodham-Smith, Cecil.


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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: 5:50 AM 2/5/2010