The Prince with Epilepsy

Prince John

Prince John was the youngest son of King George and Queen Mary of the United Kingdom.

His title was His Royal Highness Prince John of Wales. Prince John was born in 1905 and developed Epilepsy at the age of four.

Prince John was deemed presentable to the outside world but did not attend his parent’s coronation because his Epilepsy was considered too risky. He made many public appearances up until the age of 11 and then disappeared from the family. No official portraits of Prince John were commissioned after 1913 although he was not removed from the line of succession.

Prince John was kept away from the public eye because of his Epilepsy. It was believed that the Royal Family blood was pure, but Prince John was considered faulted. The Royal Family was ashamed of him and believed that their reputation would be damaged if the public found out about his seizures. Prince John was considered “slow” and showed signs of repetitive behavior but had no problem with social interactions. He enjoyed learning and playing with his friends.

The doctors warned the Royal family that Prince John would not live to be an adult. They advised the Royal Family that it was better to have him institutionalized. Prince John was not allowed to be around his brothers and sisters because his seizures upset them, according to his mother. His brother, Prince Edward, was quoted as saying, “the poor boy had become more of an animal than anything else.”

Sadly, it was normal at the time for epileptics to be separated from their families. There were epilepsy colonies because Epilepsy was viewed as a mental illness. There was also no cure for Epilepsy and education on how to prevent them. It would be another 20 years until people suffering from Epilepsy were no longer locked away.

More than a hundred years later there is still a stigma about Epilepsy. There are 3.5 million people living with Epilepsy in the United States. More than 500,000 people in the United Kingdom suffer from Epilepsy and 65 million people worldwide. People suffering from uncontrolled epilepsy are at the biggest risk of dying from seizures.

When World War One started Prince John rarely saw his family. His parents were gone on official duties and his siblings were in the military or boarding school. His seizures became worse and he was sent to live with his Governess Charlotte “Layla” Bill.

By 1919, Prince John had been living away from his family for several years at Woodfarm. He was no longer provided education and spent his days with his nanny or children that lived outside of Woodfarm.

On Christmas 1919, he spent the day with his family but was driven home that night to be alone. A few weeks later Prince John died in his sleep from a seizure on January 18, 1919. His parents were notified and drove out to see him one last time. His funeral was the following day Saint Mary Magdalene Church. The house staff and children from the nearby town covered his grave with flowers. The one person that knew him the best was Layla his nanny. She kept a picture of Prince John on her mantle along with a letter that said, “Nanny, I love you.”