Queen Victoria’s descendants suffered from ‘Christmas Disease’

  October 9, 2009 at 7:20 pm by

Tsarevich Alexei in 1912

“Science” journal published results of a study which found that some of Queen Victoria’s male descendants suffered from a severe form of blood clotting disorder Haemophilia B, also known as the Christmas Disease. Although it has already been known that the British Queen’s descendants were affected by Haemophilia, this is the first time the exact form of the disease was identified.

The scientists examined DNA samples extracted from the remains of the Romanovs and found that Tsarevich Alexei suffered from Haemophilia B, while one of his sisters, Anastasia, was a carrier. Alexei and Anastasia were the children of Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra, and female-line descendants of Queen Victoria: they inherited the mutation from their mother, who was Queen Victoria’s granddaughter.

Haemophilia lowers the level of the chemicals that cause blood to clot after injury. Haemophilia A, resulting from a lack of clotting factor VIII, is the most common form, affecting one in 5,000-10,000 males. Haemophilia B is caused by a deficiency of factor IX and affects one in 20,000-35,000 males. Because the disorder is linked to the X chromosome, only males suffer from the disease. This is because males have only one X chromosome, so if that single chromosome is affected, than the male in question will be a victim of the disease. Females only carry it because their second X chromosome is extremely unlikely to have the same mutation. Through Queen Victoria, the Royal Houses of Russia, Spain and Germany were plagued with the “Royal Disease.”

Today, people who suffer from haemophilia are given synthetic replacements of the clotting agents, however when Alexei was born, very little was even known about the disease. The illness of the Tsarevich – the sole Heir of the vast Russian Empire – was a true curse for the Imperial Family. It eventually forced his distraught parents to seek help from Rasputin, ‘holy man’, who was reputed to be the only one who was able to aid Alexei. The undue influence of Rasputin over the Imperial couple was heavily resented by Russian people: unaware of the Tsarevich’s illness, they attributed the influence to more sordid causes. His influence, which included handpicking candidates for government office, contributed to the Revolution, which ended with the terrible death of Nicholas II’s entire family, as well as many other Romanovs.

The results of the study are also called “final chapter” in the question of identification of the remains. As Dr. Evgeny Rogaev of University of Massachusetts, who led the research said: “We have resolved a medical mystery from the past”.

To learn more about Russian Imperial Family, visit this forum.

To read more about Prince Alexei’s condition, visit Alexei and Haemophilia thread.

To read more about Identification of the remains, visit Identification of the remains found in July 2007 thread.

Filed under Historical Royals, Russia, The United Kingdom
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