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Elise,LadyofLancaster 10-10-2003 02:21 AM

Prince John (1905-1919)
Tender letters from the 'Lost Prince'
By Andrew Alderson
(Filed: 12/01/2003)

A newly-discovered collection of letters and photographs has provided a fascinating insight into the troubled life of Prince John, who, had he lived beyond the age of 13, would have been the Queen's uncle.

The memorabilia has surfaced, coincidentally, just days before a £5.5 million drama on the prince is screened by the BBC. The Lost Prince will tell the story of the sixth and youngest child of George V and Queen Mary, who died, aged 13, in 1919, from a severe epileptic fit.

The letters were written and the photographs taken at Sandringham, the Royal Family's private estate in Norfolk where the prince spent much of his life hidden from the public because of his epilepsy and backwardness.

The memorabilia reveals that Prince John wrote short but thoughtful and affectionate notes using large, joined letters. They were written shortly before his death.

The collection is worth thousands of pounds but, because of its Royal origins, is unlikely to be offered for sale. It belongs to Anne Sharp, from Kent, who inherited it from her mother, Winifred Thomas who died in 1980, aged 75. As a child, Mrs Thomas had befriended the young prince when he lived at Sandringham.

Winifred, who was the same age as the prince and the niece of a groom, George Stratton, at Sandringham, became his closest companion. They spent a great deal of time cycling and travelling by pony and trap around the royal estate.

One short, undated letter from the prince to Mr Stratton, inquired how he was as he recovered from a broken arm. Written on Royal crested notepaper, it reads: "Dear Mr Stratto. I hope yor arm is better. Are you going to chaach. With my love from John."

One photograph shows Prince John wearing a smart, Royal Navy-style tunic and white trousers, sitting in a chair. Other photographs show him dressed in a smart, dark suit, smiling gently.

The existence of the letters and photographs has emerged because Mrs Sharp approached the BBC's Antiques Roadshow to get them valued. Clive Farahar, the programme's antiques expert who studied them, said he had never seen such a collection of memorabilia of Prince John. He estimated that the letter to Mr Stratton is worth up to £1,500 and each photograph is worth up to £700. Prince John is buried in the churchyard at Sandringham beneath a plain grey rounded tombstone of smoothed granite. On it are the simple words: "HRH Prince John, 1905-1919."

Prince John was one of five brothers, including the future Edward VIII and George VI and was fifth in line to the throne.

Prince John spent the last four years of his life at York Cottage on the Sandringham estate, where he was looked after by his devoted nurse, Charlotte "Lalla" Bill. When he travelled to London for a meeting with royal doctors, his car had its blinds drawn in case he brought "disgrace" to the family by having a seizure in public.

The two-part BBC drama, written by Stephen Poliakoff, begins next Sunday. Mr Poliakoff said yesterday that he had studied more than half a dozen other letters written by Prince John, along with Queen Mary's diary, which are in the royal archive at Windsor.

George V had a reputation for being fierce, stern and prone to rages. Letters seen by Mr Poliakoff, however, suggest affection from Prince John towards his father. One, dated February 16, 1916, says: "Dear Papa, I'm sending a box of snowdrops for you which I have picked."

Anecdotes discovered by Mr Poliakoff suggest that Prince John was a sensitive boy who often took things said to him too literally. After the death of Edward VII, his grandfather, he was told that dead people "went on the wind". Days later, he was seen collecting leaves and when asked what he was doing replied: "Collecting grandpa's pieces."

Mr Poliakoff said there had been a mixed reaction from the Royal Family to Prince John's death. His eldest brother, later Edward VIII and the Duke of Windsor, said brutally that "the animal" had died and bemoaned the fact that the family had to mourn him.

Their mother, Queen Mary, however, wrote in her diary after the funeral: "Miss the dear child very much indeed." Gina McKee, the actress who plays Lalla Bill, said: "The pictures show him to be an attractive young chap, big wide open eyes, and someone who just clearly wanted friends. I was amazed when they turned up - I had no idea at all that they existed. His handwriting was big and bold and clearly readable, but it looked as if he'd had difficulty in getting his thoughts onto the page," she said.

Miss McKee plans to visit Prince John's grave at Sandringham. "It's somewhere that I'd really like to go, just to pay my respects."

Elise,LadyofLancaster 10-10-2003 02:33 AM

Prince John of the United Kingdom


HRH John Charles Francis, Prince of the United Kingdom and Ireland (12 July 1905 - 18 January 1919), son of King George V of the United Kingdom and his wife née Mary of Teck, was a little known member of the royal family: as an epileptic he was kept away from the public eye.

Prince John was born at York Cottage, Sandringham, Norfolk, and was baptised 3 August 1905 at St. Mary Magdalen Church, Sandringham, Norfolk. He had his first epileptic seizure at age four. He was sometimes excluded from official family photographs and did not attend his father's coronation in 1911. In 1917 he was sent, with a nanny and male attendants, to Wood Farm on the Sandringham estate, and did not ever see his parents again. He died in his sleep at Wood Farm, Wolferton, Norfolk, England. The King and Queen drove the three miles from their Sandringham estate to view his body: he was buried 21 January 1919 at Sandringham Church, Norfolk.

The name "John" has been considered unlucky and its use avoided by the royal family since the death of the prince. (It was reported that Diana, Princess of Wales wished to name her elder son "John", after her own father, but was prevented from doing so by royal tradition).

Elise,LadyofLancaster 10-10-2003 02:46 AM

(This website offers a lot of information on HRH Prince John and his affliction with epilepsy and autism along with the screenplay that was inspired by his short life, as well as wonderful pictures of him. He was absolutely handsome. So sad. At least someone remembered him :flower: May he rest in peace. :heart:)

Josefine 12-29-2003 04:50 PM

thank you for the story

have someone seen this movie?

micas 02-20-2004 11:05 AM

How many sones have Queen Mary. And what is the order of birth???????????

Jackswife 02-20-2004 11:37 AM

These are (were) Queen Mary's sons:
Edward, Prince of Wales
Henry, Duke of Gloucester
Albert, Duke of York
George, Duke of Kent
Of course, they did have one daughter, too. :heart:
Forgot to add thanks to the poster for the fascinating article. It's so interesting to compare how epilepsy was thought of in that day and how it is now. Parellels may even be drawn with Tsarevitch Alexei and hemophilia, which was also misunderstood in that time, I think. A very enjoyable article.

micas 02-20-2004 11:44 AM

So Jonh is the younger? The name that you put they are not for other,is that true? Because Albert is the second son, father of queen Elizabeth. Why when he became king he is met for George????????

Jackswife 02-20-2004 11:53 AM

Yes, sorry. Albert later became George when he became King after the abdication of his brother, Edward (later the Duke of Windsor). That's how most people know him as King George VI, father of the present Queen. Sorry! :o

micas 02-20-2004 12:20 PM

Is no probleme. I just don't understendwhy he change name. Albert is so great name :heart: :heart: :heart:

Jackswife 02-20-2004 01:14 PM

Mmmm, that is a good question. I don't really have an answer, though, unless he just wanted to continue his father's name, and not use Albert. I've heard that the QM Elizabeth always referred to him in private as "Bertie." :P

Sean.~ 02-20-2004 01:16 PM


Originally posted by Jackswife@Feb 20th, 2004 - 12:14 pm
Mmmm, that is a good question. I don't really have an answer, though, unless he just wanted to continue his father's name, and not use Albert. I've heard that the QM Elizabeth always referred to him in private as "Bertie." :P
He/ his advisors wanted to continue his father's name and associate himself with his reign. After the abdication crisis, it was thought as prudent.

Sean.~ 02-20-2004 01:17 PM

I posted a very long article on Prince John on another forum last year. If anyone is interested I can look in archives and repost it here or provide a link. Let me know.

micas 02-20-2004 01:19 PM

My grandfather, my father in honor ( that is the frist grand son) and my brother have the name of Albert and is a name that i like a lot. Normally we call the for "Bertie."
Thanks Sean.~. :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Jackswife 02-20-2004 01:30 PM

Sean, I for one would be very interested in your earlier article about Prince John. I confess I know so little about him :cry: and it would be nice to get more info on him. Thanks.

Sean.~ 02-20-2004 01:44 PM


Originally posted by Jackswife@Feb 20th, 2004 - 12:30 pm
Sean, I for one would be very interested in your earlier article about Prince John. I confess I know so little about him :cry: and it would be nice to get more info on him. Thanks.
Hi Jackswife,

Actually, it isn't as long and detailed as I thought it was. In any case, here it is (Ignore the bit about Crown Prince Carol of Roumania. It has to do with another discussion forum):

Born on the 12th of July 1905, he was the youngest child of then Prince and
Princess of Wales. At first, he appeared quyite normal and, unlike his
"nervous brothers", he was a happy child. However, soon it became clear that
he was growing a bit too fast. By the age of 12 he was a big boy. By then he
had also severly epeleptic. From 1916 on, he lived in his own establishment
at Wood Farm at Wolfterton, (near Sandringham). Thus he was out of the
public eye and was cared for by his nurs Lalla Bill and and orderly.

The reasons for his isolation were many. This was an age when abnormal
children (and adults) were dismissed by society as mentally handicapped.
They were a source of shame to their families (even more so for a Royal
Family). There were also no drugs available to controls seizures. Thus the
King and Queen couldn't risk their son having a seizure in public and the
press reprorting it. Thus, although it sounds cruel by today's standards,
isolating him was the only choice the Royal Family had, given the time and
place. It was also beneficial for him, for it allowed him to avoid the
rigours of public life. Moreover, according to Brenda Ralph Lewis, Queen
Mary spent more time with him than any of her other children. And she was
struck hard by his death, although she never showed it (this reminds of the
letter from Queen Marie to the then Crown Prince Carol that I posted here
the other day. Some of you may recall how she wrote about carrying on her
duty even though her young son had just died and that she kept her tears
for the night).

In any event, his parents were not with him on the early morning of January
18, 1919, when he died after a severe epeleptic fit. He was burried 3 days
in a private funeral at Sandringham Church.

Queen Mary wrote: ""Litle Johnnie looked very peaceful...He just slept
quietly in his heavenly home, no pain, no struggle, just peace for the
roubled spirit". (Royalty Magazine vol. 14 no.8)

Jackswife 02-20-2004 01:52 PM

:cry: Wow. Such a sweet and sad story. Thanks very much for it.

Sean.~ 02-20-2004 03:13 PM


Originally posted by Jackswife@Feb 20th, 2004 - 12:52 pm
:cry: Wow. Such a sweet and sad story. Thanks very much for it.
Yes, it is very sad. When one considers time and place, oen can have sympathy for Queen Mary, who is often portrayed as a bad mother. In any case, you're very welcome!! :flower:

Elspeth 02-22-2004 09:10 PM

The biography of Mabell, Countess of Airlie (one of Queen Mary's ladies in waiting), "Thatched with Gold," includes part of her memoirs which have some interesting insights into Queen Mary's relationships with her children. She said:

"King George V and Queen Mary have often been depicted as stern unloving parents, but this they most certainly were not. Remembering them in my early days at Sandringham, before their ramily was even complete, I believe that they were more conscientious and more truly devoted to their children than the majority of parents in that era. The tragedy was that neither had any understanding of a child's mind. They themselves had been brought up in particularly loving homes - Queen Alexandra had an almost cloying affection for her son; the Duchess of Teck was an adoring mother to Princess May - but they did not succeed in making their own children happy."
Prince Goerge was fond of his sons but his manner to them alternated between an awkward jocularity of the ind which makes a sensitive child squirm from self-consciousness, and a severity bordering on harshness.
Princess May's attitude to parenthood I could well understand, for it was much the same as my own. Although she disliked the routine of child-bearing, and had no interest in her children as babies, she grew to love them dearly when they were older. But the difference between us was that while I, being a commoner, could keep in step with my children as they passed from babyhood into childhood and adolescence, she was prevented by her position and her public life from having this close contact with hers. When they reached an interesting age, and began to develop personalities, her sons were taken from her and delivered over to tutors. Her only opportunity of getting to know them as indivuals was during the hour they spent with her in the evening, and that is not enough to create a happy relationship between child and parent."

rollin_keef 02-22-2004 10:51 PM

Let us not forget what Queen Mary saw, 3 sons die-John,George,Albert(George VI)
one son abdicate his throne(Edward) and another become a alcoholic(Henry)
thats enough to hurt any mother!

tiaraprin 05-28-2004 10:44 PM

I have always seen this poor little boy mentioned and always felt so bad for a child shunned by his family no matter what the social mores of the time were. The child died with his Nanny--but Nanny was undoubtably more a parent than George and Mary. :cry:

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