Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert, Fourth Son of Queen Victoria and a Hemophiliac

prince leopold duke of albanyOn 7 April 1853, Queen Victoria delivered her fourth son and eighth child. Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert was the first of the queen’s children to be delivered with the aid of chloroform, a controversial procedure at the time. The belief by many in the medical field and the theological circles was that God meant women to “suffer” during childbirth so a symbol of Eve’s betrayal in the Garden of Eden. The queen’s use of the drug created quite a debate. It was also argued that a painful delivery assured that mother’s would wish to protect the children for whom they had suffered. The press thought the procedure too dangerous to the queen’s health. It was Victoria’s approval of the procedure that finally broke this archaic “male” perspective of women’s health. 

At the birth was Miss Lilly, the midwife who had assisted the Queen with Victoria’s other deliveries, and Dr. John Snow, the renown Edinburgh anesthetist, as well as the queen’s personal physician. The queen was not rendered unconscious by the chloroform. She was given only one once of the chemical. 

Unfortunately, the ease with which Leopold entered the world did not lessen the suffering he would know until his death. He was very thin compared to his siblings, and shortly after his second birthday, Leopold was diagnosed as being a hemophiliac, and even suffered from occasional epileptic seizures. The least scape or childhood accident translated into bed rest and a long time in healing. Victoria, in her usual candor, referred to Leopold as “the ugliest” of her children. 

Leopold_Duke of AlbanyThe diagnosis of hemophilia was not met well by either Victoria or Albert. “Blame” for the condition was denied by both the queen and her consort. So, who can be a hemophilia carrier?  “A daughter gets an X chromosome from her mother and an X chromosome from her father.  Suppose the X chromosome from her mother has the gene for normal blood clotting.  Suppose the X chromosome from her father has the gene for hemophilia. The daughter will not have hemophilia since the normal blood clotting gene from her mother is dominant.  It won’t allow the instructions from the hemophilia gene to be sent.

“The daughter is called a carrier for hemophilia.  She has the gene on one of her X chromosomes and could pass it on to her children. Does this mean that the mother alone is the one responsible for having a child with hemophilia? Not really. The mother is the one who passes the hemophilia gene.  However, it is the father’s sperm that determines if the child will be a boy or a girl.  It is not the “fault” of one parent since both parents contribute to the outcome.

“What are the chances of having a child with hemophilia?

  • No sons of a man with hemophilia will have hemophilia.
  • All daughters of a man with hemophilia will be carriers (called obligate carriers).
  • If a carrier has a son, the son has a 50% chance of having hemophilia.
  • If a carrier has a daughter, the daughter has a 50% chance of being a carrier.” (How Hemophilia is Inherited)

In other words, women are themselves not hemophiliacs. Only in the case of daughters of marriages between first cousins have been recorded. None of these females lived past puberty for the onset of menses would cause them to bleed to death. Females are the primary carriers of the hemophilia gene. Therefore, Queen Victoria was the likely carrier, Some experts argue that she became a carrier from a spontaneous mutation, while others speak of a sort of “conspiracy theory,” saying the mutation came from one of her parents.

Needless to say, the Duke of Kent would have had difficulty hiding such a condition, especially as the children of King George III were “watched” with the most astute of quizzing glasses. The Duchess of Kent’s medical history is also quite extensive and well researched. These leads many to believe that the Duke of Kent was not Victoria actual father.  

An article on History and Other Thoughts says, “An intelligent boy, Leopold wanted to attend Oxford. With the help of his brothers, he got his wish, although he was never allowed to complete a full course of study, but had to make due with a honorary degree. Still, the prince enjoyed the university life and made a lot friends. One of these was Alice Liddell, who inspired Alice in Wonderland. His cleverness, though, meant that he was prone to argue. As a result, he never got along too well with his mother.” Ironically, Leopold’s mind was the sharpest of Victoria’s sons. He became a confidential secretary to his mother. The position permitted him to meet with foreign and domestic ministers. His elder brother, the Prince of Wales, was not happy that Leopold was permitted information that he was not. However, Victoria ignored Bertie’s protestations. 

prince leopold with wife helenaEventually, Leopold won his mother’s permission to marry. However, his medical condition prevented many eligible princesses from accepting an offer. “Princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont agreed to marry him. The couple tied the knot in 1882. Although when they married they barely knew each other, they soon grew to love, and became very devoted to, each other. The following year, Helen gave birth to a child, Alice. Unfortunately, Leopold didn’t get to spend a lot of time with his beloved family. In March 1884, he went, alone (his wife was pregnant and couldn’t travel) to the south of France, something he always did to escape the cold English winters. While there, he slipped, bruising his knee and hitting his head. That night, he died. The cause is unclear, but the most likely explanation is that he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Four months later, Helen gave birth to their second child, a boy named Charles Edward.”

 

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
This entry was posted in British history, history, Living in the UK, medicine, Victorian era and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert, Fourth Son of Queen Victoria and a Hemophiliac

  1. vvaught512 says:

    Reblogged this on Vikki Vaught Romance Author and Book Reviewer and commented:
    Very interesting post.

  2. vvaught512 says:

    Very interesting post, Regina.

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