WHEN BLOODLINES COLLIDE

To many, the Royals are a conduit for judging family life. But Is it a just representation?


As historians have gained access to more information through records, letters and interviews, programmes such as Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ have been put into production.

There has never been so much insight into the personal lives of the British Royal Family, the way that they work and the events that have occurred during the time their bloodline has been on the throne. Along with knowledge, many scandals that have come to light.

Taking centre stage for the last few years has been the way that the family have been perceived as hiding away children with disabilities to protect the view of royal blood being pure.

At just over a century since his death, the memory of Prince John (1905-1919) has been reawakened and used as evidence that the Royal family are callous and cold-hearted, with the public view of their pedigree taking prime importance.

Letters that were found, written by his brother King Edward Viii, added to this belief. Edward described John as an ‘animal’, who was ‘only a brother in the flesh and nothing else’. Other reports were made that Prince Johns condition was kept a secret and he was hidden from the public in case his seizures brought ‘disgrace’ to the family.

As the Crown series made focus on two of the Queens cousins Nerissa (1919–1986) and Katherine Bowes-Lyon (1926–2014), more weight was given to the argument that the royal family are inhumane. These sisters were placed in institutional care at the age of 21 and 14 respectively. Further controversy was brought when it emerged that the sisters had been reported by their mother as dead and that some members of the Royal family were unaware of the girl’s existence.

This evidence does not fair well for the royal family’s reputation. As Henry Fielding once said, ‘love and scandal are the sweeteners of tea’.

There have been attempts by the Royals to change the opinions of society. With evolving cultures, the implementation of hindsight and the ingredients required for good gossip, they have continued to face the harsh reality, that their decisions from many years ago, are frowned upon.

Prince John was a child who probably had autism, a condition that was not understood during that period. On top of epilepsy, which seizures caused his death at 13 years of age.

Autism is often affected by sensory overloads, loud noises and crowds, all of which follow Royals. The stress triggered by sensory difficulties can cause epileptic seizures.

Although records show that the Prince was at Sandringham for the last two years of his life, he was a very visible member of the family until his seizures worsened. Testimonials were made to fond memories of the Princes time at Sandringham, details of beach walks, a fearless child and a boy who never failed to salute any soldier he passed.


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By Janine white: culture editor


With his siblings sent to boarding schools and trained for royal duties and raised with extremely high expectations by their father, the Prince was able to live as a child. Potentially a sore point for King Edward VIII as many records show that the Prince was treated more favourably than his siblings.

There is also another version of the Queens cousins’ story, a sequence of events that are often considered with the gift of hindsight.

The Queens cousins, Nerissa and Katherine were institutionalised in the first hospital that specifically catered for developmental disabilities in 1941, The Royal Earlswood. Records are scarce regarding the sisters however, the Royal family have repeated that they knew about their cousins and that they were visited, contrary to the portrayal in ‘The Crown’. The children’s mother was herself described as a vague woman who often made mistakes due to forgetfulness.

At the time, institutions were described as a safe place for children with illnesses and disabilities to safeguard them from moral danger and abuse. The government made it compulsory for each county to have one and set up a commission to monitor them. It is feasible that the children’s mother, being a vague and confused person herself was unable to care for her children appropriately, potentially neglecting them and therefore some researchers have pointed out that many people ‘genuinely believed that institutions were preferable to the alternative – neglect.’

These buildings were illustrated as a self-contained world that had some of the finest landscaped gardens, farms, orchards, workshops, bowling greens, croquet and cricket. Sir George Paget described them as ‘the most blessed manifestation of true civilisation the world can present’.

There have been many accusations against the Royal family for their perceived treatment of the children, but many are scrutinising the events under the rouse of todays understandings and cultures.

Professors at Yale University describe cultural context as a way of shaping our understanding of the world. Viewing through the lens of the time allows a deeper understanding. With each event society learns and the shift in how people view illness and disability inspires cultural evolution. Therefore, can anyone truly speculate when the ‘accused’ are no longer available for comment? In the words of Robert Evans ‘There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently.’


MACKAYAN: WHEN BLOODLINES COLLIDE

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