Haemophilia in the Descendants of Queen Victoria
Haemophilia acquired the name the royal disease due to the high number of descendants of Queen Victoria afflicted by it. The first instance of haemophilia in the British Royal family occured on the birth of Prince Leopold on 7th April, 1853, Leopold was the fourth son and eighth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. No earlier occurence of the disease in the Royal family had been known, it is assumed that a mutation occured in the sperm of the Queen's father, Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent.
Haemophilia is an X-linked recessive disorder. The blood of a haemophiliac lacks the ability to coagulate, due to the fact that one or more of the plasma proteins required to form a clot is absent or reduced in their blood. The condition is passed on to males through females, who do not manifest the symptoms of the disease themselves. A recessive gene, it is carried on the sexual female chromosome X . Males possess XY chromosomes and females XX. Since females have two X chromosomes, they are more often than not carriers.
Prince Leopold (1 on chart) was described as delicate child who remained a constant source of anxiety to the Queen throughout his life, she consequently placed restrictions on him, which he chaffed at. He was later created Duke of Albany and married the German princess, Helena of Waldeck-Pyrmont. Leopold died in 1884 at the age of 31, in the south of France. He suffered a fit, the cause or the consequence of a fall on some stairs at Cannes and died the following morning.
Leopold's marriage to Helena of Waldeck produced two children, a daughter, Princess Alice of Albany (4), later to become Countess of Athlone, who was a further carrier of the disease and an unaffected son, born posthumously, Charles Edward, later Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Alice was later to become Countess of Athlone and was to prove a carrier of haemophilia. She married Prince Alexander of Teck, the brother of Queen Mary, their son, Rupert of Teck (5) was also a haemophiliac.
During the First World War, when anti-German feeling was at its height, in conjunction with changing the name of the Royal House to Windsor, King George V changed that of the Tecks to Cambridge, (for their maternal ancestor, Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, a son of George III). Alexander of Teck was made Earl of Athlone and Rupert granted the courtesy title of Viscount Trematon. After being involved in a car accident in France, he died of a brain hemorrhage.
Chart showing the descendants of Queen Victoria affected by haemophilia
Through two of the Queen's daughters, Alice (2) and Beatrice (3), both of whom were carriers, the disease was to be spread into many of the Royal Families of Europe.
Alice was married to Prince Louis of Hesse-Darmstadt and gave birth to a haemophiliac son, Frederick of Hesse (6), known as Frittie in the family, in 1870. He died very young in 1873, after a fall from a window induced a hemorrhage. Tragically, the child literally bled to death, leaving his mother inconsolable. Alice also had an unaffected son and five daughters. Two of the daughters, Irene (7) and Alix of Hesse(8) were in turn, carriers.
Haemophilia appeared in the Prussian Royal family, when Alice's daughter Irene married her first cousin, Prince Henry of Prussia, the second son of Queen Victoria's eldest daughter Vicky and brother of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The disease appeared in two of their sons Princes Waldemar (9) and Henry of Prussia(10).
The disease was spread to the Romanov dynasty through the marriage of Alice's fourth daughter Alix, to Tsar Nicholas II. The highly attractive Alix had previously refused a proposal from Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, and heir to the British throne, the eldest son of Bertie, Prince of Wales. Had she accepted, haemophilia could have re-entered the British Royal line. Nicholas had long loved and cherished dreams of marrying Alix, but she turned down his first proposal as she could not bring herself to change her Protestant religion to the Russian Orthodoxy required of a future Tsarina, but after much soul searching, accepted when he proposed for a second time.
Alix, who became known as the Empress Alexandra, produced four daughters before giving birth to their only son, the Tsarevitch Alexis (11), heir to the Russian empire, who was also stricken with haemophilia. As with most mother's of haemophiliacs, Alix was overprotective of her son and worried about him constantly. Through his supposed ability to heal the Tsarevich, and the Tsarina's compete confidence in him, Rasputin acquired a fatal influence over the Tsar's decisions which lead directly to the Russian Revolution. The entire family perished at the hands of a Bolshevik firing squad in a cellar at Ekaterinberg on 17th July, 1918.
The Queen's youngest daughter, Beatrice, fell in love with and married the handsome Prince Henry of Battenberg. The couple produced three sons and a daughter, two of their sons, Leopold Mountbatten (12) and Maurice, Prince of Battenburg (13) inherited the haemophilia gene from their mother. Maurice was killed whilst engaged in active service during the First World War. Leopold lived to the age of 32, dying in 1922.
Beatrice's only daughter, Victoria Eugenie of Battenburg (14), known as Ena, was married to King Alfonso XIII of Spain and carried the disease into the Royal House of Spain.
Though they did not enjoy a particularly happy marriage and Alfonso had many mistresses, the couple produced six children, four sons and two daughters. Two of their sons, Alfonso, Prince of the Asturias(15), the heir to Spain, and Infante Gonzalo of Spain (16), were affected with haemophilia. Alfonso is reported to to have never forgiven his wife for passing the disease into the Spanish Royal bloodline. Both children were dressed in padded suits to prevent their undergoing knocks which might result in a life threatening hemorrhage. Alfonso later renounced his rights to the throne of Spain to marry a commoner, Edelmira Sampedro Ocejo y Robato. A car accident led to his early death in 1938. Another of Victoria Eugenie's sons Juan, was the father of Juan Carlos, the present King of Spain.