The Royal Family Tried To Erase Him, But The Dark History Of “Lost” Prince John Is Coming To Light

The Royal Family Tried To Erase Him, But The Dark History Of "Lost" Prince John Is Coming To Light

From Princess Diana’s untimely death to the criminal allegations against Prince Andrew, the British royal family can’t escape the airing of their dirty laundry. The case of Prince John is no exception. When the Windsors welcomed their 5th child in 1905, not many expected that a few years later he would all but vanish. Although certain relatives preferred to keep him a secret, new information is coming out decades later to shed light on the “lost prince.”

Baby John

When John was born in 1905, his birth was heralded by the royals and all of Britain. His full name was John Charles Francis, and according to royal record, he was a “large and handsome” baby. That wouldn’t be all he was, though.

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Early Days

The sweet summer child was baptized in August of that year, at the Church of St Mary Magdalene at Sandringham, an estate where he would spend much of his childhood. He was informally known as “Johnnie,” due to the family’s history of unlucky associations with the name John.

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Busy Household

At first, John had a normal childhood, playing happily with his siblings Henry, Edward, Albert, Mary, and George. Their parents were busy doing royal things, so the kids were most often supervised by their nanny, Charlotte “Lala” Bill. John was particularly close with her.

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So Far, So Good

John’s father, George, was a disciplinarian, but was also affectionate towards his kids. His mother encouraged all the children to confide in her. Through this healthy relationship with their parents, the youngsters turned out nice and polite.

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Breaking The Mold

John, in particular, was singled out as being uniquely “charming and amusing” by his great-aunt, the Dowager Empress of Russia. He made “quaint,” unfiltered remarks that sent everyone in the room into chuckles — early signs of a personality that differed from the rest.

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Unique Qualities

Those differences came into a clearer focus when John was four years old. His father told President Theodore Roosevelt “all [his] children [were] obedient, except John,” probably because John was the child who was least disciplined. George doted on him more than the others.

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Epilepsy Diagnosis

The reasons behind this special treatment soon became clear. John began to show possible signs of autism, and he had his first epileptic seizure in late 1909. He was too ill to attend his parents’ coronation in 1911. George’s kindness for the boy increased with his level of required care.

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Little-Researched Condition

John’s health continued to worsen over the next few years. There was a stigma against epilepsy at the time, since treatment didn’t really exist, but the family hoped it would go away on its own, like the Duke of Albany’s condition had.

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Further Conflict

In addition, John started to display repetitive behaviors. Not understanding that he needed to behave properly and follow the strict royal rules for decorum, he became somewhat disobedient and rebellious, leading him into trouble.

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Brotherly Bond Broken

As he reached the age of 11, John’s public appearances and involvement in the family’s public activities decreased. Another blow was dealt when his closest sibling, his brother George, went away to preparatory school. John’s health prevented him from also attending.

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Rumors Fly

Tidbits about the young prince leaked out, and for many years, the public believed John had been shut away, scorned, and hidden because he was different. The press was merciless, running with every rumor they heard about the beleaguered boy.

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His seizures, instead of improving, worsened and seriously impeded his daily life. In 1916, not knowing what to do, the family set up a peaceful residence for him on the neighboring property of Wood Farm.

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Tragic Decline

Nurse Lala was stationed there to care for John full-time, but things were tough. Though his mother arranged for local children to come play with him and his siblings visited when he felt well, the separation from his family didn’t help. Formerly “mascot of the family,” his energy was flagging.

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In January 1919, John’s seizures hit a breaking point. He passed away in his sleep after one especially bad episode. The family was heartbroken, but Queen Mary wrote that they were relieved that he’d gone peacefully and would no longer suffer.

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John’s funeral was a humble private affair, though every single one of the Sandringham estate staff attended. They brought heaps of flowers to place on the small grave at St. Mary Magdalene, the same church where he was baptized.

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Family Coldness

Not everyone was sad about John’s passing. His older brother Edward VIII, who had himself been hiding away and was living abroad since his abdication from the British throne, was nonplussed. He wrote to Wallis Simpson about his feelings.

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Clinical Detachment

“No one would be more cut up if any of my other 3 brothers were to die than I should be,” he wrote, “but this poor boy had become more of an animal than anything else and was only a brother in the flesh and nothing else.”


Missed By Others

This unfavorable letter tainted the public opinion of John’s circumstances for decades. People believed the whole family was as cold as Edward, but it simply wasn’t true. Even Lala grieved his loss. She kept a picture of him above her fireplace, alongside a letter he’d written, reading, “Nanny, I love you.”

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In His Memory

Queen Mary gave many of John’s books to his friend and Wood Farm companion, Winifred Thomas, with personal inscriptions in his honor. Edward later apologized to his mother for his harsh words, saying he felt like “a cold hearted and unsympathetic swine”.

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Tough Call

Though John’s seclusion seems strange in retrospect, the truth is that epilepsy wasn’t well understood at the time. The family tried to do what would be best for John. Still, Edward always regretted his harsh words, especially once he was embroiled in a scandal of his own.

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Behind The Perfect Facade

Until January of 1936, King George V still held the throne. Upon his death, his eldest son Edward (pictured middle) became the new king. Edward was well-liked among the citizens of Britain, but what they didn’t know was that he was hiding one controversial secret.

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A Forbidden Love

Edward was in a relationship. All well and good, right? However, this wasn’t just any relationship; his partner was someone whom he was forced to hide from his family members. The reason for this secrecy would prove to be nothing less than scandalous.

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Enter Wallis

For the two years preceding his father’s death, Edward had been seeing an American woman by the name of Wallis Simpson. They were in love. But despite their passion, this wasn’t Simpson’s first rodeo…

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Broken Promises

The Pennsylvania socialite had, in fact, been previously married to a member of the U.S. navy named Earl Winfield Spencer. After discovering his serious problems with alcoholism, the relationship dissolved and ultimately ended in divorce. Incredibly, though, Simpson’s status as a divorcee wasn’t even the most glaring issue…

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A Shocking Revelation

Even worse than being divorced, Wallis was actually still married! This was certainly a huge no-no at the time, for regular people and especially for members of the royal family — let alone the king himself! However Edward had a master plan.

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The Heartbroken King

For months he petitioned parliament to allow him to marry Wallis once she had finalized her divorce from then-husband Ernest Aldrich Simpson, a businessman. However, for one crucial reason, the government would never allow the star-crossed lovers to unite.

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Illegal Passions

When ascending to the throne, royals also take on another responsibility: becoming the official head of the Church of England. And at the time, the church explicitly forbade divorced people becoming remarried. While this internal conflict broiled, the family desperately tried to keep the drama under wraps.

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‘Common Knowledge’

Of course, the unorthodox relationship was common knowledge among British newspapers. While they were aware of the affair, they respected the Crown enough to refrain from reporting on it — unlike their American counterparts. Soon, everything would come to a head.

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The Boiling Point

Though Edward tried his hardest to keep the tryst quiet, his attempts ultimately failed due to the existence of one incredibly scandalous picture. Once it reached the press, there would be no suppressing of the chaos that ensued.

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An Explosive Image

In December of 1936, nearly a year after Edward had become king, the British press broke down and published the image in question. What did it picture? Edward and Wallis together, her hand stroking his arm. It was not a good look.


No More Keeping Up Appearances

The masses practically exploded after its publication; such a relationship was virtually unheard of for members of the royal family, and this picture was solid proof of the affair. If people thought the drama was over, however, they were dead wrong.

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Royals In Crisis

This was because several days later, another shock-wave would run through the country when Edward suddenly abdicated. The scandal was significant enough that it even earned its own name: the abdication crisis. And his farewell speech to the nation was particularly noteworthy.

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A Dramatic Goodbye

In his last address as king, Edward admitted that he felt incapable of fulfilling his duties to the crown if he didn’t have “the support of the woman that I love.” After years of hiding, his relationship was finally in the open. But this admission wouldn’t protect him from consequences.

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Tough Love

Following Edward’s abdication, his younger brother Albert became King George VI, with his daughter Elizabeth (yes, the current queen) subsequently shifting to next in line for the throne. If Edward thought his little brother would go easy on him, he had another thing coming.

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A Painful Existence

The new king made his brother Duke of Windsor, but with the support of his mother Queen Mary and wife Elizabeth, refused to allow Wallis Simpson to take the “Her Royal Highness” title. And this was far from the only snub the couple endured.

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Skipping Town

Wallis fled to France before Edward’s abdication to get away from widespread and wholly unflattering press coverage, and after abdicating Edward went to join her. The pair had planned on coming back to England after their little retreat, but the new king said they needed permission before returning.

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Tensions Run High

Sadly, Edward’s relationship with his relatives would never be quite the same. He especially resented his mother Mary for her role in forcing him out and isolating the love of his life from the family. Eventually, she made one bold move that would be the last straw.


The Ultimate Snub

Mary went as far as to ban Edward from attending the dedication of his own father’s tomb. In a letter written to her after the fact, Edward stated, “Your last letter…destroyed the last vestige of feeling I had left for you and has made further normal correspondence between us impossible.”

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Checking Out

Spurned and disillusioned with the monarchy, Edward and Wallis would live out the rest of their days in France, having little to do with the workings of the royals. Their scandalous exit paved the way for many more modern royal controversies that have taken Britain by storm.

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