Three More of Queen’s Cousins Kept in Asylum

From Reuters

Britain’s Royal Family was thrust into a national debate about mental illness today after it was revealed that not just two but five of Queen Elizabeth’s cousins were hidden away in a mental hospital on the same day 46 years ago.

Newspapers delved at length into previous cases of royal madness and one mental-care expert urged the queen to visit her relatives--four are alive--to bring the issue of mental health into the open.

Britain’s latest royal “scandal” began with a banner headline in the tabloid Sun Monday that read “Queen’s Cousin Locked in Madhouse.” An accompanying photograph showed a wrinkled and bedraggled old woman staring out blankly.


Other tabloids were quick to follow up today, revealing that two of Queen Elizabeth’s first cousins and three second cousins were all brought to a Victorian-era mental hospital in the heart of the Surrey countryside south of London on the same day in 1941.

The five all belonged to the Bowes-Lyon family of Queen Mother Elizabeth, who at 87 is frequently referred to as the “nation’s favorite grandmother.”

The two first cousins were listed as dead in the 1963 edition of “Burke’s Peerage,” a guide to the British aristocracy, even though one is alive and the second died only last year. The three second cousins are also alive.

Genealogists said all five may have shared a genetic flaw passed by the 21st Baron Clinton, and not the Royal Family.

Leading genealogist Hugh Peskett said: “If five female cousins all have one mental problem, it’s pretty obvious the cause is genetic.

“The great relief is that the genes are obviously in the Clinton family and not in the Royal Family. It is clearly a Clinton family gene which is wrong, rather than that of the Bowes-Lyon family.”


The Queen Mother has been a patron of Mencap, a charity dealing with the mentally handicapped, for the last 25 years, and newspapers were quick to absolve her of any personal responsibility. When she discovered her nieces were alive five years ago, she sent them money and presents, they reported.

Newspapers also examined previous cases of royal madness, from George III at the end of the 18th Century to two cases of mental illness and handicaps among royal children in the early years of the 20th Century.

One was Prince John, the youngest of George V’s six children. He was retarded and epileptic and died at 14. The other was Prince Albert, son of Edward VII, who died at 28 and was described in one newspaper today as “an oddball and a dunce.”

“Madness, illegitimacy and divorce are the three skeletons that rattle loudest in the royal cupboard,” Alan Hamilton wrote in the Times under the headline “Royalty’s Unspoken Fear.”