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On 18 January 1919, after a severe seizure, John died in his sleep at Wood Farm at 5:30 p.m.
More DetailsHide DetailsIt is now known, due to modern autopsy techniques, that people with epilepsy may die of it, with no other illness or injury contributing to death nor to the etiology of the condition.
Queen Mary wrote in her diary that the news was "a great shock, tho' for the poor little boy's restless soul, death came as a great relief. She broke the news to George and they motored down to Wood Farm. Found poor Lala very resigned but heartbroken. Little Johnnie looked very peaceful lying there."
Mary later wrote to Emily Alcock, an old friend, that "for John it is a great relief, as his malady was becoming worse as he grew older,& he has thus been spared much suffering. I cannot say how grateful we feel to God for having taken him in such a peaceful way, he just slept quietly into his heavenly home, no pain no struggle, just peace for the poor little troubled spirit which had been a great anxiety to us for many years, ever since he was four years old." She went on to add that "the first break in the family circle is hard to bear, but people have been so kind& sympathetic& this has helped us much." George described his son's death simply as "the greatest mercy possible".
He spent Christmas Day 1918 with his family at Sandringham House but was driven back to Wood Farm at night.
After the summer of 1916, John was rarely seen outside the Sandringham Estate and passed solely into Bill's care.
More DetailsHide DetailsAfter Queen Alexandra wrote that "John is very proud of his house but is longing for a companion," Queen Mary broke from royal practice by having local children brought in to be playmates for John. One of these was Winifred Thomas, a young girl from Halifax who had been sent to live with her aunt and uncle (who had charge of the royal stables at Sandringham) in hopes her asthma would improve. John had known Winifred years earlier, prior to the outbreak of World War I. Now they became close, taking nature walks together and working in Queen Alexandra's garden. John also played with his elder siblings when they visited: once, when his two eldest brothers came to visit John, the Prince of Wales (formerly Prince Edward) "took him for a run in a kind of a push-cart, and they both disappeared from view."
In 1916, as his seizures became more frequent and severe, John was sent to live at Wood Farm, with Bill having charge of his care.
More DetailsHide DetailsThough John maintained an interest in the world around him and was capable of coherent thought and expression, with his lack of educational progress the last of his tutors was dismissed and his formal education ended. Physicians warned that he would likely not reach adulthood.
At Wood Farm, John became "a satellite with his own little household on an outlying farm on the Sandringham estate... Guests at Balmoral remember him during the Great War as tall and muscular, but always a distant figure glimpsed from afar in the woods, escorted by his own retainers." His grandmother Queen Alexandra maintained a garden at Sandringham House especially for him, and this became "one of the great pleasures of John's life."
John slowly disappeared from the public eye and no official portraits of him were commissioned after 1913.
In 1912 Prince George, who was nearest in age to John and his closest sibling, began St. Peter's Court Preparatory School at Broadstairs.
More DetailsHide DetailsThe following summer, The Times reported that John would not attend Broadstairs the following term, and that George and Mary had not decided whether to send John to school at all. After the outbreak of World War I, John rarely saw his parents, who were often away on official duties, and his siblings, who were either at boarding school or in the military.
John did not attend his parents' coronation on 22 June 1911, as this was considered too risky for his health; nonetheless, cynics said that the family feared their reputation would be damaged by any incident involving him.
More DetailsHide DetailsAlthough John was deemed not "presentable to the outside world," George nonetheless showed an interest in him, offering him "kindness and affection".
During his time at Sandringham, John exhibited repetitive behaviour, which can be a sign of autism; this is possibly a reason for his constant misbehaviour: "he simply didn't understand he needed to behave." Nonetheless there was hope his seizures might lessen with time -. Contrary to the belief that he was hidden from the public from an early age, John for most of his life was a "fully-fledged member of the family", appearing frequently in public until after his eleventh birthday.
When his father succeeded as George V upon Edward VII's death in 1910, John was awarded the title "His Royal Highness The Prince John".
In 1909, John's great-aunt, the Dowager Empress of Russia wrote to her son, Emperor Nicholas II, that "George's children are very nice...
More DetailsHide DetailsThe little ones, George and Johnny are both charming and very amusing " Princess Alexander of Teck described John as "very quaint and one evening when Uncle George returned from stalking he bent over Aunt May and kissed her, and they heard Johnny soliloquize, 'She kissed Papa, ugly old man! George once said to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt that "all his children were obedient, except John" - apparently because John alone, among George's children, escaped punishment from their father.
Though a "large and handsome" baby, by his fourth birthday John had become "winsome" and "painfully slow". That same year he suffered his first epileptic seizure and showed signs of a disability, probably autism.
Prince John was born at York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate on 12 July 1905, at 3:05 a.m.
More DetailsHide DetailsHe was the youngest child and fifth son of George Frederick, Prince of Wales and Mary, Princess of Wales (née Mary of Teck). He was named John despite that name's unlucky associations for the royal family, but was informally known as "Johnny". At the time of his birth, he was sixth in the line of succession to the throne, behind his father and four older brothers. As a grandchild of the reigning British monarch in the male line, and a son of the Prince of Wales, he was formally styled His Royal Highness Prince John of Wales from birth.
John was christened on 3 August in the Church of St Mary Magdalene at Sandringham, the Reverend Canon John Neale Dalton officiating. His godparents were King Carlos I of Portugal (his third cousin once removed, for whom the Prince of Wales stood proxy), the Duke of Sparta (his first cousin once removed), Prince Carl of Denmark (his uncle by marriage and first cousin once removed, for whom the Prince of Wales stood proxy), Prince John of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (his great-great-uncle, for whom the Prince of Wales stood proxy), Alexander Duff, 1st Duke of Fife (his uncle by marriage, for whom the Prince of Wales stood proxy), the Duchess of Sparta (his first cousin once removed, for whom Princess Victoria of the United Kingdom stood proxy), and Princess Alexander of Teck (his first cousin once removed, for whom Princess Victoria stood proxy).
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