We exist to improve the lives
of everyone affected by epilepsy

King Edward VIII – hidden brother with epilepsy was “an animal”

29 Jun 2015

A controversial letter written by King Edward VIII has come to light after almost 100 years. It refers to the death of the King’s brother John and highlights intolerant attitudes towards epilepsy in the early 20th Century

The letter was written by Edward VIII to his lover Freda Dudley Ward in 1919. It is one of 250 found stored in a trunk by a stamp collector. Now discovered, the letter will be auctioned in Los Angeles and is expected to fetch £20,000.

Edward VIII is the Queen’s uncle, brother to George VI and Princess Mary. Unknown by many is the fact that they had another brother, John. John was diagnosed with epilepsy and autism at four years old.

King Edward VIII on a postage stampPrince John lived at Sandringham and was kept away from public attention after his diagnosis. He died in 1919 – at the age of 13 – as a result of a seizure. John’s short life was the subject of a BBC dramatisation called The Lost Prince (first aired in 2003 and most recently broadcast towards the end of 2014).

In the letter, Edward said: “His death is the greatest relief imaginable or what we’ve always silently prayed for. This poor boy had become more of an animal than anything else and was only a brother in the flesh and nothing else.”

The letter has been termed cruel. It shows a lack of understanding for epilepsy and autism, showing just how much attitudes to both conditions have advanced in the last century.

Comments: read the 5 comments or add yours


It's sad but true, and most definitely NEEDS to be said!

As there is still an air of stigma around many conditions such as epilepsy, autism and mental conditions full stop.

Society is kind and open minded about many things. But hits a brick wall with some of the oldest conditions known to society itself! I, for one am not going to keep quiet until there is enough awareness, and acceptance for the many forms of epilepsy :) Together we can take Action!

Submitted by Mandee Smith on

I watched the programme, but my immediate thought was what on earth are my siblings and people of my generation now going to think.
I don't feel the programme gave a good example for those who just have the condition.
My late father had cousins born when King Edward was born, so he too found it very difficult to accept that he had a child with epilepsy and would not let me attend many family functions etc. This idea has naturally come down to my siblings.

Submitted by Catherine on

Hi Catherine
That sounds tough.

Attitudes towards people with epilepsy have definitely changed through the years. But we also still have a long way to go. Hopefully there will come a day when there is no longer any stigma about the condition. That’s certainly what we’re working towards.

Can I check you know about our online community forum4e? It’s for people with epilepsy and carers for people with epilepsy. You might find it helpful to have a look at.

Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Cherry, Epileps... on

I never knew about this until now,so I ask a simple question,perhaps from my own experience as a child,--has the public attitude to those suffering from epilepsy REALLY changed very much?--AND I would ask the GOVERNMENT/S the same question and insist on a simple answer--YES or NO--but then,that's asking a LOT isn't it?--I honestly wish/hope ANYBODY could PROVE me wrong.

Submitted by Michael Hesketh on

Hello Michael
We believe that attitudes towards people with epilepsy have changed, but they could still be better. In fact, raising awareness is an important part of our key vision and goals. There has even been a debate about epilepsy in the House of Commons in 2015.

We exist to improve the lives of people with epilepsy, and hope that one day people with epilepsy can live their lives free of stigma, prejudice and discrimination.

Epilepsy Action Advice & Information Team

Submitted by Karen, Epilepsy... on

Question about your epilepsy?

Use our email helpline service -- your question will be sent directly to our trained helpline advisors who will reply to you. If you post a question about your epilepsy as a comment on a page, it may not be replied to so please use the email helpline service.

Want to talk to other people with epilepsy?

Take a look at forum4e our online community for people with epilepsy. Anyone with epilepsy over the age of 16 can join, from anywhere in the world.

Comment about this page?

We welcome feedback on the content of our website. If you have any comments about the page you were reading, then please complete the form below.

All comments are reviewed by a moderator before appearing on the site. Once the comment appears, your name and comment will be seen by other visitors to the site. Comments will be edited or deleted if they are offensive, libellous, slanderous, abusive, commercial or irrelevant. Comments may also be edited or deleted if they are not relevant to the page on which they are entered.

By making a comment through the website, you allow us to use the comment in our publicity without using your name. If we would like to use your name, we will email you to get your permission.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.