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.
Prince 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.