Author Topic: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyria?  (Read 36348 times)

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Offline Helen_Azar

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Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyria?
« on: January 07, 2005, 06:16:22 PM »
This topic began on the "Relation to Alix" thread and we decided we need a separate thread for it.  Here is what we have been discussing:

Mary Stuart is the direct ancestor of all British monarchs who came after Elizabeth I. It is common belief that she had suffered from porphyria, a metabolic disorder that can cause mental illness, and passed it on to her descendants, most notably to George III ("Mad King George"). According to the book THE PURPLE SECRET QV's daughter Vicky (of Prussia), her daughter Charlotte and grandaughter Feodora all had porphyria.  The author also speculates that Tsarina Alexandra may have had this disease too, undiagnosed, based on her symptoms...  
The book says that at some point, Erika Hagelberg, one of the scientists on Peter Gill's team (the team who did the Yekaterinberg bones identification) had offered to do porphyria analysis on Alexandra's sample. It is unknown (at least to me) if these tests were ever done.

The last posting on the other thread on this topic was:

bluetoria
------------------------------------------------------------------------
I don't think it's mentioned anywhere, but I have pondered this a great deal. Alix's symptoms fit almost exactly to many of Vicky's...and it would explain a great deal about her assumed hypochondria. I have also wondered about QB and thyroxine deficiency..,which would be equally telling in Alix's tiredness etc....  

Carry on...
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by helenazar »

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2005, 08:40:17 PM »
I just realized that this topic actually began on "Relation to Alix" thread, so I fixed it.

Goula, thanks for this info. It certainly sounds plausible that Friedrich Wilhelm I had this disease as well...  which would actually mean that both of Kaiser Wilhelm's parents had the disease!

bluetoria

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2005, 06:06:18 AM »
I didn't think Alix was mentioned in 'Purple Secret' - though I no longer have the book with me. I just recall when reading it that several of the symptoms seemed similar to Alix's especially her sometimes near-hysteria. Poor Charlotte of Prussia (Saxe-Meiningen) seems to have suffered terribly according to the book which accounts for most of her bizarre behaviour. Perhaps it could also account for some of Alix's difficulties...especially her inability to walk much of the time and her flushes and nervousness.

Offline Martyn

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2005, 09:18:17 AM »
Quote
I just realized that this topic actually began on "Relation to Alix" thread, so I fixed it.

Goula, thanks for this info. It certainly sounds plausible that Friedrich Wilhelm I had this disease as well...  which would actually mean that both of Kaiser Wilhelm's parents had the disease!


That is really incredible if true.  So both Fritz and Vicky may have had the disease?
'For a galant spirit there can never be defeat'....Wallis Windsor

'The important things is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.'......QV

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2005, 09:34:59 AM »
Quote
I didn't think Alix was mentioned in 'Purple Secret' - though I no longer have the book with me.
Oh yes, she is certainly mentioned - a lot! Pp. 242-44, 270-92.  

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2005, 09:35:54 AM »
Quote

That is really incredible if true.  So both Fritz and Vicky may have had the disease?


Yes, according to this book this is a possibility.  

Although I have to add that in the book, the author does not exactly say that Fritz mayhave had it, just Vicky. But if Fritz was Mary Stuart's direct descendant, and she is the one who passed it on to everyone else, and if Fritz had exhibited some of the symptoms, then it's possible.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by helenazar »

Offline Martyn

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2005, 09:48:42 AM »
I really will have to check this book out.  It sounds really interesting.
Does the topic begin with George III or with Q.Victoria?
'For a galant spirit there can never be defeat'....Wallis Windsor

'The important things is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.'......QV

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2005, 09:56:17 AM »
Quote
I really will have to check this book out.  It sounds really interesting.
Does the topic begin with George III or with Q.Victoria?


George III. Yes, it's an intersting book, although I have read it in bits and pieces up until now...

bluetoria

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2005, 10:07:43 AM »
I liked the book a lot but I became rather depressed reading again and again and again of Charlotte & Feo's very unpleasant symptoms!!!

Offline ChristineM

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2005, 10:53:35 AM »
Dear Bluetoria

An entire chapter of Purple Secret (Chapter 11 - Alexandra, Russia's tragic Tsarina) is devoted to the subject of porphyria and the possibility of Alexandra Feodorovna suffering from variegate porphyria.

Indeed the same book deals, in some depth, with the likelihood that Marie Stuart suffered from porphyria.   In 1960, a  mother and son, British psychiatrists of German Jewish origin, first suggested that George III was not mad, but suffered from an hereditary disease - porphyria.   Although Macalpine and Hunter died before completing their work, they believed they had successfully traced porphyria back to Marie Stuart and her son James, and also projected it forward to a number of the children of George III.D

Antonia Fraser is of the opinion that Mary's father, James V  manifested the symptoms of porphyria and expresses the likelihood that Mary inherited the disease from him.   In her book 'Mary - Queen of Scots', Fraser comments that 'after a robust childhood, Mary Stuart's general health began to show cause for concern in adolescence.'   It is extraordinary that doctors, even in those days, explained  Mary's complaints of heartburn, indigestion and vomiting, as being due to her hearty appetite  leading to her overeating...   in a thirteen year old?

Mary Queen of Scots has been described as 'one of the great invalids of history'.   By her early 20s, her symptoms included gastric ulcers, rheumatism and hysteria.   As well as suffering bouts of abdominal pain, lameness, fits and episodes of mental disturbance since her teens.

During two serious episodes she experienced severe pain in her side, continuous vomiting, lameness as well as mental disturbance and fits.   On one occasion she lost both her sight and the power of speech.

There is no record of the characteristic urine colour in the case of Mary Stuart, but in the case of her son, James (VI and I), his dark red urine was likened to the 'colour of Alicante wine'.

The conclusion among medical historians is that Mary Stuart did suffer from porphyria and her biographer Antonia Fraser has little doubt that Mary's delicate health can be explained by this diagnosis - a delicate health which was ultumately ruined by the physical rigours during the birth of her only son, James.

tsaria

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2005, 11:01:15 AM »
Thanks, tsaria. It certainly sounds like Mary Stuart had it. I will go back and read the parts in the book that I haven't read yet, that deal with her. I wonder how far  this disease goes in the various royals, since it seems it didn't even originate with Mary but that her father had it. I wonder whom it originated with. This is very interesting.

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2005, 12:43:45 PM »
Thank you Tsaria. How strange that I have no recollection whatsoever of that chapter about Alix; all I can remember are the stories of Geo. III, Vicky, Charlotte 'the brat', Feo & her cousin, Ada & the more recent Duke of....wherever who died in the plane crash (Gloucester?). I wonder if I read an earlier version or something...or if I am just amnesic!! I must find the book again. I read another recent biography of Mary Q. of S. which like the Antonia Frazer one supports the opinion that she had porphyria.

Offline ChristineM

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2005, 01:46:28 PM »
Dear Bluetoria

It was Prince William of Gloucester,  killed in an aircrash in the early 1970s, who was the last member of the British Royal Family to be diagnosed as suffering from  porphyria.

His mother  (Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester who died recently and whose  passing was commemorated on another thread of this Forum) according to Purple Secret,  sought medical advice.  She had grown increasingly concerned by the unexplained rashes in the form of blisters on her son's forehead, backs of the hands, the chest and sometimes on the back.    The blisters were quite large and left behind dark spots which could take a long  time to disappear.   Sometimes the prince was left permanently scarred by these blisters.

A diagnosis of porphyria was made and further confirmed by another two, independent medics.

The sum of Prince William's symptoms were typical of the disease.   Alongside general malaise, he suffered bilious attacks, weakness of the muscles and a fragile, sun-sensitive skin.   He also had high levels of porphyrins in his characteristically dark coloured urine.

Prince William was thirty one when he was tragically killed.   His younger brother, Richard, inherited the title Duke of Gloucester on the death of their father, Prince Henry, third son of King George V and Queen Mary.

The presence of porphyria can be dated to James V   father of Mary Stuart, (and, who can say, maybe even earlier).   It is extraordinary - not to say fortunate - that after, at least, four hundred and fifty years, this unpleasant, potentially fatal disease would appear to have died out with the passing of William of Gloucester who died unmarried and childless.

tsaria




Offline ChristineM

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2005, 02:53:00 PM »
Dear Martyn

I am moving your question re Princess Margaret and porphyria on to this thread.   The following is   extracted from 'Purple Secret' from Chapter 12:  The Ghosts of Windsor -

Princess Margaret:

'In his book 'Margaret - The Tragic Princess', James  Brough recounted an extraordinary story that had been told to him by two Fleet Street reporters.   One of the reporters had heard a rumour around the time of the break-up of Princess Margaret's marriage in the mid-1970s that she ha been treated for porphyria by a leading specialist*.   Could Princess Margaret have had,  or still have, porphyria?   Brough attempted to explain her character and activities in the light of the rumoured diagnosis of porphyria.   He noted that she always wore special makeup for protection against the sun, suggesting that, like certain porphyrics, she was hypersensitive to sunlight.   It is known that she avoided taking sleeping pills even though she often had trouble sleeping, perhaps because she knew that the barbiturate-based tablets would provoke an acute attack.   The princess had a spell in hospital in 1967 which was attributed, in part, to excessive weight loss through dieting.   Maintenance of constant carbohydrate intake is recognised as an important aspect of controlling porphyric attacks and reduciing diets are known to be precipitating factors in porphyria.   If this were the case, then she would have been advised to embark on a high-carbohydrate diet in order to prevent future attacks of porphyria, and this could explain the princess's subsequent weight gain.   Needless to say, this was all conjecture on the part of the biographer.

James Brough also wonders whether Prince Charles's interest in and admiration for George III might be related to his sympathy for his aunt's condition.    This is unlikely, especially if Princess Margaret were (sic) not diagnosed until the mid-1970s, several years after the Prince wrote his foreward to John Brooke's biography.   It is far more probable that the Prince of Wales's public acceptance of the porphyria theory stemmed from the revelation that another close relative of his was clinically diagnosed with variegate porphyria in 1968.'

*James Brough 'Margaret:  The Tragic Princess' (London 1978), pp. 236-49

All very tenuous.   As far as I can recall, Princess Margaret's admissions to hospital were usually explained as being due to her heavy cigarette smoking.

tsaria

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Did Mary Stuart & descendants have porphyr
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2005, 03:10:23 PM »
As well as her most unfortunate mishap with the bath.
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