Closer look at the health of kings and queens past

Taken from Our Gracious Queen 1837-1897

Queen Victoria was 81 when she died in 1901 - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Queen is now 95 years of age and is reportedly in excellent health.

40 other people have sat on the English throne since the Norman Conquest of 1066. The health of these various assorted kings and queens has varied dramatically.

To begin with, Elizabeth II has already lived much longer than anyone else. Only two other monarchs have made it past the age of 80. Queen Victoria was 81 when she died in 1901. She was just five days older than her own grandfather, George III, had been on his death in 1820, an event which occurred when Victoria was a baby.

Only seven of these 41 monarchs made it to the age of 70. The others were Edward VIII, 77, George II, 76, William IV, 71, and George V, 70. I am including Edward VII in these figures, alongside a few others such as James II, even though they were not King at the time of their death. Only 16 of the 41 – less than half of all English Kings and Queens – even lived to the age of 60.

The average English monarch, in fact, died at the age of 54. Charles II was exactly this age when he died in 1685. Others such as Henry VIII, 55, and the Queen’s father, George VI, 56, were also close to the mean age. The present Queen’s final age is unknown and so she is not included in these last two calculations.

Tragically, Edward V died younger than any other King in 1483. He and his brother, Richard, were the two unfortunate ‘princes in the Tower’ who went missing under the ‘protection’ of their uncle, Richard III. The exact date of Edward’s death is unknown but two skeletons were discovered in the Tower in 1674. Edward V was 12 years old, his brother nine.

Richard III was later killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. He was always rumoured to have been a hunchback although many suspected this was part of a later Tudor campaign intended to blacken his name. In fact, after his skeleton was recovered under a Leicester car park in 2012, it was proven Richard, villain or not, did have some sort of hunch.

Others died violently, too. Charles I was publicly beheaded in 1649 after losing the English Civil War. William II died in a ‘hunting accident’ in 1100 but was almost certainly murdered. Richard the Lionheart was killed by a crossbow while fighting in France in 1199. Richard II and Henry VI were both murdered by their enemies after being overthrown. The present Queen’s grandfather, George V, was later revealed to have been deliberately and illegally finished off with lethal doses of morphine and cocaine administered by his doctor on his deathbed in 1936.

Mary II died younger than any other Queen, succumbing to smallpox at the age of 32 in 1694. Elizabeth I had also suffered from smallpox and took to wearing distinctive white face make-up to disguise the scarring she had suffered as a result.

Several Kings such as Henry IV, Henry VI and George III were struck down by madness. Henry VI’s insanity contributed to his downfall. George III was so afflicted that his son, the future King George IV, ruled as Prince Regent during the final eight years of his long reign.

There have been no obvious signs of insanity in the higher reaches of the Royal Family in the two centuries since George III’s death. Some have suggested two distinct personality trends have developed within the family since then, however, dividing them between loyal, dutiful, sensible and perhaps more boring Royals, for example, the present Queen, Queen Victoria, George V and VI, perhaps Prince William and more free-spirited, rebellious, less responsible ‘difficult’ ones such as the Prince Regent, Edward VII, his oldest son, Prince Eddy, Edward VIII, the late Princess Margaret, perhaps even Prince Andrew or Prince Harry.