I bought this DVD as part of my Sister’s christmas presents. This was a two-part BBC drama by Stephen Poliakoff about the life of “Prince Johnny”, fifth son of King George V and Queen Mary of Teck [and thereby Uncle to HM Queen Elizabeth II].
Johnny was born at York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate [now used as the Estate office and flats for estate workers], the beloved home of his father for countless years until his Mother Queen Alexandra died at Sandringham, he was homed here away from the public scrutiny of London, as well as the numerous dignitaries and visiting personnel associated with the Royals.
At the age of 4 he was diagnosed with epilepsy, the medical establishment at that time often used the diagnostic term “imbecile” to denote mental health issues, which differs from the dictionary definition and the myriad of modern day medical diagnostic terms. At the time, it was a general understanding that only the poor, diseased and low working class people bred “imbecilic” children, therefor for an aristocrat to have borne a child with epilepsy would imply that some improper goings on had gone on, and such scandalous gossip could never be allowed to escape about a Royal.
He had his own Nanny Lalla [Charlotte Bill], tutelage from Henry Peter Hansell, but never attended functions as is brothers and sister did. He joined the family on occasions and was thus less restricted by the necessary propriety expected of a royal prince. At 12 he was settled into his own house hold at Wood Farm near Wolferton [3 miles from Sandringham], partly because it was expected that the Romanov’s would live at Sandingham when exiled. Often visited by his brother Prince George Duke of Kent [not to be confused with prince Albert, Bertie, later King George Vi]. The adaptation does not show the companionship of Winifred Thomas a girl close to his age, who suffered acutely with asthma.
He is portrayed as a contented child, enjoying gardening, bicycling, horse riding, art and music but was sheltered from the worries and tensions of a changing world as War approached and rooted itself in history.
He died on the morning of January 18th, 1919, his Mother wrote in her diary
Lalla Bill telephoned from Wood Farm, Wolferton, that our poor darling Johnnie had died suddenly after one of his attacks. The news gave me a great shock, though for the little boy’s restless soul, death came as a great release. I brought the news to George & we motored down to Wood Farm. Found poor Lalla very resigned but heartbroken. Little Johnnie looked very peaceful lying there For him it is a great release as his malady was becoming worse as he grew older and 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 no pain, no struggle, just peace for the poor little troubled spirit, which had been a great anxiety for us for many years ever since he was four.
I found the adaptation to be most sensitive and moving, sad in that if it had been a different era he would not have been so hidden, yet he was the free-est of the family in so many ways.