Some people assume that members of the British royal family never get cancer. (Some conspiracy theorists even think that the royal family has a cancer cure that’s kept secret from the public.) But in reality, they aren’t so lucky. Just like commoners, members of the royal family do develop cancer. And while they can access excellent medical care, their status as royals offers them no guarantees.
Below, discover which members of the royal family have developed cancer.
King George VI developed lung cancer
King George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon | British Monarchy via Instagram
The father of Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI, dealt with several serious health conditions. But as Time reports, it didn’t help that he was a heavy smoker. King George VI developed lung cancer and in 1951, had a lung operation to remove an obstruction in the left bronchus. The surgery was a relatively successful treatment for the lung cancer. However, he never fully recovered from the risky operation. And his reduced ability to breathe left him in a weakened state. Five months later, the king died of a coronary thrombosis, a blockage of blood flow to the heart as a result of a blood clot in an artery.
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother had colon and breast cancer
The Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, developed both colon cancer and breast cancer, according to Express. She underwent successful treatment for colon cancer in 1966 and breast cancer in 1984. Both times, royal aides kept her medical condition a secret. When she had colon cancer, her office at Clarence House told the press that she had undergone an abdominal operation to relieve a partial obstruction. And when she had a tumor removed from her breast, her office said that she had had three days of hospital tests and doctors declared her in “very good health.”
King Edward VIII died of throat cancer
You may know King Edward VIII as the British king who abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, leaving his younger brother, Prince Albert, to step up and become King George VI. Born as David, he became the Duke of Windsor after his 1936 abdication. Royal Central reports that later in life, the duke’s health deteriorated. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1971. And his love story with Simpson reportedly didn’t have a happy ending. She reportedly left him on his deathbed for another man, and the duke died at his home in Paris in 1972.
Princess Margaret had a lung cancer scare
Princess Margaret at the Royal Windsor Horse Show| Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Washington Post reports that shortly after Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, Princess Margaret began “the constant smoking and heavy drinking of Famous Grouse Scotch that eventually undermined whatever genetic robustness she had inherited from her mother, Queen Mother Elizabeth.” Many people know that Margaret had part of a lung removed due to a lung cancer scare in 1985. However, what you may not remember is that the tissue in question turned out to be non-malignant. So she carried on smoking for at least another eight years, eventually suffering multiple strokes, likely because of the addiction.
A bit farther back in royal family history, Princess Victoria, the sister of the future King Edward VII (and the German Empress and Queen of Prussia by marriage), also developed cancer. The New Statesman notes that if she had been allowed to succeed to the throne before her younger brother, Queen Victoria II would have had a brief reign because she developed breast cancer. Her cancer spread to her spine. And she died in 1901, just seven months after the death of her mother, Queen Victoria.
Prince Alfred, another of Queen Victoria’s children, also died of cancer. Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was born the fourth child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1844. He succeeded his uncle as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and had to give up his naval career (and British lifestyle) for the position. However, he had only a short reign, as he died of throat cancer at the age of 55.
Read more: No Laughter and Other Strange Rules Queen Elizabeth Has Planned for After Her Death
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