Blue Blooded

Story by: Ellen Samek


We can thank Queen Victoria for a lot of pretty great things. She’s the one that made Buckingham Palace in London the official royal residence and also normalized the use of painkillers during childbirth (next time you get an epidural you can thank Queen Vicky for your relief).

But, did you know she also introduced a blood disorder into the royal families of Europe? Queen Victoria was a carrier of hemophilia — an incurable disease that prevents blood from clotting. Because the blood can’t clot, any bump, nick or scape can lead to severe internal bleeding.

Today, there are medications to control it, but back in the 19th and 20th centuries even a small cut or bruise could lead to death. How did it spread? It all started when Victoria and her husband Prince Albert married off their nine children to the other European royal families in Europe, injecting themselves into other ancient bloodlines.

As a result, Victoria’s faulty genes ended up affecting all the royals. One of Spain’s princes and Victoria’s great-grandson almost died when he was circumcised. Victoria’s own son Prince Leopold died after slipping and hitting his knee and head.

One case actually changed the course of history as we know it. The heir to the Russian throne Grand duke Alexei Romanov had hemophilia. His illness led his mother the Empress to hire a mystical healer named Rasputin. She believed he had the power to bring her only son relief, but not everyone saw it that way.

Rasputin’s place in the royal family was one of the reasons they became so unpopular that the people rose against them. The Russian Revolution and murder of the royal family led to the creation of the Soviet Union in 1917.

Imagine, if it hadn’t been for hemophilia, maybe things would’ve turned out differently.

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