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England's Prince: The Crisis of His Malady—Public Agitation—Progress of the Disease—Origin of the Fever—The Health of the Queen—Prince and People
Published Saturday, December 9, 1871

Source: mytimes.com


England's Prince.

The Crisis of His Malady—Public Agitation—Progress of the Disease—Origin of the Fever—The Health of the Queen—Prince and People.

From Our Own Correspondent.

London, Saturday, Dec. 9, 1871.

I am writing in almost momentary expectation of a telegram from Sandringham announcing the death of the Prince of Wales. At 1 o'clock this morning he appeared to be sinking fast; he has since slept, his breathing seems to be easier, and his exhaustion is not worse than it was. This is the news up to the time I post this letter, but of course, long before it reaches you, you will know the result of the struggle now going on in the hushed chamber down at Sandringham.

Public Agitation.

The painful suspense and apprehension of the day are written in almost every face. Ther is a constant and anxious crowd round the newspaper offices, and at the stations where it has been ususal during the last week or to two placard the latest medical bulletins. Business, of course, has not been suspended. Men have gone about their affairs as usual, but it is easy to ssee what thought is uppermost in their minds, and whenever two men meet, their first words are about the Prince, an eager inquiry for news, or an exclamation of hope or fear. All dinners and balls for to-night or next week have been put off, and it is doubtful whether the theatres will go on with their performances this evening. The apparently favorable progress of the case during the week has materially added to the shock which yesterday's news would in any case have conveyed to the public mind. There was a general opinion that the Prince was recovering, and that the most critical period of the malady had passed. Now there is a revulsion of feeling, and everybody fears the worst. The particulars of Lord Chesterfield's death which have just been published, encourage the gloomy apprehensions which prevail. The Earl, after the first severity of the attack, also seemed to be rallying, when suddenly bad symptoms set in and he quickly sank. It is the essential character of enteric fever to corrode and eat away the intestines, and it was a fatal perforation of this kind which decided Lord Chesterfield's fate, and has, it is supposed, occurred in the Prince's case.

The Progress of the Sickness

It was on Nov. 13 that the Prince first began to feel unwell. This was more than a week after he had been at Scarborough, and he was then at Sandringham. For a few days he appeared to be only a little out of sorts, and it was thought that he had caught cold when out shooting, and would soon be better. He went up to town, attended the French play, and visited his friend Lord Carrington, at his place in the country. On monday, the 20th, he was to have gone to a great shooting party, which had been arranged in his honor at the Maharajah Duleep Sing's seat in Norfolk, but the doctor's Persuaded him not to go at least for a day or two. From that time he began to get gradually worse. On Monday night he was very feverish, and the next day it was clear that he was suffering from typhoid or enteric fever. On the 22d, Dr. Gull and Sir W. Jenner, two most eminent physicians, took charge of the case, and have ever since remained in constant attendance. At first the course of the fever, though sharp, was regular, and on the whole favorable. On the 26th and 27th he was delirious at night, and an exacerbation of the symptoms was also reported on the 28th. This was a very anxious time, and at the moment hope was almost abandoned; but the Prince bore up well; his strength was good, and on the 29th, a change for the better took place. He was able to take some nourishment, slept soundly, and had a succession of quiet nights. On the 1st of December the Queen visited him and found him doing well, and down to yesterday the medical reports were unceasingly favorable. Good strength, quiet nights and a gradual lessening of the intensity of the fever—this was the uniform statement of the bulletins. On Thursday the symptoms were stated to be still regularly declining, but at night there was a sudden and alarming change. There was a considerable increase of fever, and delirium again occurred. The Prince slept at intervals yesterday, but there was a great prostration of strength, and for the first time the doctors decided his condition as precarious.

The Origin of the Fever.

The difficulty of getting at the truth about anything has been curiously illistrated by the Prince's illness. It was confidently asserted that Lord Chesterfield had never stayed at Londesborough Lodge, Scarborough, at all whereas he not only was there during the Prince's visit, but afterward occupied the Prince's room. Anoter report was that a groom of the Duke of Beaufort, who had been with his master at Lord Londesborough's, was also down with the fever. The Duke wrote to the papers to say that he had no groom with him at Scarborough, and that no groom of his was ill with fever. It is now known that the sick man is not a groom, but a temporary servant of the Duke's, who attended him at Scarborough. Again, when the first suggestion as made that the bad drainage of Londesborough Lodge must have had something to do with the diarrhea, from which all the guests suffered more or less, as well as with the fever which afterward struck down the Prince and Lord Chesterfield, Lord Londesborough published a series of reports signed by competent persons, declaring that the drainage of his house was perfect in all respects. But some medical newspapers sent down special Commissioners to report on the subject, and it now appears that the drainage of the Lodge is as bad as anything could be. In fact the whole construction of the house affords in perfection all the conditions required to develop and propagate the enteric poison. It is built over two large cess-pools, between which and the inhabited parts of the building there were no fewer than thirteen communications. One of these cess-pools has not been opened for at least six years. It receives the drainage of six closets' is situated immediately underneath the cabinet of the bedroom occupied first by the Prince of Wales, and afterward by Lord Chesterfield, and is connected with this cabinet by a pipe only ten feet long. The sewage from the cess-pools is supposed to flow through the town drains into the sea, but the action of the tide often drives it back. The consequence is that the drains are a great reservoir of sewer-gas, and that the strong current of air passing through them blows this noxious gas into the houses, no traps being able to keep it out. Of course, Lord Londesborough had no conception of the dangerous condition of his house, in which his own family had been residing for some time without any bad effects. The mysteries of enteric fever, why it breaks out in one place and not in another, why some people are passed over unscathed while others are stricken down, have yet to be solved. But there can hardly be a question that if anybody was predisposed to catch the fever, Londesborough Lodge was just the place to find it in perfection. Morover the town of Scarborough, which is a fashionale watering-place, is itself far from wholesome. The new part is tolerably well drained, but the old part is not drained at all; it is a mass of middens, ash-holes and foul smells. The ground over which the royal party were shooting for several days is described as "a low, black, swampy land, five miles of drains." They used to pass on their way a disgusting public midden that sometimes infects the air for half a mile round. It must be further observed that just at this time Scarborough was crammed full of people, in consequence of the Prince's visit and the Illuminations and other sights which attended it. Lord Londesborough's house itself was packed from top to bottom. All the good bedrooms were, of course, assigned to the guests and the servants were pigged together anyhow and anywhere. Three maid-servants slept in a room six feet ten inches in height, the Prince's valet in a room six feet four inches in height and another servant in a kind of house-maid's cupboard. That nothing should be left undone to breed mischief, men were employed to keep the drains constantly flushed, which would have been all very well had they communicated directly with the sea, but which as it was, had the effect of stirring up the fetid accumulationd of the cess-pools and filling the house with poisonous exhalations. Everybody is very sorry for Lord Londesborough, whose ignorance about these matters is not greater than that of most educated Englishmen. It is not surprising that these disclosures and the painful consequences of sanitary neglect in this instance should have created something like a panic. The newspapers are full of drains, sink-traps and typhoid fever, and the result will peraps be that the sewerage of houses will be conducted henceforth in a more scientific and careful manner, and perhaps hae the benefit of official inspections, with a bill of fines and penalties for neglected or insufficient drainage.

The Queen's Health.

The embarrassments and even danger of a Regency, which I indicated in a former letter, have been brought closer to the public mind by the melancholy apprehensions of yesterday and today. The Queen has borne up wonderfully under this great trial, but I need hardly say that, with her peculiar mental and bodily constitution, the effects of a reaction are greatly feared. We are now close upon a dark anniversary. It was on the 8th December, 1861, that the Prince Consort was taken ill; on the 10th it was known that his malady was fever; and near midnight on Saturday, the 14th, he died. Ten years of mourning and seclusion have rather confirmed than alleviated the bitter sorrow of the widowed Queen; and the death of her son, in the prime of life, almost on the anniversary of his father's death, would be a blow the consequences of which would naturally be serious, and might be even fatal. In any case, it is scarcely probable that she would take hereafter much part in public affairs. The Home Secretary is now at Sandringham, to take the Queen's orders in the event of the Prince's death.

The Prince of Wales and the People.

A cynic might remark that there is nothing particularly noble or heroic in catching typhoid fever or even dying of it; but the new tenderness and regard for the Prince of Wales which have sprung up since he has been on a sick-bed, and especially withing these last two days, represent a very natural feeling, of which there is no reason to be ashamed. There are two sides to the Prince's character, and it is only fair that they should both be taken into account. But, till the other day, there was, perhaps, too much disposition in certain quarters to look at only one side. It was noted that he enjoyed himself in rather a boyish way and did not show much taste or aptitude for serious business. But, on the other hand, it was not sufficiently considered how a person in his position is placed at a disadvantage in this respect, both as regards the temptations by which he is surrounded and the narrow limits within which his activity is cirumscribed. He was shut out from politics, and could only have done mischief by meddling with them. He might have won popularity with the army, by taking a personal interest in military affairs, but it would have been at th expense of his popularity with the country, which would have been especially jealous of such relations between the future King and the army. Of course he might have taken more interest in art, science, letters. It would have pleased the people if he had done so; but I am not so sure, recollecting what came of his father's meddling with these things, that the result would have been altogether wholesome for art and science. On the whole there is not much left for a Prince to do nowadays, except amuse himself decently and decorously, and be very pleasant and affable with the people with whom he is thrown into contact. And tried by this standard the Prince comes out very well. I have said before that the vile scandals which were circulated about him were the coinage of lying malice or prurient folly. He had come to man's estate but he had never had the advantage of a man's discipline or responsibilities. He was really a big boy in many respects, in his frank good nature, heartiness, warm affections, candid simplicity, and dislike of ceremony and parade. He liked a free and easy life, and that was all—there was nothing bad about it. All who had any opportunites of knowing him personally can tell of his thorough goodness of heart, his spontaneous and unostentatious kindness, his simple gratitude for small attentions naturally paid to one in his position. He had, in a remarkable degree, the family faculty of recollecting faces, and when he had once made an acquaintance made a point of showing that there should be no failure of recognition on his part. Another heridiatary peculiarity was his quick intelligence and retentive memory for everything he was told. He had no particular liking for books, any more than his great grand father, and never seemed to make much of them. What he read did not rest in his mind as anything that was told him in speech did. Although never, in any sense, a student, and with no scholarship, he was well-informed on a great variety of subjects, and took an intelligent interest in them. His visit to the United States, with the Duke of Newcastle, made a deep impression on him, and he often recurred to it in conversation. The self-discipline of the Americans, their prompt practical turn of mind, and the tendency of the people to reduce governing machinery to a minimum, as in keeping order for themselves on the occasion of a great procession or demonstration, especially secured his admiration. I find that in writing this I have insensibly slipped into the past tense. I can only pray that it may be premature, and that it may be long before it becomes the proper term in which to speak of a good-hearted, manly (for he was manly in a boy's sense) young fellow, whose faults come of his position, while his good qualities, were his own.

F. H. J.