Bioethics Blogs

Death in 1861 – Disgraced Physicians [EOL in Art 193]

Albert, Prince Consort was the husband of Queen Victoria died on 14 December 1861.  

This was a great shock to the country and of course to the Queen. However, there were two factors which made it even worse. Firstly, the diagnosis was “low fever” or typhoid, a particularly undignified disease involving vomiting, diarrhoea and intestinal haemorrhage. Second, the seriousness of the illness had been suppressed by the Prince’s doctors, with the result that people were still praying in church for his recovery after he had died.  

This picture is one of many memorials of that event. Queen Victoria was horrified by the existence of the picture and considered buying it in order to have it destroyed, but it survived and was bought by Henry Wellcome in 1924. The artist has not yet been identified with certainty. At the time it was painted, he used the pseudonym Le Port. There was a rumour that his real name was Oakley. 

He portrays the scene at Windsor Castle, with the Prince Consort in bed, the Prince of Wales to the left and the Queen in grey on the right. On the far left is the quartet of disgraced physicians.

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