They may be some of the most privileged people in the world, but even royals are sadly not exempt from poor health. Members of the British and European royal families have suffered from various conditions – both mental and physical – but thankfully, many have managed to overcome their battle and have raised awareness for causes in the process. Let’s take a look at when the royals have spoken about their health…
Princess Eugenie has been very open about her scoliosis diagnosis. At the age of 12, she was told she would have to have life-changing surgery to fix the curvature of her spine. Two metal rods were inserted along her back and two 1.5-inch screws were fixed to her neck during the eight-hour procedure. Eugenie spent three days in intensive care, followed by a week on a ward and six days in a wheelchair before she was able to walk again.
Eugenie proudly showed off her scars on her wedding day in October 2018, choosing to wear a gown that had an open back. In a recording for her wedding dress exhibition, she explained: “I had always wanted a low back, part of it was showing my scar and I believe scars tell a story about your past and your future and it’s a way of getting rid of a taboo. We started getting a lot of letters from people who were happy that I had stood up and showed my scar, and people with scoliosis, letters from girls that are going through the same thing, and I definitely was very touched by everyone’s support.”
Speaking previously to The Telegraph, Eugenie, 29, also said: “There are so many emotions and worries that go thundering through your head. Will I be able to play sports, or will I look the same, or will I miss a lot of school and be behind? I remember being angry about not being able to run and play.”
Eugenie also commented on her mother Sarah Ferguson‘s attitude to turning the experience into a positive one. Reflecting on when they both met other scoliosis sufferers, she said: “[Mum] was amazing at saying, ‘Eugenie had the same operation and look at her scar and how she stands now!”
Lady Louise Windsor
The Countess of Wessex has openly spoken about how her daughter Louise had sight problems as a child. Louise, who was born premature, used to suffer from strabismus, a condition whereby a person cannot align both eyes simultaneously.
“Premature babies can often have squints because the eyes are the last thing in the baby package to really be finalised,” Sophie told The Sunday Express. “Her squint was quite profound when she was tiny and it takes time to correct it. You’ve got to make sure one eye doesn’t become more dominant than the other but she’s fine now – her eyesight is perfect.”
Sophie, who is patron of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and global ambassador for Vision 2020, has also touchingly said: “I have seen sight being restored and I can promise you there are few things more rewarding in this world than seeing someone step from the dark into the light.” Her daughter Louise had surgery to correct her eyes five years ago.
Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden
The future queen of Sweden suffered from anorexia as a teenager. The mother-of-two admitted that she realised she had an eating disorder shortly before she was due to attend Sweden’s Uppsala University. Fortunately for Victoria, her parents King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia were quick to intervene and encouraged their daughter to take some time off before she her started her undergraduate degree.
“I needed time to sort things out and get my balance back again. I needed to get to know myself, discover where my limits were, not constantly push myself too much,” she explained.
While Victoria faced tremendous challenges during her treatment for anorexia, it also led to a life-changing encounter. The royal bumped into her now-husband Prince Daniel, who at the time was a personal trainer, while at the gym for one of her doctor-ordered training sessions.
The Queen’s granddaughter was identified as having dyslexia at the age of seven. She received specialist help and support from the Helen Arkell Centre throughout school and went on to become the charity’s patron in 2013. “I would not have been able to achieve my academic results without the support I received from the Centre,” said Beatrice, who passed eight GCSEs, three A levels and graduated with a 2:1 in History and the History of Ideas from Goldsmiths College, London.
Speaking in a podcast for charity to mark Dyslexia Week, Beatrice recalled: “I remember one of my earliest memories was sitting in front of a Beatrix Potter book and the illustrations were so beautiful but the words meant nothing. I was put into specialist classes and I remember the teacher looking at me and saying, ‘Why do you keep looking at me, the words are not written on my face.'”
Beatrice added: “Being diagnosed with dyslexia was the greatest thing that ever happened to me because it allowed me to become part of this community of people that really are championing young people’s education and making sure that we protect our young people in school and in life… Once you’re out of school life, that’s when a dyslexic can really excel. When you go into a workplace your ability to think differently allows you to be more creative, it allows you to approach problems slightly differently and allows you to be a little bit more flexible.”
Prince William and Prince Harry’s mum sadly suffered with bulimia in her younger years. Her former royal chef Darren McGrady has previously spoken to HELLO! about her eating disorder, admitting he suspected “something wasn’t right”.
“I have never talked about the food I prepared for her, the silly things she’d ask for, and I’d never want to and never will, I don’t think it’s right,” said Darren. “But you know the aiding and abetting the bulimia… I was making dishes for the Princess. I always questioned why on earth she wanted all of this food, any of this food, but there was nothing I could do. I was there as a chef, my job was to cook and to prepare food. I wasn’t a psychologist, or a doctor, who could say you shouldn’t be eating all of this. I knew something wasn’t right but I didn’t know or understand what bulimia was.”
The chef reflected on Diana’s healthier years after she overcame her eating disorder, saying: “By the time I moved to Kensington Palace, the Princess had already confronted the bulimia and talked about it in the hope that other people would do. She got her life back on track. She was working out at the gym every day, looking the best she ever did. She had changed, she was now a healthy eater.”
Princess Diana first revealed she had suffered from bulimia in Andrew Morton’s book Diana: Her True Story in 1992, and spoke about the disorder again in 1995 during her interview with Panorama.
When asked if he was proud of his mother for sharing her story, Prince William told Channel 4: “Absolutely. These things are illnesses and they need to be treated. Mental health needs to be taken as seriously as physical health.” William was speaking in a documentary with former ITN newsreader Mark Austin and his daughter Maddy, who was diagnosed with anorexia in December 2012 but has thankfully made a full recovery. William told Maddy: “The fact you are speaking out is incredibly brave, but it should become very normal. We need to be matter-of-fact about it, and not hide it in the dark where it festers.”
Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway
In 2018, the Norwegian royal family announced that Princess Mette-Marit is suffering from a rare chronic lung disease – an unusual form of fibrosis that causes a person’s lungs to become scarred and makes breathing increasingly difficult. Mette-Marit said in a statement: “For a number of years, I have had health challenges on a regular basis, and now we know more about what these are.”
The Crown Princess remained optimistic and said: “Although such a diagnosis will limit my life at times, I’m glad that the disease has been discovered so early. My goal is still to work and participate in the official programme as much as possible.”
She added: “The Crown Prince and I are choosing to make this public now partly because in future there will be a need to plan periods of time without an official programme to accommodate treatment and when the disease is more active.”
Mette-Marit has kept her spirits up and just five days after the announcement was made, she attended a gala evening looking radiant in a floral dress. Her doctor, Professor Kristian Bjøro of Oslo University Hospital, said that her lung condition has been monitored by the hospital for a number of years, with the disease having progressed slowly.