Monday, October 10, 2022

A Princess talks about mental health

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 So who was the first British royal to speak about Mental health?   The Duke of Cambridge?  The late Diana, Princess of Wales?  The Duke of Sussex?   No to all three.  No, not the Duchess of Cambridge.

 The answer is HRH Princess Arthur of Connaught  (1891-1959) who was the first member of the British Royal Family to speak in public about the need for mental health treatment.     The Princess, a granddaughter of King Edward VII was named the president of the Mental Aftercare Association in 1940.   

[Update: the Daily Express interviewed me about Princess Arthur and her push for mental health treatment.  ]

Now known as Together for Mental Wellbeing, this organization is the oldest mental health charity in the United Kingdom.  It was founded in 1879 by Rev Henry Hawkins, the hospital chaplain at an asylum in Middlesex. The original name was The After-care Association for Poor and Friendless Female Convalescents on Leaving Asylums for the Insane and later adopted the name the Mental Aftercare Association. 

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Princess Arthur was born Lady Alexandra Victoria Alberta Edwina Louise Duff, the elder of two daughters of Princess Louise, the Princess Royal, eldest daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra and Alexander Duff, 6th Earl of Fife, who was created Duke of Fife and Marquess of Macduff on his marriage by Queen Victoria.   

Princess Louise gave birth to a second daughter, Lady Maud in 1893.   There would be no further issue, which meant that the Fife dukedom would become extinct when Alexander died.  But in 1900, Queen Victoria recreated the Dukedom allowing for Alexander's daughters and their male descendants to inherit the peerage.  The Marquessate of Macduff became the Earldom of Macduff, which would be the courtesy title used by the heir apparent to the dukedom.   Five years later, King Edward VII bestowed the title Princess Royal on Princess Louise and he issued a Letters Patent giving the title of Princess and the style of highness to Lady Alexandra and Lady Maud.   

The Duke of Fife died in 1912 and he was succeeded by his elder daughter as the 2nd Duchess of Fife.  In October 1913, she married her mother's first cousin, HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught (1883-1938), only son of HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. 

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 The couple had one son, HH Prince Alistair Arthur of Connaught (1914-1943).  As a great-grandson in the male line, Prince Alistair lost his princely title and style in 1917, when his father's first cousin, King George V issued a Letters Patent limiting the style of HRH and title of Prince or Princess to the children of the sovereign & grandchildren in the male line.  (The eldest son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales was also given the HRH and the princely title.)   The HH (His/Her Highness was dropped.) 

Princess Arthur was a registered nurse and her training began during the first world war.  She did not merely open hospitals.  During the 1920s and 1930s, Princess Arthur, who was known as Nurse Marjorie, worked in several London hospitals.  She also ran her own nursing home, but it was closed in the 1940s due to her own health.  She suffered from severe arthritis and was largely confined to her own home until she died in 1959.

Princess Arthur took over the presidency of the Mental Aftercare Association at a time when more attention was being paid to mental health treatment.  An article in the British Medical Journal in April 1941, noted that the association was providing care for diversified care that included cottage housing to assist patients through the "difficult transition from hospital to everyday life."

The Princess spoke at the association's annual meeting on March 23, 1943, where she urged "early treatment of mental patients."  She was sure "that precious time was lost by the failure to realize that a great number of the minor bodily disturbances so common in these difficult times were really the symptoms of an early mental disorder," reported the Times on March 24.

Mr. G. Sargood, the chairman of the Mental Hospitals Committee, said that "public opinion would have to be created that would regard mental disorders in exactly the same way as they regarded any other illness, and not as something to hide and be ashamed of."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and other British and European royals have spoken put against the stigma of mental health. 

But it was HRH Princess Arthur of Connaught, Duchess of Fife, the great-great-granddaughter of King William IV, and the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria who was the first British royal to speak out for the support and treatment of mental health patients.

If you want to read more about Princess Arthur:

if you liked this, perhaps you can buy me a cup of coffee

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Very interested.
The couple is related, wow.