prince john

The other night my girlfriend and I watched the film The King’s Speech, sitting on a soft, misshapen couch at the front of a small theater. The film, beautifully rich in character, image and sound, took me, willingly, through many emotions.

One of the most poignant scenes, I found, was when the King recounted, to his compassionate speech therapist, some of the difficulties he had had as a very young child, so innocent and vulnerable to the abuse of others, and having contributed to his serious stammer. Bertie, as he was called, moved selflessly from his own maladies to thoughts of his older brother, Prince John, who had died at the tender age of thirteen having been hidden from public view because of his epilepsy.

At the time, in the early 1900s, there was no treatment for epilepsy and often the progressive disorder burned out of control and took the lives of its victims as it continues to do today. I went on to read more about Prince John from an entry in his mother’s diary after she had received a call from her son’s Nanny, Lalla Bill, from his sanctuary at Wood Farm:

“Lalla Bill telephoned from Wood Farm, Wolferton, that our poor darling Johnnie had died suddenly after one of his attacks. The news gave me a great shock, though for the little boy's restless soul, death came as a great release. I brought the news to George & we motored down to Wood Farm. Found poor Lalla very resigned but heartbroken. Little Johnnie looked very peaceful lying there . . . For him it is a great release as his malady was becoming worse as he grew older and he has thus been spared much suffering. I cannot say how grateful we feel to God for having taken him in such a peaceful way, he just slept quietly . . . no pain, no struggle, just peace for the poor little troubled spirit, which had been a great anxiety for us for many years ever since he was four.”

Through this entry I am reminded that epilepsy is a great equalizer. It does not discriminate, it can strike anyone at any time no matter how young, how old, how rich or how poor, and for many there is no escaping its doom.

Please share Calvin’s story with others. Help bring us one step closer to a cure for epilepsy. It’s not hard. Just do it one story at a time.

Prince John photo by Hulton Getty

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