Murder in the Royal Family: How Researchers Discovered Hemophilia in Queen Victoria’s Bloodline

Royalty, murder, lots and lots of blood – sounds like elements from the plot of a Victorian-era thriller. Actually, this story comes straight from hemophilia history.

Science Magazine published a fascinating article on royals affected by hemophilia B. Once known as “Royal disease,” the bleeding disorder ran through Queen Victoria’s male bloodline.

Her son Leopold, bled to death after a fall. Three of her grandsons also bled out and died. As Queen Victoria’s offspring married into other royal families, the Royal disease spread through Europe.

Although researchers could later infer the Royal disease was hemophilia, it wasn’t until DNA analysis of a royal family that they knew for certain: the disease was hemophilia B.

The DNA holding the answer? That of Russian Prince Alexei Romanov, Victoria’s great-grandson.

Interestingly, hemophilia was not his killer – though it appears Alexei exhibited symptoms. Alexei and his entire family were murdered in 1918.

Geneticist Evgeny Rogaev and a team of researchers analyzed DNA from the bones of the some of the family. Turns out, Alexei, did have hemophilia B, and his mother and sister carried the disease.

Mystery solved. This Royal disease was indeed hemophilia.

You can read more about the findings here. It’s an interesting read, especially since March is Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month.

The Hemophilia Federation of America encourages participating in a month-long social media campaign, organizing fundraisers, handing out educational cards and more. In 2016, the federation reached more than 800,000 people throughout the month.

During a month of awareness, the story of Queen Victoria’s bloodline brings awareness not only to hemophilia, but particularly to hemophilia B. The Science Magazine story states hemophilia A is much more common.

As hematologist Paul Monahan of UNC Chapel Hill said:

Now it’s clear [hemophilia B has] had an enormous impact on Western history.

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