Prince John, The Lost Prince:
Prince John (12 July 1905 – 18 January 1919) was the youngest son of King George V and Queen Mary. The Prince had epilepsy and consequently was largely hidden from the public eye. At the time of his birth, he was sixth in the line of succession, [he] had his first epileptic seizure at age four.
At age 12, his condition having deteriorated, he was settled in a household of his own at Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate, with a cook, a live-in maid, and his nanny Charlotte Bill (known as ‘Lalla’). John’s toys at Wood Farm included a pedal car and a ride-on train; photos show him riding a bicycle and a horse without assistance. A plot was set aside as ‘Prince John’s garden’, with gardeners to help him tend it.
He also had the companionship of Winifred Thomas [whose] delicacy probably recommended her to the Queen and Lalla as a companion for John; with their encouragement she visited the Prince almost every day. Winifred and John went on walks and tended the garden together. When John was ill, Winifred sat by his bed as Lalla read to them. In later years Winifred recalled John’s excitement at seeing First World War zeppelins passing over Sandringham in 1916, his pleasure on meeting ‘a real, live soldier’ – her father Sergeant Frederick Thomas – and a bicycle race between Prince John and his cousin Crown Prince Olav of Norway. It has been said that John was lonely at Wood Farm, but this may be exaggerated. Winifred remembered Queen Mary as a loving and interested mother who spent much time with her son.
After his thirteenth birthday John’s seizures grew in frequency and severity; nonetheless his sudden death was unexpected. In the early hours of 18 January 1919 (the Queen told her diary):
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.