Prince's Bones Show That Hemophilia Decimated European Royal Families

By Brett Israel | October 12, 2009 7:00 am

Romanov-princeA new genetic analysis has confirmed that the “royal disease” suffered by the male descendants of Queen Victoria was in fact a rare type of hemophilia, the genetic disease marked by a deficiency in blood clotting. Queen Victoria had several sons that died from blood loss after seemingly minor injuries. The disease spread as her descendants married into other royal families across Europe, altering Western history.

Based on the sons’ reported symptoms, modern researchers had already hypothesized that the royals had hemophilia, but there was never any concrete evidence. Now, new DNA analysis on the bones of the last Russian royal family, the Romanovs, indicates the Royal disease was indeed hemophilia, a rare subtype known as hemophilia B [ScienceNOW Daily News]. The genotyping study was published in the journal Science.

To pinpoint the exact form of the disorder, the scientists extracted DNA from the skeletal remains of Queen Victoria’s great grandson Crown Prince Alexei of Russia‘s Romanov family and decoded the genetic information. (The bones were found in 2007, and it was only earlier this year that they were confirmed to have belonged to the murdered prince, who was killed during the Russian revolution.) The new analysis discovered a mutation in a gene on the X chromosome that codes for the production of Factor IX, a substance that causes blood to clot [BBC News]. Since the mutation is on the X chromosome, the disease is carried by females but usually shows up only in male descendants, because they don’t have a second X chromosome with a working copy of the gene. Researchers say the finding of hemophilia B in the Romanov’s closes the case on the cause of “royal disease.”

Related Content:
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80beats: The DNA of Medieval Manuscripts May Reveal Their History

Image: State Archives of the Russian Federation

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
MORE ABOUT: genetics, hemophilia
  • Gary Ansorge

    Hee, just think, if Victoria hadn’t been so prolific, we’d still be stuck with a bunch of idiot Royals running society. Thank you, Queen Victoria, for making possible the rise of an upper class based on accomplishment, rather than birth.

    GAry 7

  • Cory

    I’m not sure what you’re saying makes any sense whatsoever, Gary.

  • JefFlyingV

    Wasn’t the gene for Hemophilia in the royal family caused by the age of Queen Victoria’s father when Vic was conceived?

  • Marie

    Hemophilia has nothing to do with the age of one parent at the time of te conception. Two of my brothers are suffering from hemophilia and it is caused by hereditary genes coming from the mother carrying the sick X chromosome or the father being himself suffering from hemophilia.

  • Claudia:)

    This is quite wonderfull to find out that the murdered prince Alexei has been found even thought no one actually cares cause he has no living descendants plus we already figured what had happened to his body.

  • Alexander

    Crown Prince Alexei didn’t have hemophilia, his mother was just hysterical and paranoid due to the family history of hemophilia. She panicked each time the Prince had a cut. When famous physician Behterev told the royal couple the truth, he was dismissed from the court. The truth leaked and hypnotist Rasputin was called to help. Every historian in Russia knows that his “hemophilia” was controled by Rasputin’s suggestions/ hypnosis very well (even the telegraph worked with suggestions like ” I just prayed, so the bleeding will stop now”).
    The bones found in Russia are not his bones, he lived a long, unpublic life until 1960′s.

  • kimberly Butterbaugh

    If you knew anything about hemophilia you would know that it has nothing to do with being cut, Hemophiliacs have the same bleeding times as everyone else they just lack the necssary factors that make blood clot. Some people like my son, do make some of the missing factor but,the levels are still extremley low and direct trama can result in internal bleeds, such as the joints. And over time these untreated bleeds can damage to the joints. Which, that in itself would be visible on Alexi’s bones. One can speculate on who said what back then,and imagine these bones are not his but we now live in a scientific age where we cannot argue with the evidence of DNA.

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