YOUR HEALTH Dr James Le Fanu

The astonishing increase in life expectancy during the reign of our Queen and the best way to stop a nosebleed
Every year our Queen dispatches more than 2,000 congratulatory telegrams to centenarians, a 10-fold increase on the 200 when she first ascended the throne – reflecting the astonishing increase in life expectancy during the 60 years of her reign. The precedent of her two centenarian close relatives, her mother and Princess Alice (shown right) and the – so far – longest reigning of all British monarchs, Queen Victoria, might even suggest that the wealth and privileges of a Royal upbringing almost guarantee a long, healthy life.

The historical record would suggest otherwise, as demonstrated famously by the well-known Victorian scientist Francis Galton in his investigation of the efficacy of prayer. Kings and Queens, he pointed out, should live longer than most because of the intercessory prayers of their loyal subjects, 'Grant him (or her) health, long to live'. But on the contrary, he found the relevant statistics revealed the rather different outcome where sovereigns with an average life expectancy – at the time – of around 65 were 'the shortest lived of all who have the advantage of affluence' – several years less than the aristocracy, gentry, clergy and the armed forces.

Since then British Sovereigns have tended to survive into their 70s, with the exception of the Queen's father George VI, whose premature death at the age of 56 was attributable to the life-shortening effects of smoking, succumbing to a combination of two of its adverse effects, a tumour of the lung and coronary thrombosis, otherwise known as a heart attack.

But while in general the health of the Royal Family is little different from that of their subjects, their tendency in the past to intermarry increased their susceptibility to genetic disorders and in particular the two 'Royal Maladies' of porphyria and the bleeding disorder haemophilia. The former, porphyria, is the more speculative, with the suggestion first proposed in the 1960s that the 'madness of George III' together with the symptoms of a racing pulse, insomnia and general malaise was due to a genetic defect of the oxygen-carrying iron protein in the blood.

The adverse effects of the haemophilia gene passed down from Queen Victoria to 10 of her male descendants in the Royal Families of Europe are better documented, being a major contributory factor both to the overthrow of the Russian Tsar and the abdication of the King of Spain in 1931 – resulting in the Spanish Civil War.

The current tendency for Royals to marry 'commoners' has markedly reduced the risk of such genetic misfortunes – ensuring that more than ever it will be a matter of '(very) long may they reign over us'.


The best way of curtailing a nosebleed is to apply pressure between finger and thumb to the soft part of the nose for at least 10 minutes, together with the application of an ice pack to constrict the blood vessels. If that does not work, ENT Surgeon Omar Mulla of Leeds General Infirmary, writing in the British Medical Journal, commends the more definitive treatment of cauterising the blood vessels of the inner lining of the nose. This almost always does the trick, unless the source of the bleeding is so far back up the nostril as to be inaccessible – warranting an endoscopic assessment in the ENT Clinic.


The Queen is a picture of vitality and health – no mean feat when she carries out so many public engagements that would exhaust the majority of us; just having to be polite and engaged would wear me out.

Keeping an active mind and body helps – shown in her robust interest in affairs of the State and her passion for horses and long walks with her dogs. I also like to think that homeopathy may play some part. It is no secret that Her Majesty is a supporter of homeopathy and is Patron of The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital.

Dr Margery Blackie, homeopath and physician to the Queen, wrote about homeopathy in her book in the 1970s: 'This book is being written at a time when the concepts of modern medicine are changing rapidly. Homeopathy is much misunderstood. The homeopathic principle is to treat the individual in order to bring the whole man back to his true state of health.'

So if homeopathy's good enough for the Queen's health, I say it's most definitely worth a look at for the rest of us.

Royal London Hospital for integrated medicine (founded as The London Homeopathic Hospital):

Sof McVeigh: