Hemophilia in Queen Victoria’s Descendants

Which Descendants Inherited the Hemophilia Gene?

Prince Leopold (1853 - 1884) in a bath chair at Balmoral Castle
Prince Leopold (1853 - 1884) in a bath chair at Balmoral Castle. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Three or four of the children of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are known to have had the hemophilia gene.  A son, four grandsons, and six or seven great grandsons and possibly a great granddaughter were afflicted with hemophilia. Two or three daughters and four granddaughters were carriers who passed the gene to the next generation, without themselves being afflicted with the disorder.

How Inheriting Hemophilia Works

Hemophilia is a chromosome disorder which is located on the sex-linked X chromosome.  The trait is recessive, which means that women, with two X chromosomes, must inherit it from both mother and father for the disorder to appear.  Men, however, have only one X chromosome, inherited from the mother, and the Y chromosome all men inherit from the father does not protect the male child from manifesting the disorder.

If a mother is a carrier of the gene (one of her two X chromosomes has the abnormality) and the father is not, as seems to have been the case with Victoria and Albert, their sons have a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene and being active hemophiliacs, and their daughters have a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene and being a carrier, also passing it along to half of their children.

The gene can also appear spontaneously as a mutation on an X chromosome, without the gene being present in the X chromosomes of either father or mother.

Where Did the Hemophilia Gene Come From?

Queen Victoria’s mother, Victoria, Duchess of Kent, did not pass a hemophilia gene to her older son from her first marriage, nor did her daughter from that marriage seem to have the gene to pass down to her offspring – the daughter, Feodora, had three sons and three daughters.

 Queen Victoria’s father, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, did not show signs of hemophilia.  There is a small possibility that the Duchess had a lover who had survived to adulthood though afflicted with hemophilia, but it would have been highly unlikely that a man with hemophilia would have survived to adulthood at that time in history.  Prince Albert showed no signs of the disease, so he’s unlikely to have been the source of the gene, and not all the daughters of Albert and Victoria seem to have inherited the gene, which would have been true if Albert had the gene.

The assumption from the evidence is that the disorder was a spontaneous mutation either in her mother at the time of the queen’s conception, or, more likely, in Queen Victoria.

Which of Queen Victoria’s Children Had the Hemophilia Gene?

Of Victoria’s four sons, only the youngest inherited hemophilia. Of Victoria’s five daughters, two definitely were carriers, one was not, one had no children so it is not known whether she had the gene, and one may or may not have been a carrier.

  1. Victoria, Princess Royal, German Empress and Queen of Prussia: her sons showed no signs of being afflicted, and none of her daughters’ descendants were, either, so she apparently did not inherit the gene.
  1. Edward VII: he was not a hemophiliac, so he did not inherit the gene from his mother.
  2. Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse: she definitely carried the gene and passed it to three of her children.  Her fourth child and only son, Friedrich, was afflicted and died before he was three.  Of her four daughters who lived to adulthood, Elizabeth died childless, Victoria (maternal grandmother of Prince Philip) was apparently not a carrier, and Irene and Alix had sons who were hemophiliacs.  Alix, known later as Empress Alexandra of Russia, passed the gene to her son, the Tsarevitch Alexei, and his affliction influenced the course of Russian history.
  3. Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha: he was not a hemophiliac, so he did not inherit the gene from his mother.
  4. Princess Helena: she had two sons who died in infancy, which might be attributed to hemophilia, but that is not certain. Her other two sons showed no signs, and her two daughters did not have children.
  1. Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll: she had no children, so there is no way to know if she had inherited the gene.
  2. Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught: he was not a hemophiliac, so he did not inherit the gene from his mother.
  3. Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany: he was a hemophiliac who died after two years of marriage when bleeding could not be stopped after he fell. His daughter Princess Alice was a carrier, passing the gene to her eldest son who died when he bled to death after an automobile accident.  Alice’s younger son died in infancy so may or may not have been afflicted, and her daughter seems to have escaped the gene, as none of her descendants have been afflicted.  Leopold’s son of course did not have the disease, as sons do not inherit a father’s X chromosome.
  4. Princess Beatrice: like her sister Alice, she definitely carried the gene.  Two or three of her four children had the gene.  Her son Leopold bled to death during a knee operation at 32. Her son Maurice was killed in action in World War I, and it’s disputed whether hemophilia was the cause. Beatrice’s daughter, Victoria Eugenia, married King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and their two sons both bled to death after car accidents, one at 31, one at 19.  Victoria Eugenia and Alfonso’s daughters have no descendants who’ve shown signs of the condition.