Former professor solves royal mystery in Sickly Stuarts
By Jennifer Kepka
As all great mystery fans know, Dr. Holmes has all the answers, even when
they aren’t so elementary.
For Frederick Holmes, a retired KU Medical Center physician and faculty
member, pursuing a medical mystery has led to a new career as a writer.
This month, his book, The Sickly Stuarts: The Medical Downfall of a Dynasty,
will be published in the United States.
Holmes says he was “looking for something to do with my retirement”
when he started back to school in 1993 at the age of 60, pursuing a master’s
degree in English history from KU. His thesis topic combined his love
of history and his medical knowledge: Holmes looked into the rise and
fall of the Stuart dynasty in England, theorizing that it was actually
a combination of disease and disability, not bad fortune, that led to
the family’s downfall.
Among his findings, Holmes discovered that Queen Anne, the last ruling
monarch of the Stuart family, died of lupus, not gout. The queen’s
disease also accounted for her 14 miscarriages and stillbirths; infectious
disease claimed her other three children, all before the age of 10, dooming
the House of Stuart to die, as well.
“The Stuarts ruled England from 1603 to 1714,” Holmes says.
“They were very important people in English history.”
Upon completion of his thesis in 1998, Holmes—something of a rarity
as a 68-year-old graduate—gained a little media attention. Shortly
thereafter, his thesis topic—and his professed desire to turn the
study into a book—gained much more attention, this time from publishers.
“I got all sorts of e-mails, and ultimately I got a publisher,”
Sutton Publishing released the book in England in June. This month it
will be released stateside.
Having one book in print has not stopped Holmes’ desire to continue
his work. Holmes, now 70, and his wife have plans for a second book, focusing
on the practice of medicine in London in the 1700s. The book will be based
partially on the correspondence between physicians at the time. The Holmeses
plan to visit the libraries of London again to conduct research this November
while in England for a book tour.