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The Lost Prince
updated 2.7.2006

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
The Lost Prince was wonderful and thoughtful. People with learning disabilities, including myself, must advocate and compensate to survive.

Wayne Rock
East Marion, NY

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
What a wonderful series -- such beautiful photography against the magnificent architecture and green fields of England. I love the way they presented everything from the boy's perspective -- looking at things through innocent and unembittered eyes. While the adult royalty was surrounded by rules of decorum, the boys were able to look on from the sidelines. John was forced into a comfortable seclusion due to the embarrassment of his parents based on their lack of understanding about epilepsy. His brother George had already begun his 'coaching' for royalty, learning from the minister who should sit where, so as to be diplomatic. This is ironic because Johnnie got to remain a child much longer than George who was expected to mature quickly. Even now, Prince Charles appeared to lose his childhood in preparation for kingship. Just one of those things, I guess.

Fantastic series! Thank you, PBS, for showing it. And do your best to keep the commercials off the station please. I'm a loyal viewer!

Mel Freeman
G.F., MT

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
What an interesting portrayal! What a compelling story! I have seen only the first episode so far and it is riveting.

As a parent of a child with Asperger's, a learning disability, I do believe that these days a child like Johnny might be considered mildly autistic and there would be so much more help for him to learn social skills in addition to special education schooling that could address the language processing issues.

It is so moving to see how his brother continued to love and protect him as well as the mistress assigned to his care. The attendant sure could see all that he could do and was willing to work with that.

In response to a previous letter from Kathy Allen of Livermore, CA, who stated, "People with a learning disability, by definition, have a normal or above normal IQ, yet have greater than normal difficulties in reading, math or writing. Autism, which often occurs with mild mental retardation, is a completely different condition":

I am not a specialist in the field, but I do have a son diagnosed with Asperger's. According to recent DSM diagnoses within autism there is a broad range of "disability" or difficulty from the "high functioning autistics," PDD_NOS (persistent disability not otherwise specified) to Asperger's.

In the show, Prince John didn't consistently display all the aspects of classical autism the above viewer referred to (the type most familiar to the public). However, he did have repetitive movements and a limited area of interest (as some call 'obsessive area of interest') -- gardening. In the literature abundantly available today online and elsewhere, Asperger's, High Functioning Autism and/or PDD-NOS can include individuals with mid-range to genius IQs, however there are certain social deficits like language processing disorders. (There can be what is referred to as 'comorbidity,' which is something other then epilepsy or dyslexia, disgraphia, discalculia, etc.) This exemplifies itself in the prince's inability to know the social rules and read people accurately. These diagnoses on the autism spectrum are considered learning disabilities. Asperger's has only been recognized in America since 1996. This might be why people still associate the word "autism" with the condition depicted in the movie Rain Man. There are many high functioning autistics/Asperger's adults who have college degrees, own and run very profitable businesses and work in technical fields.

Dr. Temple Grandin, a designer of livestock handling facilities and an associate professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, speaks publicly about her autism. When she was two years old doctors recommended that she be institutionalized. Instead, her parents chose to teach her with dedication and much effort. She went to college, and has started a business that has made her very rich.

In fact, there is speculation that Albert Einstein had Asperger's along with Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison and a few others. Albert Einstein did not do well in general education. In grade school, he and his brothers and sisters were considered "retarded." However, due to the fact that he had a limited, or as some call "obsessive" interest in math and science, he was able to give a great gift of knowledge to our world.

Today, there are many high functioning autistic, PDD-NOS, and Asperger's children receiving special services in public schools. There are also individuals diagnosed that are mild enough that they don't qualify for services through public schools and are entirely in mainstream classrooms -- some go unidentified.

Perhaps some of this information clears up questions which I am sure some have had on their minds. Thankfully, today there are so many more resources and so much more knowledge within the public school systems to help identify children with all sorts of learning disabilities.

Gale Marchand
Lonsdale, MN

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
The Lost Prince is a sad story about a little boy who, like many other children, had to learn to deal with mental and physical disabilities. It was not uncommon for these children to be locked away from society and their families because they were different. Apparently society for a great many years couldn't bear to have such children around, so doctors told parents to forget about them.

Prince John was lucky; he was allowed to interact with his nanny and his brother, Prince George. John tried to live a normal life, even though he had to live away from his family. He was lucky in the sense too that he was allowed to have as normal a life as possible. He was allowed to pursue his musical talents and to receive a decent education.

It's ironic that we see the events of World War I take place during his short lifetime. Had he not lived during this exciting part of history I don't think anyone would have written about him or made even a short TV mini-series out of his life.

As an additional note, we must remember the story is told from the eyes of a two children -- both members of the royal family. So really this story, as I mentioned earlier, is about an unknown member of the British monarchy that happened to live during the years of 1905-1918. It was also a time when we saw two empires collapse and the world change forever.

Gail Milling
Victoria, BC

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
This show was amazing. I am a teenager and I learned so much about Prince John and his family. I never even knew about the family and it has taught me a lot about what the royal family had to do during WWI. It is amazing how he was able to learn so much in that time. It really was awesome how he played the trumpet and recited things when you account for his challenges. I find that amazing. I don't know much about the disease but I think it was a major accomplishment for him when he was able to play for his family. It is terrible how the disease would take his life at a young age.

Kenzey S.

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
A question was asked on this forum about what happened to Prince John's nurse "Lalla" Bill. I located a brief mention of her in a Time Magazine article from March 26, 1951, where it states that she was 77 and retired when King George VI offered her a cottage on his Sandringham estate where she lived rent-free for the rest of her life. The article reports, "Settled in the cottage this week, surrounded by photographs of Queen Victoria and six generations of the British royal family, Lalla recalled her charges: 'They were real boys, up to anything, the best any nanny would wish for.'"

Hope this helps viewers that were or are curious about what happened to her.

Victoria Alexander
Ann Arbor, MI

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I enjoyed the screenplay immensely. The characters seemed lifelike and real, even though they are the presentations of the writers, director and actors.

It's not fair to impress our modern notions of medicine and medical care on those who lived a hundred years ago. We have a tendency to disparage our ancestors, regardless of the age that we ourselves live in, thinking that we are somehow superior. But, of course they had the same mistaken notion of their superiority and so will our descendents. You can make a book on that!

History is just biography and if there is one point hammered home in The Lost Prince it is that every generation is "driven" (compelled) by the circumstances of the time, to take certain actions. And we ourselves are imprisoned in the same way. Actions taken with the best of intentions are inevitably second-guessed by our heirs.

Michael Maurice
Tualatin, OR

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
This message is in part a response to the points a Ms. Harriet Feder made about the show's political correctness and revisionist approach from an English or European standpoint:

I didn't get that impression when watching the show. But now that it's mentioned, I think there was bit of that slant as the show was produced. I would believe at one particular moment King George V might have mourned the loss of the European soldiers, and not given thought to the American contribution. The heads of Germany and Russia were his family. Europe was his world, and he was lamenting its losses and how it had changed. As I understand things, Britain's political and economic decline and American's ascendancy began after WWI. Therefore, I think it possible that the show reflected actual feelings at the time among Britain's leaders that America needed no sympathy.

Harold Lampi
Mass City, MI

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I very much enjoyed The Lost Prince and plan to look up more information about John. I look at Masterpiece Theatre primarily as entertainment, but so enjoy the richness and depth of historical detail and character development. Poor John was born too early, before diagnostic advances could have helped him enjoy life with his family and society. Of course, his family and society were so complicated that perhaps he was the lucky one.

Susan Tubbs
Rochester, NY

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I never really understood why the Czar's family was assassinated and why no one really helped them. Is there any truth that Anastasia really survived?

Carolyn Gibbs
Belhaven, NC

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
My wife and I just finished watching The Lost Prince. I must echo the sentiments of other writers that, indeed, it was wonderfully done; I seemed to lose myself. Somehow it seemed as though this family reflected my own, with its confusing lineages to royal families across Europe. It's not that I have any royal blood, but it's the idea of having blood lineages in both the English and German camps. I suppose ultimately it's the idea of the beauty Johnnie seemed to be reliving from his childhood and recreating at the cottage that brought a tear to my eye at the end. I could somehow relate to Johnnie's visions of past fleeting beauty relived as beautiful young ladies roaming through manicured gardens on perfect spring afternoons as something fleeting from contemporary life here in the United States. In this manner, I believe the piece to be a commentary on the period in terms of how the world is in the process of changing from a large and adventurous place to be explored and subjugated to one that is better experienced in small rooms that are part of a suburban cottage. Rather than outwardly exploring the world to learn and adventure about the wonders of different people and places, it is better to find solace inward, in things such as stamps and family heirlooms.

Ty Frazier
Ft Myers, FL

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
In response to Ms. Harriet Feder's comments on the failure to mention the American involvement in the First World War, one must remember that this production in no way attempts to give a definitive history of the conflict. The British producers of this series also ignore the Canadian and French efforts. The very personal story of Prince John would have been lost if too much of the daily and year-to-year history of the war had been presented. The American contribution was mentioned in the segment following, The King, the Kaiser, and the Tsar, and in fact is presented as the deciding factor in Allied victory.

One anachronism: when John imagines that the Kaiser and the Austrian emperor might live at his farm, it shows the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph, who had been dead for two years when the war ended. The much younger Charles was the emperor who abdicated at the end of the war in 1918.

Robert Cooper
Oklahoma City, OK

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I'm not one to see your show. Not that it is bad. I was just unaware it even existed, much less that it was such an interesting program. I truly enjoyed The Lost Prince. The actors were great; the story, which focuses on this forgotten child, is true and that makes it even more awesome as it brings to life someone some didn't want remembered. I don't think he had any brain damage at all; he just used his heart more. Your story showed just that. Thank you for a great job and for your efforts to bring his story out into the public. I recommend this for all viewers, young and old.

Sonia Hoppe
El Paso, TX

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
I want to thank you for airing this program that speaks about autism as well as epilepsy. These two illnesses can destroy not only the young person born with them or those who develop them later on in life, but it can have devastating effects on the family as well. After I had watched this program, I cried. I was deeply touched by this production.

Epilepsy had affected my younger brother at the age of fourteen. He was always complaining of illness, and when he was finally diagnosed my worst suspicions became a frightening reality. Our first realization was that he would not be able to have a normal life. However, that was not the case at all. He was able to learn how to program computers and he worked for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (his life's dream). He even sold model trains to the buying public on his own Web site.

He was even married, and settled down. Yes, it is possible to lead a normal life with a disease that so many people had not either understood, or refused to learn about. Epilepsy is a condition, it is not meant to stop a person from having a productive life.

I felt sympathy for the young prince in this program but not so much sympathy for his parents. You cannot blame the person with the disease but you can help them to live a more fulfilling life and help others who also are suffering the same plight.

Ivy Medina
Brooklyn, NY

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
Is it possible that Prince John was autistic besides having epilepsy? Some of the behavior patterns seem similar.

Natalie Roesh
Castle Rock, CO

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
How could one not feel bad for this little fellow, who I have never heard of before this series? It's now impossible to accurately describe Prince John's condition without proper assessment.

Williams syndrome, autism, and Tourette's syndrome are the most likely candidates. It's not a far stretch that his erratic physical movements would, at that time, be classified as epilepsy. Severe learning disabilities are often (but not always) a comorbid condition with these diagnoses.

Even during Prince John's lifetime, clinical descriptions of these syndromes were already published, but largely ignored by the medical community at the time. His early death strongly suggests Williams syndrome with the associated hypocalcaemia and resulting cardiac complications and/or kidney malfunction. There is also the possibility of another otherwise unrecognized pathology, such as a communicable disease that may have resulted in his death.

If his life was held so secret, why not his cause of death? He was alone, but not isolated. He was in contact with many people in his immediate living conditions, which makes communicable disease a real possibility as well.

Kim Dorman

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
First of all, in answer to one of the people who posted on this Web site: the story was not about America. It was about the prince and his family, which included Germany and Russia. Why does America have to be mentioned in a story that concentrates on the life of a prince and his view of the war? America is not so great that it needs to be mentioned at every corner and avenue of every documentary... even one about a couple of young princes who probably knew next to nothing about America.

The movie was excellent. I only wonder how much of it was "Hollywood-ized." For the poor boy it must have been a very hard life. But he seemed to be happy through it all. As his brother says at the end of the movie: "He was the only one of us who could be himself." And being "himself" implied being what Our Lord Himself asks of us: "Unless you become as little children you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."

If the movie were even half correct on the prince's life I would say he was an edifying example of innocence and humility. These virtues no doubt were kept intact by his long-suffering. Thank you to Masterpiece Theatre for a masterpiece!

Adam Morbeto
Kansas City, KS

Dear Masterpiece Theatre,
In reply to Sheryll Wright's discussion of the fate of the Russian Imperial family and any hand that King George V and/or the British government have had in it, I'd like to offer the following comment:

True, Nicholas II refused to leave Russia at least at the very beginning of the "first" or moderate revolution. Both he and Alexandra specifically rejected attempts by their cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II, to rescue them once the Bolsheviks signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany.

However, it was given out at the time that the British government withdrew its offer of sanctuary to Nicholas and his family due to the animosity of Prime Minister David Lloyd George and trade unionists in the House of Commons. Such was, however, not the case, as was later revealed by the King's private secretary, Lord Stanfordham, in his memoirs and diaries.

Fearing European-wide revolutions that might well reach Great Britain, King George V himself cancelled the offer of sanctuary because he had his own family and dynasty to think of. King George did, however, give financial and housing assistance to his aunt and Nicholas II's mother, the Dowager Empress Marie and to Nicholas' two sisters, Grand Duchesses Olga Alexandrovna and Xenia Alexandrovna.

Larry Slater
Pittsburgh, PA

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