Was Queen Elizabeth dealing with a form of bone marrow cancer in her final year?

The latest royal book is Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait by Gyles Brandreth. The Mail started excerpting the book this weekend, and those excerpts are already making headlines in Salt Island and here in America. Brandreth was apparently friends (or friendly) with Prince Philip, but this book seems mostly like royal rota gossip presented as insider knowledge. Brandreth is the first royal biographer (that I’ve seen) to write openly about what was possibly ailing Queen Elizabeth II in her final years. Brandreth says that he heard it was a form of bone marrow cancer, which would honestly make some sense. I’ve heard some gossip that Prince Philip had cancer too. I’ve also heard rumors that both Philip and Elizabeth had really bad cases of Covid and that neither really recovered. So take these excerpts as you want – I’m taking them as just random rumor-mongering.

QEII had already passed away when William & the Wessexes got to Balmoral: There was confusion about whether or not Harry’s wife, Meghan, would go up to Scotland with him. When it became clear that Catherine was not going because she would be collecting her children from school, it emerged that Meghan was not going, either. Andrew, Edward and Sophie, and Prince William arrived at Aberdeen airport in an RAF executive jet at 3.50pm and William drove the four of them to Balmoral, 45 miles away. They arrived at 5.06pm. Queen Elizabeth II was already dead.

QEII knew her time had come: The truth is that Her Majesty always knew that her remaining time was limited. She accepted this with all the grace you’d expect. I had heard that the Queen had a form of myeloma — bone marrow cancer — which would explain her tiredness and weight loss and those ‘mobility issues’ we were often told about during the last year or so of her life. The most common symptom of myeloma is bone pain, especially in the pelvis and lower back, and multiple myeloma is a disease that often affects the elderly.

QEII’s health was bad in her final months: When the Queen’s death was registered on September 16 my prediction proved accurate. The death was certified by Dr Douglas James Allan Glass, a local GP and official apothecary to the Queen who had been looking after her in Scotland for more than 30 years and who was with her when she died. Dr Glass said: ‘We have been concerned about the Queen’s health for several months. It was expected and we were quite aware of what was going to happen.’

QEII & Prince Philip would go weeks without seeing each other: They would speak regularly on the phone, but weeks could go by without them seeing one another. That shocked some people, though not those who appreciated how well the Queen understood her husband — understood his wish to be left to his own devices, ‘not to be fussed over’, to be allowed, after more than 70 years of duty, to see out his days in his own way.

Was Elizabeth at Philip’s side when he passed away? The Queen was reported to have been at her husband’s bedside when he died on the morning of April 9, 2021. In fact, I don’t believe she was. The Duke of Edinburgh had been in a hospital bed, set up in his dressing room at Windsor Castle. That morning, he went to the bathroom, helped by a nurse. When he came back, he said he felt a little faint and wanted help getting back into bed. The nurse called the Duke’s valet and the Queen’s page, Paul Whybrew, for help — and he died before the Queen could be called. The Queen wasn’t yet up. And she wasn’t called until after a doctor had come and pronounced the Duke dead.

Elizabeth was stoic about her husband’s death: He was being laid out when the Prince of Wales arrived. Charles waited and had a cup of tea, but went away without seeing his father. Prince Edward did see him and then, gradually, the rest of the family began to arrive. As they tried to comfort the Queen, the Queen was comforting them. It helped that Elizabeth was accustomed to her own company. Even when her husband was alive, she had so often spent evenings on her own.

[From The Daily Mail]

I think bone marrow cancer sounds like a reasonable explanation for what was happening with QEII’s health in her final year, honestly. There was a big shift though, something happened to her in October 2021 – suddenly, she was doing very poorly and the palace wouldn’t specify what was going on. Was that when they found the cancer? I wonder. I saw Omid Scobie tweeting about how it’s in poor taste for the Mail to publish these excerpts given that the details about QEII’s health were always “closely guarded,” but I actually disagree. While everyone has the right to medical privacy, it is legitimately different when the person is the head of state or an elected leader. I always found it ridiculous that the palace was allowed to get away with outright lies and obfuscation about QEII’s health – she’s the head of state, not your granny. Her health was a constitutional issue, not a private issue.

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55 Responses to “Was Queen Elizabeth dealing with a form of bone marrow cancer in her final year?”

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  1. OriginalLala says:

    My grandfather died of multiple myeloma it’s an incredibly painful disease. His bones were just breaking randomly, enormous pain. If this is indeed what Lizzie had, I hope she didn’t suffer for long like my grandpa did

    • BeanieBean says:

      Virtual hugs to you, @OriginalLala. The last couple of years of my mother’s life were made miserable, and painful, and scary, due to multiple myeloma and the treatments, and treatments for the side effects of those treatments. It was awful. If this is true, that the Queen had been diagnosed, it would make a lot of sense. For her sake, I hope it wasn’t though. As for that bit about the Queen being alone a lot in the evenings, really? She’s in her 90s and spending her evenings alone? That just seems wrong to me. That huge family & they’re leaving her alone in the evenings?

    • Duchess of Corolla says:

      My mother-in-law passed away from Multiple Myeloma as well. It was a horrible, painful disease. She lived with it for about ten years, during which she had two stem cell transplants, all sorts of chemo with bad side effects, and bones that randomly broke. Her spine was literally crumbling.

      I wouldn’t wish that disease on anyone.

  2. Noki says:

    I may be in the minority, but I never believe that anyone’s health should have to be fully disclosed unless it will impact anothers health. She was the Queen she hardly had the nuclear codes and at 96 what difference would it make.

  3. Snuffles says:

    “ Charles waited and had a cup of tea, but went away without seeing his father.”

    Wow. Says it all, doesn’t it?

    As for the Queen, she probably was weak and out of it frequently during her final year. A situation, no doubt, taken advantage of fully by those around her. I’m looking at you Charles.

    • Digital Unicorn says:

      I’m not going to jump on him for that – everyone deals with grief differently and some people can’t deal with looking at dead bodies (I’m one of them).

      • Honey says:

        At one point, I harbored a lot of anger and resentment against my brother and sister for not coming along with me to the nursing home when I got the call that our mother had died. My thoughts were ‘do you think I want to see her that way?!? WTF is this? They can’t come!?!’ I went. I could not not go. I went out of love and duty. As a matter of fact, there wasn’t ever a question or a doubt that I wouldn’t go. I’m just cut like that. 😗 I said that to say this: in retrospect, I get it. For whatever reasons, King Charles didn’t walk into that room see his father. He had his reasons and all’s a person can do is accept that. He had his reasons. However, I want to believe it wasn’t so with his mother. I would think there would be differing reasons that might compel versus repel him.

      • AuntRara says:

        In the movie “Cousins,” one of the characters says “I hate seeing people in their coffins. They look so much smaller without their spirits.” The same character also says that he doesn’t go to funerals (or church in general) because “God makes me nervous when you get Him indoors.” Hard agree on both points.

      • Tigerlily says:

        @Digital Unicorn. Very true about each handling grief differently. When my dad passed I was with him (with mom & sisters) when they disconnected the ‘machines’. He was 86 with kidney failure and aortic aneurysms. However once we said our goodbyes I wasn’t interested in ‘viewing’ his body at the funeral home. I never do the viewing part at funerals if I can help it. To me the essence of the person is gone.

    • KATHLEEN says:

      I am looking at Charles too. I was always surprised at the abrupt cancellation of the Queen’s invitation to Harry and Meghan to spend the night with her and her sudden unavailability for days later. In hindsight, it seems that even then Charles was calling the shots and overriding the Q’s decisions. I believe that all the nasty spiteful decisions made against Harry and Meghan came from Charles and William.

  4. Jan says:

    What a cold uncaring family.
    Omid was trying to make the point that the Dailyfail was attacking anyone saying anything about the Queen, but could wait to serialize a book about her to make money.
    Cowmilla was getting attack, so this book is taking the limelight off of her shameful interaction with a black child.

    • Lolo86lf says:

      @Jen: You have a talent for assigning funny nicknames to people and institutions such as the Dailyfail and Cowmilla lol. Please keep it up cause is fun.

  5. equality says:

    Being the Queen’s age would explain those symptoms also. I think she’s reaching. I do buy that she didn’t sit by Phil’s bedside. Why would she when they were mostly living apart. They were only living in the same castle when he died for how things would look, not so she could personally look after him.

  6. Amy Bee says:

    I’ve been saying for awhile that as Head of State the Queen had no right to privacy when it came to her health. But I think what’s more interesting is the muted response of the press to this “revelation” and the non-response of BP. Could it be that Palace informed the press that the Queen had cancer with the agreement that they keep that information secret? It would explain the dumping of information about Charles’ financial dealings in the press over the last few months.

  7. Lolo86lf says:

    I can’t believe she was able to continue performing her duties right until the bitter end with such a horrible medical condition. She definitely was a stoic lady.

  8. Miranda says:

    The part about Charles leaving without paying his private respects to his father or consoling his mother and siblings…I feel like that was mentioned like, WAY too casually, no? That’s so callous. What it says to me is that Charles is only willing to “grieve” out in the open, where he can play it for sympathy.

  9. Brassy Rebel says:

    This story that she died from bone cancer was actually out there at the time of her death. I saw it in an obscure Australian publication. But since there was no confirmation from anything resembling an official source, it wasn’t picked up even by the British tabloids. Brandreth is reportedly very close to Charles and Camilla. I take this as official confirmation and believe he was authorized to publish this. Why they suddenly want it known is unknowable. Perhaps it’s more of Charles getting even with his mother for not making him regent. Charles is a riddle wrapped in an enigma, as Churchill once said of Russia.

    I agree that as head of state, there should have been more transparency about Elizabeth’s illness. Undoubtedly, there were times when she was mentally incapacitated as well as physically unable to perform her duties. Much as I hate to admit it, if Charles is miffed about the way this was handled, he has a point. And the “mobility issues” explanation was always pretty transparent nonsense. That is a symptom, not an illness! With bone cancer, one can neither stand nor sit in any degree of comfort. Thus, a wheelchair was no solution.

  10. Shawna says:

    Yikes: “she wasn’t called until after a doctor had come and pronounced the Duke dead.” Obviously, we’re all commoners here, but I would be furious if someone waited to tell me my husband was in that dire shape.

  11. Becks1 says:

    bone cancer makes sense, and it fits with the timeline of what we know about her canceled appearances, the mobility issues, etc.

    The palace 100% should have been more transparent about her illness. no one is saying that her medical records needed to be made public, but the palace needed to be more transparent rather than being so wishy-washy about what was wrong with her for a year.

    • Nic919 says:

      The media was very upset about an overnight visit to a hospital that was kept hidden for a few days (around the time the Cambridges went to Jordan) and I suspect that is when they were told about what was going on.

      Also Nicholas Winchell mentioned bone cancer on the day she died. He wouldn’t have been so specific in speculation had he not been told by someone in the know.

    • Pumpkin (Was Sofia) says:

      Completely agree. She was Head of State. Yes it was more ceremonial and whatnot but HoS is still HoS. While we didn’t need to know every detail, a little less secrecy would have been better.

    • cee says:

      I agree, Becks. She was HoS, the nation has a right to know what is going on. Britain is a constitutional monarchy based in primogeniture so Charles and William had no expectation of privacy on their healths. William had COVID and they kept it hidden.
      Now that Charles is HoS they will continue to hide anything related to his health. I only make an exception for George given he is underage but as soon as he turns 18, his health is public matter, too.

  12. Heather says:

    This would explain a lot. She had to have been in enormous pain. Wonder if she did any ‘life saving/prolonging’ treatments or if they just kept her as comfortable as possible? The more I think about it, she probably did not given her age. It might have actually killed her sooner as chemo and radiation are hard on even the best of shape/younger folks.

    • MsIam says:

      Some people speculated that the bruising on her hands was the result of chemo or other treatments. I think she wanted to make it to her jubilee and would have agreed to anything that could make that possible. It seems after that, she kind of disappeared for the most part.

    • susan says:

      Myeloma is quite possible. at her age most people have some form of cancer, but they mostly die *with* it rather than *of* it. the “smouldering” form itself is most common in the 80+ age group and is rarely fatal, but low blood counts, fractures and bone pain are debilitating.

      Chemo-doubtful. I suspect she would have refused. Most very old people don’t tolerate chemo very well. But it would not surprise me if she was getting pamidronate and/or calcitonin for bone pain.

      Still surprised with all that that she recovered from covid as well as she did.

  13. Nic919 says:

    Omid was also saying the level of freak outs over the fictionalized version of the Crown far exceeded the revelations being made about the Queen’s health.

    The queen was head of state and her state of health was something the public should have known if there was an unofficial regency happening.

  14. aquarius64 says:

    The death certificate said COD was old age. So the queen’s signed off on a phony death certificate?

    • susan says:

      she clearly died of old age. her body gave out. it’s like saying “cardiac arrest”-the heart stopped beating.

      in the USA a detailed cause of death is required on the death certificate, and “due to or as a result of” secondary causes are often required. Probably for billing purposes. That may not be the same in other countries.

      She also had a old-style GP taking care of her, her death was expected and natural.

  15. MerlinsMom1018 says:

    If I remember correctly, her death certificate said COD was “old age”. Wouldn’t the ME or Dr be obligated to put cancer if that was her cause?
    I’m asking because my Dad’s death certificate listed ” Merkel’s Cell Carcinoma/Lung Cancer” as his cause
    Just curious, maybe it’s different for the UK?

    • Feeshalori says:

      Yeah, here in the US both my parents’ death certificates listed congenital heart failure as COD even though my mom died at 97 and my dad at 83 from complications from Parkinson’s disease. So maybe other countries do treat this differently.

    • Moxylady says:

      I mean…. The rules have never applied to the Queen or to most of that family. I can believe them saying something like it would undermine faith in the monarchy or in her reign if her true cause of death were noted. Perhaps cancer is the way common folk die whereas someone born and appointed by god could only die of old age.

      • Brassy Rebel says:

        I think you’re right, MoxyLady. It’s almost as if being sick, especially with cancer, is something shameful. So they hide and minimize what is actually happening. The royals are always doing this delicate balancing act. Sometimes they want us to think they are just folks, like you and me. Other times, they want us to think they are superior beings, not subject to the cares, worries, and illnesses of mere mortals. In the case of the Queen’s final illness and death, the balance tipped toward lying rather than even hint at the truth which was that the queen was suffering from a terminal illness. We got crazy excuses like “mobility issues” for her sudden inability to appear when expected.

  16. Claudia says:

    Wow, such awful family dynamics, not to pay your respects to your dead father… Pfff…. Yikes! They don’t know how real families work. And a wife that doesn’t see her husband for weeks at a time… The royal family is worse than a pack of jackals, you would see more unity and love there!

  17. RMS says:

    I was diagnosed with end stage Multiple Myeloma in 2020 at age 52. I arrived in the ER with 6 bone fractures (that I wasn’t aware of) and had lost 30% of my bone density (the cancer generate an enzyme that goes crazy and starts dissolving bones). At her age, its unlikely they gave her more than bone strengthening shots and possibly some Velcade (the main chemo used for MM, although it’s pretty tough to tolerate). Most MM patients have the low risk version, which, if caught in time, can be managed like diabetes. 14% (like me) have the high risk version, which means stem cell transplants are needed to save your life. Over the age of 70-75, those are pretty tough to get signed off on, so it’s likely they managed her discomfort and skipped most treatment. MM patients usually die of other infections since their immune system is over run with the cancer and unable to fight off other diseases. Small note: if a MM patient gets covid, there is an over 25% chance of death. Everyone that was lax around her with protocols during Covid was complicit in speeding her demise.

    • Brassy Rebel says:

      So sorry to hear you have gone through this, RMS. But I am glad you are still here to enlighten us about multiple myeloma. I am sure that Harry was very frustrated when she got COVID and that’s why he was concerned about her having “the right people” caring for her. Of course, he was criticized for even suggesting she was not being properly cared for, even though her contracting COVID proved she was not.

    • Concern Fae says:

      That the 96 yo Queen got Covid should have been cause for an investigation. That this was a ‘meh’ while the rota rages about H&M breathing, as well as every other stupid ‘scandal’ they come up with weekly, is a sign that none of this is actually important.

    • BeanieBean says:

      @RMS: My heart goes out to you & I am hopeful that you get (or had) the stem cell transplant and that you are recovering well. I’ve heard good things about that form of treatment.

    • QuiteContrary says:

      Wishing you the best @RMS.

      • RMS says:

        Y’all are so lovely! I DID get TWO stem cell transplants 6 months apart and, in a major shock to my doctors, got into remission. My goal is to mess with the curve and live with this for 10 years or more. Again, the biggest risk one faces with this cancer is death by another infection, since your immune system gets positively hammered. I am weirdly proud today that I share this in common with QE2, and feel very protective of her after the fact. I have no doubt that Harry knew about the diagnosis and was probably very concerned about the way those around her weren’t being as careful as they should have been.

    • Nic919 says:

      Thanks for sharing your story and wishing you the best.

  18. AmelieOriginal says:

    I’m really not that interested in what Queen Elizabeth died of and if there was a great conspiracy to keep her real cause of death quiet, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. She was 96, we all knew she had been dealing with health issues. Just by looking at her you could tell she was frail and barely hanging on. We all knew she would pass soon after Philip died. It’s not like she mysteriously died at the age of 30, if she were way younger I would demand more transparency maybe. But given the chain of succession has been established for decades, we all knew Charles would become king. This wasn’t a surprise. My guess is they really wanted to make sure the Queen made it to her Jubilee and they didn’t want talk of any kind of glaring health issue to overshadow it. Maybe one day we’ll find out and if it was bone cancer, what an awful way to go. But I’m okay not knowing.

  19. Blue Nails Betty says:

    I still think the queen had a series of strokes. It would explain her sudden cognitive decline, appearing slightly confused, and having balance issues.

    • K8erade says:

      She was well enough to meet the Prime Minister the last 2 days of her life. But the symptoms you suggest could also be the result of painkillers given if she had MM.

      • BeanieBean says:

        Yes, my mother had her periods of feeling good and strong after treatments, then they started to wear her down & make her weaker. She was given prednisone along with the chemo, which will make you feel good for awhile.

  20. Pam says:

    At the time, I really didn’t get Phillip deciding to go live somewhere apart from the Queen when he retired—until I heard about Penny. Then it all made sense…

  21. K8erade says:

    This information really fills in the gaps and fits in with everything else we were hearing about the Queen and as others have mentioned, the cancer rumor started early on. The evidence that this is true is all there: Queen Elizabeth’s hospital visit in October 2021, the ongoing “mobility issues,” her diminutive and pale look in her final photo. I believe this to be true. While I don’t think exact details needed to be given to the press, I do think that the British public deserved some honesty that the Queen was dealing with a terminal illness. At the same time, I respect that it was likely Elizabeth herself who was not comfortable with this information being made public. This might sound awful to some people but I actually think it would have made the Jubilee a little more special for the public if they had known but I do think the tone of the jubilee did quietly convey the fact this was to be her last.

  22. L says:

    I remember the photo of her last public meeting, with the then-new PM. And I noticed that her hand was badly bruised and this seemed consistent with an IV and it made me think that she perhaps ill.

  23. Serenity says:

    Forgive me if I missed a comment about this, but as she was still the Queen, she probably told the press *and* her family to keep their mouths shut. May also have been one of the reasons she refused to step down; because she knew Charles would immediately put her condition on blast. She was surely suffering a great deal of pain but I think she was still compos mentis.