Famous People with PP throughout History and Today

I was fascinated to watch a Channel 4 programme narrated by Giles Brandreth, about Princess Alice (the Duke of Edinburgh's mother). She had three daughters before Prince Phillip and after a while began telling people that she was in touch with Christ. Sadly, her mother took her away from the Prince (when he was 9 years old) under cover of darkness to a Sanatorium abroad for wealthy people. She was locked away for over two years, and was eventually diagnosed with Schizophrenia.

Eventually after years she was able to discharge herself (she had missed the weddings of her daughters because she was locked away) and did not go home but 'disappeared' and lived in a hostel in Greece, not venturing out. She did set up a hospital and orphanage and was very helpful to a Jewish family during the war. Princess Alice founded her own religious order in later life (the Sisterhood of Martha and Mary) and the most poignant recording to watch was at the Queen's Coronation in 1953 where she appeared as a solitary figure following them down the aisle dressed in a nun's habit. I wondered if this poor woman could have suffered PP?

I was so interested to think that royalty in history might have had similar delusions to myself that I did some more research. I found reference in history to Harriet Mordaunt (7 February 1849 - 9 May 1906) who was the Scottish wife of an English Baronet. She had a daughter, prematurely, Violet Caroline, in 1869. Harriet was the respondent in a sensational divorce case in which the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) was embroiled and, after a counter petition led to a finding of mental disorder, "pueperal mania". Poor Harriet spent the remaining 36 years of her life in a mental asylum.

Even celebrities are not immune to PPD ….. Brooke Shields has written about her journey through postpartum illness, “Down Came the Rain”. Marie Osmond in her memoirs in 2001 wrote about her journey out of postpartum depression. Also Zoe Ball and the comedienne, Ruby Wax have had PPD. However, I have not found a celebrity who has had postpartum psychosis. I wonder if anyone has an interest in this - or knows of someone famous that could have suffered from PP? If so, please add your comments!

I hope you have enjoyed this trip back in time to the present day and will leave you to ponder that, perhaps we all have a thread that linked us to royalty and celebrity however immobilising it is / was at the time?

9 Replies

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  • Hi Lilybeth,

    I saw the program about Princess Alice too & found it really fascinating; she was a pretty amazing woman! Here's a link to it here (after all the adverts):

    Her illness seemed all too familiar & resonated lots; I really wish we could find more facts & information about it & prove it was PP. Wow, an illness linked to royalty would be so good for the cause! I don't know anything about Harriet Mordaunt at all, if you manage to find any more about her or her PP story, it'd be really interesting!

    I don't know of any celebrities that have been open about having PP, I guess the stigma is too much for them to do so at the moment. There's only Catherine Zeta Jones who's now open about having Bipolar (but we don't know if she ever had PP). Hopefully things will change soon & celebrities will feel it's something they can admit to have had. If anyone knows of any, do post here!

    Thanks for posting & keep up the detective work! :-)

  • Hi Andrea,

    Thanks for the link which will be helpful to those who did not see the programme.

    My research into women in history took me to Wendy Wallace's homepage - Captured on Camera. The Bethlem Royal Hospital (Europe's oldest psychiatric hospital) Archive contains a unique collection of original prints, some of the earliest photographs ever taken of asylum patients.

    Emma Riches was one such patient who went into the hospital three or four times following another child being born, each time in the 1850's. In those days Drs did not use the term post natal depression but certainly recognised the phenomenum. It was then called pueperal insanity or peuperal mania. I wonder though if it was PP as according to records when Emma Riches was admitted she was in such a state that she tore her clothes - not tore them off but ripped them to shreds?

    Wendy Wallace has written a book entitled "The Painted Bridge" about life for Victorian women in asylums in 1850's England. I haven't read it yet but for those of us years ago who were sectioned and sent to such asylums (the one I went to in 1975 was built in 1874 and the one I was sent to in 1981 was built in 1879) it might be interesting to read, albeit fictional.

    As you say I think the stigma of mental illness is too much for celebrities to be open about having PP. However, I must admit it had been my 'secret' for years until I found APP!!

    Best wishes.

  • Hi there

    I am reading a book called Understanding PostPartum Psychosis and it is interesting

    In this book the author mentionsa few famous people with pp

    Brooke shields Marie Osmund Princess Diana and the former first lady of New Jersey Mary Jo Codey all suffered from this devestating illness.

    Hope this has enlightened you

    Best Wishes

  • Hi Poulson,

    Thanks for your reply.

    I read the book reviews of Brooke Shields and Marie Osmund and it seems they had PPD without the sudden onset of psychotic symptoms. Also Princess Diana and Mary Codey had PPD, which is a debilitating illness but in my opinion not as injurious to one's health as PP.

    Best wishes.

  • Hi

    Sorry it's been a while since my last post. This is a really interesting topic. I have often thought if a really famous celebrity has previously suffered PP, or does it would have a massive impact on making the illness more public and understood. ( Obviously I'm not wanting a celebrity to get poorly ).

    I personally think and from the infomation surrounding the birth of her two sons, that Britney Spears suffered with PP, although it was never offically confirmed. Her behaviour; when she shaved all her hair off, shortly after giving birth she was sectioned etc?

    Lou

  • Hi Lilybeth,

    I was just reading about Sir Charles & Lady Mordaunt & was very surprised that they lived in Walton Hall, Warwickshire which they built as their ancestral home. It's near me & I've stayed there - it's beautiful!

    Here's a link with some details about her childbirth experience & 'puerperal mania' diagnosis: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harri...

    It's awful that she spent the rest of her life locked in an asylum. I find the views on mental illness back then interesting & shocking too! I do wonder if there are any more recent cases, perhaps in the same family? Did I read it right that her mother had 16 children, if so then it's pretty likely!

  • Hi Andrea,

    I did reply last night but as it's not on the site today I'm not sure if you will have received.

    Just to thank you for the info on Walton Hall and as you rightly say, it's beautiful. It's hard to imagine such turmoil within those walls. For Lady Mordaunt to be uprooted from such 'plush' surroundings and committed to an asylum for the rest of her days is unthinkable. Yes, you are right, Lady M was the fourth child of sixteeen children.

    Knowing a little about Lady Mordaunt now, I wonder if you would feel her 'presence' if you revisited the ancestral home??

  • Hello,

    This has just reminded me that back in 2000, my male CPN told me that new nothing about PP and didn't know why he had been allocated to me, the only thing he did know was that coronation street actress Denise Welch had PP - I even wrote her a letter at the time and she replied with some very kind and comforting words - thanks for sparking that memory, I had forgotten about that.

  • Hello butterfly 1999

    This was a very interesting thread and hard to believe it's been three years ago. I think Denise Welch had PND after her baby was born. After a relapse I had depression for at least twelve months, though it seemed endless. It was very kind of Denise to reply to you as comforting words have an impact if we are feeling fragile.

    Take care .........

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