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The Case of Frederick the Noble

edited by: W. Pirsig & R.J. Ruben

Price: € 20.00 / US $ 24.00

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Publication details: Book. 2020. vii and 68 pages. Publication date: 2020-08-12. Softbound. A5

ISBN: 978-90-6299-285-0 (ISBN 10: 90-6299-285-4; Kugler Publications)



During the study of the history of the disease of Frederick, Crown Prince and later German Emperor Frederick III (October 18, 1831–June 15, 1888) in the library of the Otto-von-Bismarck-Stiftung in Friedrichsruh, Germany in 2010, an unpublished series of twelve letters was found concerning the care of the Crown Prince. They were written by Felix Semon (December 18, 1849–March 1, 1929) and sent to Nikolaus Heinrich Ferdinand Herbert, Count of Bismarck (December 28, 1849–September 18, 1904), State Secretary of the Foreign Office and the son of Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg (April 1, 1815–July 30, 1898), Minister President of Prussia. These letters were written in Sütterlin, the current German handwriting script and can be studied as microfilms (fiche). These letters expressed Semon’s concern about the care that was provided by Sir Morell Mackenzie ( July 7, 1837–February 3, 1892) to Frederick.

Semon was born in Danzig, to an upper middle-class family and was a schoolmate of Herbert von Bismarck. Semon received his medical degree in Berlin, emigrated to the United Kingdom and became a pupil of Mackenzie, then a prominent laryngologist in London. He published two books in1880 and in 1884 he published the German translation of Mackenzie’s classic text. Semon was an early developer of neurolaryngology. He founded and edited the Internationales Centralblatt für Laryngologie, Rhinologie und verwandte Wissenschaften.

Sir Morell Mackenzie was from Leytonstone, Essex, England. He became one of the world’s most influential laryngologists. In 1863, Mackenzie founded the first Hospital for Diseases of the Throat in King Street, Golden Square. He produced numerous books which were translated into many languages. These included The Use of the Laryngoscope in Diseases of the Throat (1865); Growths in the Larynx (1871) A manual of diseases of the throat and nose, including the pharynx, larynx, trachea, oesophagus, nasal cavities, and neck (German translation published in 1880;8 18843). His The Hygiene of the Vocal Organs: A Practical Handbook for Singers and Speakers (1886) was republished well into the 20th century.

At the time of writing these letters, Nikolaus Heinrich Ferdinand Herbert, Count of Bismarck, the elder son of Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg, Minister President of Prussia, was the State Secretary of the Foreign Office. He was on friendly terms with Semon and was addressed by his first name Herbert. They first met at Semon’s father’s house while they were students. There was a later university encounter during student dueling, when they both dueled with different opponents and were wounded. In 1882, Herbert was in London as attaché of the German Embassy and renewed his friendship with Semon. This was the basis for the writing of the twelve letters during 1887 and 1888. Semon quotes from a letter from Herbert dated the 7th of September 1888, in which it appears he was transmitting Semon’s critique of Mackenzie to the Prince of Wales:

“I have had a conversation with the Prince of Wales about him. I told the Prince that the Emperor might have lived several years longer if he had never seen Mackenzie. I gather that H.R.H. did not like to hear this, the less as he had no reply to the arguments I based on the medical aspects of the case.”

Each of the letters was transposed from Sütterlin script into a typescript. They were then translated into English by the authors. Each letter is presented in translation. A description of the events preceding each letter is given. The references are to publications, mainly newspaper articles. The footnotes are explanations of terms and places, and of the individuals mentioned in these letters.

Robert N. Weinreb, Consensus Chair

Table of Contents



The letters
Letter #1 – July 31, 1887
Letter #2 – August 6, 1887
Letter #3 – September 8, 1887
Letter #4 – November 14, 1887
Letter #5 – November 19, 1887
Letter #6 – December 20, 1887
Letter #7 – January 21, 1888
Letter #8 – February 21, 1888
Letter #9 – March 7, 1888
Letter #10 – July 9, 1888
Letter #11 – July 11, 1888
Letter #12 – July 12, 1888



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