Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Royal family ignored cousins hidden in asylum

Nurses who cared for two cousins of Queen Elizabeth who were born with learning difficulties have spoken of how the sisters were never visited by the royal family during decades in an institution.

Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, nieces to the British Queen Mother, were sent to the Royal Earlswood Hospital in Redhill, Surrey, in 1941, aged 15 and 22 respectively.

Hospital staff interviewed for a Channel 4 documentary said they were not aware of them ever receiving visits, Christmas cards or birthday cards.

They described how Nerissa, who died in 1986 aged 66, had no members of her family other than her sister at her funeral and was buried in a "pauper's grave".

Former Royal Earlswood nurse Dot Penfold said: "All the time they were there so far as I was concerned I didn't ever see anybody visit them."

Her colleague Bridie Tingley added: "There was no connection with the royalty. At Christmas time they never got a sausage."

Hospital carers described how Nerissa and Katherine would stand up and curtsy or salute when they saw members of the royal family on the television.

Nurse Onelle Braithwaite said staff could not "contain the excitement" of the sisters when the Prince of Wales married Diana, Princess of Wales, in July 1981.

There was public outcry in 1987 when it was revealed that Nerissa and Katherine had been in the Royal Earlswood for more than 40 years.

Burke's Peerage, the guide to aristocratic family trees, had recorded the sisters as having died in 1940 and 1961.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment about the documentary.

' The Queen's Hidden Cousins' will be broadcast on Thursday November 17 at 9pm on Channel 4.

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