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Queen Elizabeth II Had 'Bone Marrow Cancer' Before Her Death—Book

Newsweek 11/28/2022 Jack Royston
Queen Elizabeth II attends an Armed Forces Act of Loyalty Parade in the gardens of the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, on June 28, 2022. Gyles Brandreth [inset] says he heard that she had cancer in the year before her death in his latest book. © Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images/Karwai Tang/WireImage Queen Elizabeth II attends an Armed Forces Act of Loyalty Parade in the gardens of the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, on June 28, 2022. Gyles Brandreth [inset] says he heard that she had cancer in the year before her death in his latest book.

Queen Elizabeth II "had a form of myeloma," or bone marrow cancer, in the months before her death, according to a new biography.

Gyles Brandreth, a friend of the queen and her late husband, Prince Philip, wrote that the illness "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," in his new book, Elizabeth: An Intimate Portrait.

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The queen's official death certificate said the cause was "of old age" but gave no other medical details. She died on September 8 at around 3 p.m., hours after Buckingham Palace announced she had been placed under medical supervision.

Brandreth wrote: "I had heard that the Queen had a form of myeloma—bone marrow cancer.... 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.

"Currently, there is no known cure, but treatment—including medicines to help regulate the immune system and drugs that help prevent the weakening of the bones—can reduce the severity of its symptoms and extend the patient's survival by months or two to three years," he said.

Dickie Arbiter, Elizabeth's spokesman between 1988 and 2000, told Newsweek the information was "secondhand."

He said: "I don't think anybody knows what it was. The death certificate said 'old age.' I don't think anyone can confirm whether she did or she didn't. It's a conversation that Charles [her son] had with a doctor who said, 'I believe that.' So he didn't know either. We certainly won't know anything for the next 100 years."

Royal documents in Britain's National Archives remain secret for 100 years, far longer than official government papers, which are generally unsealed after 20 years unless there is a specific exemption.

The queen's health problems first became public knowledge in October 2021 when she canceled a planned visit to Northern Ireland. This was followed by other major royal engagements, including her appearance at the COP26 climate change conference.

However, Buckingham Palace at the time gave no details about the specific health problem that gave rise to the scare.

The following month, Elizabeth pulled out of a planned appearance during the Remembrance Sunday commemoration in London, with the palace citing a new medical problem. On that occasion, it did give details, saying she had a sprained back.

By 2022, the palace began saying the queen was experiencing mobility problems, although she was still able to make several in-person appearances during her Platinum Jubilee in June.

King Charles and Princess Anne were by her side when she died, while other royal family members were still scrambling to make the journey up to her estate in Balmoral, Scotland.

Brandreth wrote: "Wednesday, September 7. Every newspaper is carrying pictures of the Queen at Balmoral yesterday. She appears old, yes—she is 96—and frail. There is a dark bruise mark on the back of her right hand but she looks alert and very much alive.

"She is smiling, looking over the tops of her spectacles at the camera. There is a definite, mischievous twinkle in her eye. For other royals, today is business as usual."

He continued: "By late afternoon, however, rumour is rife. I have a call from my son-in-law (a former Coldstream Guards officer) to say that he is at the Cavalry & Guards Club in Piccadilly, where groups are gathering to discuss the detail of Operation London Bridge—the codename for the action-plan that comes into being the moment the sovereign dies.

"What has happened? Has she had a fall? Has she had a stroke?"

"The truth is that Her Majesty always knew that her remaining time was limited," Brandreth wrote. "She accepted this with all the grace you'd expect."

Quoted in the book, the Reverend Iain Greenshields, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, visited the queen the weekend before her death.

He told Brandreth, "Her faith was everything to her. She told me she had no regrets."

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