At the time of his birth, John was sixth in the line of succession behind his father and four older brothers, however the decision to name him John was rather controversial as it was considered an unlucky royal name. As a grandchild of the reigning British monarch in the male line, and a son of the Prince of Wales, he was formally styled HRH Prince John of Wales from birth. John was christened on 3 August in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene at Sandringham and was placed into the care of the family nanny Charlotte Bill who was nicknamed Lala.
John was described as a charming and amusing child, however by the time he reached his fourth birthday, he had started suffering from seizures and was showing signs of having learning difficulties. John did not attend his parents’ coronation on 22 June 1911 in case it caused him undue stress, however the royal family were accused of trying to hide him so he would not cause any embarrassment. John continued to participate in family events until his eleventh birthday, but it was clear his behaviour was becoming increasingly unruly and the seizures more violent.
In 1912, John and his closest sibling, George, Duke of Kent, began St. Peter’s Court Preparatory School at Broadstairs, however John did not return the following summer. After the outbreak of the First World War, John’s parents were kept busy with their official duties while their children were either at boarding school or in the military, so John spent most of his time alone.
When John’s seizures began to intensify in 1916, he was sent to live at Wood Farm, a modest cottage set in a secluded corner of Sandringham, with Nanny Bill. Although John was initially provided with a steady stream of tutors, he failed to make any progress and his formal education was brought to an end. While there were plenty implications John was being forgotten about, the truth was rather different as he was visited frequently by other members of the royal family and enjoyed spending time in the garden specially created for him by his grandmother, Queen Alexandra.
In an effort to ease John’s loneliness, Queen Mary arranged for local children to be brought to Sandringham as his playmates and the young prince became close to Winifred Thomas, a young girl from Halifax who had been sent to the country to ease her asthma. John’s siblings also came to visit, however the severity of their younger brother’s seizures upset them so much, they were eventually prohibited from seeing him.
On 18 January 1919, John suffered a severe seizure which led to his death and his mother remarked in her diary how she relieved she was for his suffering to have come to an end as it had been hard to bear. John was buried at St. Mary Magdalene Church on 21 January 1919.