Sir James Reid, 1st Baronet

Sir James Reid, 1st Baronet GCVO KCB VD JP (23 October 1849 – 28 June 1923) was a British doctor who served as physician-in-ordinary to three British monarchs, Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V.


James Reid
Sir James Reid.jpg
Born23 October 1849
Died28 June 1923(aged 73)
EducationUniversity of Aberdeen
Known forPhysician-in-ordinary to Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V
Medical career

A physician, a Scotsman from Aberdeenshire and able to speak German, he fulfilled Queen Victoria's chief criteria for resident medical attendant under the supervision of her then physician-in-ordinary, Sir William Jenner. At the age of 31 years, he was given medical charge of the Royal Household at Balmoral. The Queen became increasingly dependent upon Reid as she grew older, and he accompanied her everywhere. He also attended to members of the Royal family, and delivered several of her grandchildren. As part of his duties to the Household, he also attended to the Queen's "Munshi", Abdul Karim.

Early life and educationEdit

James Reid was born in Ellon, Aberdeenshire on 23 October 1849, the eldest son of James Reid and his wife Beatrice Peter.[1][2][3] He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School before gaining admission to the University of Aberdeen, where he was a gold medallist.[2][3] In 1869 he gained his masters in natural sciences and in 1872 his medical degree.[2][4] After two years of practising medicine in London, he travelled to Vienna, then a seat for elite medical training, where for two years he attended various medical courses covering gynaecology, diseases of the ear, nose and throat, skin disease, eye disease and syphilis, in addition to learning German.[2][5] In 1877, he returned to Scotland, and joined his father's practice in Ellon, where he worked for the next three years.[2][5]

Royal householdEdit

In April 1881, Reid was approached by Alexander Profeit, the Queen's Factor at Balmoral.[5] A physician, a Scotsman from Aberdeenshire and able to speak German, Reid fulfilled Queen Victoria's chief criteria for resident medical attendant under the supervision of her then physician-in-ordinary, Sir William Jenner.[2] After the Queen interviewed Reid on 8 June 1881 at Balmoral, he was hired on a starting salary of £400 per year, and given medical charge of the Royal Household at Balmoral, at the age of 31 years.[2][5] Following the death of William Marshall, the resident physician to the Queen, Reid was appointed to a permanent position and moved to London.[2] In 1887, he was appointed physician-extraordinary to the Queen and two years later he succeeded Sir William as physician-in-ordinary.[2]

The Queen became increasingly dependent upon Reid as she grew older.[6] He accompanied her everywhere, and reported to her every morning to enquire on her health.[5] She wrote to him every day and when asked for advice by members of the Household, it became common for her to reply "ask Sir James".[6] She consulted with him during her grief following the death of John Brown in 1883, and he delivered several of her grandchildren, including Charles Edward, the son of Prince Leopold, and Princess Beatrice's children; Alexander Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Carisbrooke, Victoria Eugenie, Queen of Spain, Lord Leopold Mountbatten and Prince Maurice of Battenberg.[5]

As physician to the Queen, and at her instruction, Reid also attended to her "Munshi", Abdul Karim.[7][8] In 1894, along with others, he protested against the role of Karim in Queen Victoria's life.[9] On the question of the Karim's background, Reid noted in his diary that John W. Tyler, superintendent at the central jail in Agra, had informed him that he "had constantly seen the Munshi's wife and female relations in India, as they were never shut up there from public gaze, belonging as they do to quite a low class; and that the idea of their being in purdah was never dreamt of until they came to England as ladies".[10] In later years, Reid would become the main communicator between the Royal Household and the Queen in matters relating to the Munshi.[6]

He attended to the Queen at Osborne House, the royal residence on the Isle of Wight, during her final ten days .[11][12] As the Queen's condition deteriorated, her daughters Helena, Beatrice, Louise and Victoria were in attendance, later joined by their brother Bertie, the Prince of Wales. Reid helped them to accept and come to terms with the impending death of their mother.[12] Reid had previously prescribed for the Queen chlorodyne (chloral hydrate) for insomnia and the sedative Trional for arthritic pain but there is no record that either of these was prescribed in the Queens final illness.[12] On January 17 Reid asked Sir Richard Douglas Powell, physician-in-ordinary for his advice and, as the Queen's condition deteriorated further, asked Sir Thomas Barlow to attend to provide further medical support. The Queen died on 22 January 1901, at half past six in the evening.[13] Reid was given strict instructions as to burying the Queen, including grave goods that had belonged to John Brown.

Reid then became physician-in-ordinary to Edward VII[14] throughout the whole of his reign, and then finally to George V. In March 1909 King Edward VII fell ill. He suffered from chronic bronchitis, the result of smoking around twenty cigarettes and several cigars each day. Reid recommended a dose of radium and told Kaiser Wilhelm II, the King's nephew, that the King "was rapidly sinking."[15] On 6 March 1910, the King was treated for "acute cardiac distress" (heart disease). Reid diagnosed an acute exacerbation of the chronic bronchitis but he decided to hide the potential seriousness of this from the royal family and by 25 March, gave him a clean bill of health although the patient was permanently wheezing, asthmatic, and could not walk upstairs. By 5 May, the King was turning blue, and Reid issued a bulletin that the King's condition was "causing some anxiety" and a few hours later announced that it was causing "grave anxiety." The King died soon afterwards just before midnight. [16][17]

Later lifeEdit

Edward VII and Sir James

He became consulting physician to the King Edward VII Sanatorium at Midhurst.[1]

In 1914 Reid, although by then retired, received instructions from London to travel to Wick, northern Scotland to meet Prince Albert ('Bertie', 1895–1952), second son of the King and the future King George VI. The prince had been taken ill with abdominal pain whilst serving as a midshipman on HMS Collingwood. Reid accompanied the prince as he was transferred to Aberdeen on the hospital ship Rohilla. On 9 September an appendectomy was performed on the prince by the Regius Professor of Surgery in Aberdeen Sir John Marnoch, who was surgeon to the Royal Household in Scotland. Reid was present at the operation along with Sir Alexander Ogston. The prince made a good recovery from the procedure, returning to serve on HMS Collingwood at the Battle of Jutland.[18]

Personal and familyEdit

Reid married, in 1899, the Honourable Susan Baring (9 October 1870–8 February 1961),[19] daughter of Edward Baring, 1st Baron Revelstoke. She had been Maid of honour to Queen Victoria 1898–1899. They had two daughters and two sons,[1] including Sir Edward Reid.[20]

Awards and honoursEdit

In 1889, Reid was created Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB),[1][21] He then became Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (KCB) in 1895,[1][22] a baronet in 1897,[1][23] and in 1901 was made Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO)[1][24]

Other honours include Prussian Order of the Crown (2nd Class), given during the visit of Emperor Wilhelm II to the United Kingdom for the death and funeral of Queen Victoria in January–February 1901,[25] and an Honorary doctorate (LL.D) from the University of Glasgow, awarded to Reid in June 1901 during the university's 450th jubilee celebrations.[26]

Death and legacyEdit

Ellon Castle, Aberdeenshire

Reid died in post on 28 June 1923.[27]

Ellon Castle in Aberdeenshire was inherited by Reid's grandson, whose wife Michaela Reid found his diaries, which she used to compile a biography of Reid, titled Ask Sir James, published in 1987.[28] The historian and writer Shrabani Basu used Reid's personal diaries, scrapbooks and photographs when researching her book Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant, in which are several photographs from the Reid archives.[29] In the 2017 film Victoria & Abdul, based on Basu's book, Reid was portrayed by actor Paul Higgins.[30]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Brown, G. H. "Sir James Reid | RCP Museum". Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Reid, Michaela (2001). "Sir James Reid, Bt: royal apothecary". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 94 (4): 194–195. doi:10.1177/014107680109400415. ISSN 0141-0768. PMC 1281397. PMID 11317628.
  3. ^ a b "Letters of Sir James Reid (1849-1923) - Archives Hub". Archived from the original on 12 May 2021. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  4. ^ "Sir James Reid, Bt., G.C.V.O., K.C.B., LL.D., F.R.C.P". British Medical Journal. 2 (3262): 47. 7 July 1923. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.3262.47-a. ISSN 0007-1447. S2CID 220142448.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Rappaport, Helen (2003). Queen Victoria: A Biographical Companion. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. pp. 308–311. ISBN 1-85109-355-9.
  6. ^ a b c Basu, 2010, pp.59-60
  7. ^ Ridley, Jane (2012). Bertie: A Life of Edward VII. Chatto & Windus. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-7011-7614-3.
  8. ^ Basu, Shrabani (2010). Victoria and Abdul: The Extraordinary True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant. Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press. p. 75. ISBN 978-0-7524-6366-7.
  9. ^ Hubbard, Kate (2012). Serving Victoria: Life in the Royal Household. London: Chatto & Windus. p. 321. ISBN 978-0-7011-8368-4.
  10. ^ Wainwright, A. Martin (2012). "6. Royal relationships as a form of resistance: the cases of Duleep Singh and Abdul Karim". In Mukherjee, Sumita; Ahmed, Rehana (eds.). South Asian Resistances in Britain, 1858 - 1947. London: Continuum. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-4411-2577-4.
  11. ^ Cooke, A M (July 1982). "Queen Victoria's medical household". Medical History. 26 (3): 307–320. doi:10.1017/s0025727300041521. ISSN 0025-7273. PMC 1139189. PMID 6750291.
  12. ^ a b c Abrams, Robert C. (1 December 2015). "Sir James Reid and the Death of Queen Victoria: An Early Model for End-of-Life Care". The Gerontologist. 55 (6): 943–950. doi:10.1093/geront/gnu016. ISSN 0016-9013. PMID 24622239.
  13. ^ Longford, Elizabeth (1964). Victoria R.I. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 562. ISBN 0-297-17001-5.
  14. ^ "No. 27300". The London Gazette. 29 March 1901. p. 2194.
  15. ^ Jane Ridley, "Bertie", p.432. - the prince was active in negotiations with the Kaiser, whom he met several times at Windsor and Marienbad, when they were discussing the reduction of Dreadnought battleships.
  16. ^ Ridley, p.454-55.
  17. ^ "The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Life of King Edward VII, by J. Castell Hopkins". Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  18. ^ "October Highlight - Prince Albert's operation in Aberdeen | Special Collections | The University of Aberdeen". Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  19. ^ UK and Ireland, Find a Grave Index, 1300s-Current
  20. ^ "Reid, Sir Edward, (20 April 1901–23 Feb. 1972), a Director of the Bank of Scotland, 1967–71; Hon. President, Clan Donnachaidh Society". WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U158867. ISBN 978-0-19-954089-1. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  21. ^ "No. 25939". The London Gazette. 25 May 1889. p. 2874.
  22. ^ "No. 26638". The London Gazette. 28 June 1895. p. 3658.
  23. ^ "No. 26890". The London Gazette. 10 September 1897. p. 5059.
  24. ^ "No. 27285". The London Gazette. 15 February 1901. p. 1145.
  25. ^ "Latest intelligence – Germany". The Times. No. 36465. London. 27 May 1901. p. 3.
  26. ^ "Glasgow University jubilee". The Times. No. 36481. London. 14 June 1901. p. 10.
  27. ^ Queen Victoria's Physician. The Times (London, England), Friday, 29 June 1923; pg. 16; Issue 43380
  28. ^ "Mysteries and Secrets". 15 February 2013. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  29. ^ Basu, Shabrina (2010). "Acknowledgements". Victoria & Abdul : the true story of the queen's closest confidant. Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History Press. pp. 7–9. ISBN 978-0-7509-8258-0. OCLC 495598872.
  30. ^ "Victoria & Abdul - BFI Filmography". Archived from the original on 3 May 2021. Retrieved 3 May 2021.


Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of Ellon)
Succeeded by