Charts & Graphs

Royal Treatment

How heads of state get their medicine.

Ruler Illness Symptoms Treatment Outcome
King Louis XIV
Fistula-in-Ano, the formation of an abnormal track in anus Infection, perennial discharge, bleeding, swelling Surgeon Felix de Tassy surgically drained Louis’ fistula on November 18, 1686. Louis recovered from the operation, and fistulas became a fashionable malady at the court of Versailles.
Empress Catherine the Great
Smallpox, an infectious disease Rash, fever, pus-filled blisters English doctor Thomas Dimsdale came to Russia in 1768 to give the then-new inoculations to Catherine and her son. Catherine and her son avoided getting the disease, and inoculations became acceptable in Russia.
Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich Romanov
Hemophilia, a hereditary blood disorder Inability to coagulate blood Mystic healer Rasputin treated Alexei, using hypnotism and prayers, from 1905 to 1916, when Rasputin was murdered. Alexei survived long enough to be murdered along with the rest of the royal family in 1918.
Chairman Mao Zedong
Trichomonas vaginalis, a sexually transmitted infection None for men; urinary-tract infections and cervical cancer for women The chairman’s personal doctor Li Zhisui prescribed Flagyl to infected mistresses in the ’60s while Mao said, “If it’s not hurting me, then it doesn’t matter.” Mao engaged in sexual intercourse with untold numbers of women, and many of those infected were proud of having the ruler’s disease.
President John F. Kennedy
Addison’s disease, an endocrine disorder Muscle weakness, low blood pressure, salt craving, hyperpigmentation A London physician diagnosed Kennedy with the disease in 1947, saying he had less than one year to live, and started him on cortisone therapy. Kennedy and his staff denied he was sick by using a narrow definition of Addison’s; the hormone treatment made his face rough and pigmentation bronze.