Lloyd passed away three years after her husband was sent to prison. After falling down a flight of stairs and injuring her back, she underwent emergency surgery and died shortly thereafter. She was 39 years old.
For over 100 years, one of the common theories surrounding Lloyd’s death was that it was all the result of a weakened spine due to syphilis caught from her philandering gay husband. Now, Merlin Holland, Wilde’s grandson, has just discovered a trove of over 130 private family letters that clear up the mystery surrounding his grandmother’s death.
The letters reveal symptoms modern doctors commonly associate with multiple sclerosis, including losing the ability to walk, chronic gain, headaches, and fatigue. Lloyd, it now appears, was falsely diagnosed by not one but two separate doctors.
One of them was an unnamed German “nerve doctor,” whose treatments involved hot baths and electricity. The other was an Italian man named Luigi Maria Bossi who believed that Lloyd’s physical ailments could be cured with gynaecological operations.
After falling down the stairs and injuring herself, Lloyd went to Bossi for a gynaecological procedure, during which she slipped into a coma and died.
“People somehow never put two and two together and thought: ‘Why is a gynaecologist operating on her spine?’” Holland tells The Guardian.
The family never pursued legal action against Bossi because Lloyd had consented to the operation despite several warnings against it by other doctors.
“It cost her her life,” Holland says. “Ultimately, both Bossi and the hapless Constance met their ends tragically–he by the bullet of an assassin and she by the knife of an irresponsible surgeon.”
(Bossi was later shot and killed by a patient’s incensed husband some 20 years after Lloyd’s death when he was accused “unethical behavior and professional misconduct.”)
Lloyd married Wilde in 1884. After he was imprisoned for homosexual acts in 1895, she changed her and her sons’ last name to distance themselves from the scandal and fled to Genoa. She and Wilde never formally divorced.
Holland says he hopes this new evidence will bring an end to speculation over his grandmother’s untimely death.
“I rather feel it will put Constance to rest,” he says. “Poor thing.”
h/t: The Guardian