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Five royals hospitalized for mental retardation

LONDON -- Three more relatives of the British royal family were sent to a public mental institution at the same time as two of Queen Elizabeth's cousins more than 40 years ago, London newspapers said Tuesday.

A spokesman at Buckingham Palace, the queen's London home, had said earlier that the monarch 'was aware' of the confinement of cousins Katherine and Nerissa Bowes-Lyon but that it was 'a matter for the immediate (Bowes-Lyon) family.'

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The queen's mother is the former Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Her brother, John Bowes-Lyon, was the father of Katherine and Nerissa.

According to new reports, three other sisters -- Edonia Elizabeth, Rosemary Jean and Etheldreda Flavia Fane, cousins of Queen Mother Elizabeth -- were placed in the same mental institution south of London on the same day in 1941.

The three were the children of Mrs. Harriet Fane, sister of John Bowes-Lyon's wife Fenella.

According to authorities at the intitution, the Royal Earlswood mental hospital at Redhill, all five suffered from severe mental retardation. Newspaper speculation centered on an ancient genetic defect as a possible explanation.

Records showed Rosemary Fane died in 1972 and her cousin, Nerissa Bowes-Lyon, last year. The other three still live at the hospital.

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Lady Elizabeth Anson, a niece of the two Bowes-Lyon sisters and second cousin to the queen, said there had been 'no attempt at a cover-up' and that many older members of the royal family had often visited Katherine and Nerissa.

Since 1963, the two have been listed as officially dead in Burke's Peerage, a sort of who's who of the British aristocracy.

Lady Elizabeth attributed the listing to Fenella Bowes-Lyon, her grandmother, who she said was 'a very vague person' who had failed to fill out Burke's Peerage's former 'properly or completely.'

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