Sir Stamford Raffles's death
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Raffles, Thomas Stamford, Sir, (b. 6 July 1781, off Port Morant, Jamaica - d. 5 July 1826, Middlesex, England) was found by Lady Sophia Raffles, dead at the foot of the spiral staircase of his home at Highwood (renamed Highwood House) in Hendon at 5:00 am on 5 July 1826. Locals Kwa Chong Guan and Dr James Khoo recently proposed that the cause of death was an arterio-venous malformation.
Raffles was pronounced dead just as his household was in the midst of preparing for his 45th birthday. Aside from "a bilious attack", which Raffles had reportedly been suffering from for some days, there was little sign of serious illness prior to his sudden demise. Various theories abound over the cause of Raffles' death - a heart attack, an accidental trip over some steps causing a fatal concussion, a sudden stroke, or an apoplectic attack caused by a brain tumour. Recently, historian Kwa Chong Guan and local neurosurgeon James Khoo analysed the original post-mortem report by Sir Everard Home. They have concluded that Raffles died from an arterio-venous malformation. Acquired at birth, the condition caused a malformation of the major blood vessels in the right frontal lobe of Raffle's brain which then swelled under the pressure of blood pumping through it. Lesions which developed may have burst, causing the fatal haemorrhage on the morning of 5 July 1826. Indeed Sir Everard noted that Raffles' right portion of his skull was thicker than his left but mistakenly concluded the cause of death as an apoplectic attack resulting from a brain tumour. Symptoms of Raffles' arterio-venous malformation include severe headaches which Raffles attested to in his letters. It was also one of the reasons for him giving up Fort Marlborough in early 1824 and returning to England under semi-retirement. Kwa and Khoo also believe Raffles' growing irritable disposition could also be due to this condition. Although curable today, Raffles' achievements are all the more remarkable considering the constant pain this affliction would have caused him especially toward the end of his life.
Although it was an early death, Raffles was spared further sufferings which would have inevitably befallen him had he lived longer. The haemorrhage, if it had not killed him could have caused a mental deficiency. The months prior to his death, the Committee of Accounts of the East India Company were calculating unnecessarily detailed repayments Raffles had to make for monies borrowed in the past. The total sum would have been an embarrassing loss for Raffles. In the following years, the death of his confidante, Charlotte Duchess of Somerset (d. 10 June 1827) and his dearest sister, Mary Anne (d. 1837) would have been painful losses for Raffles.
Raffles was buried in Hendon parish church. No memorial tablets were permitted to be set up for Raffles until 1887 and the location of the grave was lost until accidentally discovered in April 1914 in a vault beneath the church.
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(Call no.: R SING 959.57 ONE)
Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles : book of days (p. 10). (1993). Singapore: Antiques of the Orient
(Call no.: SING 959.57021092 SIR)
Wurtzburg, C. E. (1984). Raffles of the eastern isles (pp. 738 - 743). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: SING 959.570210924 RAF)
Wee, L. (1998, December 23). Raffles' real 'killer' revealed. The Straits Times, Prime News, p. 3.
Wee, L. (1998, December 23). Letters tell of dreadful headaches. The Straits
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Khoo, J. M. C., Khoo, L. Y., & Kwa, C. G. (1998, December). The death of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Singapore Medical Journal, 39 (12), 564 - 565.
(Call no.: RCLOS 610.5 SMJ)
Khoo, J. M. C., Khoo, L. Y., & Kwa, C. G. (1998, December). The death of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Singapore Medical Journal, 39 (12). Retrieved April 24, 2003, from www.sma.org.sg/smj/3912/articles/3912hm1.html
Orbituary: Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1826, July). The Gentleman's Magazine, 77 - 86.
(Call no.: RRARE 959.570210924 RAF)
The information in this article is valid as at 1998 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.
Raffles, Thomas Stamford, Sir, 1781-1826--Death and burial