The Death of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781 – 1826)

The Death of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781 – 1826)
August 23, 2020 Editor

Founder of Singapore

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and the founding of Singapore are well known. More obscure is the later part of his life and the circumstances surrounding his death. We looked during his last evening and a little documented autopsy report by an English physician, Sir Everard Home, and based on that, we think that Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles died of a haemorrhage of the right frontal lobe of the brain. This report shows that the founder of Singapore became more amazing because he could have been a victim of chronic fatigue syndrome.

According to The Gentleman’s Magazine, published in July 1826, Raffles had spent his last day in the bosom of his family, and aside from a severe gastroenteritis, there was nothing in his appearance to create any alarm. He later retired to rest between ten and eleven o’clock, his usual hour when in the country. It was discovered that Mr. Morgan left his room at the time of his usual morning rise. Lady R was immediately called to his room and found him at the bottom of the stairs in and seemed to have lost consciousness. A doctor was called immediately, and every possible medical aid was used to revive him. The body was opened by Sir Everard Home, the same day, who pronounced the death to have been caused by an apoplectic attack beyond human control.

From a medical perspective, only a few conditions can lead to a thickness of the skull. Paget’s Disease, fibrous dysplasia, malignant tumors and dural arterior-venous clot or arterior-venous deformity. The first two requirements are not characterised by abnormal dural lesions or brain lesions. Similarly, no brain tumour or meningioma was observed. Raffles was found to have both arteriovenous malformations. There was extensive haemorrhage in the right lateral ventricle and also associated with the malformation was an arterio-venous malformation that had bled into the ventricle. There was probably a pulmonary embolism and the fall led to the final demise. This suggests that a seizure might have occurred before the fall. Sir Raffles often suffered from frequent chronic migraines.

He reported his wellness in clarity in his letters. Raffles wrote in December 1821 that his own health was still severely impacted, he was hardly ever well for more than half a day. In some cases, he was almost immobile for up for several days in a month. In a letter to the Duchess of Somerset published in February 1822, Raffles related to the early deaths of two of his children, his wife’s mood, and the effects of a painful series of bouts. It reached his brain and caused him tremendous discomfort and had to keep to his room. Raffles’ health then began to worsen. He spent half his time in discomfort and irritation, from the terrible headaches he was destined to endure in this country, but the remaining half has been actively employed.

Later on, he suffered yet another attack in the head, which nearly resulted in death. His doctors were credited for rushing him on board ship for Europe without much delay. However, as he could not imagine his bones being thrown away, he had wished fo this bones to have be in the dignity of mixing with the ashes of Malaysian kings. He had built a house that is comfortable enough to support his sister’s family and also his own. However, after he returned to England, Raffles’ health did not improve. The symptoms may have been due to an arterio-venous malformation causing minor haemorrhages and the resulting ischemic attack.

Note: Interesting read on some rare facts about Raffles that students might not learn even from textbooks in history. Upon his death, his country estate in Highwood, a north London property was sold for ten thousand pounds sterling, which was paid to the East India Company to settle his outstanding debts and his wish to be buried at St. Mary’s Church, was denied by the vicar, who objected to Raffles’ anti-slavery stance.