The brave princess not afraid to show her scars
AS SHE stepped out of her Rolls Royce with the Queen Mother’s Greville emerald tiara glittering on her head, many presumed the little- worn royal gem was the reason Princess Eugenie had chosen not to wear a veil.
But vanity couldn’t have been further from the truth. The real reason was that the bride wanted to show off her most precious feature – the slender silver scar on her back, left after an eighthour operation to correct scoliosis on her spine when she was 12.
It was an extraordinary and brave public statement by Eugenie, but one that friends say is typical of the Queen’s feisty but deeply compassionate granddaughter.
Eugenie had asked dress designers, Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos, to create a gown with a low back that showed off the symbol of her life-changing surgery in the belief that it will bring courage to others.
Scoliosis causes the spine to bend to one side, making the back appear rounded and shoulder blades stick out.
It mostly develops in children aged ten to 15 and there is often no known cause. Three to four children in every 1,000 need treatment from a specialist.
The Scoliosis Association UK says about five out of six people affected are female. While surgery at any age is traumatic, for teenage girls the visible effects can bring added anguish.
The dress featured an extra low back ‘at the specific request of Princess Eugenie who had surgery aged 12’, Buckingham Palace confirmed.
Eugenie had the op at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and has described it as ‘a scary prospect for a 12-year- old’. She recalled: ‘During my operation, which took eight hours, my surgeons inserted 8in titanium rods into each side of my spine and oneand-a-half Statement: Eugenie wears a low-backed dress with no veil inch screws at the top of my neck. After three days in intensive care, I spent a week on a ward and six days in a wheelchair.’
Eugenie says she owes her ability to walk tall to the hospital and its staff, particularly her surgeon, Jan Lehovsky. She is now patron of the hospital’s redevelopment appeal and staff were invited to join her big day, including Mr Lehovsky.
The surgeon told ITV News that Eugenie visited the hospital regularly and even shared her scars with the children. ‘She’s a real role model,’ he said.
In an interview earlier this week, which hinted at her intention to wear a low-backed dress, Eugenie said: ‘It’s a lovely way to honour the people who looked after me and a way of standing up for young people who also go through this.
‘I think you can change the way beauty is, and you can show people your scars and I think it’s really special to stand up for that.’
Among the guests watching yesterday outside the chapel was Andrew McNamee, whose daughter Sadie, nine, is due to undergo surgery for scoliosis in January.
The policeman, 42, from Manchester, said: ‘She is a source of inspiration for my daughter.
‘She has always been into her princesses, but to have a real-life princess who is a source of inspiration is going to help her through this time. That is exactly the dress my daughter wanted to see today.’