Sir Richard Bayliss

Former Physician to the Queen


Richard Ian Samuel Bayliss, physician: born Tettenhall, Shropshire 2 January 1917; Physician and Lecturer in Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital 1950-54; Consultant Physician, Westminster Hospital 1954-81; Honorary Secretary, Association of Physicians 1958-63, President 1980-81; Dean, Westminster Medical School 1960-64; Consultant Physician, King Edward VII's Hospital for Officers 1964-87; Physician to HM Household 1964-70, to the Queen 1970-81, Head of HM Medical Household 1973-81; KCVO 1978; married 1941 Margaret Lawson (one son, and one daughter deceased; marriage dissolved 1956), 1957 Constance Frey (two daughters; marriage dissolved), 1979 Marina Rankin (née de Borchgrave d'Altena); died London 21 April 2006.

Richard Bayliss was an able, versatile, loved and widely respected doctor, mentor, teacher and writer. A former Physician to the Queen and Head of HM Medical Household, he was one of the last great general physicians, with a particular expertise in endocrinology and cardiology. He gave two of the most famous lectures at the Royal College of Physicians and taught two generations of doctors at St Thomas's, Hammersmith Hospital and Westminster Hospital Medical School.

Dick Bayliss was born in the Midlands in 1917; his father ran a company making cast-iron railings, including the ornamental gates at the entrance of Regent's Park. From Rugby School he did his pre-clinical studies at Clare College, Cambridge, and his clinical studies at St Thomas's Hospital, where he also ran the Christmas show and played the piano with style and aplomb.

After he qualified, he stayed on at St Thomas's, rising to resident assistant physician, where his juniors regarded him as an exceedingly benign god. The job normally leads to a permanent post as consultant, but a peccadillo torpedoed his chances. Instead, in 1945 he joined the RAMC, where he was head of medical services in India for three years, and returned to a combined lectureship and clinical post at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith, under Sir John McMichael, taking a year out on a Rockefeller fellowship at Columbia University, New York.

He spent the rest of his career as consultant physician and endocrinologist at the Westminster Hospital, retiring in 1981, but also found time to do plenty of other things. These included advisory, consultant or directing roles for the Royal Navy, British Heart Foundation, Private Patients Plan, the British Thyroid Foundation and the Newspaper Press Fund. He also saw private patients at the Lister Hospital in London, and the King Edward VII hospitals in London and Midhurst.

From 1964 to 1981 he served the Royal Household, for the last 11 years as Physician to the Queen. He attended the Queen, Princess Anne and the Duchess of Kent and the Queen Mother, was present at the birth of Zara Phillips, and looked after the Earl of Avon (formerly Sir Anthony Eden) during his final illness in 1977.

He published an outstanding textbook, Practical Procedures in Clinical Medicine (1950), but after the third edition in 1960 could not be persuaded to revise it again. He published a book for patients, Thyroid Disease: the facts (1982, third edition 1998). He gave a Croonian Lecture in 1974 and a Harveian Oration in 1983, the two most important annual lectures at the Royal College of Physicians, but never sought high office in the medical establishment.

Dick Bayliss was a warm person, whom it was easy to open up to. In 2004 a 45-year-old burglar who preyed on the elderly bluffed his way into Bayliss's London flat to read the meter. After spotting some medical books, the man showed Bayliss the scars where a vein had been taken from his leg and transplanted into his heart during a bypass operation at the King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst. When next day Bayliss realised that he was missing some silver snuffboxes, he passed on a detailed description of his visitor to the police - who tracked him down to a house stuffed with stolen silver and jewellery. Bayliss didn't get his snuffboxes back, but his evidence got the burglar an eight-year sentence.

He suffered a heart attack in 1964, during his time at the Westminster Hospital, and went against the wisdom of the time by getting out of bed next day and going skiing a fortnight later. In recent years he suffered more than his share of ill-health, but didn't let it affect him. He caught histoplasmosis, a serious and tenacious fungal infection, while on holiday in the United States. When he knew he had an aortic aneurysm, he decided he would like to die of it - he had to die of something, and that was as good as anything. When the time came, in 2001, he had an operation and hugely enjoyed his new lease of life, and said so. His final skiing trip was last month.

Bayliss was a great raconteur (appropriately, a member of the Garrick Club) and always found time to help with medical obituaries for The Independent: he was a delight to chat to. He died, said his widow, "reluctantly".

Caroline Richmond

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