Series: Pioneers of Homeopathy in Britain 2:
Homeopath to Kings and Queens – John Weir
- John Weir graduates as a doctor in Glasgow in 1901
- He meets Dr Gibson-Miller who convinces him of the value of homeopathy
- In 1908 he travels to Chicago ( a long journey at sea) to study under James Tyler Kent and John Henry Allen, both to become legends of classical homeopathy
- He returns to London in 1910 and works at the London Homeopathic Hospital
- In 1918 John Weir (age 39) is appointed Royal Homeopathic Physician. He retainsthe position for an unprecedented and unlikely to be repeated 50 years, serving George V, Edward VIII, George VI and the present queen, Elizabeth II.
- 1923: Weir publishes his first book, Trend Of Modern Medicine and is appointed President of the Faculty of Homeopathy, a considerable honour for a man aged 44. This is followed by several other books few if any of which are read today.
- In 1952 Weir attends the funeral of his patient, George VI, a reluctant, but immensely popular monarch. Julian Winston, in his excellent Faces of Homeopathy describes how he ‘prescribed Ignatia for five kings and three queens – a feat he said few others could claim.
- A thrifty person as well as a confirmed bachelor for life, Weir was said to be meticulously tidy as well as thrifty. (Was he an Arsenicum album?) Nevertheless I cannot imagine many male homeopaths who would not want to be photographed as Weir was in this wonderful but seldom seen photograph !
- As well as being the official Royal homeopath in England, he was also the homeopathic doctor to the queen of Norway.
- As for Sir John Weir as an homeopathic personality, the jury is still out. I have spoken to some elder statesmen of homeopathy who worked with him at the London Homeopathic Hospital. When asked to describe him freely as a person, these are some of the phrases that were used:
‘boastful, he was the Kings doctor!’,
‘able to talk to people in high places’,
‘studied under Kent so he definitely knew some homeopathy’,
‘not nearly as good a prescriber as Borland’
‘very, very shy in social situations, but confident in the clinic or when teaching’
- Marianne Harling remembers annoying Weir by falling asleep in one of his lectures at the London Homeopathic Hospital.and dropping her pencil. Worried that this incident would not help her chances of getting a job she had applied for, she approached Dr Marjorie Blackie for advice. Following the great homeopath’s directions, she took a dose of Opium 6 before Weir’s next lecture. This time she did not fall asleep but had to excuse herself to go to the lavatory!
- While writing this article I wondered about Weir’s contribution to homeopathy in the UK. As far as contributing to the theory and literature he cannot be compared to his famous contemporaries such as Clarke, Borland and Wheeler. Nevertheless, it seems to me that he did achieve a great deal:
- He travelled to Chicago, studied with Allen and Kent and returned to England firmly affiliated to a unicist, classical approach. Interestingly homeopathy in the UK is now very much moving towards such an approach.
- He occupied a high position at the London Homeopathic Hospital and Faculty of Homeopathy for many years and seems to have been very respected in this role.
- He served several Royal Families for half a century including the period of the second world war. This obviously has had an effect on the attitude of the British people to homeopathy and its subsequent recognition by a parliamentary bylaw.
In short, Weir, may have achieved more as a homeopathic politician than as a lecturer or writer. This is not to diminish him in any way. Homeopathy has always needed people like him and Dr Quin and Britain has been fortunate in having them. To be described as ‘able to talk to people in high places’ is not to be taken lightly. What happens when a country does not have such effective lobbyists is shown by what happened to homeopathy in the USA. There were powerful men who had benefited from homeopathy and who wanted to give something back to it but were unable to do so because of lack of attention to detail and the unwillingness of trusted associates to carry out their wishes. American homeopathy suffered greatly from this and has never fully recovered its days of glory of the 19th century.
This decline in popularity was averted in the UK and for many years homeopathy has been the only form of ‘alternative medicine’ integrated into the health service and recognised as a constitutional right of the British people by an act of parliament, with several homeopathic hospitals across the country. The status of homeopathy in Britain has long been envied by the international homeopathic community. I believe we owe a great deal to people like Sir John Weir for finding the right political moves, making friends with the decision makers and generally speaking about homeopathy with exactly the right tone. As Gaier quotes him ending a speech to the Liverpool Medical Students Debating Society in 1940:
“I suppose not one of us has approached homeopathy otherwise than with doubt and mistrust; but facts have been too much for us.’