chapter  14
The sebaceous cyst of George IV
WithEllis Harold
Pages 5

The sebaceous cyst of George IV must surely win the prize for the most minor of any intervention to merit the title of a famous operation; yet, this well-known story is worth repeating for its insight into the surgical customs of the early nineteenth century. George IV had ascended the throne only that same year, but he had been King in all but name since 1812, at which time his father, George III, was finally declared hopelessly insane and the Prince of Wales was created Prince Regent. Today we may wonder that a surgeon should have been knighted simply for removing a royal sebaceous cyst. It is salutary for us to remember that in those days even an operation as trivial as this struck fear into not only the heart of the patient but also that of the surgeon, who was familiar with the fact that even the most minor operation could be followed by overwhelming and fatal sepsis.