Stamford Raffles’s death



Thomas Stamford Raffles (Sir) (b. 6 July 1781, off Port Morant, Jamaica–d. 5 July 1826, Middlesex, England) died at 5 am on 5 July 1826. He was found dead by his wife, Sophia Raffles, at the foot of the spiral staircase in his home, Highwood (later renamed Highwood House), in Hendon.1 Local historian Kwa Chong Guan and neurosurgeon James Khoo have concluded that the cause of death was an arterio-venous malformation.2

Description
Raffles was pronounced dead just as his household was in the midst of preparing for his 45th birthday. Aside from “a bilious attack” from which Raffles had reportedly been suffering for some days, there was little sign of serious illness prior to his sudden demise.3 Various theories abound over the cause of Raffles’s death – a heart attack, an accidental trip over some steps causing a fatal concussion, a sudden stroke, or an apoplectic attack caused by a brain tumour.4

Recently, Kwa and Khoo analysed the original post-mortem report by Everard Home. They have concluded that Raffles died from an arterio-venous malformation. Acquired at birth, the condition caused a malformation of the major blood vessels in the right frontal lobe of Raffles’s brain, which then swelled under the pressure of blood pumping through it. Lesions that developed may have burst, causing the fatal haemorrhage on the morning of 5 July 1826. Indeed, Home noted that the right portion of Raffles’s skull was thicker than his left, but mistakenly concluded the cause of death as an apoplectic attack resulting from a brain tumour.5 Symptoms of Raffles’s arterio-venous malformation include severe headaches, which Raffles attested to in his letters.6 It was also one of the reasons for him giving up Fort Marlborough in early 1824 and returning to England in semi-retirement.7 Kwa and Khoo also believe that Raffles’s growing irritable disposition could be due to this condition.8

Raffles was buried in the Hendon parish church. No memorial tablets was permitted to be set up for Raffles until 1887. The location of the grave had been lost until accidentally discovered in April 1914 in a vault beneath the church.9



Author

Bonny Tan



References
1. Bastin, J. S., & Weizenegger, J. (2016). The family of Sir Stamford Raffles. Singapore: National Library Board; Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 134. (Call no.: RSING 959.57030922 BAS-[HIS]); Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of days. (1993). Singapore: Antiques of the Orient, pp. 10, 126–127. (Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 SIR-[HIS])
2. Khoo, J. M. C., Khoo, L. Y., & Kwa, C. G. (1998, December). The death of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Singapore Medical Journal, 39(12), 564–565. (Call no.: RSING 610.5 SMJ)
3. Bastin, J., & Weizenegger, J. (2016). The family of Sir Stamford Raffles. Singapore: National Library Board; Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 134. (Call no.: RSING 959.57030922 BAS-[HIS]); Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 1). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS]); Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of days. (1993). Singapore: Antiques of the Orient, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 SIR-[HIS])
4. Wee, L. (1998, December 23). Raffles’ real ‘killer’ revealed. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Khoo, J. M. C., Khoo, L. Y., & Kwa, C. G. (1998, December). The death of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Singapore Medical Journal, 39(12), 564–565. (Call no.: RSING 610.5 SMJ); Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of days. (1993). Singapore: Antiques of the Orient, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 SIR-[HIS]); Wee, L. (1998, December 23). Raffles’ real ‘killer’ revealed. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Khoo, J. M. C., Khoo, L. Y., & Kwa, C. G. (1998, December). The death of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Singapore Medical Journal, 39(12), 564–565. (Call no.: RSING 610.5 SMJ)
7. Mak, K. H. (2015). Understanding and preventing sudden death: Your life matters. Singapore; Hackensack, New Jersey: World Scientific, p. 124. (Call no.: RSING 618.92026 MAK); Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles: Book of days. (1993). Singapore: Antiques of the Orient, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 SIR-[HIS]); Tay, K. C. (1998, December 23). Letters tell of dreadful headaches. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Khoo, J. M. C., Khoo, L. Y., & Kwa, C. G. (1998, December). The death of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. Singapore Medical Journal, 39(12), 565. (Call no.: RSING 610.5 SMJ)
9. Boulger, D. C. (1999). The life of Sir Stamford Raffles. Amsterdam: Pepin Press, pp. 386–387. (Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 BOU-[HIS]); Sir Stamford Raffles. (1914, June 12). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Wurtzburg, C. E. (1984). Raffles of the eastern isles. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 739, 743. (Call no.: RSING 959.570210924 RAF.W-[HIS])



Further resource
Obituary: Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. (1826, July). The Gentleman’s Magazine, 77–86. Retrieved via BookSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 1998 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Colonial administrators
Personalities>>Biographies>> Pioneers
Colonial administrators--Singapore--Biography
Raffles, Thomas Stamford, Sir, 1781-1826--Death and burial
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Pioneers
Personalities>>Biographies>>Colonial Administrators