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The Leper King

Richard J. Lucariello, BA1; Martin Reichel, MD2
[+] Author Affiliations
1New York Medical College School of Medicine, Valhalla, New York
2Department of Dermatology, College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York
JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(7):815. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.5478.
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Since ancient times, people with leprosy have been ostracized from society, stigmatized with disfiguring skin lesions induced by the spectrum of immunological responses to Mycobacterium leprae. In the 12th century, leprosy was thought to represent punishment for one's sins or the sins of one's ancestors, a contagious disease only curable by divine intervention. Having leprosy must have been daunting, even for a king's son. Nevertheless, the last successful Christian defender of the Holy City of Jerusalem was a leper. Despite demonstrating incipient signs of lepromatous leprosy, King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, “The Leper King” (Figure), was crowned the sixth Latin King of Jerusalem in 1174 at the age of 13 years, even though Jerusalem and the Crusader States were surrounded and imperiled by a large, united enemy.

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Baldwin IV

Illustration of Baldwin’s leprosy from William of Tyre’s chronicles. Illuminated manuscript. Image adapted from the British Library Yates Thompson Collection. Image courtesy of the British Library. http://www.europeana.eu/portal/record/9200397/BibliographicResource_3000126266409.html. Accessed. November 1, 2015.

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