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Obituary: John Michael Brudenell

Michael Brudenell died on 30 March 2015 just two weeks prior to his 90th birthday. He was a traditional Obstetrician and Gynaecologist caring for all aspects of women’s health with a passion rarely seen nowadays. He qualified in medicine at King’s College London in 1949 where he undertook his house jobs, starting his career in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital the following year. He spent most of his National Service as an Obstetrician in military hospitals in Germany returning to King’s in 1953 to carry out research on endometrial pathology and cervical cytology.

After obtaining both his membership of the RCOG and his fellowship of RCS he completed his time as a registrar and senior registrar at King’s before being appointed as a consultant to St Luke’s Hospital and the Royal Infirmary in Bradford in 1961. There he was one of just three consultants serving a population of a quarter of a million. However after only three years he was invited to apply for a consultancy at King’s College Hospital where he remained until he retired from clinical practice in 1990. In his retirement speech he commented that when he entered medical school a banner at the main entrance of the hospital read “this hospital is £2,000 000 in debt” – some things never change!

His career was significantly influenced by Sir John Peel and Sir Stanley Clayton both of whom were past Presidents of the RCOG. As a trainee and then colleague to Sir John Peel he assisted in the deliveries of both Prince Andrew and Prince Edward as well as Princess Margaret’s two children. During his time at King’s he took a major interest in diabetes in pregnancy undertaking research and lecturing widely on the subject. In collaboration with his physician colleagues the perinatal mortality in diabetic women at King’s was reduced to near non diabetic levels.

Throughout his working life Mike had strong links with the RCOG. He was a London Members representative and subsequently a London Fellows representative on Council with a period of time on the Finance and Executive Committee. He was the Fellows Representative on the Wellbeing Council and Investment Advisory Panel. In addition he was Chairman of many committees including the BJOG Management Committee, Scientific Advisory Committee and Logic Working Party. From 1978 – 1984 he was Honorary Treasurer. His only regret was that having stood for election on two occasions he failed to become President. During his time as Treasurer of Birthright he persuaded Philip Harris, later Lord Harris, to fund research into Obstetrics and Gynaecology and this established the first Harris Birthright Department of Fetal Medicine in the country at King’s College Hospital. This was opened by Princess Diana in 1984 and is now one of the largest and most successful fetal medicine units in the world, run by Professor Kypros Nicolaides, seeing over 20 000 patients a year from the UK and overseas.

Mike loved sport particularly rugby and was President of the King’s Rugby Club for 20 years. He played tennis and had a court at the end of his garden – at 50 he could still beat his son, by 55 he had to regularly use his exercise bike to stay fit and by 60 he reluctantly admitted that he was regularly beaten. He was also a keen skier and continued to ski well into his 70’s but only in the United States where he said the snow was softer! Fortunately for him his very loyal wife Mollie shared in most of his activities both professional and sporting. She campaigned very hard for Birthright and later Wellbeing of Women and for many years worked actively for the League of Friends at King’s College Hospital. Devoted to his family he took great pride in the many achievements of his four sons and their offspring.

I had a very special relationship with Mike Brudenell. When I first went to King’s as a registrar in 1979 my mother asked me who I was working for and I told her that one of my consultants was Michael Brudenell. She asked if it was “the Michael Brudenell who delivered the Queen’s children”. At the time I had no idea but I made enquiries and found out that it was. She was absolutely delighted and told me that he had delivered me by emergency caesarean section for fetal distress at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in 1950. Initially I kept this information to myself until one day I decided that it would be useful to let him know that if he had been a little quicker I might have had an easier life. I don’t know whether this influenced him in his choice of a colleague but he appointed me as a consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at King’s College Hospital 34 years later.

As a junior doctor I found Mr Brudenell challenging to work for. He generated an element of fear and respect. He favoured the male trainees, particularly those who played rugby but did not really understand female trainees of whom there were relatively few at that time. However, he was always fair and ensured that we were properly treated even if he did shout at us from time to time. We all benefited from his teaching, guidance and support. And he in return was receptive to learning new skills. When I was his senior registrar he persuaded me to teach him how to do a colposuspension on one of his American private patients for whom his anterior repair had failed to cure her stress incontinence. Much to his delight and my relief, she reported that three months later she was able to play “soft ball” without leaking.

He looked after his “firm” and ensured that the ward sister gave us breakfast after the ward round before we started the out patients clinic. His generosity, availability and hands-on approach made him popular with patients, nurses and midwives. He was so enthusiastic about all aspects of hospital life. His passion for both King’s and the RCOG influenced many of us and he will be remembered fondly by all of those with whom he worked or played.