On this day in history : 29th January 1820 – King George III dies insane at Windsor Castle, a decade after having to retire from public life because of his mental health….

George had been England’s longest ruling monarch before Queen Victoria…. He came to the throne in 1760 at the age of 22 and there he remained for 59 years and 96 days….

Coronation portrait by Allan Ramsay 1762 – Public domain

A year after becoming King he married Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the daughter of a German duke…. It was a political union – but a successful one, the couple went on to have 15 children….

His reign saw the end of the Seven Years’ War and also the American Revolution…. When people nowadays think of George III two things spring to mind – his madness and the loss of the American colonies….

George’s first severe bout of insanity occurred in 1778 and lasted for a month…. So violent was he that a straitjacket had to be used to restrain him…. However, he was to recover and resumed his reign proving to be a very popular monarch….

Portrait by Sir William Beechey 1799/1800 – Public domain

His next severe bout was in 1804…. Once again he made a recovery – but in 1810 he was to lapse into an illness from which he would not recover…. By this time he was also virtually blind from cataracts and in constant pain from rheumatism…. By the end of 1811 he was permanently insane and lived in seclusion at Windsor Castle…. His son, the future George IV, became Prince Regent….

George’s health continued to decline…. He was unable to understand that he was King – or that his wife had died in 1818…. Eventually he was completely blind, more and more deaf and for the last few weeks of his life unable to walk….

He died at Windsor Castle at 8.38pm on the 29th of January 1820 – his son Frederick, Duke of York, was with him….

It has long widely been thought that George may have suffered from a condition known as porphyria, an inherited blood disorder that can cause confusion, paranoia and hallucinations…. Doctors at the time, knowing no different, may have made this worse by treating him with arsenic….

Engraving by Henry Meyer of George III in later life – Public domain

However, a more recent study, a research project at St George’s, University of London, argues against porphyria…. One of the symptoms of the illness is blue urine – and there is little evidence to suggest George III suffered from this….

Using thousands of handwritten letters by George, a computer was used to analyse his language…. His sentences were much longer during his episodes of mental illness…. As many as 400 words could be used in one sentence – that in turn could contain up to 8 verbs…. He also had a tendency to often repeat himself….

This is also something seen today in the writings of those suffering from illnesses such as bipolar…. Therefore, it is argued that King George III actually suffered from bipolar and/or dementia….

George III by Allan Ramsay 1762 – Public domain

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