On this day in history….29th January 1820

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….

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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….

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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….

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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….

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George III by Allan Ramsay 1762 – Public domain

On this day in history….25th October 1760

On this day in history : 25th October 1760 – George III becomes King of England and Ireland and reigns for almost 60 years – although he was mentally unfit to reign in his last decade….

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Coronation portrait by Allan Ramsay, 1762 – Public domain

Born in London at Norfolk House, St. James’s Square on the 4th of June 1738, George was two months premature and not expected to live – as a precaution he was baptised the same day…. However, he grew to be a healthy child, albeit rather shy…. Along with his younger brother, Prince Edward, George was educated by private tutors and could read and write in English and German….and by the age of 8 years was able to comment on current day political matters…. His lessons included physics, chemistry, astronomy, French, Latin, mathematics, geography, agriculture, music, commerce and law….

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George and brother Prince Edward, Duke of York, with their tutor Francis Ayscough – by Richard Wilson – Public domain

His father, Frederick, Prince of Wales, did not get on with his own father, King George II – and as a result the King took little interest in his grandchildren…. When Frederick died suddenly in 1751, from a lung injury, the young Prince George became heir to the throne….and suddenly his grandfather developed an interest in him…. The title of Prince of Wales was bestowed upon him – although the young George had inherited his father’s title of ‘Duke of Edinburgh’, ‘Prince of Wales’ was not automatically passed on….

King George II died suddenly on the 25th of October 1760 and the 22-year-old Prince of Wales succeeded the throne…. Being an unmarried monarch his mother and advisors were eager to see him settled down – and so the hunt for a suitable wife began….

On the 8th of September 1761 the new King married Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, from a small North German duchy…. Their marriage took place in the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace – and it was the first time they had ever met….

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Princess Charlotte by Johann Georg Ziesenis C1761 – Public domain

Princess Charlotte had received a far more basic education to that of George – her upbringing could be compared to that of an English country gentleman’s daughter….she would have had little interest or experience in politics or such matters…. However, theirs was a good match, it worked and they became devoted to one another – unlike his grandfather before him and indeed his own sons after him, George never took a mistress…. The marriage produced 15 children – 9 sons and 6 daughters…. In 1761 King George bought Buckingham House (now Buckingham Palace) for his wife as a comfortable family home….close to St. James’s Palace, where all important court functions took place it became known as the Queen’s House….

Their’s was, it seems, a happy marriage – but as the years went by George began to become unwell – suffering from bouts of mental illness…. The cause of his illness remains unknown, although there have been suggestions it was due to the blood disease porphyria….

George’s reign would have been a particularly stressful one – there were many military conflicts and wars during the time….not least the American War of Independence…. George would have been under much strain as many of Britain’s colonies in North America were lost….

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Portrait by Sir William Beechy 1799/1800 – Public domain

In late 1810, already nearly blind with cataracts and suffering great pain from rheumatism, George became extremely ill…. He blamed stress after the death of his beloved youngest daughter, Princess Amelia – who had died from TB….

King George III was mentally unfit to reign in his last decade….his eldest son – the later George IV – acted as Prince Regent from 1811…. Queen Charlotte was terrified by her husband’s illness – he had developed acute dementia, had become completely blind and increasingly deaf and even showed erratic and violent behaviour – eventually she could not bring herself to visit him…. When she died in November 1818 he was incapable of understanding….

For the last few weeks of his life George was unable to walk…. Christmas 1819, for a 48 hour period he spoke utter nonsense and could be understood by no one…. He died at Windsor Castle on the 29th of January 1820…. Despite his illness, George III lived and reigned longer than any of his predecessors – only Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II have lived and reigned longer….