Archive for April, 2011


The Opposition is getting impatient.  Stimulated by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Devonshire, it fans the already burning debate about the Regency, claiming that the King is in fact more and more ill, and that all hope of a cure must be definitively forgotten.  Never has the power of the doctors been so great.  The future of the greatest people seems to depend upon their diagnoses.  But the doctors themselves, divided by rumbling rivalities, are unable to agree.  At the two extremes are Willis and Warren.  The first incarnates the absolute certainty of a total recovery, while the second refuses to envisage the slightest possibility of a remission.  If Willis is right, the Regency will escape the Prince of Wales’ clutches and Charles Fox will not take over from Prime Minister William Pitt.  If Warren is right, the contrary will be inevitable and probably permanent.

Under pressure to assure definitive victory, Fox and the Prince of Wales attempt a final effort to have the Regency Bill voted.  But Pitt is quite decided to defend the King’s cause, which is also his own.  His caustic eloquence disarms his adversaries more than once.  Above all, he wants to gain time.  He proposes the creation of a Commission destined to seek out the precedents from which inspiration might be taken.  He confronts Willis’ competence with that of Warren, which he of course judges to be inferior.  Then follows a furiously impassioned debate which is prolonged throughout the whole of December 1788.

Each of the Parties throws the optimistic or pessimistic reports of the different doctors in each others faces.  The pressure that is put on them stirs up their own quarrels.  Most of them, jealous of Willis’ increasing ascendant and worried about their own fate, soon refuse to recognize his competences, arguing that he is not a Member of the Royal Doctors’ College.  But Willis has a very strong character and does not allow himself to be moved by the daily attacks directed against him.  Supported by Queen Charlotte, he is determined to play a major role in his patient’s recovery.  To arrive at this end, he does not hesitate to crowd out his colleagues.  Soon, he forbids them to go to the King’s bedside in his absence, on the pretext that their visits are contributing to George III’s nervous agitation.

At the end of their tether, wounded as much in their pride as in their ambition, Baker and Warren decide to manifest their disapproval on 16 December, by refusing to sign the official health bulletin, which is now drawn up by Willis.  The preceding night, George III, who has been suffering from insomnia since the beginning of his malady, was able to sleep six hours in a row.  Enboldened by such progress, Willis proposes officially announcing that “the King had an excellent night”.  But the formula in question seems too enthusiastic to Baker and Warren who prefer:  “The King had a good night.”

Willis finally wins the battle, but the incident comes to Parliamentary ears.  It immediately contributes to inflaming the debate.  Could it be possible that the official bulletin does not represent the sovereign’s real state?  Could it be possible that Members of the Royal College have accepted to sign a report that they know to be false?  Baker and Warren are caught in their own trap.  Like their colleagues, they protest that they had never signed anything which had not seemed to them to be true, and Pitt is delighted to win points so easily.

At Kew, it is true that the King’s state is improving as best it can.  But George III is far from being cured.  His abnormally rapid pulse is still a subject for worry.  In the hope of reducing and regulating his heart beats, he is now prescribed six daily doses of digitaline.  The therapeutic virtues of this substance, which owes its name to the flower from which it is extracted, had been discovered only three years earlier by Dr Withering.  So George III is among the first patients to benefit from a treatment which is still used today in some cardiac cases.  Unfortunately, the doctors who assist him are not always so well inspired.  On Warren’s orders, they continue to apply salt, mustard and cantharides to his wounds.  His sufferings are therefore even more intolerable, and it has become very painful for him to sit down or to move from one room to another.

The Willises, father and son, condemn these practices, without admitting that they, themselves, are terrible torturers.  In the third week of December, George III again displays such agitation that he refuses to sleep, and on the morning of 20 December, Willis estimes that it is necessary to punish him for having slept only two-and-a-half hours.  The sovereign is hardly awake than the straightjacket is forcibly put on him.  He will only be delivered at lunch time.  All morning, his servants and his equerries are witnesses to a very painful sight.  The King, who is tied up in a way that prevents him from moving any of his members, seems to seek refuge in the memories of his lost happiness.  He calls upon the image of Amelia, his youngest daughter, then aged five, who is also his favourite.  With sobs in his voice, he murmurs:

“Why don’t you come to help your father?  Why must a King suffer such a horrible condition?  I hate all doctors, but most of all Willis, who treats me as if I were mad.”

Then he adds:

“Digby, Greville, good men that you are, come and free me!  Take this devilish thing off me!”

But his pleas are in vain.  John Willis, who has heard them, contents himself with concluding that the patient’s state is worsening, and that it would soon be necessary to administer a dose of quinine to him.

To be continued.

On 4 December 1788, the problem of the Regency is again evoked before Parliament, which carefully examines the doctors’ reports.  The day before, during a Privy Council, they had been asked to reply to precise questions which did not necessitate indiscrete revelations.  Could the King one day again take the direction of the Affairs of State and attend Parliament?  If a cure could be hoped, how much time will it take?  Finally, how much experience do the doctors have in this type of illness?  All reply that the King remains for the moment incapable of assuming his political responsabilities.  But, except for Richard Warren, they hasten to add that, in the past, other individuals suffering from similar troubles had succeeded in recovering perfect health.  In fact, a cure can be envisaged, although it is impossible to determine the necessary time needed for treatment.  These conclusions, optimistic in spite of everything, are sufficient to reassure for a while the majority of the Members of Parliament.  To the vivid disappointment of the Prince of Wales, the Regency is not yet entrusted to him.

The hope of a cure will increase the next day, 5 December, with the arrival at Kew of another doctor with a great reputation, Dr Willis.  He has, it seems, been recommended to the Queen by Lady Harcourt, for having a few years earlier given reason back to her mother-in-law who had also lost it.  This Miracle Doctor is very different to his colleagues, who don’t like him much.  In spite of his advanced age, he has a particularly lively mind and indomptable energy.  The Director of a Mental Asylum in Grettford, Lincolnshire, he is also the Rector of the Parish of Wapping, and assumes with ease his dual medical and ecclesiastical functions.

Upon his arrival at Kew House, he is coldly greeted by the royal patient, who starts by asking him if he is really a Man of the Church, as his costume and aspect seem to announce.  With no embarrassment, he answers:

“I belonged to it before, but for a while now, I am above all consecrated to Medicine.”

George III manifests his deception by retorting:

“You have left a state which I have always admired, to embrace another which I willingly detest.”

He then advises him to change his life.  For example, why not take the Bishopric of Worcester?  Finally, he begs him, not without humour, to admit his colleague, Dr Warren, to the number of his patients, and send him to his Grettford Asylum.

After this first interview, the King is particularly agitated.  He formulates the project of abandoning England, to take refuge in Hanover, about which, however, he knows only the name.  Dr Willis leaves him to recover his spirits, and visits him a second time in the evening.  Seeing that the King has not calmed down, he tries to quieten him with words.  He engages a conversation with him on a subject that he knows to be dear to the sovereign, and indicates to him that he, himself, possesses a farm, whose bucolic atmosphere permits the calming of the actions of the maddest of his subjects.  His method seems revolutionary to those who are present.  He addresses the King as if he were a simple patient, and is particularly clever in conducting the dialogue.  He refuses to respect the tradition, according to which no-one has the right to look the sovereign in the eye.  The intensity of his own gaze is particularly troubling, and he is not afraid to use it to intimidate the one whom he sees as his patient.  When the King raises his voice to dominate, he raises his in turn, and displays even more firmness.

George III does not appreciate a comportment to which he has never been accustomed, and leaps on this visitor whom he already detests.  Willis remains unmoved.  With him, he has not only brought his son, Dr John, and three of his assistants, but also a straightjacket, which he intends to use.  According to his own formula, his method consists in “training” his patients “like horses”.  All King that he is, George III will not escape the rules.  He will spend the whole night tied up like this.  In the morning, enfeebled and humiliated by a night of torture, he doesn’t stop repeating:

“I never want to wear the Crown again, and willingly leave it to my eldest son.”

But he is only at the beginning of his suffering.  From that day on, only coercive methods will be used to calm him.  If the King refuses to eat, when he has no appetite, when he has difficulty chewing, or when he again has violent colics, the straightjacket is immediately put on him, his knees are attached and his face is covered.  If he refuses to go to bed, when he feels too agitated to remain lying down, he is constrained to it with the same cruelty.

Willis is, however, acting in good conscience.  He boasts of having saved, in a quarter of a century, 90% of the patients who have passed through his hands.  Relying on this long and brilliant experience, he is persuaded that he can one day cure George III.  But, although most of his patients recovered their reason in under six months, he does not dare to hope for such a rapid cure for a man who has been King for so many years.  Does he even remember what it means to be defied, contradicted, or contraried by someone?  Never being face to face with adversity in his relations with others is a pernicious privilege, which insidiously contributes to a dangerous interior rigidity.  Must be added to that, the heavy weight of the affairs of the realm, lack of sleep, the severity of the King’s physical exercises and his almost ascetic abstinence, all elements which, according to Willis, have contributed to the general alteration of his health.  But the doctor from Lincolnshire is resolutely optimistic, and wishes to accord his confidence to Time, which will be, he is sure, in his favour.  In spite of the severe treatments inflicted on him, the King’s state soon gradually improves.  Soon, he is allowed to walk in the gardens of Kew and, on 13 December, he meets the Queen for the first time since the beginning of November.

To be continued.

Doctor Richard Warren.

All of the King’s doctors finally agree on the origins of his malady, which they unanimously attribute to the overabundance of a “humour”.  After having manifested itself in his feet and legs, it has supposedly climbed to his intestines, then reached the brain.  In the hope of making it go back down, they prescribe hot baths, but Richard Warren insists on him being given daily applications of mustard and cantharides.  According to him, the painful blisters which result from this will make the peccant humour disappear.

In fact, a treatment so horribly cruel could only remove any possibility for an improvement.  However, it is the fear of an eventual cure which leads the members of the Whig Opposition to give a new interpretation – more political than medical – to the King’s illness.  They say that he had been mad right from the beginning of the malady.  They recall with what extravagance he had often comported himself during his stay at Cheltenham.  During his visit to Worcester, a locality near Cheltenham, he had drawn the Dean from his bed at the first light of Dawn, asking him to show him around the Cathedral.  And in this same Cathedral, where the next day Haendel’s Messiah was executed in grand pomp, he had surprised those present by suddenly starting to beat time with irrepressible frenzy.

What, in August, had seemed only excentricity, is now interpreted as one of the first manifestations of his madness.  It must be shown that the general alteration in his health is not the only thing responsible for his nervous disorders, but that they are the direct consequence of a pathological propension to dementia, which removes any hope of a cure.  With the exception of Sir Lucas Peppys, the doctors are becoming more and more pessimistic, anyway.  Some of them secretly agree to say that George III’s illness is incurable.  It is then decided to transfer the King to Kew House, on 29 November, with the pretext that surveillance will be easier there, and that he could walk freely in the gardens, away from indiscrete eyes.  Malicious tongues are eager to add that the distance which separates Windsor from London leads to unfortunate inconvenience for the King’s doctors, who have decided to shorten their daily itinerary.

But Kew is a Summer residence.  The King, who detests staying there in Winter, categorically refuses to go.  To convince him, an odious stratagem is used, assuring him that the Queen has already preceded him there, and that she is awaiting his arrival.  But the King refuses to join her, and vehemently declares:

“She left without my permission.  She must return to ask my pardon!”

Long tractations then take place, as burlesque as they are useless.  Everyone gathers around His Majesty to convince him to change his mind.  But neither Pitt’s attempts, nor those of his equerries, are able to triumph over his resistance.  George III is quite decided not to leave his bed.  To cut off all discussion, he closes the curtains in a fury.  On the Prince of Wales’ orders, the equerries Greville and Harcourt try again.  Through the still closed curtains, they re-start negotiations.  But they again fail.  Pitt then attempts to appease the sovereign, by exchanging written messages with him.  George III is even more agitated by this.  Dr Warren risks penetrating his patient’s bedchamber to remonstrate with him to calm down.  He is met with insults and threats.  As the King persists in his attitude, they begin to lose patience and prepare to forcibly dress him.  He then shows more co-operation, descends from his bed and slowly puts on his clothes.  Then, he suddenly changes his mind, and lies down again.  Finally, only the promise made by three of his equerries to escort him during the voyage, succeeds in making him rise again.  With dread in his heart, King George III sees, as he passes through the Castle gates, that the inhabitants of the little town of Windsor have assembled to greet their beloved sovereign.  Deeply moved, he murmurs:

“These good people love me too.  Why am I being ripped from the place that I, myself, love the most in this world?”

The carriage has hardly stopped in front of the door to Kew House, than the King, remembering the promise made to him, leaps out of it, and runs straight to the Queen’s bedchamber.  But, finding the door locked, he understands that his confidence has been abused, and vividly reproaches Colonel Greville and Lord Harcourt with this disloyal attitude.  Then, before his consternated equerries, he decides to display the proof of his suppleness and agility, and starts to leap about as if he were a young man of twenty.  This is quickly interrupted, and he is led, with no more ceremony, into the bedchamber which will be his from then on, and that he already considers his prison.  Particularly uncomfortable, it is unheated, and nothing has been prepared to correct this major inconvenience.  Kew House has never been a Winter residence and has no carpets nor blankets.  To block out the draughts, they stuff sand bags against the badly insulated windows.

The Queen and her daughters make their discontentment known, particularly when they learn that the King has spent his first night at Kew without the presence of any doctor at his side.  The Prince of Wales, obviously less worried about what happens to his father, has begun to make an inventory of his personal possessions.  The Pretendant to the Regency is assisted in this infamous task by his brother, the Duke of York, who is George’s III’s favourite son.  They both lock up their parents’ jewels, and entrust them to the guard of the Lord Chancellor.  The Queen suspects the Princes of wanting to appropriate them, and violently reproaches them with this seizure.  As cruel as he is cynical, the Duke of York then coldly replies to his mother:

“I believe, Madam, that you are as deranged as the King!”

***

To be continued.

One of the King's doctors, Richard Warren will aggravate his illness and increase his sufferings.

In the first week of November 1788, Richard Warren, a doctor sent by the Prince of Wales, diagnoses the King’s illness without having been received by him.  Queen Charlotte, without news, awaits the doctor’s visit for a whole day, in vain.  Unable to wait any longer, she has Sir George Baker, one of the King’s doctors, called, but he refuses to speak to her alone.  She then turns to Mr Hawkins, the official surgeon of the royal household, but he too remains silent.  All now refer to Warren, but decline the responsibility of speaking in his name.  However, Warren cannot be found.  He had immediately gone to see the Prince of Wales, and it is to him that he delivers his terrible prognosis.  The King will certainly not recover.  Even if he survives, he will never recover his intellectual faculties.  Shattered and humiliated, the Queen will never pardon Warren this double affront.  But she has to submit when, a few days later, it is made known to her that, in the opinion of all of the doctors, she should move out of her apartments, and stay away from her husband.  From this moment on, the sovereign is entirely delivered into the hands of his doctors, who will unfortunately aggravate his sufferings more than they will relieve them.

Immediately, Warren’s ill-intentioned information is carefully transmitted to London.  Contributing to the agitation in people’s minds, it makes even more pressing the question of the Regency, which cannot be declared without having been voted by Parliament.  But the vote in question cannot be proposed without the King’s consent.  The Prince of Wales tries to avoid this procedural difficulty by putting the Houses before the fait accompli.  He is supported in his efforts by Charles Fox.  As soon as he returns from Italy, where he has been pursuing a love affair with Mrs Armistead, a former mistress of the Prince of Wales, Fox is quite determined to seize the chance offered him.

George III is still suffering from delirium, and the doctors fear that he has water on the brain, or that the membrane might sustain an ossification.  They prescribe only quinine, or what is then called “James Powder”, which is more or less the aspirin of the XVIIIth Century.  On the stiff and swollen members of their patient, they place cataplasms and unguents, without observing any amelioration, quite the contrary.

Meanwhile, the official circles prepare themselves for a change of government.  On 9 November 1788, the excitement is at its peak.  Ill informed, the playwright, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who is also a Member of Parliament and one of the most illustrious leaders of the Opposition, sets off the rumour that the King has died during the night.  Already, the Prince of Wales’ partisans are distributing the different Ministeries among themselves.  But that’s going a bit fast, for George III has survived the night, in spite of spending part of it in a coma.  When he regains consciousness, his mind even seems considerably calmed.  He asks his faithful equerry, Robert Fulke Greville, how long he has been confined to bed.  He attentively observes those who are watching over him, and several times gives them a little smile.  Then he rises, and completely in his right mind, lets them know that it is time that his linen was changed.  A vague hope of a cure is then held, supported by the fact that the days were going by without Warren’s fatal prognosis occurring.

The Opposition then changes tactics.  It is no longer enough that the King believes himself to be married to Lady Pembroke, or that he is certain of having invented the telescope, through which he likes to contemplate the Hanover of his ancestors.  It is not enough that he has seen London submerged under water, and that he has found his son Octave, who died in 1783, at the age of four, very much alive.  To give more weight to these unfortunately true facts, other anecdotes are invented, which seem even more picturesque.  The beautiful and perfidious Duchess of Devonshire, a passionate admirer of Fox, spreads the most absurd stories:  the King wanders naked in the corridors of Windsor Castle, while playing the flute;  he makes Dr Warren sit on his lap to contemplate the stars with him.  Among the People, the sovereign’s folly is attributed to the supernatural.  The phantoms of the brothers David and Robert Perreau, two presumed forgers whom he had sent to the scaffold in 1776, are supposed to have so persecuted his soul, that they had succeeded in making him lose his reason.  As for the official health bulletins, they are as laconic as they are imprecise, and do not contribute to the calming of people’s minds.

***

At Windsor, the King again rapidly shows serious nervous troubles.  He has become violent again, and above all, refractory to the presence of the doctors.  On 19 November, after only two hours of sleep, he talks for around eighteen hours, without stopping for more than a few seconds.  Dr Warren finally indicates to him that he shouldn’t become agitated like that, but his patient boldly retorts:

“I know that as well as you do.  Cure me then of what is only my complaint!  Only then, will I feel better.”

From now on, George III has difficulty chewing and refuses to eat.  He also refuses to be shaven, or only on one side of his face, which makes his uncertain and pitiful allure even more grotesque.

The doctors are all the more powerless in that they are trying, as well as they can, to respect royal protocol.  Their situation is hardly enviable.  To treat a mad King is doubtless a privilege, but it is a privilege which is difficult to assume.  The publication in the Press of rumours which contradict one another, has finally discredited them in the eyes of the public.  They receive threatening anonymous letters, and also suffer pressure from the highest ranks, whose opposing interests are all tributary to the King’s health.  In the last week of November, another one of their colleagues is added to their number, Sir Lucas Peppys.  He displays a lot more optimism than Warren, and he is much more cordial and compassionate toward the Queen.

To be continued.

The Serment of George III.

Throughout the Summer of 1788, the King’s health had not been excellent, without anyone being particularly alarmed about it.  He was mostly suffering from digestive troubles, which sometimes led to very painful spasms, and his doctors had diagnosed a simple attack of gout.  On their advice, George III had spent several weeks in the little township of Cheltenham, famous at the time for the curative virtues of its waters.  He returned to Windsor on 16 August, enchanted with this little holiday, after which he was feeling perfectly well.

Despite a pain in his face, which had deprived him of sleep for a few days, the month of September passed by peacefully.  And the King had started to hunt and gallop through the countryside again, just like he had been doing for so many years now.  While out, he liked to pop in unexpectedly at nearby farms, and chat about his passion for Botany and Agriculture, as simply as possible with those whom he found there.  He generally received his Ministers in the afternoon, and spent his evenings playing cards, watching the Queen embroider, or listening to music, which he cherished the most among the Arts.

When, at the beginning of October, he is again suffering from violent colics and develops hives, there is still nothing to indicate the gravity of his case.  On Thursday 16th, he has a series of convulsions after an outing in the rain, during which he caught cold.  On the following days, his state barely improves, particularly as his first neurological troubles appear.  They can be seen through difficulties in writing, dressing and, above all, in concentration.  Already very weak, on the 20th, he is unable to succeed in an attempt to answer letters sent by William Pitt.  On the 22nd, he starts to become really delirious for the first time.  He is annoyed with Sir George Baker, his official doctor, who, the day before, had been unfortunate enough to prescribe a large dose of senna to his royal patient, to relieve him of his persistent constipation.  But the remedy’s effect had been more rapid than expected.  George III spent the whole night on the toilet, for his own discomfort and for the misfortune of Sir George, whom he detained for three hours, heaping vehement reproaches on him.

Despite precautions taken to keep it secret, mocking rumours begin to circulate.  It is said that the famous actress, Mrs Siddons, has received a signed blank cheque from the King.  After having sufficiently made fun of the royal parcimony, everyone immediately interprets this strange attitude as an evident sign of mental alienation.  And the official appearance of the sovereign at the “grand rising” of the 24 October, is impatiently awaited.  Sir George Baker had advised against it at first.  But, decidedly ill-inspired, he had just sold 18,000 pounds worth of State Bonds.  Public opinion sees in this the irrefutable proof of the aggravation of the King’s health, which leads to a spectacular drop in the Stock Market.  George III therefore goes to Saint James, and it is naively hoped that his presence will reassure those present, despite his sick look and his uncombed hair.  His voice is husky to the point of seeming strange, while his word flow is inhabitually rapid.

Officially, George III is still the victim of a simple attack of gout, but the King, himself, is not fooled.  With moving lucidity, he is doubtless the first to understand that his mind is tottering, and that his body is abandoning him, all at the same time.  His sight has already considerably worsened.  Soon, his hearing fails.  On the evening of 29 October, he declares to the Orchestra Conductor, who has just conducted a concert of Haendel in his presence:

“Sir, I fear that I shall never be able to listen to music any more.  It is as if it were affecting my head, itself.”

As for Sir George Baker, exhausted by these long weeks of royal malady, he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and can only admit that he is unable to do anything.  From the beginning of his illness, the King’s state has not ceased to grow worse.  He has lost weight with surprising rapidity, and has become so weak that he needs to use a walking stick to get around.  His accesses of delirium are now daily occurrences, and the excitation which animates him is such, that it is impossible for him to sleep.  As well as this, on 5 November, his aggressive comportment toward his eldest son definitively confirms the true nature of his illness, in everyone’s eyes.  There is no longer any question of hiding from the public that the King has gone mad, even if this word is pudically not pronounced.

***

The Prince of Wales is delighted with this situation.  His father’s folly is a providential event for him, and he plans on profiting from it as rapidly as possible.  To the delicious perspective of becoming the master of the kingdom, or at least its Regent, there is added another, which is not negligeable:  that of at last paying his debts and giving himself up freely to his own pleasure.  The austere William Pitt has effectively refused to ask Parliament for the necessary credits to resolve this financial problem.  The royal malady is also the occasion to take vengeance for this humiliation.

As early as the first week of November, the Prince of Wales had brought to Windsor a doctor who is very much in fashion in the worldly milieux of the Opposition:  Richard Warren.  For a few days already, Doctor William Heberden has been assisting Sir George Baker.  They both welcome this third colleague with open arms.  But the King refuses to receive him.  To his request for an audience, he objects that no man can serve two masters.  He hastens to add:

“You are the Prince of Wales’ doctor, you cannot be mine!”

Dr Warren effectively does not meet the King that day.  He satisfies himself with eavesdropping, from behind a door, on the elucubrations of George III.  Then he asks his colleagues about the sovereign’s pulse, judged to be high.  This seems to have been sufficient for him to form a diagnosis that same evening.  All await it with impatience, and he is aware of its capital value in the political stakes.

To be continued.

The Serment of George III. Twenty-eight years later, the King goes mad.

In the Autumn of 1788, King George III is a sober, virtuous sovereign, of robust constitution.  He has been reigning over England for the last twenty-eight years.  Deeply religious, in a century which isn’t, he prefers the simple, modest joys of domestic life to the luxury and refinement ordinarily cherished by the greats of this world.  As a loyal servant of God and of his People, he is, however, conscious of the dignity of the task, to which he is unrelentingly devoted, even if the loss of the American colonies has greatly shaken him, by underlining the failure of his personal politics.  Despite this painful memory, England, led by Prime Minister William Pitt, has rapidly recovered prosperity and confidence.

Thanks to a Spartan lifestyle, combining frugality at table with daily physical exercises, the King is rarely ill.  Queen Charlotte, a dull creature, who lacks both beauty and intelligence, is a paragon of feminine virtue, a faithful spouse, entirely and almost fanatically devoted.  She uncommonly admires her husband, to whom she has given fifteen children.  A frustrated amateur of women, the King feels only affection, mixed with tenderness and resignation, for this unattractive woman, who more and more resembles a little monkey, as she ages.  But with the sense of duty which characterises him, he has always remained a model of conjugal virtue, a faithful and attentive husband.  This exemplary attitude satisfies the moral conscience of the deeply loyal and honest man.  But it torments the senses of the spirited and passionate being who has inherited the warm temperament of the Hanovers.

In the libertine England of the XVIIIth Century, which is frivolous, venal and elegant, the royal couple incarnates a completely “bourgeois” comportment.  This would probably have delighted the subjects of Queen Victoria, one century later.  But this reasonable temperance, the enemy of the luxury, extravagance and sin in which the English high aristocracy continuously indulges, with no qualms of conscience, at this time, makes the sovereigns look ridiculous, coarse and petty, in the eyes of high society.  On the other hand, they appear severe, simple and good to the humblest of their subjects, for whom they like to multiply charitable acts.  Each year, this Queen with the prudish and provincial soul, the only royal thing about her being her rank, and this King, whose passion for Botany and Agriculture has given him the nick-name of  the “Farmer King”, personify Stability and Harmony in the eyes of the nation.  No-one dreams that it could be any different.

No-one except their eldest son, the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne, who, as has been the custom in England for the last few generations, is the King’s worst enemy.  Unlike his parents, he prefers pleasure to duty, and knows how to appreciate the luxury and excentricities of London life.  In a city which has become a gigantic casino, where fortunes are won and lost each evening, he is, himself, covered in debt.  But his laziness – visible in his ungraceful excess weight, despite his youth – does not stop him from interfering in politics.  He maintains very close relations with Charles Fox, who holds the reins of the Whig Party and dreams of driving the Chariot of State in William Pitt’s place.  Fox is a lively, witty little man, a brilliant orator, who fascinates the greats, both men and women, in spite of his ugliness and his sloppy dressing.  Surrounded by his disciples, he never stops fustigating the King and, as a perfect agitator, even dares to prophesy the approaching end of his reign, which, in his eyes, has been one of boredom and mediocrity.

For some time now, nothing has been going right at Windsor Castle.  To the dull and desperately monotonous life at Court, have succeeded anxiety and agitation.  The King is acting strangely.  Suffering from insomnia, he wakes his servants and his equerries at Dawn, to roam around the castle corridors and gardens with them, in his nightshirt.  He stops only to pray, or to talk to dead or imaginary people.  In front of his horrified wife, he proffers obscenities directed at the beautiful Lady Pembroke, lady-in-waiting to the Queen, whom he had loved in his youth, and who is today a very seductive grandmother, aged fifty.

Is the terrible rumour true?  Has the impossible happened?  Has the King gone mad?  In the middle of October, a domestic is reported to have surprised the King in great conversation with a venerable oak tree, alias the King of Prussia, of which he had firstly seized, in the most cordial manner, a branch bending towards the ground, as if to shake its hand.  The authenticity of this anecdote is doubtless contestable, for the servant in question had just been fired from the royal household.  But on 5 November 1788, during a dinner at Windsor Castle, the signs of mental derangement are manifest:  George III savagely attacks the Prince of Wales, and attempts to fracture his skull.  His immense, globulous eyes, which he has inherited from his father and his grandfather, are injected with blood.  He is frothing at the mouth.  He is talking non-stop, vociferating and letting out inarticulate cries.  There is no more doubt about the ill that has struck the sovereign:  in everyone’s eyes, George III has really gone mad.  England is about to know one of the most serious political crises of her History.  Is he who can no longer rule really King?  Will he be allowed to recover, when his illness is a stake in a game which stirs the passion for power in numerous ambitious hearts?

***

To be continued.

Wolf Messing.

Less than ten years after Vassiliev’s 1960 speech to a gathering of the greatest Soviet scholars, Edward Naumov, a Moscow biologist, took the torch from Vassiliev’s hands, and with the help of the Bulgarians and the Czechs, began to study, not only telepathy, but also the baguette of water sourcers, extra-retinian vision, human “aura” photography…

***

The human body, like that of all other animals and plants, emits rays about which mediums have been talking for a long time.  But it was the Russian researchers who found the irrefutable evidence of this.  In this domain, one name detaches itself from the firmament of the Russian pioneers of ESP.  It is that of Kirlian, who, for forty years, photographed plants, or rather the multicoloured, luminous forms which they emit, and which persist and are registered on the photographic film in their entirety, even after a leaf has been cut from them.  The human body emits rays which are particularly brilliant at the acupuncture points.  With the aim of denying all transcendance, the Russian researchers tried to demonstrate that these luminescences are at the origin of miraculous healings.  Above all, they wanted to make progress in the study of the “second body”, the energy-body which, according to them, is not a simple radiance, but a double which reflects all of the organism’s troubles, and doubtless also explains telekinesis:  when Kirlian became irritated while trying to adjust the focus of a shot, the photo would each time be misty and chaotic…  The Russians started studying “the Kirlian effect” to diagnose illness, notably cancer.

But what interested them above all, was psychokinesis which is the psychic faculty of making objects move without the intervention of any outside force.

***

It is evident that the exploration of the paranormal was a stake in the game between East and West.  Anyway, the Russians saw it like that.  Let us look back at something which made news headlines in West Germany in the seventies…  Annemarie, a lawyer’s frail secretary in Rosenheim, was able to make 350 kilo filing cabinets waltz around, simply by entering an office…  This fairly common case of Poltergeist, or the deplacement of objects without physical contact, gave birth to “the Rosenheim case”, which has been scientifically studied like no other case of “haunting” has ever been.

Annemarie was also able to mess up telephones and make electric light bulbs explode.  As for Uri Geller, in 1972, he was able to blow up the amplifiers which were registering his psychokinetic faculties, by his willpower alone.

Imagine for a moment that this paranormal faculty can be learnt, as the Russians were trying to determine…  Imagine Annemarie or Uri in a missile base, or simply in the distribution centre of the energy of a capital city…  It is then easier to understand this remark from an American parapsychologist:

“Psychokinesis could one day become the absolute weapon… “

***

Will the ultimate weapon be telepathy?  We only know that the question has been studied by those in a position to make it happen, and that they were actively engaged in trying to find out how telepath’s minds work, and in a more general way, how the mind is able to act on matter…  Are they still doing it?  And why does Man want to use his creative powers for destruction?  Will we never learn?

***

Wolf Messing.

As all of the facts reported in the first two parts of this story all happened on the other side of the Iron Curtain, some people thought that they might have been some sort of attempt at misinformation.  However, everything is true.  The magazine Science and Religion reported most of them, and it certainly cannot be suspected of complaisance, since its vocation is to fight against religion and the supernatural, by demonstrating that everything has a rational explanation.  No telepath has ever been as tested as Wolf Messing, for at the epoch of his greatest successes, it was absolutely forbidden to refer to questions touching the unknown powers of the mind.  There are also official texts of these black years of Stalinism which try to prove that telepathy cannot exist and that those who use it are tricksters and “hooligans”…

***

There would appear to be a flagrant contradiction between what was done and what was said about it.  However, the talent of this paragnostic was so great that official propaganda wanted to use it and it is for this reason that the Minister for Culture hired him.  At the same time asking him to pudically call his shows, “Psychological Experiments”.  In a series of articles which appeared in Planete in 1966, Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, made these Messing souvenirs known in France.  That they were able to pass the censure wall obviously pleads in their favour.  Not as much however as the effort made by the Soviets to prove that Messing’s gifts can be explained scientifically by what they call the “ideomotrice theory”.  The inexplicable character of the paragnostic’s exploits deeply troubled the authorities of the epoch.  Well-known scholars therefore put all their efforts into convincing themselves that the telepath perceived messages by instantaneously translating the slightest muscular contractions of those, for example, who held his hand for certain experiments, or “readings” that he was capable of making of changes in expression or respiratory modifications in the person opposite him.  This materialist, “behaviourist”, theory of things, is quite incapable of responding to the rich reality of Messing’s comportments.  On the one hand, the researchers who examined him had to recognize that his telepathic activities were somewhat facilitated when he wore a blindfold, for he could concentrate better, and of course, ideomotor movements cannot at all explain his paranormal perceptions at a distance, or the fact that he can also capture abstract ideas.  He writes in Science and Religion:

“I find complex and original thoughts easier to understand, doubtless because they are more interesting”.

In the absence of any explanation, the constant rule which says that the telepath – not only Messing, but also others – better discern strongly visualised messages, could put us onto the path of explanation.  In this way, the messages sent to him by deaf-mutes, even if they have a very symbolic form, impose themselves more easily on him, precisely because these disabled people are better able to abstract themselves from the outside world which perturbs telepathic “waves”, and to think in a way that is much more visual than the others.  Another one of Messing’s remarks is important:  what interests him more is better perceived.  There is another constant which says that the affective element plays an essential role for good perception.  The Americans have been able to prove that the best telepathic scores were made by subjects who felt physical or intellectual attraction to each other…

***

Everyone knows that in everyday life, people who love each other are able to surround themselves with an affective aura which greatly facilitates spontaneous telepathic exchanges…  Rhine was able to determine that the percipients who had the best results were those who trusted him and who immediately liked him.

***

Wolf Messing was able to describe what happened to him during his experiments.  All of his descriptions were prolonged by reflections on the nature of the space-time continuum which is at the heart of this paranormal faculty.  He says:

“By an effort of will, I suddenly see the final result of a given event appear in a flash before my eyes…  The future is composed of what follows on from the past and the present.  One finds regular paths of connection between them.  The mechanism of these connections is far from being elucidated, but as for me, I clearly know that one exists…  It is just because we possess only confused ideas on the signification of time and of space-time relations and its connection to the past, that precognition, or direct knowledge of the chain which determines an event, seems inexplicable to us today.”

Like all true clairvoyants and like all the scholars who deal with them, Wolf Messing always assures that his faculties comport absolutely nothing basically incomprehensible or supernatural.  That these unexplained powers are an integral part of Nature, which is infinitely vaster and more disconcerting than we are able to conceive…

***

Stalin had forbidden the study of parapsychic phenomena. Everything changed after his death.

Stalin was interested in any power which could escape him, in any increase in power which could come to him.  It is certain that the narrow dogmatism which prevailed at Stalin’s epoch forbade our paragnostic to give the whole of his measure.  But by receiving him, Stalin at least proved the interest that he attached to what Messing did best, read other people’s thoughts…

***

After de-Stalinisation, things completely changed.  With highs and lows, as always in the former USSR, the Soviets probably went farther in this domain than any others.  Vassiliev firstly, then Naumov, plunged into paranormal psychic phenomena, along with a lot of other high-ranking people in Physiology, Biology and Geology.  In 1960, Vassiliev declared before a meeting of the greatest Soviet scholars:

“Today, the Americans are doing advanced telepathic experiments on their atomic submarines.  Over the last quarter of a century, our own scholars have obtained completely conclusive results in the same domain.  The research undertaken in Stalin’s time must at last be published!  The discovery of the energy represented by unknown psychic powers will be of the same importance as that of nuclear energy!… “

To be continued.

Wolf Messing.

By order of Stalin, himself, Wolf Messing is asked to remove 100,000 roubles in cash from the Moscow Gosbank, after having telepathically conditioned the Head Teller.  Messing recounts:

“I presented myself before the teller and handed him a sheet of blank paper taken from my notebook.  Behind the counter, the man attentively examined the “document”.  He was elderly, which perhaps facilitated my enterprise.  He slowly went towards the safe and removed several wads of money which he then counted in front of me… “

Messing leaves the bank and presents himself to the two public servants who had been given the task of controlling the experiment.  Then he returns to the stunned teller and begins to re-count the notes.  The blank paper is still on top of the pile of forms, and the telepath says with a smile, pointing to the roubles:

“You gave me this for that!”

The teller grabs the piece of paper and furiously turns it in all directions.  He even holds it towards a lamp, as if an order had been written there in filigrane.  Then suddenly, he collapses, struck down by a heart attack…

Highly delighted by these results, Stalin submits the paragnostic to a whole series of new tests.  Thanks to his faculties, Messing manages to slip into the most secret places of the Red Empire in full war alert, and to crown everything, he presents himself one day before Stalin, who is working in his datcha, surrounded by a rampart of policemen and bodyguards.  Not only had he succeeded in an enterprise as considerable as entering Fort Knox to try to steal the gold of the United States of America, but the civil and military guards had bowed to him as he passed…  The dictator, who was starting to worry, asked him how he had done it.  Messing replied:

“It’s quite simple.  I mentally suggested to your domestics and to your guards that…  I was Beria!  It’s a shame that I was unable to procure a steel pince-nez, like your Chief of Police!”

The telepath was laughing.  He was tall and had light, curly hair, quite the opposite of the short, dark, bald boss of the NKVD…

In the highest spheres of the Regime, no-one has any more doubts about Messing’s powers, and everyone is asking if he mightn’t be justiciable for a little stay in Siberia.  Or, what would be the best way of using him…  Stalin is so impressed that he agrees to his request to make a grand tour throughout the whole of the Soviet Union.

It is said that the function creates the organ.  As the paragnostic multiplied the challenges, his faculties developed and there he was, driving a car, while wearing a blindfold, through the whole of Riga, obeying only the telepathic injunctions of a passenger.  The least astounding thing about this is that, in his normal state, Messing was perfectly incapable of driving a car…

A little while later, he wins a game of chess, also wearing a blindfold, against an excellent local player.  There again, he has no experience of chess, and he plays and wins because a champion is holding his left hand throughout the game.  Now he can also make someone trip at a distance, and his prophetic gifts are confirmed by the announcement made in public at this time [1940], that the war would end in the first week of May 1945.  Within a few months, the reputation of the paragnostic grows to the point that no Soviet citizen has not heard of his exploits.  He rapidly becomes a sort of national hero, which is accompanied by an unexpected consequence:  because crowds flow to each of his performances, the telepath’s bank account swells to overflowing.  He is so popular that he is untouchable, and the policemen who follow him every time he goes out are only able to confirm the ampleur of his success day after day.  But he knows that he shouldn’t irritate the People’s Commissioners too much…  As he has chosen his camp, he makes a gift of two fighters to Russian aviation, which he entirely finances himself.  There are photographs which represent the Pole surrounded by officers in fur hats, very flattered to be posing beside the star of the day, whose name has been painted on the two aeroplanes.  The ceremony for the reception of the gifts is brilliant, and from the Black Sea to the Ural, Messing’s popularity is immense.  Nikolai Semyonov, Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, will write a little later that it was capital to scientifically study the parapsychological phenomena produced by sensitive people like Messing.

The Russians did.  Despite surface hostility, which denounced telepathy as “idealist and antisocial”, Leonid Vassiliev, Professor of Physiology at the University of Leningrad, acquired a notoriety just as great as that of the American Rhine, the founder of scientific telepathy.  The Russian used a sort of space cabin, so well insolated with mercury and lead, that even short radio waves were unable to penetrate it.  He installed percipients in it, who had to capture orders coming from the exterior.  The most gifted of them succeeded in “reading” a message sent from 17,000 kilometres away.

What happened to Messing?  We don’t know.  His last sign of life was in the form of a remarkable article, which appeared in the famous Soviet magazine Science and Religion.  In it he explains that his gifts are not mysterious nor supernatural, but that he is totally incapable of explaining them in rational terms.  He announces the imminent release of a book in which the whole of his experiments would be related, with a chapter on the concrete use which could be made of them in the case of armed conflict.

This book never appeared, or in any case it did not arrive in the West.

To be continued.

Wolf Messing was endowed with extraordinary telepathic powers.

We are in Belorus, the land of a thousand lakes, that of the White Russians, which in February 1940 is once more waiting to be one of the stakes in a game of War.  Stalin has signed a non-aggression pact with Hitler, but we know what happened to that.  For the moment, the Gomel Theatre is packed full of people, while the rest of Europe is already conquered and chopped into pieces.

And what is it that is attracting so many people to the little baroque theatre of this town, where the Nazis will soon leave no stone standing?  A “magician”, that the strict country of rationalist Marxism rather curiously tolerates.  It is true that the artist, whose name is Wolf Messing, is not just anyone.  He has stunned Einstein, Freud and Gandhi, and Hitler has put a price of two hundred thousand marks on his head.  Not only because Messing is Jewish.  But above all because he dared to predict the Fuhrer’s death…  Someone else would doubtless have been able to vaticinate with fewer risks.  But Messing is the greatest telepath of the first half of the XXth Century.  The one who, upon a mental order from Freud, pulled some hairs from the moustache of the father of Relativity, and who uncovered the jewels of the Czartoryski family in the belly of a stuffed bear, where an astute thief had hidden them…

It is understandable that Hitler, who lived surrounded by astrologists and fortune-tellers, would have liked to know more about the little Polish Jew.  Particularly as he is capable of modifying the thoughts of others, and to oblige them, if he wants, to do the most surprising things, which is rare even among the greatest telepaths.

So the Russians are being careful not to deliver Messing, who has fled unhappy Poland where the Germans had briefly succeeded in getting hold of him.  Locked up in a police post, he succeeded in telepathically convincing his guards to all go into the same room, then escaped.

When he presented himself at the frontiers of the East, the Russian authorities declared that they had no need of fortune-tellers.  He probably gave a demonstration of his strange powers, for in Moscow, the Minister for Culture immediately hired him, as if he were a singer or a marionettist.  To uphold the morale of the populations, as it were.  And that is how Messing began a tour of White Russia, which will result in something which completely escapes him for the moment, in spite of his gifts…

What does Messing do on stage?

He takes, for example, from the pocket of a spectator seated in the middle of the room, a sponge that is hidden there, and by telepathic order to another, has it cut into a dog shape with scissors, which he has also telepathically discovered, somewhere in the room.  Above all, he knows how to bend another person to his Will, as we have already said, or to completely control him, which, as can be guessed, in a country where the first brainwashings were perfected, in these black years of Stalinian purges, could not fail to create interest.

When, on this particular evening, a spectator in the theatre extracts from the pocket of a notable, a notebook where he crosses out a date by telepathic order from the paragnostic, a date which he had previously communicated to the public, the crowd erupts once more into applause.  Messing returns to the scene, ready to surpass himself.  But in the wings, two people in bone-coloured coats and loden hats, signal to him.  Messing approaches them.  They tell him that the show is over and ask him to accompany them…

Messing finds himself in a black car, with a silent policeman on either side of him.  He asks about his possessions, and who is going to pay his hotel bill.  One of the men tells him that his possessions are in the boot of the car and his hotel bill has been paid.  He is then ordered to keep quiet.

The car travels only for a few minutes.  It soon stops in front of a building which appears to Messing to be another hotel.  He is made to alight and is introduced into one of the bedrooms.  After a short wait, he is made to return to the corridor, and one of the policemen gently knocks at a door.  Without waiting for an answer, he pushes Messing before him.  Behind a table, there is seated a man with a moustache and sparkling eyes.  It is Joseph Stalin himself.

At this time, the Little Father of the People already concentrates all powers into his own hands.  For the moment, he is not very interested in seeing a demonstration of the telepath’s talents.  He knows that the Fuhrer’s thoughts are more fleeting than ever, and that Messing, who knows most of the leaders of his Polish country, could perhaps usefully inform him.  He had been a personal friend of that other iron moustached man, Field-Marshal Pilsudski, the uncontested Polish leader and Soviet vanquisher, and that until his flight, most of the members of the Polish Government, today in exile, had confided in him.  For a long time, Joseph Djougachvili listens, while chewing on a pipe which makes him look like an affectionate grandfather.

But when Messing has finished his analysis, he says only:

“Good.  And your famous powers?”

Messing explains that there is nothing to explain.  Stalin then says, while looking at him fixedly from the corner of his eyes,

“All right.  You can go.  We’ll verify it!…”

Messing is immediately put into the hands of a Commission, formed principally of scholars who serve Science for the triumph of Socialism.  For long weeks, he is put through the most unbelievable tests.  He comes through them perfectly well, and soon the scientific telepathic experiments are succeeded by “practical work”, which Messing is forced to accept.

To be continued.

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