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.