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.

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