Up until the end of January 1789, George III is regularly, almost daily, a prey to delirium.  However, his moments of lucidity are multiplying and last longer each time.  But if his mind wanders again, if he becomes irascible, or if he refuses to submit to them, the Willises respond with all sorts of punishments and are more firm than ever.  The straightjacket is used by day and by night.  And, from 24 January, an even more odious and more humiliating object is used.  The King is attached on a chair, prepared for this purpose, in such a way that he cannot move either his arms or his legs, or even his head.  When he is shown this torture machine for the first time, George III cannot believe his eyes.  Overcome, desperate, he just pronounces this formula, as bitter as it is ironic:

“Such is the Coronation seat of a King!”

The severity of such a treatment could, however, only engender a desire for vengeance and rebellion in the sovereign’s heart.  But it will only be understood during the following century, that recourse to violence and a regime of terror stirs up in the patient both hate and fear of his doctors, and naturally leads to attacks of brutality toward them.

While the King has to submit to all sorts of humiliations and cruelties, the Parliamentary debates soon come to an end.  Queen Charlotte, who does not want to lose the battle, gives full powers to Willis and orders him to cure her spouse before it is definitively too late.  It is forbidden for anyone to enter the King’s apartments without Willis’ permission.  The King is now constrained to an almost complete lack of food.  He is given nothing more than whey from the milk of either cows or donkeys, and bread which is not always buttered.

He is again heard to formulate the project of moving to Hanover and never coming back.  He is also convinced that all marriages, including his own, will soon be dissolved by virtue of a Parliamentary decree.  Then he will be able to give himself up freely to pleasure with the divine Lady Pembroke, with whom he is more than ever obsessed.  In spite of everything, he continues to appear serene and lucid at certain moments.  His phases of return to reason last longer, but are always followed by worrying accesses of delirium.  However, despite the bad treatments inflicted on him, his state suddenly miraculously improves from the first day of February.  He is calm and serene for the whole day, his appetite returns, and he is able to sleep without difficulty.  The following morning, he is even more peaceful, and so it goes over the days that follow.  On 3 February, he shaves himself for the first time in three months and, the 6th, he is allowed to use a knife and fork again.  On 7 February, the Willises indicate in the official bulletin that the sovereign’s constipation has also ceased and that he feels perfectly at ease in his body.

Pages, servants, doctors and equerries are all astounded by the rapidity with which the King seems to have recovered.  Richard Warren, himself, is unable to hide his surprise.  And when the Chancellor, Lord Thurlow, questions him, he affirms never having seen His Majesty display such control, even before the beginning of his malady.  He hastily adds that it is indispensable to respect for a few days longer the isolation in which the Willises have placed him for the last few weeks.  The presence of dear or familiar beings would doubtless contribute to exciting his nerves and again upsetting his health.

Warren’s concern, too delicate to be honest, is in fact only a political ruse.  If George III remains isolated, no-one will be able to furnish proof of his recovery, and the Prince of Wales will have enough time to take direction of the Affairs of State, despite it.  Fearing to see the Regency escape him, on 3 February, the Prince accepts Prime Minister William Pitt’s conditions.  It is almost certain that his father’s recovery is improbable, and should certainly be considered as such.  On 13 February 1789, the Project of Law concerning the Regency passes from the House of Commons to the House of Lords.  It is again read there on the 16th, and a third and last reading is scheduled for the 19th, after which, this time the Regency will be pronounced definitively.

But the King’s state has not ceased to improve during the whole of February.  He is now allowed to eat red meat once a day, and also to receive visits.  All those who are able to converse with him find him perfectly healthy and coherent.  He orders a gold watch from the watchmaker Vulliamy, talks for an hour to the astronomer Rigaud about the weather and the stars, and asks the Kew gardener, Mr Eaton, to plant some exotic plants in the botanical garden, to please Mr Willis, who particularly likes them.  His days are now consecrated to reading Shakespeare and Pope, practising Latin and foreign languages, but also music.  The King’s greatest pleasure is in fact to again play the flute.  Further, his daily walks in the gardens of Kew contribute to his good humour and his physical well-being.

So, on 19 February, while everyone is preparing to see William Pitt return to private life and the Prince of Wales become the master of the kingdom, Dr Willis officially announces George III’s convalescence.  This declaration suspends the third reading of the Regency Bill before the House of Lords, and Pitt, who visits the King this same day, judges him to be very well.  On 23 February, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York go in turn to Kew where the sovereign has accepted to receive them.  But they arrive two-and-a-half hours late, doubtless to upset the King’s nerves in advance, thereby hoping to cast doubt on his cure.  Their hopes are in vain.  The interview goes well.  George III is in a peaceful and debonnair mood, and declares with humour that he has perfected his Latin and leant to play cards.

Hardly back in London, the Princes hasten to affirm that their father’s mind is wandering.  They quote his most innocent words in proof, deforming their meaning.  But the crowd of courtiers who were gathering around them the preceding week, has considerably diminished, and few people believe their lies.  Deeply disappointed in their hopes, nothing is left for them but to drown their sorrows in alcohol and dissipation.  On 27 February 1789, the official health bulletins are abolished, by order of George III himself.  The King is officially cured, and the Regency Bill definitively abandoned.


To be continued.