George III will be unable to escape a destiny which is decidedly under the sign of suffering, solitude and the grotesque. The wisdom which he cultivates, woven with both temperance and resignation, is unable to prevent him from traversing another attack of folly, three years later. In the Winter of 1804, the King feels more ill and more tired than ever. As in 1788, he catches cold, while roaming around the countryside in damp breeches, in the third week of January. Soon, his state worsens. He becomes terribly nervous and endures multiple ills. His joints hurt, he suffers from muscular stiffness, and swelling in his hands and feet. In a few days, he becomes so weak that he is unable to walk without a walking-stick. And, once more, he is in prey to delirium. Further, he has violent colics and his attempts to have a bowel movement remain vain for the most part.
When the doctors realize that the King is suffering from that terrible malady which figures as a national catastrophe, they immediately inform Henry Addington, who is still Prime Minister at this time. As in 1801, he calls in the Willis brothers. But two of George III’s sons, the Dukes of Kent and of Cumberland, oppose their father’s torturers being put in charge of his treatment again. George III had made them promise, on their honour, to prevent by all possible means, that he be once more put into the Willises’ hands, if ever he should again lose his reason. Therefore, a quarrel arises between Addington and the Princes, but all three have cowardice in common. In the end, none of them has enough courage to assume the responsibility of allowing or forbidding the presence of the Willises at the King’s bedside.
In desperation, a certain Samuel Foart Simmons, a doctor at Saint Luke’s Psychiatric Hospital, is called. He applies exactly the same methods as his colleagues, with even more cruelty. As was the case with the Willises, the King is nothing more than a patient to him. Like the Willises, he is sure of his experience, and is resolutely optimistic. He also uses constant violence and the straightjacket. However, despite this severe regime of coercion, George III’s state gradually improves. At the end of February, the doctors make it known that he observes a coherent attitude, and seems both healthy and sane. His recovery is not this time slowed by any other attack and, on 22 March 1804, the official health bulletin indicates that His Majesty is a lot better, even if his perfect recovery necessitates a little more time.
The royal malady has this time struck with less violence than in former years, but has conserved its value of political stake. In May, George III’s convalescence is punctuated by a major event: the fall of Prime Minister Addington and the King’s decision to take back William Pitt. The two men have not seen each other since 1801. They practically fall into each other’s arms, and start by exchanging gracious compliments. Pitt congratulates His Majesty, who is looking much better than at his preceding recovery. The King benevolently replies that it is not surprising. At that time he was on the point of losing an old friend, and this time, he is on the point of finding him again.
While Pitt is constituting a new Cabinet and again holding the reins of power, George III has not completely recovered, and remains in his doctors’ hands. The Opposition, deeply hostile to William Pitt, wants to turn the situation to its advantage. It asks how, in such conditions, the Prime Minister’s Government can appear legitimate. While poor George III, weak and exhausted, gradually tries to gather the strength necessary to a King of England, each of his symptoms is interpreted with exaggeration. The slightest sign of nervosity or fatigue is, for the enemies of the power in place, the sign that his state is worsening.
In June, the Prince of Wales, who is still pursuing the same dream of becoming Regent before being King, decides to attack. He sends the Lord Chancellor a missive in which he accuses the Ministers of conspiring to deliberately hide the sovereign’s true state from Parliament, as well as from the entire country, so as to prevent the Regency Bill, voted in 1789, from being put into place. But this manoeuvre by the Pretendant to the Regency obtains no results. The King really does gain strength and is much better. On 20 July, he leaves Kew for Windsor. And on 31st, he goes in person to Parliament. He displays great confidence, and reads his speech with fervour. But his physical appearance has considerably altered. Thin and weak, he seems twenty years older than he really is.
On 20 August 1804, the revolting Dr Simmons finally packs his bags, and a few days later, George III leaves for a holiday in Weymouth. He is now aged sixty-six, and it will take him many months still to completely recover. So he will not resume his habitual life-style at Windsor until the following Winter. But other ills await him. Already, in Summer, his eyesight had considerably worsened, and the doctors soon observe the formation of a cataract on one eye, then on the other. Powerless, they are unable to prevent the malady’s rapid progression, which from year to year, will lead to almost complete blindness.
Time and Providence continue their work. The sovereign’s strength continues to abandon him, and it is with great lassitude that he assumes his royal duty as best he can. As before, he nourishes infinite love for his daughters, and the idea of their marriage is repugnant to him. They are probably his only true consolation. But, on 2 October 1810, bad fortune again strikes, and shakes this domestic happiness. Princess Amalia, who has become a charming young woman, and remains George III’s favourite daughter, succumbs to a pulmonary infection. At the announcement of the terrible news, the sovereign remains calm and only murmurs: “Poor girl… ”
On 25 October, the fiftieth anniversary of his accession to the throne is celebrated. But, over the past few days, he has been suffering again from serious nervous problems. Further, he has caught cold, and has to endure violent headaches. This is only the beginning of a new attack of madness, accompanied by the same physical symptoms as the preceding ones. As well as insomnias, which have never really left him, George III is seriously constipated. His urines are red purple, and sometimes black. And, something new, he feels an oppression in the chest, which makes his breathing more difficult and panting. In his delirium, he is convinced that Amalia is not dead, but that she is now living in Hanover, where she will never age, and will always be happy. At other times, he affirms that she is in perfect health at Weymouth, then he again dreams of joining her in the Hanover of his ancestors.
To be continued.