Mental Health and History: George III & New Research

George III of England (image is not my own

George III of England (image is not my own

It’s been a while since I wrote a post looking at Mental health and history so I thought it was about time I revisited the subject.

Recently while watch Lucy Worsley’s Fit to Rule, their was a piece on “mad King George III”. For many years historians and doctors alike believed that George suffered from the hereditary disease Porpheria. New evidence now suggests that he may in-fact have suffered from a psychiatric illnesses such as bipolar disorder..

This new theory has been reached after looking at thousands of George III’s own handwritten letters, it was shown that during his “episodes” of illness, his sentences were much longer than when he was well as well as some sentences having a whopping 400 words and up to  eight verbs. George III, would also repeated what he said but his use of descriptive words meant that his vocabulary became creative and colourful. People who often suffer from Bio Polar disorder become very creative when in a manic state.

The experts in the programme described King George when he was manic as having “incessant loquacity” and that he would talk and talk until the poor man foamed at the mouth. It was as if his brain was going at 100 miles an hour and that he could not get the words out fast enough. That must have been so very frustrating.

The researchers have thrown a shadow on one of the most diagnostic systems of porphyria, the blue urine as George III’s medical records show he was given medication containing on gentian. This  is a plant based substance that is still used today, but may in some people turn the urine blue.

Being a King didn’t mean that he received any kinder treatment. He may not have been sent to bedlam but he was near the end of his life he was virtually imprisoned. He treatments bordered on torture and were of little or no effect.

But despite his illness he was a popular king who ruled well domestically. He may have lost Britain’s stake in the USA, however I can not help but this this may have been a blessing in disguise.

He was said to have been a down to earth man who enjoyed animals and was known as George the farmer. The fact that when he was not having an episode he was a successful ruler is an excellent example of how you can live whith such conditions. In the age we live in today where we have medication and more effective treatments poor George was just born into the wrong time. Georges story is in my opinion a positive one that can carry the message that mental illness should not be a barrier in life!




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