[1788] - George III suffers mental collapse

George III (1738–1820), King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and King of Hanover, ascended to the throne on 25 October 1760 following the death of his grandfather George II. The first signs of illness seem to have manifested themselves in 1765 as a result of the stress caused by the disagreements within Lord Grenville’s administration. Consequently, the king decided that it would be prudent to make arrangements for a regency, although he reserved the right to nominate a regent at a later stage in order to diminish the chances of his brother, the Duke of York. Although he recovered from this bout of illness, it recurred in more severe form in later years. In 1783 he is reported to have been agitated, excited and talking incessantly. In the summer of 1788 his health deteriorated rapidly. By October he was unsteady on his feet, mentally confused and occasionally violent. From December 1788 he received treatment from Dr Francis Willis, a mad-doctor who used a strait-jacket and restraining chair on the king.

There were significant political implications to the king’s illness. His son, the Prince of Wales (subsequently King George IV), was prepared to be installed as the regent. In addition, the Irish House of Commons rebelled against the Lord Lieutenant and urged the Prince of Wales to take charge of the government immediately. Three days, however, before the Regency Bill was due to take effect on 20 February it was announced that the king was recovering health. The Regency Crisis of 1788–9 was therefore at an end. Nonetheless, the king relapsed in 1810. On 7 February 1811 the Regency Act was finally passed and the Prince of Wales ruled as his proxy. On the king’s death in 1820 the Prince Regent became George IV.

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