Isaac and Ede Antique Prints
Gainsborough George III

Gainsborough Dupont after Sir Thomas Gainsborough.

George III.

15 x 24¾ inches

What do you do when your monarch tries to shake hands with a tree, convinced that he's addressing the King of Prussia? In naming the exhibition Mad about Mezzotint it was never the intention to over egg The Madness of King George but this sombre portrait by Gainsborough gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect upon the affliction that plagued the king throughout his reign. His first prolonged bout of illness, that has been traditionally put down to the genetic blood disorder porphyria, occurred between 1788 and 1789. During this period, the king was removed from public scrutiny at Windsor to the relative seclusion of the Dutch House at Kew. The symptoms form a litany of things one would certainly wish to avoid: manic behaviour, insomnia, sensitive skin, severe abdominal pains, sweats, spasms and psychotic episodes. Various remedies were tried, many of which merely exacerbated the condition: rhubarb and castor oil to ease the constipation; emetics to induce vomiting; straightjackets to contain the convulsions; and arsenic applied directly to the skin to assuage the epidermal irritation! The king's recovery in 1789 avoided a constitutional crisis and restored stability just as the French Revolution was creating pandemonium across the Channel. Further episodes were to occur in 1801, 1804 and finally in 1810 when decisions were taken to replace the king's authority with that of his eldest son, the Prince of Wales. By 1811 The Regency had begun!


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