According to papers on King George III’s reign published recently, for a royal in the grip of madness, Shakespeare was perhaps not the best reading material around.
According to a story published in MailOnline, reports say the Mad King was given a copy of Shakespeare’s King Lear as he struggled with mental illness and it worsened his conditions.
The play, written by the bard Shakespeare, recounts Lear’s gradual descent into insanity, and was blamed for a significant deterioration in the health of George, who was restrained in a straitjacket two days later when he became 'ungovernable'.
According to his doctor Sir Lucas Pepys, who wrote in a letter to the Prince of Wales, it read, 'His Majesty was all yesterday evening in a good natured deranged state, talking as he used to do...”
The letter went on, “This morning he is… more agitated and confused, perhaps from having been permitted to read King Lear.”
The letter was written on December 18, 1788, when George was 50. On December 20, equerry Robert Fulke Greville wrote: 'His Majesty became so ungovernable that recourse was had to the strait waistcoat.”
George's health later improved but he suffered further bouts of mental illness in 1801 and 1804, before a prolonged spell from 1810 until his death aged 81 in 1820.
The monarch's torment was dramatised in the Alan Bennett play The Madness of George III and in the 1994 film version featuring Nigel Hawthorne.
The papers, held in the Royal Archives, were released online yesterday as part of a programme, which will allow 350,000 documents to be made available to academics and the public by 2020.
King Lear was not performed in British theatres out of respect for George's condition from 1788 until 1820.