Friday, March 16, 2012

The Illnessof George III -- 1804

I can't read a great deal right now, because of my eye surgery, but I can't just stop reading, either! I was browsing The Lady's Magazine for 1804 the other day, and found some interesting facts about George III's illness in that year.

Many of the magazines of the Regency era published, at year's end, a list of that year's most interesting events. I have one such list from the Scots Magazine for the year 1800, The National Register for 1808, and several from The Lady's Magazine.

In 1804, The Lady's Magazine "Chronological Table of the Most remarkable Occurrences of the Year one Thousand eight Hundred and four" relates the government's difficulty in ascertaining the exact condition of the king's health. Reports are recounted throughout the month of March on the vagaries of his illness and efforts to determine what steps, if any, the government should take.

George II by Gainsborough 1781  
March 2, 1804 Discussion in the house of lords respecting the royal indisposition. --Lord Grenville solicits some communication on the subject from the lord chancellor, who refuses to say anything further than that he would not think it consistent with his duty to affix the great seal to any commission without taking his majesty's opinion upon it. --Lord Grenville insisted upon the right of the legislature to be informed whether his majesty could come to his parliament and transact business.
Miniature by Richard Collins 1790

 March 3, 1804 Mr. Grey, in the house of commons, asked the chancellor of the exchequer, whether his information relative to his majesty's health was derived from personal access to his majesty, or from the report of the physicians. The chancellor the of exchequer replied, that it was from the report of the physicians; upon which, Mr. Grey gave notice of a motion on the subject.
George III by Stroehling, 1807

 March 6, 1804 The lord chancellor, in the house of lords, intimates his having seen his majesty, and obtained his consent to the passing of a bill in which his interest was concerned.

March 7, 1804 His majesty's indisposition continues, with no material alteration.

March 10, 1804 The lord chancellor affirms that his majesty is in a state of health that rendered him fully competent to exercise the royal functions.
 March 12, 1804 His majesty stated to be considerably better.

March 24, 1804 The chancellor and Mr. Addington had audiences of his majesty, who advances in his recovery. --Bulletins discontinued.
George III in happier, heathier times, pre1800
This crisis of health for George III was followed by a period of improvement, but his health continued to be variable and in 1810 he suffered a severe collapse. The Regency Bill of 1811 followed, and the sick old king lingered until 1820.

It is easy to overlook the extreme difficulty which the king's illness caused for the Parliament of Great Britain. Those governing the country were dependant upon the monarchy's seal of approval for their actions. When the king could not function, the whole country suffered.

Certainly the sons of George III and their contemporaries lived in uncertain times, complicated by George III's illness. The dukes of Regency fiction surely could not have been quite so carefree as they are portrayed!

'Til next time,



Angelyn said...

The sources mentioned are quite good. Thank you for sharing those listings.

Anne Gallagher said...

This is why I love the Regency. There was so much at stake among the aristocrats as well as the commom man. The Regent has always fascinated me as a character. I would love to travel back in time.

I hope you're feeling better, Lesley-Anne. Thanks for another great article.