1788 - 1800
The King's 'madness'
In 1788 the whole nation was thrown into turmoil as the King was declared ‘mad’ after the onset of a mysterious illness, possibly porphyria. This is a hereditary blood disorder that in serious cases can cause temporary mental derangement
At this time the King still took a vital role in government, approving Parliamentary papers and appointments. Uncertainty over the state of his mental health led the Opposition – supported by the King’s own son, the Prince of Wales – to call for unheralded Regency.
However, largely due to his own strong constitution (and with little help from his doctors) the King recovered after a few months. From this time onwards his illness and brutal treatment – which included incarceration at the White House, strait-jackets, leeching and emetics - cast a shadow over Kew.
Improvements at Kew
After his first ‘King’s malady’, George showed less enhusiasm for improving Kew and Richmond. Then in 1800 he engaged a new architect, the capricious James Wyatt, to create a great Gothick palace, cheek-by-jowl with the little red brick palace.
The White House, together with its miserable associations with his enforced recuperation there, was soon swept away.
Lead image, wax work model of George III