Fit to Rule: Explore the Health of Past Monarchs with Historic Royal Palaces

Fit to Rule: Explore the Health of Past Monarchs with Historic Royal Palaces

The State Apartments at Kensington Palace

1 April 2013

Royal illness takes centre stage at Hampton Court, Kensington and Kew Palaces, to accompany new BBC Two series, 'Fit to Rule: How Royal Illness Changed History.'

Throughout history - from Henry VIII’s infamous girth, to the ‘madness’ of King George III and Queen Victoria’s depression after the death of her husband – royal illness has had far-reaching consequences for Britain. 

Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, will be exploring how the physical and mental health of our past monarchs has shaped the history of the nation in a new BBC2 series, ‘Fit to Rule? How Royal Illness Changed History’, starting on Monday 8 April at 9pm. The series re-introduces our past royals not just as powerful potentates, but as human beings, each with their own very personal problems of biology and psychology.

This May, visitors to Hampton Court, Kensington and Kew Palaces will gain a further insight into this fascinating series with hands-on events and activities exploring the places where Kings and Queens lived and died, fell ill and got better. With fun activities for all ages –demonstrations, dressing up, lectures and tours, visitors will gain a unique, personal understanding of the private lives of some of Britain’s most famous monarchs. Meet a blood sucking leech and watch a display of alchemy – visitors can expect to come away with a renewed appreciation for modern medicine!

At Hampton Court Palace, become a surgeon’s apprentice and try your hand at autopsies and amputations. Have a smallpox makeover, and get a few tips on preventing yourself from catching this deadly disease. Meet King Henry VIII – whose lucky doctors tasted his urine to diagnose him, and join us on 17 May for a very special late-night opening including alchemy and astrology displays as the court celebrates the elaborate ritual of ‘putting the King to bed.’

Kew Palace was home to King George III, who convalesced there after his periodic bouts of ‘madness’, and his devoted Queen Charlotte, who died there in 1818. Here you can hear the tragic story of a King whose doctors couldn’t diagnose his illness and learn about the far-reaching consequences this had for the nation. Explore the royal medical chest and learn about the remedies and potions monarchs used to protect themselves – find out which were successful, and which were less so!

Finally, at Kensington Palace, the home of the young Queen Victoria, hear the story of a Queen whose lonely childhood shaped the way she governed Britain as Queen. Unearth the medical stories of some of Kensington’s most famous royal residents – including the tragic Queen Anne, whose 17 children all died before her.

With specialist talks and performances, evening lectures, on-site video messages from Lucy, podcasts and much more, discover all there is to know about royal illness across the Palaces! Visit for more details.

Notes to Editors

For further information visit or contact the Press Office: 020 3166 6166 or

Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We receive no funding from the Government or the Crown, so we depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors.

These palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

We believe in four principles. Guardianship: giving these palaces a future as long and valuable as their past. Discovery: encouraging people to make links with their own lives and today’s world. Showmanship: doing everything with panache. Independence: having our own point of view and finding new ways to do our work. Registered charity number 1068852

All activities are included in ticket price, hands-on and for families.

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