What’s Wrong With King George in Queen Charlotte? What Does He Have?

If you’re following Bridgerton‘s spin-off series, you might be wondering: What’s wrong with King George in Queen Charlotte and how accurate was it historically? Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story follows the rise of Queen Charlotte (India Amarteifio) among British regency and her marriage to George III (Corey Mylchreest).

The series offers an insight with some historical accuracy and King George’s illness lines up with what history has reported. Lady Whistledown did warn us that this was not a history lesson but loosely based upon fact.

Mylchreest and Amarteifio discussed with Rotten Tomatoes the importance of diversity and representation on screen when they were filming the series. “The reason why Bridgerton is so beautiful is because we explore all these topics,” Amarteifio said. “It’s great to have social commentary on topics that are that are prevalent right now.” Mylchreest added that “as an actor, it’s amazing to be a part of something that is going to create a world in which there’s logical, grounded, natural, realistic reasons for the casting and that, outside of the world of the show, creates such positive representation.”

One of the first signs we see of George’s illness is when Brimsley notices something is wrong with him when he goes down to the palace kitchen and sees him being inspected by someone other than the palace’s official physician. In the series, we see more of George’s illness unfurl. So what’s wrong with King George in Queen Charlotte? Read on to find out.

What’s wrong with King George in Queen Charlotte?

Queen Charlotte
Image: Netflix

What’s wrong with King George in Queen Charlotte? The show doesn’t outrightly say what disease he had and the writers of the show deliberately don’t name his condition. It is well assured that King George did have a mental illness but the classification of what it exactly was has been debated by historians for centuries.

Buckingham Palace actually acknowledges his bouts of madness. They wrote, “After serious bouts of illness in 1788-89 and again in 1801, George became permanently deranged in 1810. He was mentally unfit to rule in the last decade of his reign; his eldest son – the later George IV – acted as Prince Regent from 1811. Some medical historians have said that George III’s mental instability was caused by a hereditary physical disorder called porphyria.”

What is porphyria?

Queen Charlotte
Image: Netflix

According to Mayo Clinic, porphyria “refers to a group of rare disorders that result from a buildup of natural chemicals called porphyrins in the body. Porphyrins are needed to make heme, a part of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells. It carries oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues.”

Signs and symptoms of porphyria include severe pain in the belly, chest, legs or back, digestive problems, such as constipation, nausea and vomiting, and mental changes, such as anxiety, hallucinations or mental confusion.”

Today talked with Martin Warren, a professor of Biochemistry at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, who has long studied George’s mental illness. He confirmed that there was a treatment for King George. “We could certainly detect a reasonable amount of arsenic that was clearly embedded within the hair. In other words, the king had digested arsenic,” he explained. “That was likely from the medication that he was provided.” He continued, “In essence, by looking at all that information, we saw that there’s evidence to suggest that some of the symptoms and the diagnosis suggest that there was that (George II) could have suffered with porphyria.”

His behavior in the show

Corey Mylchreest as Young King George
Corey Mylchreest as Young King George. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2023

In the show, George suffers from incoherent babbling and hallucinations at random points. He’s also spotted by Charlotte to be writing on the walls and professing his love to Venus the Goddess of love while he’s naked. “That’s when it starts to give rise to apparent bouts of madness where people sort of move away from a level of reality,” Warren explained. “And that can give rise to things like sleeplessness People can start to talk, become incoherent, can start babbling.”

According to a report from the BBC, George furiously wrote during his spells. “A sentence containing 400 words and eight verbs was not unusual. George III, when ill, often repeated himself, and at the same time, his vocabulary became much more complex, creative and colorful. These are features that can be seen today in the writing and speech of patients experiencing the manic phase of psychiatric illnesses such as bipolar disorder.”

During his later years, Parliament granted his son George VI as Prince Regent since the elder George’s illness was deemed debilitating. George died in 1820 after succumbing to the illness. In an interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Mylchreest and Amarteifio talked about the legacy of King George and his portrayal of him. “It’s such a topical conversation,” Amarteifo said. “Men with mental health issues is a real important thing that we, as a society, need to tackle and we need to talk about.”

The legacy of King George III

Corey Mylchreest as Young King George
Corey Mylchreest as Young King George. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2023Corey Mylchreest as Young King George. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2023

Mylchreest chimed in, adding that he read The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of George III, and George’s journals in preparation for the role. The actor said that he learned that “this guy was really intelligent, really cared about people [and] had his heart in the right place [and was] incredibly devoted to his wife.”

“George — although he’s got all these demons and problems that get explored in greater depth as the series goes on — is someone that’s had his whole life to get incredibly developed at putting up not necessarily a front, but he’s had to be charming,” Mylchreest said. “He is surrounded by people that are constantly in awe of him or constantly requiring him to do this thing. We forget that being king is a job, and he’s had to be good at that job.”

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is now available to stream on Netflix.

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