Excellent costume drama set in 1788 that tells the story of King George III during his periods of ‘insanity’. The king’s courtiers and loyal Prime Minister William Pitt – beautifully played by Julian Wydam, do their best to disguise the loveable king's ‘madness’ from his enemies – one of them the king’s own son, a very unpleasant Prince of Wales – played with relish by Rupert Everett who’s hungry to seize the throne. There are so many layers to this tale, the desperate and poignant relationship between the king and his queen (Helen Mirren), the savage intrigues at the royal court and parliament, and the snotty references to the ‘New World’. But the best bits by far are the king’s bizarre behaviour and his battle of wills with the good doctor (Ian Holm). The amazing scene where the doctor and his assistants strap the king to the chair really gets to your gut, and you’re rooting for the king to get better and retain his throne. Nigel Hawthorne who plays King George thoroughly deserves the plaudits he got for his performance and it’s a shame he didn’t win the Oscar. That went to Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump.
And as a sidetrack, in the 1970s two psychiatrists looked through the king's medical records and noticed a telling symptom: dark red urine, a classic sign of Porphyria – a rare blood disorder that in acute form causes severe abdominal pain, cramps and seizures. Other investigations have confirmed the diagnosis and have added poisoning by arsenic which causes mental derangement. The king was exposed to acute levels of arsenic which at the time were common ingredients in skin cream, wig powder, and in the king’s medical treatments.