Queen Charlotte, King George, and the sinister doctor(s) Monro
Engraving of a Queen facing left.
Engraving of Queen Charlotte

Queen Charlotte, King George, and the sinister doctor(s) Monro


Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story tells a fictionalised history of Queen Charlotte and King George III, featuring the beautiful young couple struggling with George’s illness and with the cruel treatments of the manipulative Dr Monro. If you’ve been watching, you may have wondered about the true history behind the drama…

King George III (1738–1820) and Queen Charlotte (1744–1818) married in 1761, when he was 23 and she was 17. On TV, time has been collapsed for dramatic effect, but in real life George didn’t become seriously ill until he was in his 50s, with a shorter period of illness in his late 20s.

Diagnosing people in the past is a tricky business – it’s never possible to entirely, accurately determine what someone was ill with due to changing understandings and descriptions of illness. Over the years various ideas have been proposed to explain George’s illness, including bipolar disorder, a genetic disorder called porphyria (a theory now agreed to be incorrect), or arsenic poisoning.

John Monro (1715–1791) was physician to Bedlam (Bethlem Hospital), and acted as an expert on mental illness for a variety of purposes, including giving expert testimony in criminal cases. He methods were not universally accepted though – William Battie, who ran the newer ‘St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics’, criticised the coercive, violent treatments used in Bedlam and the practice of allowing the public in to gawk at the patients. John’s son Thomas (1759–1833) took over from him as physician of Bedlam. Over 60 years after Battie’s criticism of his father’s practice, a House of Commons investigation criticised Thomas for the same practices and for his ‘'indiscriminate … cruel … useless … and injurious' treatment of his patients.


Oil painting of King George III.
Painting of George III, after William Beechey



John Monro was consulted about George’s illness – but only once, by letter, after the King’s doctors contacted him for advice. He never attended the King and had no other dealings with the royal court. At the time of George’s first major period of illness in 1788, John was ill himself – he died two years later in 1791.

John’s son Thomas did attend the king in person. During the 1810s, when George again entered a period of severe illness, Thomas was brought in as an independent specialist alongside two other doctors. Queen Charlotte’s objections to his involvement restricted Monro’s influence, despite Thomas’ attempts, yet he still charged £500 for his attendance and advice - a lot of money at the time. He is known to have discussed George’s case at social events, expressing his opinion that the King probably would not recover.

Lowri Jones, senior curator


Want to know more about George and the physicians who treated him?  

See links below.


Read our weekly library, archive and museum blog to learn more about the RCP’s collections, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Library, Archive and Museum