Fit to rule : how royal illness changed medical history. Part 2. Bad Blood: Stuarts to Hanoverians.

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About this work


The second in a trilogy of programmes presented by the historian Lucy Worsley which studies the medical problems of monarchs with the premise that by looking at their belongings and letters we can tell their intimate secrets - and these are what defined their actions. Starting with Stuart II, Worsley charts the evolution of the monarchy and identfies William and Mary as being the harbingers of our modern monarchy. William refused to perform the 'King's touch', a widely held belief that the king alone could cure the King's Evil (srofula). They were cousins and William had a slight hunch-back and suffered from chronic ill-health. Mary, more robust and taller than stature, never fell pregnant which became a heavy burden to her psychologically. She wrote that being queen was a heavy burden and a task to be endured. She contracted smallpox aged 32 and died.William suffered complications as a result of a riding accident. Parliament chose Mary's sister, Anne to succeed her. In her16 years as queen she had 17 pregnancies; 12 she miscarried and her eldest lived to only 11. There was a suggestion that Anne, despite her flattering portraiture was very overweight and suffered from gout. At the time, forceps were in use and a text about midwifery by Jane Sharp entitled 'The Whole Art of Midwifry Discovered'. Medicine was still heavily dependent on the humours of Hippocratic medicine. Queen Anne had a complex relationship with Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. Anne was succeeded by Georg Ludwig of Hanover (George I). He had two children and his son who became George II had 8 healthy children with his wife Caroline. Unfortunately with so many members of the royal family, feuding was rife. The king and queen had the right to witness the birth of their grandchild; their estranged son and heir, Frederick, contrived for this not to happen. Worsley discusses the psychological strain of being the adult son and heir and running a parallel court. Caroline died of an acute umblical hernia - it took 10 days for her to die. George suffered from angina and chest pains - he died of a heart attach. Drawings of his diseased and autopsied heart were published. George's heir, Frederick pre-decseased him - he died of a blood clot on his lung. George was succeeded by his grandson, George III and although his reign is often characterised as being that of 'mad' King George, he did rule for 60 years. Dr Peter Garrard from St George's Hospital, University of London, points to new evidence (studying his letters and handwriting) that he had bi-polar disorder or depression. He was only fully incapacitated at the end of his reign. He had 15 children and was succeeded by George IV who was overweight, self-indulgent and debached. He was addicted to alcohol and drugs. Worsley speculates that his rebellious behaviour arose from his disciplinarian education. Later in life his waist is estimated at 54 inches; he died of a burst blood vessel in his stomach.


UK : BBC 2, 2013.

Physical description

1 DVD (60 min.) : sound, color, PAL.


Copyright note

Silver River Productions 2013.


Broadcast 15th April 2013.

Creator/production credits

Produced and directed by Nick Gillam-Smith. Silver River for BBC.



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