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This article is about the 1994 film. For the play by Alan Bennett, see The Madness of George III and for a 2004 political satire, see The Madness of King George .

The Madness of King George is a 1994 film directed by Nicholas Hytner and adapted by Alan Bennett from his own play, The Madness of George III. It tells the true story of George III's deteriorating mental health, and his equally declining relationship with his son, the Prince of Wales, particularly focusing on the period around the Regency Crisis of 1788. Modern medicine has suggested that the King's symptoms were the result of porphyria.


Background and production

Bennett refused to sanction a film version unless Hawthorne was given First Refusal for the title role after having a highly acclaimed performance in the theatre.

Title change

In adapting the play to film, the title was changed from The Madness of George III to The Madness of King George. An urban myth has developed that the title change derives from the fear that American audiences would think the film was a sequel, due to the Roman numerals. However, Hytner has stated that the principal reason was to clarify that this was a film about a king, particularly in America as it is a country that has always been without royalty. According to a biography and interview with Nigel Hawthorne this was apparently true.

Filming locations

The film was shot at Shepperton Studiosmarker and on location at:


The film deals with the relatively primitive medical practices of the time and the suppositions that physicians made in their efforts to understand the human body. The King's doctors attempt humoral cures such as blistering and purges. Meanwhile, another of the King's physicians, Dr. Pepys, blindly analyses the King's stool and urine believing that body wastes may contain some clue to the Royal malady. Finally, Lady Pembrooke recommends Dr. Willis, an ex-minister who attempts to cure the insane through behaviour modification. None of the three methods of treatment entirely cures the King; eventually his body heals on its own.

Besides the King's personal struggle with mental illness, the film also depicts the relative powerlessness of the British monarchy in a time when Parliamentmarker had become supreme. The scene where the King is told what to do by a doctor for the first time (in breach of established protocol) and is restrained in a seat shows the King finally accepting his diminished role despite his protestations that he is the "King of England" and can do as he pleases. After his recovery, he is seen at the end of the film explaining to the Prince of Wales that the role of the royal family is to be seen to be happy, to wave to the crowd, and to be a model to the people of how to behave and conduct oneself. Thus the film also documents the shift in the British government from a monarchy with limited political power to a constitutional monarchy based mainly in the rural aristocracy.

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards

BAFTA Awards

  • The film was nominated for a total of 14 BAFTA Awards and won three: the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film, the Best Actor (Nigel Hawthorne) and the Award for Best Make Up/Hair (Lisa Westcott).

Cannes Film Festival


  1. title change

External links

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