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Royal Exhibitions: A fresh look at George III in a new exhibition at Kew


Public domain, Wikimedia Commons

With museums and historic sites reopening across the United Kingdom, many new notable exhibitions have launched. Historic Royal Palaces have already opened several new exhibitions, with George III: The Mind Behind the Myth opening this week at Kew Palace.

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King George III is a fairly well-remembered monarch. Probably best known as “the king who lost the colonies” (largely due now to the popular Broadway musical Hamilton) and as the “mad king”, he reigned for nearly 60 years, and it was during this reign that the Regency period occurred. Suffering from an unknown illness, he dealt with mental and physical health struggles for much of his adult life. This new exhibition explores a lot of what George did accomplish during his reign, in addition to the struggles he faced. 

The exhibition, delayed from opening in 2020, includes notes from his doctors and hand-written instructions for his care, written by his daughter, Princess Mary. Items like these are contrasted with items from his library, pieces from the Royal Collection, and his own clothing show that while he faced these struggles, he was a passionate supporter of the arts and achieved a great deal. 

This exhibition aims to highlight the taboos and stigmas around male mental health, with one in four people coping with mental health issues in the United Kingdom. Historic Royal Palaces collected different objects from the public, illustrating their relationship with and thoughts about mental illness – fifteen of these objects will be on display. HRP has also partnered with local community groups in Kew to interpret some of the objects on exhibition, to reflect on how our understanding and knowledge of George’s mental health can influence our thoughts on men’s mental health in 21st century London. 

Tickets must be booked ahead on the Kew Gardens website; the exhibition is included with your tickets to the gardens. A timed ticket must be purchased ahead, with the site open daily from 11 am to 4 pm. 

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Historian and blogger at AnHistorianAboutTown.com