The Madness of King George

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This article is about the 1994 film. For the play by Alan Bennett, see The Madness of George III. For the 2004 political satire, see The Madness of King George (book).
The Madness of King George
Madness of king george-715444.jpeg
original film poster
Directed by Nicholas Hytner
Produced by Stephen Evans
David Parfitt
Written by Alan Bennett
Starring Nigel Hawthorne
Helen Mirren
Ian Holm
Amanda Donohoe
Rupert Graves
Rupert Everett
Music by George Fenton
George Frideric Handel
Cinematography Andrew Dunn
Edited by Tariq Anwar
Distributed by The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Release dates
  • 28 December 1994 (1994-12-28) (United States)
  • 24 March 1995 (1995-03-24) (United Kingdom)
Running time
107 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $15.2 million

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 of Great Britain's deteriorating mental health, and his equally declining relationship with his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, particularly focusing on the period around the Regency Crisis of 1788–89. Modern medicine has suggested that the King's symptoms were the result of acute intermittent porphyria, although this theory has more recently been vigorously challenged, most notably by a research project based at St George's, University of London, which concluded that George III did actually suffer from mental illness after all.[1] Filming of the movie took place from 11 July to 9 September 1994.


The film depicts the ordeal of King George III whose bout of madness in 1788 touched off the Regency Crisis, triggering a power struggle between factions of parliament under the conservative William Pitt the Younger and the reform-minded Charles James Fox.

At first, the king’s habits appear mildly eccentric, and are purposely ignored for reasons of state. The King is seen as being highly concerned with the wellbeing and productivity of England, and continually exhibits an encyclopedic knowledge of the families of even the most obscure royal appointments. In fact, the King is growing more unsettled, largely over the loss of America. George, his oldest son, aggravates the situation, knowing that he would be named regent in the event the King was found incapacitated. George chafes under his father’s repeated criticism, but also hopes for regency to allow him greater freedom to marry his Catholic mistress. George also knows that he has the moral support of Charles Fox who is eager to put across an agenda unlikely to pass under the current administration, including abolition of the slave trade and friendlier relations with America. Knowing that the King’s behavior is exacerbated in public, the Prince arranges for a concert playing the music of Handel. The King reacts as expected, interrupting the musicians, acting inappropriately towards Lady Pembroke, attendant to the Queen, and finally assaulting his son.

The King’s madness is treated using the relatively primitive medical practices of the time, which include blistering and purges, led on particularly by the Prince of Wales' personal physician, Dr. Warren. Eventually, Lady Pembroke recommends Dr. Willis, an ex-minister who attempts to cure the insane through new procedures, and who begins his restoration of the King's mental state by enforcing a strict regime of strapping the King into a waistcoat and restraining him whenever he shows signs of his insanity or otherwise resists recovery.

Meanwhile, the opposition led by Charles James Fox, confronts Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger's increasingly unpopular government with a bill that would give the Prince powers of regency. Meanwhile, Baron Thurlow, the Chancellor, discovers that the Prince was secretly and illegally married to his Catholic mistress. Thurlow pays the minister to keep his mouth shut, and himself tears out a record of the marriage from church rolls.

The King soon shows signs of recovery, becoming less eccentric and arrives in Parliament in time to thwart passage of the Regency bill. Restored, the King asserts control over his family, forces the Prince to “put away” his mistress. With the crisis averted, those who had been closest to the king are summarily dismissed from service, including Dr. Willis. During conversations with Pitt, the King appears more at ease and in control of himself. He is less antagonized by America, but also shows signs that his insanity remains.


Background and production[edit]

Title change[edit]

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, because of the use of Roman numerals in its title. 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, since it separated from Great Britain.[2] The film's star, Nigel Hawthorne, confirmed this in interviews.

Filming locations[edit]

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

Awards and honours[edit]

Academy Awards

The film won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Ken Adam, Carolyn Scott), and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Nigel Hawthorne), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Helen Mirren) and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.[3]

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

Helen Mirren won the Best Actress Award and Nicholas Hytner was nominated for the Golden Palm at the 1995 festival.[4]

Empire Awards

Nigel Hawthorne won the Best Actor Award at the 1st Empire Awards.[5]

Box office[edit]

The film debuted strongly at the box office.[6]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]