A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Madness of King George III: Arsenic?

There is a possibility that King George III, the man during whose reign Great Britain lost the Thirteen Colonies and later defeated Napoleon, was not suffering from porphyria, but, rather, was suffering from arsenic poisoning.

In 1969, researchers proposed the strange behavior of the monarch who reigned during the American Revolution resulted from a rare hereditary blood disorder called porphyria.

However, a study this week in The Lancet medical journal found high concentrations of arsenic in the king's hair and contends the severity and duration of his episodes of illness may have been caused by the toxic substance.
They do not seem to think he was deliberately poisoned, however,
The king's medical records revealed he had been consistently given a medicine containing antimony, a mineral often found in the ground with arsenic.

"The way antimony was extracted 200 years ago means that it was often quite contaminated with arsenic," Warren said. "The king was given large doses of antimony for his abdominal pains and that was probably the source of the arsenic."