Dr John Monroe from Queen Charlotte was a real-life figure
Netflix Official Trailer: Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story
WARNING: This article contains major spoilers from Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story has arrived on Netflix and focuses on the marriage of the titular monarch (played by India Amarteifio) and her husband King George III (Corey Mylchreest).
Along with the romance, the show tackles George’s mental health issues, which in the series appear to be close to manic depression or bipolar disorder.
A great deal of time is also spent on the treatments George chose to undergo in the hopes of curing his mental health under the harsh practices of Dr. John Monroe (Guy Henry) with many viewers wondering how much of this was actually true to life.
Was Dr John Monroe real?
Yes, the Bethlem physician was real and known as a ‘mad doctor’, a moniker given to those trying to treat insanity.
However, King George III’s link to Dr Monroe is not the same as the show depicts – Queen Charlotte’s creator Shonda Rhimes has gone to pains to stress her show is not a documentary but a tale of fantasy and firmly ensconced in the vibrant and frothy Bridgerton-verse.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Professor Andrew Scull – who has written in detail about Dr John Monroe – explained the link between George III and the medic.
Professor Scull said: “He did have a connection early on, a woman named Margaret Nicholson tried to assassinate poor George III and several people tried to kill him in the course of his reign besides the fact he went mad.”
The academic said Nicholson “developed the delusion she was the rightful queen of England and that she’d been deprived of the throne”.
Nicholson, who was suffering from mental health issues, tried to stab George III albeit with a butter knife and was quickly apprehended.
She tried to take his life but she simply managed to rip a button off his waistcoat and nothing more serious.
He continued: “They took her off to Bethlem and she outlived George by about 10 years or so, she lived a long time and she became a kind of figure attraction for wealth tourists who came to London.”
So Dr Monroe was overseeing the Bethlem when Nicholson came in, moreover, he may have been consulted in an unofficial capacity about King George III’s mental health.
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Professor Scull said of Dr John Monroe: “He’s in the middle of a series of Monroes, who were physicians to Bethlem or Bedlam as it was often known. Certainly, for the second half of the 18th-century, John Monroe was the most prominent and best known doctor around.”
Along with his position at the Bethlem, which gave him a degree of social visibility, he had his own series of private mad houses, which he presided over.
The treatment for mental health during the Georgian period would vary depending on the funds a patient had readily available with private mad houses taking off at this time and becoming lucrative businesses.
Professor Scull went on to say: “In this period, restraining people physically was often seen as a therapeutic measure. When we look back on it, we tend to see it as an instrument of convenience and to a certain extent, chaining people up and putting them a straitjackets which emerged in this period or other kinds of mechanic restraints, some of that was to make life easier for those running these establishments.
“But it was also held by some that by restraining the physical exertions of a mad person, so that their blood didn’t rush around their system, they were kept still then that in itself was a therapeutic thing.”
Unfortunately, during this time, some of the common forms of treatment for King George III included bleeding him and cupping, whereby the skin would be blistered and the subsequent pus would be drained in the belief toxins would be drawn out of their body.
This very much corresponds to some of the treatments King George III underwent in the show but the regent wasn’t actually treated by Dr Monroe with a physician called Dr Francis Willis actually overseeing his wellbeing.
Dr John Monroe was part of a dynasty of so-called mad doctor, who treated mental health ailments.
In a cruel twist of irony, one of his relatives Dr. Henry Monroe ended up being declared mad himself.
Express.co.uk also spoke to Bethlem Museum of the Mind archivist David Luck, who shed light on the working practices of the hospital during the time of King George III and said during this era outside visits were stopped to prevent members of the public gawping at the patients.
However, this had an adverse effect as it meant patients didn’t have any contact with the outside world, including visits from friends and relatives as had previously been permitted.
He said treatment at this time again including blistering and bleeding and containment rather than dealing with a person’s mental health issues.
Luck said: “The reason why George III is important is because he’s one of the first public figures to suffer from severe mental health issues in the public eye and actually this is part of a wider societal change in the way mental health is viewed.”
He went on to reflect on the views towards mental health at this time, saying it was believed “when you’ve lost your mind, you have lost the thing that makes you human” and this is something which was apparent in some of the treatment used at the time.
But Luck said by the end of George III’s reign, this was changing with compassion used when treating those with mental health issues as well as no restraints.
“There’s this idea that things must change and those suffering mental health problems are ill and deserving of respect,” he said.
Moreover, he said King George’s public battle changed thing. Luck said: “People are seeing him going through this stuff on a very public stage and thinking, ‘If the king can get this, anyone can.”
The Bethlem Royal Hospital still exists today and is now located in Beckenham, South London and is part of the South London and Maudsley NHS trust.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is streaming on Netflix
Undertaker of the Mind: John Monro and Mad-Doctoring in Eighteenth-Century England (Medicine and Society) by Professor Jonathan Andrews and Andrew Scull is available on Amazon now
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