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A lock of hair, reputedly from King George III

King George III (1738-1820) ruled the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and was also king of Hanover – part of mainland Europe – from 1760 to 1820. He was prone to episodes described as ‘madness’ by contemporaries. Recent tests on the hair found an unexpectedly high concentration of arsenic. Heavy metals such as arsenic can make the symptoms of the hereditary condition called porphyria worse. Some researchers believe George had this condition. Porphyria can lead to severe mental imbalance and episodes of apparent ‘madness’. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, dislike of bright light, and purple urine. Henry Wellcome bought this lock of hair at auction in 1927, enclosed within a slip of paper documenting its origin.

Object number:

A1315

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Glossary:

Glossary: human hair

used to define human remains as part of the NMSI/SMG human remains policy (from April 2007); Other terms used are 'blood' and 'human remains'

Glossary: memento

An object kept as a reminder or souvenir of a person or an event

Glossary: anatomy

A branch of medical science concerned with the structure of living organisms.

Glossary: keepsake

An object intended to act as a reminder of the giver or original owner.