Willises

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The Willises were two brothers into whose care his Majesty King George was given whenever his sanity failed him. They were madhouse-keepers from Lincolnshire[32,33].

"Care" may perhaps be the wrong word, for notoriously the brothers treated his Majesty very harshly when they had him in their power - although perhaps no worse than the majority of those so unlucky as to go mad are treated. They put his royal person in a strait-waistcoat; they secluded him from all company; and if any of his Majesty's ministers, or even family, were so bold as to request an interview with the King then the Willises were sure to insist on being present themselves to oversee proceedings. They were universally considered abominably officious, and high-handed to the point of active cruelty: but for all that, and despite his Majesty's own abhorrence of their conduct, the Willises were always summoned whenever his Majesty went mad.

The brothers - their forenames are John and Robert - are the persons to whom Mr Strange ought to apply for permission to see the King after he has acceded to a request of the King's sons to attempt treatment. He does not. He simply turns up at Windsor and browbeats the slovenly underling he meets there into permitting him to visit the King, having first taken the precaution of casting spells to ensure the Willis brothers oversleep so that they cannot challenge him when he appears bearing letters of access signed - so he says - by the likes of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

A well-known satirical verse on doctors alludes to Dr Robert Darling Willis:

You should send, if ought should ail ye,
For Willis, Heberden, and Baillie;
All exceeding skilful men,
Baillie, Willis, Heberden;
But doubtful which most sure to kill is,
Baillie, Heberden, or Willis.

(The author of this anonymous squib is unlikely to have been Mr Strange. Major Grant has been more plausibly suggested.)

Really Mr Strange's visit does the King no benefit at all: but it does in a sense help Strange himself in his quest to become a more accomplished magician, because it is there he first crosses the path of the gentleman with the thistle-down hair. This encounter arouses in him the liveliest awareness of the originality, vigour and the sheer oddity of fairy magic - and a little too of its potential danger, though Strange is by nature too foolhardy to consider the perils as he ought. On this occasion he successfully saves both the King and himself from being lured into Faerie. It does not apparently occur to him that another time he might not fare so well.