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Francis Willis

(1718-1807), Physician

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue Entry

Sitter in 4 portraits
Willis was a physician whose innovative success with the mentally ill led to him being summoned when George III first displayed symptoms of apparent madness in 1788. While his treatment of the King included restraint in a straitjacket, Willis was kinder to his patients than was traditional. The King's recovery in 1789 made Willis so famous that he had to open a second hospital to accommodate the numbers of patients seeking his help.

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Francis Willis, by Joseph Collyer the Younger, after  John Russell - NPG D4816

Francis Willis

by Joseph Collyer the Younger, after John Russell
hand-coloured stipple engraving, published 1789
NPG D4816

Francis Willis, by James Fittler, published by and after  Robert Bowyer - NPG D15125

Francis Willis

by James Fittler, published by and after Robert Bowyer
line engraving, published 23 April 1789
NPG D15125

Francis Willis, by Henry Bone, after  John Russell - NPG D17616

Francis Willis

by Henry Bone, after John Russell
pencil drawing squared in ink for transfer, March 1807 (1789)
NPG D17616

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Mary Ingram

03 April 2020, 20:57

I am a descendant of Dr Francis Willis through my mother's side. The story is that when his granddaughter, Anne Willis, daughter of his son Dr John Willis, married Ralph Goodwin, she was given a beautiful gilded, bone China dinner service by the King. She and Ralph Goodwin gave the dinner service in return to George 4th on his wedding and since the Pavilion opened for visitors it was always displayed in the dining room of Brighton Pavilion. I saw it with my mother when I was a child and she told me the story. On my recent visit there I was told it was now in a bank vault as it was so valuable and only the dessert dishes were on view. We have always had a copy of the portrait and have seen it at the National Gallery a number of times. I am the 8th generation down from Francis Willis and have children and grandchildren to whom I have passed on the story. My mother once looked in to who his father was and came to believe his father was a Bishop of Bath. You may have more information on that. I hope this is of interest to you. Mary Ingram, née Cherry.

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