King George VI
   HOME

TheInfoList



OR:

George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was
King of the United Kingdom The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy, constitutional form of government by which a hereditary monarchy, hereditary sovereign reigns as the head of state of the United ...
and the
Dominion The term ''Dominion'' is used to refer to one of several self-governing nations of the British Empire. "Dominion status" was first accorded to Canada, Australia, Dominion of New Zealand, New Zealand, Dominion of Newfoundland, Newfoundland, Un ...
s of the
British Commonwealth The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the C ...
from 11 December 1936 until his death in 1952. He was also the last
Emperor of India Emperor or Empress of India was a title used by British monarchs from 1 May 1876 (with the Royal Titles Act 1876) to 22 June 1948, that was used to signify their rule over British Raj, British India, as its imperial head of state. Royal Procla ...
from 1936 until the
British Raj The British Raj (; from Hindi ''rāj'': kingdom, realm, state, or empire) was the rule of the British Crown on the Indian subcontinent; * * it is also called Crown rule in India, * * * * or Direct rule in India, * Quote: "Mill, who was himsel ...
was dissolved in August 1947, and the first
Head of the Commonwealth The head of the Commonwealth is the ceremonial leader who symbolises "the free association of independent member nations" of the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation that currently comprises 56 sovereign states. There ...
following the
London Declaration The London Declaration was a declaration issued by the 1949 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference on the issue of India, India's continued membership of the Commonwealth of Nations, an association of independent states formerly part of the Br ...
of 1949. The future George VI was born in the reign of his great-grandmother
Queen Victoria Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until Death and state funeral of Queen Victoria, her death in 1901. Her reign of 63 years and 21 ...
; he was named Albert at birth after his great-grandfather
Albert, Prince Consort Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Franz August Karl Albert Emanuel; 26 August 1819 – 14 December 1861) was the List of British royal consorts, consort of Queen Victoria from Wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and ...
, and was known as "Bertie" to his family and close friends. His father ascended the throne as
George V George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert; 3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 until his death in 1936. Born during the reign of his grandmother Q ...
in 1910. As the second son of the king, Albert was not expected to inherit the throne. He spent his early life in the shadow of his elder brother, Prince Edward, the
heir apparent An heir apparent, often shortened to heir, is a person who is first in an order of succession and cannot be displaced from inheriting by the birth of another person; a person who is first in the order of succession but can be displaced by the b ...
. Albert attended naval college as a teenager and served in the
Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by Kingdom of England, English and Kingdom of Scotland, Scottish kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were foug ...
and
Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's Air force, air and space force. It was formed towards the end of the World War I, First World War on 1 April 1918, becoming the first independent air force in the world, by regrouping the Royal ...
during the
First World War World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
. In 1920, he was made
Duke of York Duke of York is a title of nobility in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. Since the 15th century, it has, when granted, usually been given to the second son of List of English monarchs, English (later List of British monarchs, British) monarchs. ...
. He
married Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people called spouses. It establishes rights and obligations between them, as well as between them and their children, and between t ...
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon (4 August 1900 – 30 March 2002) was List of British royal consorts, Queen of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 to 6 February 1952 as the wife of Ki ...
in 1923, and they had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. In the mid-1920s, he engaged speech therapist Lionel Logue to treat his stammer, which he learned to manage to some degree. His elder brother ascended the throne as Edward VIII after their father died in 1936, but Edward abdicated later that year to marry the twice-divorced American socialite
Wallis Simpson Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (born Bessie Wallis Warfield, later Simpson; June 19, 1896 – April 24, 1986), was an American Socialite#United_States, socialite and wife of the former King Edward VIII. Their intention to marry and her status ...
. As
heir presumptive An heir presumptive is the person entitled to inherit a throne, peerage, or other hereditary honour, but whose position can be displaced by the birth of an heir apparent or a new heir presumptive with a better claim to the position in question. ...
to Edward VIII, Albert thereby became the third monarch of the
House of Windsor The House of Windsor is the reigning royal house of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast ...
, taking the
regnal name A regnal name, or regnant name or reign name, is the name used by monarchs and popes during their reigns and, subsequently, historically. Since ancient times, some monarchs have chosen to use a different name from their original name when they ...
George VI. In September 1939, the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. I ...
and most Commonwealth countries— but not Irelanddeclared war on
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") (officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945) was ...
. War with the
Kingdom of Italy The Kingdom of Italy ( it, Regno d'Italia) was a state that existed from 1861, when Victor Emmanuel II of Kingdom of Sardinia, Sardinia was proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, proclaimed King of Italy, until 1946, when civil discontent led to ...
and the
Empire of Japan The also known as the Japanese Empire or Imperial Japan, was a historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until the enactment of the post-World War II 1947 constitution and subsequent fo ...
followed in 1940 and 1941, respectively. George VI was seen as sharing the hardships of the common people and his popularity soared.
Buckingham Palace Buckingham Palace () is a London royal official residence, residence and the administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and roya ...
was bombed during
the Blitz The Blitz was a German bombing campaign against the United Kingdom in 1940 and 1941, during the World War II, Second World War. The term was first used by the British press and originated from the term , the German word meaning 'lightning wa ...
while the King and Queen were there, and his younger brother the Duke of Kent was killed on active service. George became known as a symbol of British determination to win the war. Britain and its allies were victorious in 1945, but the British Empire declined. Ireland had largely broken away, followed by the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947. George relinquished the title of Emperor of India in June 1948 and instead adopted the new title of
Head of the Commonwealth The head of the Commonwealth is the ceremonial leader who symbolises "the free association of independent member nations" of the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation that currently comprises 56 sovereign states. There ...
. He was beset by smoking-related health problems in the later years of his reign and died of a
coronary thrombosis Coronary thrombosis is defined as the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel of the heart. This blood clot may then restrict blood flow within the heart, leading to heart tissue damage, or a myocardial infarction A myocardial infarct ...
in 1952. He was succeeded by his elder daughter, Elizabeth II.


Early life

The future George VI was born at York Cottage, on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, during the reign of his great-grandmother
Queen Victoria Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until Death and state funeral of Queen Victoria, her death in 1901. Her reign of 63 years and 21 ...
. His father was Prince George, Duke of York (later
King George V George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert; 3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 until Death and state funeral of George V, his death in 1936. Born duri ...
), the second and only surviving son of the Prince and Princess of Wales (later
King Edward VII Edward VII (Albert Edward; 9 November 1841 – 6 May 1910) was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India, from 22 January 1901 until his death in 1910. The second child and eldest son of Queen Victoria ...
and
Queen Alexandra Alexandra of Denmark (Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia; 1 December 1844 – 20 November 1925) was List of British royal consorts, Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Empress of India, from 22 January 1901 t ...
). His mother, the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary), was the eldest child and only daughter of
Francis, Duke of Teck Francis, Duke of Teck, (Francis Paul Charles Louis Alexander; 28 August 1837 – 21 January 1900) known as Count Francis von Hohenstein until 1863, was an Austrian-born nobleman who married into the British royal family. His wife, Princess Ma ...
, and Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck. His birthday, 14 December 1895, was the 34th anniversary of the death of his great-grandfather
Albert, Prince Consort Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Franz August Karl Albert Emanuel; 26 August 1819 – 14 December 1861) was the List of British royal consorts, consort of Queen Victoria from Wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and ...
. Uncertain of how the Prince Consort's widow, Queen Victoria, would take the news of the birth, the Prince of Wales wrote to the Duke of York that the Queen had been "rather distressed". Two days later, he wrote again: "I really think it would gratify her if you yourself proposed the name ''Albert'' to her." The Queen was mollified by the proposal to name the new baby Albert, and wrote to the Duchess of York: "I am all impatience to see the ''new'' one, born on such a sad day but rather more dear to me, especially as he will be called by that dear name which is a byword for all that is great and good." Consequently, he was
baptised Baptism (from grc-x-koine, βάπτισμα, váptisma) is a form of ritual purification—a characteristic of many religions throughout time and geography. In Christianity, it is a Christians, Christian sacrament of initiation and Adoption ...
"Albert Frederick Arthur George" at St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham on 17 February 1896. Formally he was His Highness Prince Albert of York; within the
royal family A royal family is the immediate family of kings/queens Queens is a Boroughs of New York City, borough of New York City, coextensive with Queens County, in the U.S. state of New York (state), New York. Located on Long Island, it is the lar ...
he was known informally as "Bertie". The Duchess of Teck did not like the first name her grandson had been given, and she wrote prophetically that she hoped the last name "may supplant the less favoured one". Albert was fourth in line to the throne at birth, after his grandfather, father and elder brother,
Edward Edward is an English language, English given name. It is derived from the Old English, Anglo-Saxon name ''Ēadweard'', composed of the elements ''wikt:ead#Old English, ēad'' "wealth, fortune; prosperous" and ''wikt:weard#Old English, weard'' "gua ...
. Albert was ill often and was described as "easily frightened and somewhat prone to tears". His parents were generally removed from their children's day-to-day upbringing, as was the norm in aristocratic families of that era. He had a stammer that lasted for many years. Although naturally
left-handed In human biology, handedness is an individual's preferential use of one hand, known as the dominant hand, due to it being stronger, faster or more Fine motor skill, dextrous. The other hand, comparatively often the weaker, less dextrous or sim ...
, he was forced to write with his right hand, as was common practice at the time. He had chronic stomach problems as well as knock knees, for which he was forced to wear painful corrective splints. Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901, and the Prince of Wales succeeded her as King Edward VII. Prince Albert moved up to third in line to the throne, after his father and elder brother.


Military career and education

Beginning in 1909, Albert attended the
Royal Naval College, Osborne The Royal Naval College, Osborne, was a training college for Royal Navy The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by Kingdom of England, English and Kingdom of Scotland, Scottish kings fro ...
, as a naval
cadet A cadet is an officer trainee or candidate. The term is frequently used to refer to those training to become an officer in the military, often a person who is a junior trainee. Its meaning may vary between countries which can include youths in ...
. In 1911 he came bottom of the class in the final examination, but despite this he progressed to the
Royal Naval College, Dartmouth Royal may refer to: People * Royal (name) Royal can be a surname or a given name. Bearers include: Surname * Billy Joe Royal (1942–2015), American country music and pop singer * Calvin Royal III, American ballet dancer * Darrell Royal (1924 ...
. When his grandfather, Edward VII, died in 1910, his father became King George V. Edward became Prince of Wales, with Albert second in line to the throne. Albert spent the first six months of 1913 on the training ship in the
West Indies The West Indies is a Subregion#North America, subregion of North America, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea that includes 13 independent island country, island countries and 18 dependent territory, ...
and on the east coast of Canada. He was rated as a
midshipman A midshipman is an officer of the lowest Military rank#Subordinate/student officer, rank, in the Royal Navy, United States Navy, and many Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth navies. Commonwealth countries which use the rank include Royal Can ...
aboard on 15 September 1913. He spent three months in the Mediterranean, but never overcame his seasickness. Three weeks after the outbreak of World War I he was medically evacuated from the ship to Aberdeen, where his appendix was removed by Sir John Marnoch. He was
mentioned in dispatches To be mentioned in dispatches (or despatches, MiD) describes a member of the armed forces whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which their gallant or meritorious action in the face ...
for his actions as a turret officer aboard ''Collingwood'' in the
Battle of Jutland The Battle of Jutland (german: Skagerrakschlacht, the Battle of the Skagerrak) was a naval battle fought between Britain's Royal Navy Grand Fleet, under Admiral John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, Sir John Jellicoe, and the Imperial German Navy ...
(31 May – 1 June 1916), the great naval battle of the war. He did not see further combat, largely because of ill health caused by a
duodenal ulcer Peptic ulcer disease (PUD) is a break in the inner lining of the stomach, the first part of the small intestine The small intestine or small bowel is an organ (anatomy), organ in the human gastrointestinal tract, gastrointestinal tract where ...
, for which he had an operation in November 1917.Bradford, pp. 55–76 In February 1918 Albert was appointed Officer in Charge of Boys at the
Royal Naval Air Service The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) was the air arm of the Royal Navy, under the direction of the Admiralty's Air Department, and existed formally from 1 July 1914 to 1 April 1918, when it was merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps t ...
's training establishment at
Cranwell Cranwell is a village in the North Kesteven district of Lincolnshire Lincolnshire (abbreviated Lincs.) is a Counties of England, county in the East Midlands of England, with a long coastline on the North Sea to the east. It borders Norf ...
. With the establishment of the
Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force (RAF) is the United Kingdom's Air force, air and space force. It was formed towards the end of the World War I, First World War on 1 April 1918, becoming the first independent air force in the world, by regrouping the Royal ...
Albert transferred from the Royal Navy to the Royal Air Force. He served as Officer Commanding Number 4 Squadron of the Boys' Wing at Cranwell until August 1918, before reporting for duty on the staff of the RAF's Cadet Brigade at St Leonards-on-Sea and then at Shorncliffe. He completed a fortnight's training and took command of a squadron on the Cadet Wing. He was the first member of the British royal family to be certified as a fully qualified pilot. Albert wanted to serve on the Continent while the war was still in progress and welcomed a posting to General Trenchard's staff in France. On 23 October, he flew across the Channel to Autigny. For the closing weeks of the war, he served on the staff of the RAF's Independent Air Force at its headquarters in
Nancy, France Nancy ; Lorraine Franconian: ''Nanzisch'' is the Prefectures in France, prefecture of the northeastern Departments of France, French department of Meurthe-et-Moselle. It was the capital of the Duchy of Lorraine, which was Lorraine and Barrois, an ...
. Following the disbanding of the Independent Air Force in November 1918, he remained on the Continent for two months as an RAF staff officer until posted back to Britain. He accompanied Belgian King Albert I on his triumphal re-entry into Brussels on 22 November. Prince Albert qualified as an RAF pilot on 31 July 1919 and was promoted to
squadron leader Squadron leader (Sqn Ldr in the RAF ; SQNLDR in the Royal Australian Air Force, RAAF and Royal New Zealand Air Force, RNZAF; formerly sometimes S/L in all services) is a Officer (armed forces), commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the ...
the following day. In October 1919, Albert went up to
Trinity College, Cambridge Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Founded in 1546 by Henry VIII, King Henry VIII, Trinity is one of the largest Cambridge colleges, with the largest financial endowment of any college at either Cambridge ...
, where he studied history, economics and civics for a year, with the historian R. V. Laurence as his "official mentor". On 4 June 1920 his father created him
Duke of York Duke of York is a title of nobility in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. Since the 15th century, it has, when granted, usually been given to the second son of List of English monarchs, English (later List of British monarchs, British) monarchs. ...
,
Earl of Inverness The title of Earl of Inverness (Scottish Gaelic: Iarla Inbhir Nis) was first created in 1718 in the Jacobite Peerage of Peerage of Scotland, Scotland, together with the titles Viscount of Innerpaphrie and Lord Cromlix and Erne, by James Francis ...
and
Baron Killarney Baron Killarney was a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom that has been created twice. The first creation came on 24 May 1892 as a substantive title by Queen Victoria for her grandson George V, Prince George, Duke of York. George was also ...
. He began to take on more royal duties. He represented his father, and toured coal mines, factories, and railyards. Through such visits he acquired the nickname of the "Industrial Prince". His stammer, and his embarrassment over it, together with a tendency to shyness, caused him to appear less confident in public than his older brother, Edward. However, he was physically active and enjoyed playing tennis. He played at Wimbledon in the Men's Doubles with Louis Greig in 1926, losing in the first round. He developed an interest in working conditions, and was president of the Industrial Welfare Society. His series of annual summer camps for boys between 1921 and 1939 brought together boys from different social backgrounds.


Marriage

In a time when royalty were expected to marry fellow royalty, it was unusual that Albert had a great deal of freedom in choosing a prospective wife. An infatuation with the already-married Australian socialite Lady Loughborough came to an end in April 1920 when the King, with the promise of the dukedom of York, persuaded Albert to stop seeing her. That year, he met for the first time since childhood
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon (4 August 1900 – 30 March 2002) was List of British royal consorts, Queen of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 to 6 February 1952 as the wife of Ki ...
, the youngest daughter of the
Earl Earl () is a rank of the nobility in the United Kingdom. The title originates in the Old English word ''eorl'', meaning "a man of noble birth or rank". The word is cognate with the Old Norse, Scandinavian form ''jarl'', and meant "Germanic ch ...
and Countess of Strathmore. He became determined to marry her. Elizabeth rejected his proposal twice, in 1921 and 1922, reportedly because she was reluctant to make the sacrifices necessary to become a member of the royal family. In the words of Lady Strathmore, Albert would be "made or marred" by his choice of wife. After a protracted courtship, Elizabeth agreed to marry him. Albert and Elizabeth were married on 26 April 1923 in
Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, is an historic, mainly Gothic architecture, Gothic Church (building), church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of ...
. Albert's marriage to someone not of royal birth was considered a modernising gesture. The newly formed
British Broadcasting Company The British Broadcasting Company Ltd. (BBC) was a short-lived British commercial broadcasting company formed on 18 October 1922 by British and American electrical companies doing business in the United Kingdom. Licensed by the British General ...
wished to record and broadcast the event on radio, but the Abbey Chapter vetoed the idea (although the Dean, Herbert Edward Ryle, was in favour). From December 1924 to April 1925, the Duke and Duchess toured
Kenya ) , national_anthem = "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"() , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 = , capital = Nairobi , coordinates = , largest_city = Nairobi , ...
,
Uganda }), is a landlocked country in East Africa. The country is bordered to the east by Kenya, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the south-west by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania. The souther ...
, and the
Sudan Sudan ( or ; ar, السودان, as-Sūdān, officially the Republic of the Sudan ( ar, جمهورية السودان, link=no, Jumhūriyyat as-Sūdān), is a country in Northeast Africa. It shares borders with the Central African Republic ...
, travelling via the
Suez Canal The Suez Canal ( arz, قَنَاةُ ٱلسُّوَيْسِ, ') is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez and dividing Africa and Asia. The long canal is a popular ...
and
Aden Aden ( , ; ar, عدن ' Yemeni Arabic, Yemeni: ) is a city, and since 2015, the temporary capital of Yemen, near the eastern approach to the Red Sea (the Gulf of Aden), some east of the strait Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately ...
. During the trip, they both went
big-game hunting Big-game hunting is the hunting of large game animals for meat, commercially valuable animal product, by-products (such as horn (anatomy), horns/antlers, furs, tusks, bones, body fat/oil, or special organ (anatomy), organs and contents), troph ...
. Because of his stammer, Albert dreaded public speaking. After his closing speech at the
British Empire Exhibition The British Empire Exhibition was a colonial exhibition held at Wembley Park, London England from 23 April to 1 November 1924 and from 9 May to 31 October 1925. Background In 1920 the Government of the United Kingdom, British Government decided ...
at
Wembley Wembley () is a large suburbIn British English, "suburb" often refers to the secondary urban centres of a city. Wembley is not a suburb in the American sense, i.e. a single-family residential area outside of the city itself. in north-west Londo ...
on 31 October 1925, one which was an ordeal for both him and his listeners, he began to see Lionel Logue, an Australian-born speech therapist. The Duke and Logue practised breathing exercises, and the Duchess rehearsed with him patiently. Subsequently, he was able to speak with less hesitation. With his delivery improved, the Duke opened the new Parliament House in
Canberra Canberra ( ) is the capital city of Australia. Founded following the Federation of Australia, federation of the colonies of Australia as the seat of government for the new nation, it is Australia's largest inland city and the List of citi ...
, Australia, during a tour of the empire with the Duchess in 1927. Their journey by sea to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji took them via Jamaica, where Albert played doubles tennis partnered with a black man, Bertrand Clark, which was unusual at the time and taken locally as a display of equality between races. The Duke and Duchess had two children: Elizabeth (called "Lilibet" by the family, and the future Elizabeth II) who was born in 1926, and Margaret who was born in 1930. The close family lived at 145
Piccadilly Piccadilly () is a road in the City of Westminster, London, to the south of Mayfair, between Hyde Park Corner in the west and Piccadilly Circus in the east. It is part of the A4 road (England), A4 road that connects central London to Hammersm ...
, rather than one of the royal palaces. In 1931, the
Canadian prime minister The prime minister of Canada (french: premier ministre du Canada, link=no) is the head of government of Canada. Under the Westminster system, the prime minister governs with the Confidence and supply, confidence of a majority the elected Hou ...
, R. B. Bennett, considered the Duke for
Governor General of Canada The governor general of Canada (french: gouverneure générale du Canada) is the federal viceregal representative of the . The is head of state of Canada and the 14 other Commonwealth realms, but resides in oldest and most populous realm ...
—a proposal that King George V rejected on the advice of the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, J. H. Thomas.


Reluctant king

King George V had severe reservations about Prince Edward, saying "After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in twelve months" and "I pray God that my eldest son will never marry and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne." On 20 January 1936, George V died and Edward ascended the throne as King Edward VIII. In the Vigil of the Princes, Prince Albert and his three brothers (the new king,
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, (Henry William Frederick Albert; 31 March 1900 – 10 June 1974) was the third son and fourth child of King George V and Mary of Teck, Queen Mary. He served as Governor-General of Australia from 1945 to 1947, ...
, and
Prince George, Duke of Kent Prince George, Duke of Kent, (George Edward Alexander Edmund; 20 December 1902 – 25 August 1942) was a member of the British royal family, the fourth son of King George V and Mary of Teck, Queen Mary. He was a younger brother of kings Edward ...
) took a shift standing guard over their father's body as it lay in state, in a closed casket, in
Westminster Hall The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Informally known as the Houses of Parli ...
. As Edward was unmarried and had no children, Albert was the
heir presumptive An heir presumptive is the person entitled to inherit a throne, peerage, or other hereditary honour, but whose position can be displaced by the birth of an heir apparent or a new heir presumptive with a better claim to the position in question. ...
to the throne. Less than a year later, on 11 December 1936, Edward Edward VIII abdication crisis, abdicated in order to marry
Wallis Simpson Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (born Bessie Wallis Warfield, later Simpson; June 19, 1896 – April 24, 1986), was an American Socialite#United_States, socialite and wife of the former King Edward VIII. Their intention to marry and her status ...
, who was divorced from her first husband and divorcing her second. Edward had been advised by British prime minister Stanley Baldwin that he could not remain king and marry a divorced woman with two living ex-husbands. He abdicated and Albert, though he had been reluctant to accept the throne, became king. The day before the abdication, Albert went to London to see his mother, Queen Mary. He wrote in his diary, "When I told her what had happened, I broke down and sobbed like a child." On the day of Edward's abdication, the Oireachtas, the parliament of the Irish Free State, Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Act 1936, removed all direct mention of the monarch from the Constitution of the Irish Free State, Irish constitution. The next day, it passed the External Relations Act, which gave the monarch limited authority (strictly on the advice of the government) to appoint diplomatic representatives for Ireland and to be involved in the making of foreign treaties. The two acts made the Irish Free State a republic in essence without removing its links to the Commonwealth. Across Britain, gossip spread that Albert was physically and psychologically incapable of being king. No evidence has been found to support the contemporaneous rumour that the government considered bypassing him, his children and his brother Prince Henry, in favour of their younger brother Prince George, Duke of Kent. This seems to have been suggested on the grounds that Prince George was at that time the only brother with Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, a son.


Early reign

Albert assumed the
regnal name A regnal name, or regnant name or reign name, is the name used by monarchs and popes during their reigns and, subsequently, historically. Since ancient times, some monarchs have chosen to use a different name from their original name when they ...
"George VI" to emphasise continuity with his father and restore confidence in the monarchy. The beginning of George VI's reign was taken up by questions surrounding his predecessor and brother, whose titles, style and position were uncertain. He had been introduced as "His Royal Highness Prince Edward" for the abdication broadcast, but George VI felt that by abdicating and renouncing the succession, Edward had lost the right to bear royal titles, including "Royal Highness". In settling the issue, George's first act as king was to confer upon his brother the title "Duke of Windsor" with the style "Royal Highness", but the letters patent creating the dukedom prevented any wife or children from bearing royal styles. George VI was forced to buy from Edward the royal residences of Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House, as these were private properties and did not pass to him automatically. Three days after his accession, on his 41st birthday, he invested his wife, the new queen consort, with the Order of the Garter. George VI's coronation at Westminster Abbey took place on 12 May 1937, the date previously intended for Edward's coronation. In a break with tradition, his mother Queen Mary attended the ceremony in a show of support for her son. There was no durbar (court), Durbar held in Delhi for George VI, as had occurred for his father, as the cost would have been a burden to the British Raj, Government of India. Rising Indian independence movement, Indian nationalism made the welcome that the royal party would have received likely to be muted at best, and a prolonged absence from Britain would have been undesirable in the tense period before the Second World War. Two overseas tours were undertaken, to France and to North America, both of which promised greater strategic advantages in the event of war. The growing likelihood of war in Europe dominated the early reign of George VI. The King was constitutionally bound to support Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler. When the King and Queen greeted Chamberlain on his return from negotiating the Munich Agreement in 1938, they invited him to appear on the balcony of
Buckingham Palace Buckingham Palace () is a London royal official residence, residence and the administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and roya ...
with them. This public association of the monarchy with a politician was exceptional, as balcony appearances were traditionally restricted to the royal family. While broadly popular among the general public, Chamberlain's policy towards Hitler was the subject of some opposition in the British House of Commons, House of Commons, which led historian John Grigg (writer), John Grigg to describe George's behaviour in associating himself so prominently with a politician as "the most unconstitutional act by a British sovereign in the present century". In May and June 1939, the 1939 royal tour of Canada, King and Queen toured Canada and the United States; it was the first visit of a reigning British monarch to North America, although George had been to Canada prior to his accession. From Ottawa, the royal couple were accompanied by the Canadian prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, to present themselves in North America as King and Queen of Canada. Both Governor General of Canada Lord Tweedsmuir and Mackenzie King hoped that George's presence in Canada would demonstrate the principles of the Statute of Westminster 1931, which gave full sovereignty to the British Dominions. On 19 May, George personally accepted and approved the Letter of Credence of the new U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Daniel Calhoun Roper; gave Royal Assent to nine parliamentary bills; and ratified two international treaties with the Great Seal of Canada. The official royal tour historian, Gustave Lanctot, wrote "the Statute of Westminster had assumed full reality" and George gave a speech emphasising "the free and equal association of the nations of the Commonwealth". The trip was intended to soften the strong isolationist tendencies among the North American public with regard to the developing tensions in Europe. Although the aim of the tour was mainly political, to shore up Atlantic support for the United Kingdom in any future war, the King and Queen were enthusiastically received by the public. The fear that George would be compared unfavourably to his predecessor was dispelled. They visited the 1939 New York World's Fair and stayed with President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House and at Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, his private estate at Hyde Park, New York. A strong bond of friendship was forged between Roosevelt and the royal couple during the tour, which had major significance in the relations between the United States and the United Kingdom through the ensuing war years.


Second World War

Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, the United Kingdom and the self-governing Dominions Irish neutrality during World War II, other than Ireland declared war on
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") (officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945) was ...
. The King and Queen resolved to stay in London, despite German The Blitz, bombing raids. They officially stayed in Buckingham Palace throughout the war, although they usually spent nights at Windsor Castle. The first night of the Blitz on London, on 7 September 1940, killed about one thousand civilians, mostly in the East End. On 13 September, the couple narrowly avoided death when two German bombs exploded in a courtyard at Buckingham Palace while they were there. In defiance, Elizabeth declared: "I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel we can look the East End in the face." The royal family were portrayed as sharing the same dangers and deprivations as the rest of the country. They were subject to British rationing restrictions, and U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt remarked on the rationed food served and the limited bathwater that was permitted during a stay at the unheated and boarded-up Palace. In August 1942, the King's brother, the Duke of Kent, was killed on active service. In 1940, Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister, though personally George would have preferred to appoint Lord Halifax. After the King's initial dismay over Churchill's appointment of Lord Beaverbrook to the Cabinet, he and Churchill developed "the closest personal relationship in modern British history between a monarch and a Prime Minister". Every Tuesday for four and a half years from September 1940, the two men met privately for lunch to discuss the war in secret and with frankness. George related much of what the two discussed in his diary, which is the only extant first-hand account of these conversations. Throughout the war, George and Elizabeth provided morale-boosting visits throughout the United Kingdom, visiting bomb sites, munitions factories, and troops. George visited military forces abroad in France in December 1939, North Africa and Malta in June 1943, Operation Overlord, Normandy in June 1944, southern Italy in July 1944, and the Low Countries in October 1944. Their high public profile and apparently indefatigable determination secured their place as symbols of national resistance. At a social function in 1944, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field marshal (United Kingdom), Field Marshal Alan Brooke, revealed that every time he met Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, he thought Montgomery was after his job. George replied: "You should worry, when I meet him, I always think he's after mine!" In 1945, crowds shouted "We want the King!" in front of Buckingham Palace during the Victory in Europe Day celebrations. In an echo of Chamberlain's appearance, the King invited Churchill to appear with the royal family on the balcony to public acclaim. In January 1946, George addressed the United Nations General Assembly, United Nations at its first assembly, which was held in London, and reaffirmed "our faith in the equal rights of men and women and of nations great and small".


Empire to Commonwealth

George VI's reign saw the acceleration of the dissolution of the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. I ...
. The Statute of Westminster 1931 had already acknowledged the evolution of the Dominions into separate sovereignty, sovereign states. The process of transformation from an empire to a voluntary association of independent states, known as the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth, gathered pace after the Second World War. During the ministry of Clement Attlee, British India became the two independent Dominions of Dominion of India, India and Dominion of Pakistan, Pakistan in August 1947. George relinquished the title of
Emperor of India Emperor or Empress of India was a title used by British monarchs from 1 May 1876 (with the Royal Titles Act 1876) to 22 June 1948, that was used to signify their rule over British Raj, British India, as its imperial head of state. Royal Procla ...
, and became King of India and King of Pakistan instead. In late April 1949, the Commonwealth leaders issued the
London Declaration The London Declaration was a declaration issued by the 1949 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference on the issue of India, India's continued membership of the Commonwealth of Nations, an association of independent states formerly part of the Br ...
, which laid the foundation of the modern Commonwealth and recognised George as
Head of the Commonwealth The head of the Commonwealth is the ceremonial leader who symbolises "the free association of independent member nations" of the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation that currently comprises 56 sovereign states. There ...
. In January 1950, he ceased to be King of India when it became a republic. He remained King of Pakistan until his death. Other countries left the Commonwealth, such as Burma in January 1948, Mandatory Palestine, Palestine (divided between Israel and the Arab states) in May 1948 and the Republic of Ireland in 1949. In 1947, George and his family toured southern Africa. The prime minister of the Union of South Africa, Jan Smuts, was facing an election and hoped to make political capital out of the visit. George was appalled, however, when instructed by the South African government to shake hands only with whites, and referred to his South African bodyguards as "the Gestapo". Despite the tour, Smuts lost 1948 South African general election, the election the following year, and the new government instituted a apartheid, strict policy of racial segregation.


Illness and death

The stress of the war had taken its toll on George's health, made worse by his heavy tobacco smoking, smoking and subsequent development of lung cancer among other ailments, including arteriosclerosis and Buerger's disease. A planned tour of Australia and New Zealand was postponed after George suffered an arterial blockage in his right leg, which threatened the loss of the leg and was treated with a right lumbar sympathectomy in March 1949. His elder daughter and heir presumptive, Elizabeth, took on more royal duties as her father's health deteriorated. The delayed tour was re-organised, with Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, taking the place of the King and Queen. George was well enough to open the Festival of Britain in May 1951, but on 4 June it was announced that he would need immediate and complete rest for the next four weeks, despite the arrival of Haakon VII of Norway the following afternoon for an official visit. On 23 September 1951, he underwent a surgical operation where his entire left pneumonectomy, lung was removed by Clement Price Thomas after a malignant tumour was found. In October 1951, Elizabeth and Philip went on a month-long tour of Canada; the trip had been delayed for a week due to George's illness. At the State Opening of Parliament in November, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Simonds, read the King's speech from the throne. The King's Royal Christmas Message, Christmas broadcast of 1951 was recorded in sections, and then edited together. On 31 January 1952, despite advice from those close to him, George went to Heathrow Airport, London Airport to see Elizabeth and Philip off on their tour to Australia via Kenya. It was his last public appearance. Six days later, at 07:30 GMT on the morning of 6 February, he was found dead in bed at Sandringham House in Norfolk. He had died in the night from a
coronary thrombosis Coronary thrombosis is defined as the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel of the heart. This blood clot may then restrict blood flow within the heart, leading to heart tissue damage, or a myocardial infarction A myocardial infarct ...
at the age of 56. His daughter flew back to Britain from Kenya as Queen Elizabeth II. From 9 February George's coffin rested in St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, before lying in state at Westminster Hall from 11 February. His funeral took place at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on the 15th. He was interred initially in the Royal Vault until he was transferred to the King George VI Memorial Chapel inside St George's on 26 March 1969. In 2002, fifty years after his death, the remains of his widow, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and the ashes of his younger daughter, Princess Margaret, who both died that year, were interred in the chapel alongside him. In 2022, the remains of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, were Death and state funeral of Elizabeth II, interred in the chapel.


Legacy

In the words of Labour Party (UK), Labour Member of Parliament (United Kingdom), Member of Parliament (MP) George Hardie (politician), George Hardie, the abdication crisis of 1936 did "more for republicanism than fifty years of propaganda". George VI wrote to his brother Edward that in the aftermath of the abdication he had reluctantly assumed "a rocking throne" and tried "to make it steady again". He became king at a point when public faith in the monarchy was at a low ebb. During his reign, his people endured the hardships of war, and imperial power was eroded. However, as a dutiful family man and by showing personal courage, he succeeded in restoring the popularity of the monarchy. The George Cross and the George Medal were founded at the King's suggestion during the Second World War to recognise acts of exceptional civilian bravery. He bestowed the George Cross on the entire "Siege of Malta (World War II), island fortress of Malta" in 1943. He was posthumously awarded the Order of Liberation by the French government in 1960, one of only two people (the other being Churchill in 1958) to be awarded the medal after 1946. Colin Firth won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as George VI in the 2010 film ''The King's Speech''.


Honours and arms


Arms

As Duke of York, Albert bore the royal arms of the United Kingdom differenced with a Label (heraldry), label of three points argent, the centre point bearing an anchor Azure (heraldry), azure—a difference earlier awarded to his father, George V, when he was Duke of York, and then later awarded to his grandson Prince Andrew, Duke of York. As king, he bore the royal arms undifferenced.Velde, François (19 April 2008),
Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family
'', Heraldica, retrieved 22 April 2009


Issue


Ancestry


Notes


References


Citations


General and cited sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links

* * * * , - , - {{DEFAULTSORT:George 06 Of The United Kingdom George VI, 1895 births 1952 deaths 19th-century British people 20th-century British monarchs Abdication of Edward VIII Alumni of Trinity College, Cambridge British Empire in World War II British field marshals British people of German descent British princes Burials at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle Chief Commanders of the Legion of Merit Children of George V Collars of the Order of Saints George and Constantine Companions of the Liberation Deaths from coronary thrombosis Dukes of York Earls of Inverness Emperors of India Field marshals of Australia Freemasons of the United Grand Lodge of England Grand Commanders of the Order of the Dannebrog Grand Croix of the Légion d'honneur Grand Crosses of the Order of Aviz, 3 Grand Crosses of the Order of Christ (Portugal), 3 Grand Crosses of the Order of Saint James of the Sword, 3 Grand Crosses of the Order of Saint-Charles Grand Crosses of the Order of the Phoenix (Greece) Heads of state of Canada Heads of state of India Heads of state of New Zealand Heads of state of Pakistan Heads of the Commonwealth Heirs to the British throne House of Windsor Kings of the Irish Free State Knights Grand Cross of the Military Order of William Knights Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George Knights Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order Knights of St Patrick Knights of the Garter Knights of the Military Order of Savoy Knights of the Thistle Lords High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland Marshals of the Royal Air Force Military personnel from Norfolk Monarchs of Australia Monarchs of Ceylon Monarchs of South Africa Monarchs of the Isle of Man Monarchs of the United Kingdom Peers created by George V People educated at the Royal Naval College, Osborne People from Sandringham, Norfolk People of the Victorian era People with speech impediment Princes of the United Kingdom Recipients of the Order of St. Vladimir, 4th class Residents of White Lodge, Richmond Park Royal Air Force personnel of World War I Royal Navy admirals of the fleet Royal Navy officers of World War I Royal reburials Royalty and nobility with disabilities Scottish Freemasons Sons of kings Sons of emperors World War II political leaders