signed lower right , the stepped oak frame bearing presentation plaque to G.Garnett & Son Ltd, to commemorate their silver jubilee 1910-1935
Born during the reign of his grandmother Queen Victoria, George was the second son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and was third in the line of succession to the British throne behind his father and elder brother, Prince Albert Victor. From 1877 to 1892, George served in the Royal Navy, until the unexpected death of his elder brother in early 1892 put him directly in line for the throne. On Victoria's death in 1901, George's father ascended the throne as Edward VII, and George was created Prince of Wales. He became king-emperor on his father's death in 1910.
George's reign saw the rise of socialism, communism, fascism, Irish republicanism, and the Indian independence movement, all of which radically changed the political landscape of the British Empire. The Parliament Act 1911 established the supremacy of the elected British House of Commons over the unelected House of Lords. As a result of the First World War (1914–1918), the empires of his first cousins Nicholas II of Russia and Wilhelm II of Germany fell, while the British Empire expanded to its greatest effective extent. In 1917, he became the first monarch of the House of Windsor, which he renamed from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha as a result of anti-German public sentiment. In 1924, George appointed the first Labour ministry and the 1931 Statute of Westminster recognised the Empire's dominions as separate, independent states within the British Commonwealth of Nations.
He suffered from smoking-related health problems throughout much of his later reign, and at his death was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward VIII.
George was born on 3 June 1865, in Marlborough House, London. He was the second son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and Alexandra, Princess of Wales. His father was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and his mother was the eldest daughter of King Christian IX and Queen Louise of Denmark. He was baptised at Windsor Castle on 7 July 1865 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Longley.
As a younger son of the Prince of Wales, there was little expectation that George would become king. He was third in line to the throne, after his father and elder brother, Prince Albert Victor. George was only 17 months younger than Albert Victor, and the two princes were educated together. John Neale Dalton was appointed as their tutor in 1871. Neither Albert Victor nor George excelled intellectually. As their father thought that the navy was "the very best possible training for any boy", in September 1877, when George was 12 years old, both brothers joined the cadet training ship HMS Britannia at Dartmouth, Devon.
For three years from 1879, the royal brothers served on HMS Bacchante, accompanied by Dalton. They toured the colonies of the British Empire in the Caribbean, South Africa and Australia, and visited Norfolk, Virginia, as well as South America, the Mediterranean, Egypt, and East Asia. In 1881 on a visit to Japan, George had a local artist tattoo a blue and red dragon on his arm, and was received in an audience by the Emperor Meiji; George and his brother presented Empress Haruko with two wallabies from Australia. Dalton wrote an account of their journey entitled The Cruise of HMS Bacchante. Between Melbourne and Sydney, Dalton recorded a sighting of the Flying Dutchman, a mythical ghost ship. When they returned to Britain, the Queen complained that her grandsons could not speak French or German, and so they spent six months in Lausanne in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to learn another language. After Lausanne, the brothers were separated; Albert Victor attended Trinity College, Cambridge, while George continued in the Royal Navy. He travelled the world, visiting many areas of the British Empire. During his naval career he commanded Torpedo Boat 79 in home waters, then HMS Thrush on the North America and West Indies Station. His last active service was in command of HMS Melampus in 1891–92. From then on, his naval rank was largely honorary.
As a young man destined to serve in the navy, Prince George served for many years under the command of his uncle, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, who was stationed in Malta. There, he grew close to and fell in love with his cousin, Princess Marie of Edinburgh. His grandmother, father and uncle all approved the match, but his mother and aunt—the Princess of Wales and Maria Alexandrovna, Duchess of Edinburgh—opposed it. The Princess of Wales thought the family was too pro-German, and the Duchess of Edinburgh disliked England. The Duchess, the only daughter of Alexander II of Russia, resented the fact that, as the wife of a younger son of the British sovereign, she had to yield precedence to George's mother, the Princess of Wales, whose father had been a minor German prince before being called unexpectedly to the throne of Denmark. Guided by her mother, Marie refused George when he proposed to her. She married Ferdinand, the future King of Romania, in 1893.
In November 1891, George's elder brother, Albert Victor, became engaged to his second cousin once removed Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, known as "May" within the family. Her parents were Francis, Duke of Teck (a member of a morganatic, cadet branch of the House of Württemberg), and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, a male-line granddaughter of King George III and a first cousin of Queen Victoria.
On 14 January 1892, six weeks after the formal engagement, Albert Victor died of pneumonia during an influenza pandemic, leaving George second in line to the throne, and likely to succeed after his father. George had only just recovered from a serious illness himself, after being confined to bed for six weeks with typhoid fever, the disease that was thought to have killed his grandfather Prince Albert. Queen Victoria still regarded Princess May as a suitable match for her grandson, and George and May grew close during their shared period of mourning.
A year after Albert Victor's death, George proposed to May and was accepted. They married on 6 July 1893 at the Chapel Royal in St James's Palace, London. Throughout their lives, they remained devoted to each other. George was, on his own admission, unable to express his feelings easily in speech, but they often exchanged loving letters and notes of endearment.
The death of his elder brother effectively ended George's naval career, as he was now second in line to the throne, after his father. George was created Duke of York, Earl of Inverness, and Baron Killarney by Queen Victoria on 24 May 1892, and received lessons in constitutional history from J. R. Tanner.
The Duke and Duchess of York had five sons and a daughter. Randolph Churchill claimed that George was a strict father, to the extent that his children were terrified of him, and that George had remarked to the Earl of Derby: "My father was frightened of his mother, I was frightened of my father, and I am damned well going to see to it that my children are frightened of me." In reality, there is no direct source for the quotation and it is likely that George's parenting style was little different from that adopted by most people at the time. Whether this was the case or not, his children did seem to resent his strict nature, Prince Henry going as far as to describe him as a "terrible father" in later years.
They lived mainly at York Cottage, a relatively small house in Sandringham, Norfolk, where their way of life mirrored that of a comfortable middle-class family rather than royalty. George preferred a simple, almost quiet, life, in marked contrast to the lively social life pursued by his father. His official biographer, Harold Nicolson, later despaired of George's time as Duke of York, writing: "He may be all right as a young midshipman and a wise old king, but when he was Duke of York ... he did nothing at all but kill [i.e. shoot] animals and stick in stamps." George was an avid stamp collector, which Nicolson disparaged, but George played a large role in building the Royal Philatelic Collection into the most comprehensive collection of United Kingdom and Commonwealth stamps in the world, in some cases setting record purchase prices for items.
In October 1894, George's maternal uncle-by-marriage, Tsar Alexander III of Russia, died. At the request of his father, "out of respect for poor dear Uncle Sasha's memory", George joined his parents in St Petersburg for the funeral. He and his parents remained in Russia for the wedding a week later of the new Russian emperor, his maternal first cousin Nicholas II, to one of George's paternal first cousins, Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, who had once been considered as a potential bride for George's elder brother.
As Duke of York, George carried out a wide variety of public duties. On the death of Queen Victoria on 22 January 1901, George's father ascended the throne as King Edward VII. George inherited the title of Duke of Cornwall, and for much of the rest of that year, he was known as the Duke of Cornwall and York.
In 1901, the Duke and Duchess toured the British Empire. Their tour included Gibraltar, Malta, Port Said, Aden, Ceylon, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, South Africa, Canada, and the Colony of Newfoundland. The tour was designed by Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain with the support of Prime Minister Lord Salisbury to reward the Dominions for their participation in the South African War of 1899–1902. George presented thousands of specially designed South African War medals to colonial troops. In South Africa, the royal party met civic leaders, African leaders, and Boer prisoners, and was greeted by elaborate decorations, expensive gifts, and fireworks displays. Despite this, not all residents responded favourably to the tour. Many white Cape Afrikaners resented the display and expense, the war having weakened their capacity to reconcile their Afrikaner-Dutch culture with their status as British subjects. Critics in the English-language press decried the enormous cost at a time when families faced severe hardship.
In Australia, the Duke opened the first session of the Australian Parliament upon the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia. In New Zealand, he praised the military values, bravery, loyalty, and obedience to duty of New Zealanders, and the tour gave New Zealand a chance to show off its progress, especially in its adoption of up-to-date British standards in communications and the processing industries. The implicit goal was to advertise New Zealand's attractiveness to tourists and potential immigrants, while avoiding news of growing social tensions, by focusing the attention of the British press on a land few knew about. On his return to Britain, in a speech at Guildhall, London, George warned of "the impression which seemed to prevail among [our] brethren across the seas, that the Old Country must wake up if she intends to maintain her old position of pre-eminence in her colonial trade against foreign competitors."
On 9 November 1901, George was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. King Edward wished to prepare his son for his future role as king. In contrast to Edward himself, whom Queen Victoria had deliberately excluded from state affairs, George was given wide access to state documents by his father. George in turn allowed his wife access to his papers, as he valued her counsel and she often helped write her husband's speeches. As Prince of Wales, he supported reforms in naval training, including cadets being enrolled at the ages of twelve and thirteen, and receiving the same education, whatever their class and eventual assignments. The reforms were implemented by the then Second (later First) Sea Lord, Sir John Fisher.
From November 1905 to March 1906, George and May toured British India, where he was disgusted by racial discrimination and campaigned for greater involvement of Indians in the government of the country. The tour was almost immediately followed by a trip to Spain for the wedding of King Alfonso XIII to Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, a first cousin of George, at which the bride and groom narrowly avoided assassination. A week after returning to Britain, George and May travelled to Norway for the coronation of King Haakon VII, George's cousin and brother-in-law, and Queen Maud, George's sister.
I have lost my best friend and the best of fathers ... I never had a [cross] word with him in my life. I am heart-broken and overwhelmed with grief but God will help me in my responsibilities and darling May will be my comfort as she has always been. May God give me strength and guidance in the heavy task which has fallen on me.
George had never liked his wife's habit of signing official documents and letters as "Victoria Mary" and insisted she drop one of those names. They both thought she should not be called Queen Victoria, and so she became Queen Mary. Later that year, a radical propagandist, Edward Mylius, published a lie that George had secretly married in Malta as a young man, and that consequently his marriage to Queen Mary was bigamous. The lie had first surfaced in print in 1893, but George had shrugged it off as a joke. In an effort to kill off rumours, Mylius was arrested, tried and found guilty of criminal libel, and was sentenced to a year in prison.
George objected to the anti-Catholic wording of the Accession Declaration that he would be required to make at the opening of his first parliament. He made it known that he would refuse to open parliament unless it was changed. As a result, the Accession Declaration Act 1910 shortened the declaration and removed the most offensive phrases.
George and Mary's coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on 22 June 1911, and was celebrated by the Festival of Empire in London. In July, the King and Queen visited Ireland for five days; they received a warm welcome, with thousands of people lining the route of their procession to cheer. Later in 1911, the King and Queen travelled to India for the Delhi Durbar, where they were presented to an assembled audience of Indian dignitaries and princes as the Emperor and Empress of India on 12 December 1911. George wore the newly created Imperial Crown of India at the ceremony, and declared the shifting of the Indian capital from Calcutta to Delhi. He was the only Emperor of India to be present at his own Delhi Durbar. They travelled throughout the subcontinent, and George took the opportunity to indulge in big game hunting in Nepal, shooting 21 tigers, 8 rhinoceroses and a bear over 10 days. He was a keen and expert marksman.On 18 December 1913, he shot over a thousand pheasants in six hours at Hall Barn, the home of Lord Burnham, although even George had to acknowledge that "we went a little too far" that day.
George inherited the throne at a politically turbulent time. Lloyd George's People's Budget had been rejected the previous year by the Conservative and Unionist-dominated House of Lords, contrary to the normal convention that the Lords did not veto money bills. Liberal Prime Minister H. H. Asquith had asked the previous king to give an undertaking that he would create sufficient Liberal peers to force the budget through the House. Edward had reluctantly agreed, provided the Lords rejected the budget after two successive general elections. After the January 1910 general election, the Conservative peers allowed the budget, for which the government now had an electoral mandate, to pass without a vote.
Asquith attempted to curtail the power of the Lords through constitutional reforms, which were again blocked by the Upper House. A constitutional conference on the reforms broke down in November 1910 after 21 meetings. Asquith and Lord Crewe, Liberal leader in the Lords, asked George to grant a dissolution, leading to a second general election, and to promise to create sufficient Liberal peers if the Lords blocked the legislation again. If George refused, the Liberal government would otherwise resign, which would have given the appearance that the monarch was taking sides—with "the peers against the people"—in party politics. The King's two private secretaries, the Liberal Lord Knollys and the Unionist Lord Stamfordham, gave George conflicting advice.Knollys advised George to accept the Cabinet's demands, while Stamfordham advised George to accept the resignation. Like his father, George reluctantly agreed to the dissolution and creation of peers, although he felt his ministers had taken advantage of his inexperience to browbeat him. After the December 1910 general election, the Lords let the bill pass on hearing of the threat to swamp the house with new peers. The subsequent Parliament Act 1911 permanently removed—with a few exceptions—the power of the Lords to veto bills. The King later came to feel that Knollys had withheld information from him about the willingness of the opposition to form a government if the Liberals had resigned.
The 1910 general elections had left the Liberals as a minority government dependent upon the support of the Irish Nationalist Party. As desired by the Nationalists, Asquith introduced legislation that would give Ireland Home Rule, but the Conservatives and Unionists opposed it.As tempers rose over the Home Rule Bill, which would never have been possible without the Parliament Act, relations between the elderly Knollys and the Conservatives became poor, and he was pushed into retirement. Desperate to avoid the prospect of civil war in Ireland between Unionists and Nationalists, George called a meeting of all parties at Buckingham Palace in July 1914 in an attempt to negotiate a settlement. After four days the conference ended without an agreement. Political developments in Britain and Ireland were overtaken by events in Europe, and the issue of Irish Home Rule was suspended for the duration of the war.
First World War
On 4 August 1914, the King wrote in his diary, "I held a council at 10.45 to declare war with Germany. It is a terrible catastrophe but it is not our fault. ... Please to God it may soon be over." From 1914 to 1918, Britain and its allies were at war with the Central Powers, led by the German Empire. The German Kaiser Wilhelm II, who for the British public came to symbolise all the horrors of the war, was the King's first cousin. The King's paternal grandfather was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; consequently, the King and his children bore the German titles Prince and Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duke and Duchess of Saxony. Queen Mary, although born in England like her mother, was the daughter of the Duke of Teck, a descendant of the German Dukes of Württemberg. The King had brothers-in-law and cousins who were British subjects but who bore German titles such as Duke and Duchess of Teck, Prince and Princess of Battenberg, and Prince and Princess of Schleswig-Holstein. When H. G. Wells wrote about Britain's "alien and uninspiring court", George replied: "I may be uninspiring, but I'll be damned if I'm alien."
On 17 July 1917, George appeased British nationalist feelings by issuing a royal proclamation that changed the name of the British royal house from the German-sounding House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor. He and all his British relatives relinquished their German titles and styles and adopted British-sounding surnames. George compensated his male relatives by giving them British peerages. His cousin Prince Louis of Battenberg, who earlier in the war had been forced to resign as First Sea Lord through anti-German feeling, became Louis Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven, while Queen Mary's brothers became Adolphus Cambridge, 1st Marquess of Cambridge, and Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone.
In letters patent gazetted on 11 December 1917, the King restricted the style of "Royal Highness" and the titular dignity of "Prince (or Princess) of Great Britain and Ireland" to the children of the Sovereign, the children of the sons of the Sovereign and the eldest living son of the eldest son of a Prince of Wales. The letters patent also stated that "the titles of Royal Highness, Highness or Serene Highness, and the titular dignity of Prince and Princess shall cease except those titles already granted and remaining unrevoked". George's relatives who fought on the German side, such as Ernest Augustus, Crown Prince of Hanover, and Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, had their British peerages suspended by a 1919 Order in Council under the provisions of the Titles Deprivation Act 1917. Under pressure from his mother, Queen Alexandra, the King also removed the Garter flags of his German relations from St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
When Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, George's first cousin, was overthrown in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the British government offered political asylum to the Tsar and his family, but worsening conditions for the British people, and fears that revolution might come to the British Isles, led George to think that the presence of the Romanovs would be seen as inappropriate. Despite the later claims of Lord Mountbatten of Burma that Prime Minister David Lloyd George was opposed to the rescue of the Russian imperial family, the letters of Lord Stamfordham suggest that it was George V who opposed the idea against the advice of the government. Advance planning for a rescue was undertaken by MI1, a branch of the British secret service, but because of the strengthening position of the Bolshevik revolutionaries and wider difficulties with the conduct of the war, the plan was never put into operation. The Tsar and his immediate family remained in Russia, where they were killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. George wrote in his diary: "It was a foul murder. I was devoted to Nicky, who was the kindest of men and thorough gentleman: loved his country and people." The following year, Nicholas's mother, Marie Feodorovna, and other members of the extended Russian imperial family were rescued from Crimea by a British warship.
Two months after the end of the war, the King's youngest son, John, died at the age of 13 after a lifetime of ill health. George was informed of his death by Queen Mary, who wrote, "[John] had been a great anxiety to us for many years ... The first break in the family circle is hard to bear but people have been so kind & sympathetic & this has helped us much."
In May 1922, the King toured Belgium and northern France, visiting the First World War cemeteries and memorials being constructed by the Imperial War Graves Commission. The event was described in a poem, The King's Pilgrimage by Rudyard Kipling.The tour, and one short visit to Italy in 1923, were the only times George agreed to leave the United Kingdom on official business after the end of the war.
Before the First World War, most of Europe was ruled by monarchs related to George, but during and after the war, the monarchies of Austria, Germany, Greece, and Spain, like Russia, fell to revolution and war. In March 1919, Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Lisle Strutt was dispatched on the personal authority of the King to escort the former Emperor Charles I of Austria and his family to safety in Switzerland. In 1922, a Royal Navy ship was sent to Greece to rescue his cousins, Prince and Princess Andrew.
Political turmoil in Ireland continued as the Nationalists fought for independence; George expressed his horror at government-sanctioned killings and reprisals to Prime Minister Lloyd George. At the opening session of the Parliament of Northern Ireland on 22 June 1921, the King appealed for conciliation in a speech part drafted by General Jan Smuts and approved by Lloyd George. A few weeks later, a truce was agreed. Negotiations between Britain and the Irish secessionists led to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. By the end of 1922, Ireland was partitioned, the Irish Free State was established, and Lloyd George was out of office.
The King and his advisers were concerned about the rise of socialism and the growing labour movement, which they mistakenly associated with republicanism. The socialists no longer believed in their anti-monarchical slogans and were ready to come to terms with the monarchy if it took the first step. George adopted a more democratic, inclusive stance that crossed class lines and brought the monarchy closer to the public and the working class—a dramatic change for the King, who was most comfortable with naval officers and landed gentry. He cultivated friendly relations with moderate Labour Party politicians and trade union officials. His abandonment of social aloofness conditioned the royal family's behaviour and enhanced its popularity during the economic crises of the 1920s and for over two generations thereafter.
The years between 1922 and 1929 saw frequent changes in government. In 1924, George appointed the first Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, in the absence of a clear majority for any one of the three major parties. George's tactful and understanding reception of the first Labour government[ (which lasted less than a year) allayed the suspicions of the party's sympathisers. During the General Strike of 1926 the King advised the government of Conservative Stanley Baldwin against taking inflammatory action,and took exception to suggestions that the strikers were "revolutionaries" saying, "Try living on their wages before you judge them."
1926 Imperial Conference: George V and the prime ministers of the Empire. Clockwise from centre front: George V, Baldwin (United Kingdom), Monroe (Newfoundland), Coates (New Zealand), Bruce (Australia), Hertzog (South Africa), Cosgrave (Irish Free State), King (Canada).
In 1926, George hosted an Imperial Conference in London at which the Balfour Declaration accepted the growth of the British Dominions into self-governing "autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another". The Statute of Westminster 1931 formalised the Dominions' legislative independence and established that the succession to the throne could not be changed unless all the Parliaments of the Dominions as well as the Parliament at Westminster agreed. The Statute's preamble described the monarch as "the symbol of the free association of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations", who were "united by a common allegiance".
In the wake of a world financial crisis, the King encouraged the formation of a National Government in 1931 led by MacDonald and Baldwin, and volunteered to reduce the civil list to help balance the budget. He was concerned by the rise to power in Germany of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. In 1934, the King bluntly told the German ambassador Leopold von Hoesch that Germany was now the peril of the world, and that there was bound to be a war within ten years if Germany went on at the present rate; he warned the British ambassador in Berlin, Eric Phipps, to be suspicious of the Nazis.
In 1932, George agreed to deliver a Royal Christmas speech on the radio, an event that became annual thereafter. He was not in favour of the innovation originally but was persuaded by the argument that it was what his people wanted. By the Silver Jubilee of his reign in 1935, he had become a well-loved king, saying in response to the crowd's adulation, "I cannot understand it, after all I am only a very ordinary sort of fellow."
George's relationship with his eldest son and heir, Edward, deteriorated in these later years. George was disappointed in Edward's failure to settle down in life and appalled by his many affairs with married women. In contrast, he was fond of his second son, Prince Albert (later George VI), and doted on his eldest granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth; he nicknamed her "Lilibet", and she affectionately called him "Grandpa England". In 1935, George said of his son Edward: "After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself within 12 months", and of Albert and Elizabeth: "I pray to God my eldest son will never marry and have children, and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne."
Declining health and death
The First World War took a toll on George's health: he was seriously injured on 28 October 1915 when thrown by his horse at a troop review in France, and his heavy smoking exacerbated recurring breathing problems. He suffered from chronic bronchitis. In 1925, on the instruction of his doctors, he was reluctantly sent on a recuperative private cruise in the Mediterranean; it was his third trip abroad since the war, and his last. In November 1928, he fell seriously ill with septicaemia, and for the next two years his son Edward took over many of his duties. In 1929, the suggestion of a further rest abroad was rejected by the King "in rather strong language". Instead, he retired for three months to Craigweil House, Aldwick, in the seaside resort of Bognor, Sussex. As a result of his stay, the town acquired the suffix "Regis", which is Latin for "of the King". A myth later grew that his last words, upon being told that he would soon be well enough to revisit the town, were "Bugger Bognor!"
George never fully recovered. In his final year, he was occasionally administered oxygen. The death of his favourite sister, Victoria, in December 1935 depressed him deeply. On the evening of 15 January 1936, the King took to his bedroom at Sandringham House complaining of a cold; he remained in the room until his death. He became gradually weaker, drifting in and out of consciousness. Prime Minister Baldwin later said:
each time he became conscious it was some kind inquiry or kind observation of someone, some words of gratitude for kindness shown. But he did say to his secretary when he sent for him: "How is the Empire?" An unusual phrase in that form, and the secretary said: "All is well, sir, with the Empire", and the King gave him a smile and relapsed once more into unconsciousness.
By 20 January, he was close to death. His physicians, led by Lord Dawson of Penn, issued a bulletin with the words "The King's life is moving peacefully towards its close."Dawson's private diary, unearthed after his death and made public in 1986, reveals that the King's last words, a mumbled "God damn you!", were addressed to his nurse, Catherine Black, when she gave him a sedative that night. Dawson, who supported the "gentle growth of euthanasia", admitted in the diary that he hastened the King's death by injecting him, after 11:00 p.m., with two consecutive lethal injections: 3/4 of a grain of morphine followed shortly afterwards by a grain of cocaine.Dawson wrote that he acted to preserve the King's dignity, to prevent further strain on the family, and so that the King's death at 11:55 p.m. could be announced in the morning edition of The Times newspaper rather than "less appropriate ... evening journals". Neither Queen Mary, who was intensely religious and might not have sanctioned euthanasia, nor the Prince of Wales was consulted. The royal family did not want the King to endure pain and suffering and did not want his life prolonged artificially but neither did they approve Dawson's actions. British Pathé announced the King's death the following day, in which he was described as "for each one of us, more than a King, a father of a great family".
The German composer Paul Hindemith went to a BBC studio on the morning after the King's death and in six hours wrote Trauermusik (Mourning Music), for viola and orchestra. It was performed that same evening in a live broadcast by the BBC, with Adrian Boult conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the composer as soloist.
At the procession to George's lying in state in Westminster Hall, the cross surmounting the Imperial State Crown atop George's coffin fell off and landed in the gutter as the cortège turned into New Palace Yard. The new king, Edward VIII, saw it fall and wondered whether it was a bad omen for his new reign. As a mark of respect to their father, George's four surviving sons, Edward, Albert, Henry, and George, mounted the guard, known as the Vigil of the Princes, at the catafalque on the night before the funeral. The vigil was not repeated until the death of George's daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, in 2002. George V was interred at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 28 January 1936. Edward abdicated before the year was out, leaving Albert to ascend the throne as George VI.
George V disliked sitting for portraits and despised modern art; he was so displeased by one portrait by Charles Sims that he ordered it to be burned. He did admire sculptor Bertram Mackennal, who created statues of George for display in Madras and Delhi, and William Reid Dick, whose statue of George V stands outside Westminster Abbey, London.
George preferred to stay at home pursuing his hobbies of stamp collecting and game shooting, and he lived a life that later biographers considered dull because of its conventionality. He was not an intellectual; on returning from one evening at the opera, he wrote in his journal, "Went to Covent Garden and saw Fidelio and damned dull it was."Nonetheless, he was earnestly devoted to Britain and its Commonwealth.He explained, "it has always been my dream to identify myself with the great idea of Empire." He appeared hard-working and became widely admired by the people of Britain and the Empire, as well as "the Establishment" In the words of historian David Cannadine, King George V and Queen Mary were an "inseparably devoted couple" who upheld "character" and "family values".
George established a standard of conduct for British royalty that reflected the values and virtues of the upper middle-class rather than upper-class lifestyles or vices. Acting within his constitutional bounds, he dealt skilfully with a succession of crises: Ireland, the First World War, and the first socialist minority government in Britain. He was by temperament a traditionalist who never fully appreciated or approved the revolutionary changes underway in British society. Nevertheless, he invariably wielded his influence as a force of neutrality and moderation, seeing his role as mediator rather than final decision-maker.
Mary of Teck (Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes; 26 May 1867 – 24 March 1953) was Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Empress of India, from 6 May 1910 until 29 January 1936 as the wife of King-Emperor George V.
Born and raised in the United Kingdom, she was daughter to Francis, Duke of Teck, a German nobleman, and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, a granddaughter of King George III and a minor member of the British royal family. She was informally known as "May", after the month of her birth.
At the age of 24, she was betrothed to her second cousin once removed Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, but six weeks after the announcement of the engagement, he died unexpectedly during an influenza pandemic. The following year, she became engaged to Albert Victor's only surviving brother, George, who subsequently became king. Before her husband's accession, she was successively Duchess of York, Duchess of Cornwall, and Princess of Wales.
As queen consort from 1910, she supported her husband through the First World War, his ill health, and major political changes arising from the aftermath of the war. After George's death in 1936, she became queen mother when her eldest son, Edward VIII, ascended the throne; but to her dismay, he abdicated later the same year in order to marry twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. She supported her second son, George VI, until his death in 1952. She died the following year, during the reign of her granddaughter Elizabeth II, who had not yet been crowned. Among much else, an ocean liner, a battlecruiser, and a university were named in her honour.
Princess Victoria Mary ("May") of Teck was born on 26 May 1867 at Kensington Palace, London, in the same room where Queen Victoria, her first cousin once removed, had been born 48 years and 2 days earlier. Queen Victoria came to visit the baby, writing that she was "a very fine one, with pretty little features and a quantity of hair".
Her father was Prince Francis, Duke of Teck, the son of Duke Alexander of Württemberg by his morganatic wife, Countess Claudine Rhédey von Kis-Rhéde (created Countess von Hohenstein in the Austrian Empire). Her mother was Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, a granddaughter of King George III and the third child and younger daughter of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, and Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel.
She was baptised in the Chapel Royal of Kensington Palace on 27 July 1867 by Charles Thomas Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury. From an early age, she was known to her family, friends and the public by the diminutive name of "May", after her birth month.
May's upbringing was "merry but fairly strict". She was the eldest of four children, and the only daughter, and "learned to exercise her native discretion, firmness, and tact" by resolving her three younger brothers' petty boyhood squabbles. They played with their cousins, the children of the Prince of Wales, who were similar in age. She grew up at Kensington Palace and White Lodge, in Richmond Park, which was granted by Queen Victoria on permanent loan. She was educated at home by her mother and governess (as were her brothers until they were sent to boarding schools). The Duchess of Teck spent an unusually long time with her children for a lady of her time and class, and enlisted May in various charitable endeavours, which included visiting the tenements of the poor.
Although May was a great-grandchild of George III, she was only a minor member of the British royal family. Her father, the Duke of Teck, had no inheritance or wealth and carried the lower royal style of Serene Highness because his parents' marriage was morganatic. The Duchess of Teck was granted a parliamentary annuity of £5,000 and received about £4,000 a year from her mother, the Duchess of Cambridge, but she donated lavishly to dozens of charities. Prince Francis was deeply in debt and moved his family abroad with a small staff in 1883, in order to economise. They travelled throughout Europe, visiting their various relations. For a time they stayed in Florence, Italy, where May enjoyed visiting the art galleries, churches, and museums. She was fluent in English, German, and French.
In 1885, the family returned to London and lived for some time in Chester Square.May was close to her mother, and acted as an unofficial secretary, helping to organise parties and social events. She was also close to her aunt, the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and wrote to her every week. During the First World War, the Crown Princess of Sweden helped pass letters from May to her aunt, who lived in enemy territory in Germany until her death in 1916.
Victoria Mary with Prince Albert Victor, 1891
In 1886, "May" (as she was known) was a debutante in her first season, and was introduced at court. Her status as the only unmarried British princess who was not descended from Queen Victoria made her a suitable candidate for the royal family's most eligible bachelor, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, her second cousin once removed and the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.
On 3 December 1891 at Luton Hoo, then the country residence of Danish Ambassador Christian Frederick de Falbe, Albert Victor proposed marriage to May and she accepted. The choice of May as bride for the Duke owed much to Queen Victoria's fondness for her, as well as to her strong character and sense of duty. However, Albert Victor died six weeks later, in a recurrence of the worldwide 1889–90 influenza pandemic.
Albert Victor's brother, Prince George, Duke of York, now second in line to the throne, evidently became close to May during their shared period of mourning, and Queen Victoria still thought of her as a suitable candidate to marry a future king. The public was also anxious that the Duke of York should marry and settle the succession. In May 1893, George proposed, and May accepted. They were soon deeply in love, and their marriage was a success. George wrote to May every day they were apart and, unlike his father, never took a mistress.
Duchess of York (1893–1901)
Mary married Prince George, Duke of York, in London on 6 July 1893 at the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace. The new Duke and Duchess of York lived in York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, and in apartments in St James's Palace. York Cottage was a modest house for royalty, but it was a favourite of George, who liked a relatively simple life. They had six children: Edward, Albert, Mary, Henry, George, and John.
The children were put into the care of a nanny, as was usual in upper-class families at the time. The first nanny was dismissed for insolence and the second for abusing the children. This second woman, anxious to suggest that the children preferred her to anyone else, would pinch Edward and Albert whenever they were about to be presented to their parents so that they would start crying and be speedily returned to her. On discovery, she was replaced by her effective and much-loved assistant, Charlotte Bill.
Sometimes, Mary and George appear to have been distant parents. At first, they failed to notice the nanny's abuse of the young princes Edward and Albert, and their youngest son, Prince John, was housed in a private farm on the Sandringham Estate, in Bill's care, perhaps to hide his epilepsy from the public. Despite Mary's austere public image and her strait-laced private life, she was a caring mother and comforted her children when they suffered from her husband's strict discipline.
Edward wrote fondly of his mother in his memoirs: "Her soft voice, her cultivated mind, the cosy room overflowing with personal treasures were all inseparable ingredients of the happiness associated with this last hour of a child's day ... Such was my mother's pride in her children that everything that happened to each one was of the utmost importance to her. With the birth of each new child, Mama started an album in which she painstakingly recorded each progressive stage of our childhood". He expressed a less charitable view, however, in private letters to his wife after his mother's death: "My sadness was mixed with incredulity that any mother could have been so hard and cruel towards her eldest son for so many years and yet so demanding at the end without relenting a scrap. I'm afraid the fluids in her veins have always been as icy cold as they are now in death."
As Duke and Duchess of York, George and Mary carried out a variety of public duties. In 1897, she became the patron of the London Needlework Guild in succession to her mother. The guild, initially established as The London Guild in 1882, was renamed several times and was named after Mary between 1914 and 2010. Samples of her own embroidery range from chair seats to tea cosies.
On 22 January 1901, Queen Victoria died, and Mary's father-in-law ascended the throne as Edward VII. For most of the rest of that year, George and Mary were known as the "Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York". For eight months they toured the British Empire, visiting Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt, Ceylon, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius, South Africa and Canada. No royal had undertaken such an ambitious tour before. She broke down in tears at the thought of leaving her children, who were to be left in the care of their grandparents, for such a long time.
Princess of Wales (1901–1910)
On 9 November 1901, nine days after arriving back in Britain and on the King's sixtieth birthday, George was created Prince of Wales. The family moved their London residence from St James's Palace to Marlborough House. As Princess of Wales, Mary accompanied her husband on trips to Austria-Hungary and Württemberg in 1904. The following year, she gave birth to her last child, John. It was a difficult labour, and although she recovered quickly, her newborn son suffered respiratory problems.
From October 1905 the Prince and Princess of Wales undertook another eight-month tour, this time of India, and the children were once again left in the care of their grandparents. They passed through Egypt both ways and on the way back stopped in Greece. The tour was almost immediately followed by a trip to Spain for the wedding of King Alfonso XIII to Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, at which the bride and groom narrowly avoided assassination. Only a week after returning to Britain, May and George went to Norway for the coronation of George's brother-in-law and sister, King Haakon VII and Queen Maud.
Queen consort (1910–1936)
On 6 May 1910, Edward VII died. Mary's husband ascended the throne and she became queen consort. When her husband asked her to drop one of her two official names, Victoria Mary, she chose to be called Mary, preferring not to be known by the same style as her husband's grandmother, Queen Victoria.She was the first British queen consort born in Britain since Catherine Parr. Queen Mary was crowned with the King on 22 June 1911 at Westminster Abbey. Later in the year, the new King and Queen travelled to India for the Delhi Durbar held on 12 December 1911, and toured the sub-continent as Emperor and Empress of India, returning to Britain in February.
The beginning of Mary's period as consort brought her into conflict with her mother-in-law, Queen Alexandra. Although the two were on friendly terms, Alexandra could be stubborn; she demanded precedence over Mary at the funeral of Edward VII, was slow in leaving Buckingham Palace, and kept some of the royal jewels that should have been passed to the new queen.
During the First World War, Queen Mary instituted an austerity drive at the palace, where she rationed food, and visited wounded and dying servicemen in hospital, which caused her great emotional strain. After three years of war against Germany, and with anti-German feeling in Britain running high, the Russian Imperial Family, which had been deposed by a revolutionary government, was refused asylum, possibly in part because the tsar's wife was German-born. News of the tsar's abdication provided a boost to those in Britain who wished to replace their own monarchy with a republic. The war ended in 1918 with the defeat of Germany and the abdication and exile of the kaiser.
Two months after the end of the war, Queen Mary's youngest son, John, died at the age of thirteen. She described her shock and sorrow in her diary and letters, extracts of which were published after her death: "our poor darling little Johnnie had passed away suddenly ... The first break in the family circle is hard to bear but people have been so kind & sympathetic & this has helped us [the King and me] much."
Her staunch support of her husband continued during the later half of his reign. She advised him on speeches and used her extensive knowledge of history and royalty to advise him on matters affecting his position. He appreciated her discretion, intelligence, and judgement. She maintained an air of self-assured calm throughout all her public engagements in the years after the war, a period marked by civil unrest over social conditions, Irish independence, and Indian nationalism.
In the late 1920s, George V became increasingly ill with lung problems, exacerbated by his heavy smoking. Queen Mary paid particular attention to his care. During his illness in 1928, one of his doctors, Sir Farquhar Buzzard, was asked who had saved the King's life. He replied, "The Queen".In 1935, King George V and Queen Mary celebrated their silver jubilee, with celebrations taking place throughout the British Empire. In his jubilee speech, George paid public tribute to his wife, having told his speechwriter, "Put that paragraph at the very end. I cannot trust myself to speak of the Queen when I think of all I owe her."
Queen mother (1936–1952)
George V died on 20 January 1936, after his physician, Lord Dawson of Penn, gave him an injection of morphine and cocaine that may have hastened his death. Queen Mary's eldest son ascended the throne as Edward VIII. She was then to be known as Her Majesty Queen Mary.
Within the year, Edward caused a constitutional crisis by announcing his desire to marry his twice-divorced American mistress, Wallis Simpson. Mary disapproved of divorce, which was against the teaching of the Anglican church, and thought Simpson wholly unsuitable to be the wife of a king. After receiving advice from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Stanley Baldwin, as well as the Dominion governments, that he could not remain king and marry Simpson, Edward abdicated.
Though loyal and supportive of her son, Mary could not comprehend why Edward would neglect his royal duties in favour of his personal feelings. Simpson had been presented formally to both King George V and Queen Mary at court, but Mary later refused to meet her either in public or privately. She saw it as her duty to provide moral support for her second son, the reserved Prince Albert, Duke of York. Albert ascended the throne on Edward's abdication, taking the name George VI. When Mary attended the coronation, she became the first British dowager queen to do so. Edward's abdication did not lessen her love for him, but she never wavered in her disapproval of his actions.
Mary took an interest in the upbringing of her granddaughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, and took them on various excursions in London, to art galleries and museums. (The princesses' own parents thought it unnecessary for them to be burdened with a demanding educational regime.) In May 1939, Mary was in a car crash: her car was overturned but she escaped with minor injuries and bruises.
During the Second World War, George VI wished his mother to be evacuated from London. Although she was reluctant, she decided to live at Badminton House, Gloucestershire, with her niece, Mary Somerset, Duchess of Beaufort, the daughter of her brother Adolphus. Her personal belongings were transported from London in seventy pieces of luggage. Her household, which comprised fifty-five servants, occupied most of the house, except for the Duke and Duchess's private suites, until after the war. The only people to complain about the arrangements were the royal servants, who found the house too small, though Queen Mary annoyed her niece by having the ancient ivy torn from the walls as she considered it unattractive and a hazard. From Badminton, in support of the war effort, she visited troops and factories and directed the gathering of scrap materials. She was known to offer lifts to soldiers she spotted on the roads. In 1942, her youngest surviving son, Prince George, Duke of Kent, was killed in an air crash while on active service. Mary finally returned to Marlborough House in June 1945, after the war in Europe had resulted in the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Mary was an eager collector of objects and pictures with a royal connection. She paid above-market estimates when purchasing jewels from the estate of Dowager Empress Marie of Russia and paid almost three times the estimate when buying the family's Cambridge Emeralds from Lady Kilmorey, the mistress of her late brother Prince Francis. In 1924, the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens created Queen Mary's Dolls' House for her collection of miniature pieces. She has sometimes been criticised for her aggressive acquisition of objets d'art for the Royal Collection. On several occasions, she would express to hosts, or others, that she admired something they had in their possession, in the expectation that the owner would be willing to donate it. Her extensive knowledge of, and research into, the Royal Collection helped in identifying artefacts and artwork that had gone astray over the years. The royal family had lent out many pieces over previous generations. Once she had identified unreturned items through old inventories, she would write to the holders, requesting that they be returned. In addition to being an avid collector, Mary also commissioned many gifts of jewellery, including rings which she presented to her ladies-in-waiting on the occasion of their engagements.
In 1952, King George VI died, the third of Queen Mary's children to predecease her; her eldest granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth, ascended the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. The death of a third child profoundly affected her. Mary remarked to Princess Marie Louise: "I have lost three sons through death, but I have never been privileged to be there to say a last farewell to them."
Mary died on 24 March 1953 in her sleep at the age of 85, ten weeks before her granddaughter's coronation. She had let it be known that should she die, the coronation should not be postponed.Her remains lay in state at Westminster Hall, where large numbers of mourners filed past her coffin. She is buried beside her husband in the nave of St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
Queen Mary University of London;Queen Mary Reservoir in Surrey, United Kingdom; Queen Mary College, Lahore; Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton; Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong; Queen Mary's Peak, the highest mountain in Tristan da Cunha; Queen Mary Land in Antarctica; and Queen Mary's College in Chennai, India, are named in her honour, as were the ocean liners RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Mary 2, also the Royal Navy battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary.
Actresses who have portrayed Queen Mary include Dame Flora Robson (in A King's Story, 1965), Dame Wendy Hiller (on the London stage in Crown Matrimonial, 1972), Greer Garson (in the television production of Crown Matrimonial, 1974), Judy Loe (in Edward the Seventh, 1975), Dame Peggy Ashcroft (in Edward & Mrs. Simpson, 1978), Phyllis Calvert (in The Woman He Loved, 1988), Gaye Brown (in All the King's Men, 1999), Miranda Richardson (in The Lost Prince, 2003), Margaret Tyzack (in Wallis & Edward, 2005), Claire Bloom (in The King's Speech, 2010), Judy Parfitt (in W.E., 2011), Valerie Dane (in the television version of Downton Abbey, 2013), Dame Eileen Atkins (in Bertie and Elizabeth, 2002 and The Crown, 2016), and Geraldine James (in the film version of Downton Abbey, 2019).
Sir Henry "Chips" Channon wrote that she was "above politics ... magnificent, humorous, worldly, in fact nearly sublime, though cold and hard. But what a grand Queen."
Kershaw Scholfield was a landscape painter from Bradford, West Yorkshire. He was a friend of the artist Herbert Royle. He e xhibited at the Birmingham City Gallery, the Walker Galley, The Manchester City Gallery and the Royal Academy. Bibliography: British Artists 1880-1940 compiled by J.Johnson & A Greutzner