George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; December 14, 1895 – February 6, 1952) was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from December 11, 1936 until his death in 1952. He was also the last Emperor of India from 1936 until the British Raj was dissolved in August 1947, and the first Head of the Commonwealth following the London Declaration of 1949.
King George VI of the United Kingdom and Emperor of India
The future George VI was born at York Cottage, on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, during the reign of his great-grandmother Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.
His father was Prince George, Duke of York (later King George V), the second and only surviving son of the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, Princess of Denmark).
His mother, Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary), was the eldest child and only daughter of Francis, Duke of Teck, and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, Duchess of Teck.
Queen Victoria with her great-grandchildren. In front is Prince Albert.
Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge was a daughter of Prince Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge the tenth child and seventh son of King George III of the United Kingdom and Queen Charlotte (born a Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz).
King Edward VII of the United Kingdom (right) together with his son Prince George, the Prince of Wales, later George V (left), and his grandsons, Prince Edward of Wales, later Edward VIII, and Prince Albert of Wales, later George VI.
Prince Adolphus Frederick was married to Princess and Landgravine Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, third daughter of Prince Friedrich of Hesse-Cassel, and his wife, Princess Caroline of Nassau-Usingen. Through her father, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, was a great-granddaughter of King George II of Great Britain, her grandmother being George II’s daughter Mary.
Prince Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge
This made Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge a first cousin to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.
Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, Duchess of Cambridge
Prince Albert’s birthday, December 14, 1895, was the 34th anniversary of the death of his great-grandfather Albert, Prince Consort, Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Prince George, Duke of York (George V)
Victoria Mary of Teck, Duchess of York (Queen Mary)
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.”
Albert and Elizabeth, Duke and Duchess of York
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 “Albert Frederick Arthur George” at St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham on February 17, 1896. Formally he was His Highness Prince Albert of York; within the royal family he was known informally as “Bertie”. On May 28, 1898 Queen Victoria issued Letters Patent elevating the styles of the children of the Duke of York (including Prince Albert) from His/Highness to His/Her Royal Highness.
Albert and Elizabeth, Duke and Duchess of York
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.
His father ascended the throne as King George V in 1910. As the second son of the king, Albert was not expected to inherit the throne.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at the time of thier Coronation
Prince Albert spent his early life in the shadow of his elder brother, Prince Edward, the heir apparent. Albert attended naval college as a teenager and served in the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force during the First World War. In 1920, he was made Duke of York.
He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923. Lady Bowes-Lyon was the youngest daughter and the ninth of ten children of Claude Bowes-Lyon, the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne in the Peerage of Scotland, and his wife, Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck. Her mother was descended from British Prime Minister William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, and Governor-General of India Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, who was the elder brother of another prime minister, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
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.
King George VI and his daughters The Princess Margaret and The Princess Elizabeth
His elder brother ascended the throne as King Edward VIII after their father died in 1936, but Edward abdicated later that year to marry the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. As heir presumptive to Edward VIII, Albert thereby became the third monarch of the House of Windsor, taking the regnal name George VI to show continuity within the Monarchy.
In September 1939, the British Empire and most Commonwealth countries—but not Ireland—declared war on Nazi Germany. War with the Kingdom of Italy and the Empire of Japan followed in 1940 and 1941, respectively. King George VI was seen as sharing the hardships of the common people and his popularity soared.
King George VI and his daughters The Princess Elizabeth and The Princess Margaret
Buckingham Palace was bombed during the Blitz while the King and Queen were there, and his younger brother the Prince George the Duke of Kent was killed on active service. King George VI 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 1948. King George VI relinquished the title of Emperor of India in June 1948 and instead adopted the new title of Head of the Commonwealth.
King George VI of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
King George VI was beset by smoking-related health problems in the later years of his reign and died of a coronary thrombosis in 1952. He was succeeded by his elder daughter, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
King Charles III of the United Kingdom is his grandson.