George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert; June 3, 1865 – January 20, 1936) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from May 6, 1910 until his death in 1936.
George was born in Marlborough House, London. He was the second son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and Alexandra of Denmark, Princess of Wales (future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra). His father was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and his mother was the eldest daughter of King Christian IX and Queen Louise of Denmark (born a Princess of Hesse-Cassel).
He was baptised at Windsor Castle on July 7, 1865 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Longley.At birth George 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.
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 Emperor 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.
Princess Marie of Edinburgh
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 January 14, 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.
Prince George of Wales and Princess Mary of Teck on their wedding
A year after Albert Victor’s death, George proposed to May and was accepted. They married on July 6, 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 her birthday May 24, 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.
On Victoria’s death on January 22, 1901, George’s father ascended the throne as Edward VII, and George was created Prince of Wales.
George became King-Emperor George V on his father’s death in 1910.
George V’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.
Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and King George V of the United Kingdom
As a result of the First World War (1914–1918), the empires of his first cousins Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and German Emperor Wilhelm II 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, such as chronic chronic bronchitis, throughout much of his later reign.
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 January 15, 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.
By January 20, 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”.
His eldest son succeeds to the throne, becoming Edward VIII. The title Prince of Wales is not used for another 22 years.