This week’s 10 questions and answers post is on one of Britain’s most famous Monarchs in history. King George V lived from 3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936, he reigned alongside his consort Queen Mary for over 25 years and the two of them celebrated their Silver Jubilee, out of a handful of Monarchs that have.
Here is 10 questions and answers on King George V.
King George V was King of the United Kingdom from 1911-1936. George acceded to the throne after the death of his father King Edward VII. George wasn’t expected to be King until the death of his elder brother Prince Eddie which lead George to becoming heir to the throne. George married his brother’s fiancée, Princess Victoria Mary (or May as she was known due to the month of her birth). George was King of England during World War 1 and the changes to the Monarchy during his reign were astounding (as you’ll find out in these 10 Q&As).
On 6 May 1910, King Edward VII died, and George became king. 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. 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 as long as he was obliged to make the declaration in its current form. As a result the Accession Declaration Act 1910 shortened the declaration and removed the most offensive phrases.
In 1914, Britain declared war on Germany after events took a turn following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Immediately, a conflict of interest emerged between the two warring sides. Britain’s King George V was the first cousin of the German Kaiser (Emperor), Willhelm II. George, as the King and leader of the country now at war with his cousin needed to take action to secure his throne. His other cousin, Nicholas II of Russia had been deposed and later killed. George needed to create a truly British Monarchy, and he did.
In 1917, George V realised that if the Royal Family was to maintain its position as a German-descent family, it would cause uprising from a nation at war with Germany. George V made three major decisions at this time which led to the throne of Britain remaining safe during WW1. Firstly, he denied refuge to his cousin, the Russian Tsar and his family. It was a tough decision and George’s government had supported giving the Tsar and his family refuge. George felt it would look like the British Royal Family had something to hide. Secondly, he restricted the title and style of HRH and Prince/Princess to ‘all children of the Monarch, male-line grandchildren of the Sovereign and the son of the son of the Prince of Wales.’ Previously, his German relatives also held styles as British princes, which he withdrew rapidly. This restriction of titles is still in force today and came under the name of the ’1917 Letters Patent’. Thirdly, and perhaps most definitively, George changed the name of the Royal House. Previously, the ruling house was known as ‘The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’, a fundamentally German name that just wouldn’t do. In 1917, it was changed to the very British ‘Windsor’, which it remains today.
Windsor was the most British name that anyone could think of. It had great connotations as being the home of the oldest occupied castle in the world and being a pillar of the Monarchy for almost 1,000 years. To George and those concerned in renaming the Monarchy, Windsor was a cast iron choice, guaranteed to rouse British sympathies.
George V was very stern with his children. He famously said, “”My father [Edward VII] 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.” The way he raised his children was quite contestable in some people’s eyes. He was famously always disapproving of his eldest son Edward VIII, who abdicated after less than 12 months as King and George saw more strength in his 2nd son ‘Bertie’ [George VI].
George’s relationship with his Edward deteriorated in George’s 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 eldest 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 Lilibet: “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.”
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 obstructive pulmonary disease andpleurisy. 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”.
By 20 January 1936, King George was close to death. His physicians, led by Lord Dawson of Penn, issued a bulletin with words that became famous: “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 when she gave him a sedative on the night of 20 January. King George V died at Sandringham House on 20th January.
George’s physician, Lord Dawson, wrote that he hastened the King’s death by giving him a lethal injection of cocaine and morphine. Dawson noted 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 pm could be announced in the morning edition of The Times newspaper rather than the “ghastly evening newspapers”. When the nurse working aside Dawson refused to administer the lethal dose to the King (fearing repercussions of regicide), Dawson did it himself. The media were told that George’s last words were, “how is the empire”. In actual fact, his last words according to Dawson were, ‘God damn you’.
great Q&A, very informative
Agreed, this is a good summary of the highlights of his reign. Also worth mentioning is his use of the radio for the Christmas Message, which was one of the ways he reached out to the people to a much greater extent than his predecessors- a habit he passed along to his granddaughter.
I do think George V overestimated the republican threat from the left (and underestimated the ability of the Provisional Government to keep the Tsar & his family safe) when evaluating whether or not to offer amnesty to them, particularly since it was supported by the Government. At a minimum it seems he could have sent the 5 children to Australia or somewhere far away until things calmed down. The two monarchs looked so eerily alike that their sitters would sometimes confuse them when they were on holiday together as children- makes you wonder what he thought when he heard the news of their deaths.
Also, the Letters Patent 1917 regarding royal titles are indeed still in effect today, although they were recently amended to include the first-born child of the son of the Prince of Wales regardless of gender. I’m not sure if the change also effects a
hypothetical future daughter of a Prince of Wales.
WWI went from late-July 1914 to November 1918. At the outset in August 1914, Russia under Tsar Nicholas attacked Germany. It was a ruinous war that caused great suffering for the Russian people. In March 1917 the first revolution forced the tsar’s abidication. In the October/November Revolution that followed months later the communist Bolsheviks took power and took custody of the tsar and his wife and children. They were summarily executed in 1918. But from 1914-17 Tsar Nicholas commanded Russia’s war effort. In 1919 George V sent a warship to the Crimea to rescue his aunt the tsar’s mother and the tsar’s sister Xenia and her extended family. Grand Duchess Xenia lived in grace-and-favor residences provided by the British crown from 1925 to her death. George V granted her a pension. The tsar’s other sister, Olga, refused the British evacuation from the Crimea in 1919 and didn’t escape Russia unti 1920. She and her family settled in Denmark and later in Canada.
I must pray for King George VI ,What he did for us ,Catholics of the religion Founded by ” The Christ”.
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