God save our gracious King…This famous anthem has potential to invoke trips down memory lane and possibly create aristocratic fantasies in the minds of those that sing it with pride. However, one of the greatest Monarchs in British history is not someone who had the dream of Sovereignty. Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George originally of
Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George, originally of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, was the second born child to Princess Mary of Teck and Prince George Frederick Ernest Albert on 14 December 1895, a somewhat unfortunate co-incidence in the mind of the reigning Monarch HM Queen Victoria as this date was the anniversary of the death of her beloved and intensely missed husband, Prince Albert. Albert (‘Bertie’) and his older brother, David (later the exiled Duke of Windsor) grew up at York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate with their three younger brothers and one sister. Bertie was afflicted with a stammer in his speech that made speaking in public and initiating conversations and relationships somewhat of a hellish crusade. This affliction and his other health problems such as bone growth problems and clinical depression created a man of genuine humility, fierce determination, extraordinary bravery and as the note, Sir Winston Churchill laid on Bertie’s casket said, a man of ‘valour’.
On 10 December 1936, Bertie and his wife Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who were created the Duke and Duchess of York at the celebration of their marriage, together with their young daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret awaited their fate while Bertie’s older brother, King Edward Vlll signed the act of abdication to renounce the most revered throne in the world to marry a woman who, because of two previous divorces, could never marry the King let alone ever be his Queen. This day was when the new King George Vl would come to realise first hand that Monarchy was not a person but an institution, not a job but a way of life, not for the faint hearted but for the strong of mind. This great King, our current Queen’s father took his beloved England through World War ll, supported lovingly by Queen Elizabeth (later, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) and he worked side by side with Sir Winston Churchill to provide the soldiers of air, land and sea with the courage to carry England and her allies to victory over Nazi Germany and the murderous, dictatorial stronghold of Hitler.
This victory came at a price, though. King George, who used smoking as a way to deal with the stress of monarchy that he was so ill prepared for before accession, needed to have his left lung removed in September 1951 because it was riddled with cancer, exacerbated by his increased smoking. The King was due to undertake a Commonwealth tour in 1952, a task that was impossible while still recovering from major surgery. Princess Elizabeth, the Heiress Presumptive, undertook this duty in his absence.
A fact known only to the King, the Prime Minister and the King’s surgeon was that he was dying, cancer had spread throughout his body. While the Princess and her husband, Prince Phillip Mountbatten of only four years were in Kenya and temporarily unreachable, British radio aired ‘it is with the greatest sorrow that we make the following announcement. It was announced from Sandringham at 1045 today February 6, 1952, that the King who returned to rest in his usual health passed peacefully away in his sleep’.
After having a difficult childhood made unnecessarily worse by the coldness of his parents but going on to successfully marry and have two daughters that he famously described as: ‘Elizabeth is my pride and Margaret Rose my joy’, he went on to lead an entire monarchical realm to defeat Hitler before valiantly laying down his sword of Kingship to succumb to the most human of ailments leaving in his wake a young woman without her father but with her father’s dedication to duty that has brought her to lifelong service as she promised on her 21st birthday ‘my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and to the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong’. May we never lose sight of the fact that each milestone of Sovereignty Her Majesty reaches is also the anniversary of her beloved Papa. The King that created a dynasty carried on by his daughter that inspires us all to continue professing the famous anthem….God save our gracious Queen.