George VI of the United Kingdom
Overview
 
George VI was King of the United Kingdom
Monarchy of the United Kingdom
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 and the Dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

s of the British Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 from 11 December 1936 until his death. He was the last Emperor of India
Emperor of India
Emperor/Empress of India was used as a title by the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II, and revived by the colonial British monarchs during the British Raj in India....

, and the first Head of the Commonwealth
Head of the Commonwealth
The Head of the Commonwealth heads the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation which currently comprises 54 sovereign states. The position is currently occupied by the individual who serves as monarch of each of the Commonwealth realms, but has no day-to-day involvement in the...

.

As the second son of King George V
George V
George V was king of the United Kingdom and its dominions from 1910 to 1936.George V or similar terms may also refer to:-People:* George V of Georgia * George V of Imereti * George V of Hanover...

, he was not expected to inherit the throne and spent his early life in the shadow of his elder brother, Edward
Edward VIII of the United Kingdom
Edward VIII was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, and Emperor of India, from 20 January to 11 December 1936.Before his accession to the throne, Edward was Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay...

. He served in the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 and Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, and after the war took on the usual round of public engagements. He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923, and they had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger daughter of King George VI....

.

George's elder brother ascended the throne as Edward VIII on the death of their father in 1936.
Timeline

1937    George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon are crowned King and Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

1939    The Canadian National War Memorial is unveiled by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in Ottawa.

1952    Elizabeth II becomes Queen upon the death of her father George VI. At the exact moment of succession, she was in a treehouse at the Treetops Hotel in Kenya.

1952    King George VI is buried in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.

Quotations

You've been pretty unlucky with the weather, Mr Piper.

On seeing John Piper (artist)|John Piper's dark views of Windsor Castle|Windsor Castle painted during the last war. Given in Times Literary Supplement|Times Literary Supplement, 7 October 1994, page 25.

We are not a family, we are a firm

On the Royal family, quoted by A. B. Baxter in Destiny Called to Them (Oxford University Press, 1939)

Encyclopedia
George VI was King of the United Kingdom
Monarchy of the United Kingdom
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 and the Dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

s of the British Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 from 11 December 1936 until his death. He was the last Emperor of India
Emperor of India
Emperor/Empress of India was used as a title by the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II, and revived by the colonial British monarchs during the British Raj in India....

, and the first Head of the Commonwealth
Head of the Commonwealth
The Head of the Commonwealth heads the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation which currently comprises 54 sovereign states. The position is currently occupied by the individual who serves as monarch of each of the Commonwealth realms, but has no day-to-day involvement in the...

.

As the second son of King George V
George V
George V was king of the United Kingdom and its dominions from 1910 to 1936.George V or similar terms may also refer to:-People:* George V of Georgia * George V of Imereti * George V of Hanover...

, he was not expected to inherit the throne and spent his early life in the shadow of his elder brother, Edward
Edward VIII of the United Kingdom
Edward VIII was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, and Emperor of India, from 20 January to 11 December 1936.Before his accession to the throne, Edward was Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay...

. He served in the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 and Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, and after the war took on the usual round of public engagements. He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923, and they had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger daughter of King George VI....

.

George's elder brother ascended the throne as Edward VIII on the death of their father in 1936. However, less than a year later Edward revealed his desire to marry the divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. British Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

 advised Edward that for political and religious reasons he could not marry Mrs Simpson and remain king. Edward abdicated
Edward VIII abdication crisis
In 1936, a constitutional crisis in the British Empire was caused by King-Emperor Edward VIII's proposal to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite....

 in order to marry, and George ascended the throne as the third monarch of the House of Windsor
House of Windsor
The House of Windsor is the royal house of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V by royal proclamation on the 17 July 1917, when he changed the name of his family from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor, due to the anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom...

.

On the day of his accession, the Oireachtas
Oireachtas
The Oireachtas , sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the "national parliament" or legislature of Ireland. The Oireachtas consists of:*The President of Ireland*The two Houses of the Oireachtas :**Dáil Éireann...

, the parliament of the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

, removed the monarch from its constitution
Constitution of the Irish Free State
The Constitution of the Irish Free State was the first constitution of the independent Irish state. It was enacted with the adoption of the Constitution of the Irish Free State Act 1922, of which it formed a part...

. Further events during George's reign accelerated the break-up of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 and its transition into the Commonwealth of Nations
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

. Three years after his accession, the Empire and Commonwealth, except the Irish Free State, was at war
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 with Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. In the next two years, war with Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

 and Japan
Empire of Japan
The Empire of Japan is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of...

 followed. Though Britain and its allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 were ultimately victorious, the United States and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 rose as pre-eminent world powers
Superpower
A superpower is a state with a dominant position in the international system which has the ability to influence events and its own interests and project power on a worldwide scale to protect those interests...

 and the British Empire declined. After the independence of India and Pakistan
Indian Independence Act 1947
The Indian Independence Act 1947 was as an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that partitioned British India into the two new independent dominions of India and Pakistan...

 in 1947, his title of Emperor of India was abandoned in June 1948. Ireland was formally declared a republic in 1949, and India followed suit the following year. George adopted the new title of Head of the Commonwealth. He was beset by health problems in the later years of his reign. After his death, he was succeeded by his elder daughter, Elizabeth II.

Birth and family

George VI was born at York Cottage
York Cottage
York Cottage is the former home of the Duke and Duchess of York , who lived in the house after their marriage in 1893. It is currently used as the Estate Office for Sandringham House. Some of the building is also used as flats for estate employees and holiday accommodation....

, on the Sandringham Estate
Sandringham House
Sandringham House is a country house on of land near the village of Sandringham in Norfolk, England. The house is privately owned by the British Royal Family and is located on the royal Sandringham Estate, which lies within the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.-History and current...

 in Norfolk
Norfolk
Norfolk is a low-lying county in the East of England. It has borders with Lincolnshire to the west, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea coast and to the north-west the county is bordered by The Wash. The county...

, during the reign of his great-grandmother Queen Victoria. His father was Prince George, Duke of York
Duke of York
The Duke of York is a title of nobility in the British peerage. Since the 15th century, it has, when granted, usually been given to the second son of the British monarch. The title has been created a remarkable eleven times, eight as "Duke of York" and three as the double-barreled "Duke of York and...

 (later King George V), the second and eldest-surviving son of the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra
Alexandra of Denmark
Alexandra of Denmark was the wife of Edward VII of the United Kingdom...

). His mother was the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary
Mary of Teck
Mary of Teck was the queen consort of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Empress of India, as the wife of King-Emperor George V....

), the eldest child and only daughter of the Duke
Francis, Duke of Teck
Francis, Duke of Teck , was a member of the German nobility, and later of the British Royal Family. He was the father of Queen Mary, the wife of King George V...

 and Duchess of Teck
Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge
Princess Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth of Cambridge was a member of the British Royal Family, a granddaughter of George III, and great-grandmother of Elizabeth II. She held the title of Duchess of Teck through marriage.Mary Adelaide is remembered as the mother of Queen Mary, the consort of...

.

His birthday (14 December 1895) was the anniversary of the death of his great-grandfather, Prince Albert, the Prince Consort. 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". Queen Victoria 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
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 "Albert Frederick Arthur George" at St Mary Magdalene's Church near Sandringham
Sandringham House
Sandringham House is a country house on of land near the village of Sandringham in Norfolk, England. The house is privately owned by the British Royal Family and is located on the royal Sandringham Estate, which lies within the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.-History and current...

 three months later. As a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, he was known formally as His Highness Prince Albert of York from birth. Within the family, he was known informally as "Bertie". However, his maternal grandmother, the Duchess of Teck, did not like the first name the baby had been given, and she wrote prophetically that she hoped the last name "may supplant the less favoured one".

Albert, as he was known, was fourth in line to the throne at birth, after his grandfather, father and elder brother Edward
Edward VIII of the United Kingdom
Edward VIII was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, and Emperor of India, from 20 January to 11 December 1936.Before his accession to the throne, Edward was Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay...

.

Early life

In 1898, Queen Victoria issued Letters Patent
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 that granted the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales the style
Style (manner of address)
A style of office, or honorific, is a legal, official, or recognized title. A style, by tradition or law, precedes a reference to a person who holds a post or political office, and is sometimes used to refer to the office itself. An honorific can also be awarded to an individual in a personal...

 Royal Highness
Royal Highness
Royal Highness is a style ; plural Royal Highnesses...

, and at the age of two, Albert became "His Royal Highness Prince Albert of York".

He often suffered from ill health and was described as "easily frightened and somewhat prone to tears". His parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, were generally removed from their children's day-to-day upbringing, as was the norm in aristocratic families of that era. He had a stammer that lasted for many years, and was forced to write with his right hand although he was naturally left-handed. He suffered from chronic stomach problems as well as knock knees
Genu valgum
Genu valgum, commonly called "knock-knee", is a condition where the knees angle in and touch one another when the legs are straightened. Women have a wider pelvis than men and a relatively shorter length of the thigh bone, and as a result, have a greater static genu valgum than men...

, for which he was forced to wear painful corrective splints.

Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901, and the Prince of Wales succeeded her as King Edward VII. The Duke of York became next in line to the throne. Prince Edward moved up to second in line to the throne, and Prince Albert was third.

Military career and education

From 1909, Albert attended the Royal Naval College, Osborne
Osborne House
Osborne House is a former royal residence in East Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK. The house was built between 1845 and 1851 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a summer home and rural retreat....

, as a naval cadet
Cadet
A cadet is a trainee to become an officer in the military, often a person who is a junior trainee. The term comes from the term "cadet" for younger sons of a noble family.- Military context :...

. In 1911, he came bottom of the class in the final examination, but despite this he progressed to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth
Britannia Royal Naval College
Britannia Royal Naval College is the initial officer training establishment of the Royal Navy, located on a hill overlooking Dartmouth, Devon, England. While Royal Naval officer training has taken place in the town since 1863, the buildings which are seen today were only finished in 1905, and...

. When Edward VII died in 1910, Albert's father became King George V. Prince Edward was created Prince of Wales, and Albert was second in line to the throne.

Albert spent the first six months of 1913 on the training ship HMS Cumberland
HMS Cumberland (1902)
HMS Cumberland was a Monmouth-class armoured cruiser of the British Royal Navy. She was built by London & Glasgow Co. and launched on 16 December 1902. She served in the First World War with most of her sisters, seeing service in the Cameroons...

 in the West Indies and on the east coast of Canada. He was commissioned as a midshipman
Midshipman
A midshipman is an officer cadet, or a commissioned officer of the lowest rank, in the Royal Navy, United States Navy, and many Commonwealth navies. Commonwealth countries which use the rank include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Kenya...

 aboard HMS Collingwood
HMS Collingwood (1908)
HMS Collingwood was a dreadnought battleship of the British Royal Navy. Her design was essentially similar to the design of the previous ships, the . The Admiralty perceived in the planned building of German dreadnoughts a potential threat to the naval security of Great Britain, and saw the need...

 on 15 September 1913, and spent three months in the Mediterranean. His fellow officers gave him the nickname "Mr. Johnson". One year after his commission, he began service in World War I. He was mentioned in despatches for his action as a turret officer during the Battle of Jutland
Battle of Jutland
The Battle of Jutland was a naval battle between the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet during the First World War. The battle was fought on 31 May and 1 June 1916 in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark. It was the largest naval battle and the only...

 (31 May – 1 June 1916), an indecisive action against the German
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 navy that was the largest naval action of the war. He did not see further action in the war, largely because of ill health caused by a duodenal ulcer
Peptic ulcer
A peptic ulcer, also known as PUD or peptic ulcer disease, is the most common ulcer of an area of the gastrointestinal tract that is usually acidic and thus extremely painful. It is defined as mucosal erosions equal to or greater than 0.5 cm...

, for which he had an operation in November 1917. In February 1918, he was appointed Officer in Charge of Boys at the Royal Naval Air Service
Royal Naval Air Service
The Royal Naval Air Service or RNAS was the air arm of the Royal Navy until near the end of the First World War, when it merged with the British Army's Royal Flying Corps to form a new service , the Royal Air Force...

's training establishment at Cranwell
RAF Cranwell
RAF Cranwell is a Royal Air Force station in Lincolnshire close to the village of Cranwell, near Sleaford. It is currently commanded by Group Captain Dave Waddington...

. With the establishment of the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 two months later and the transfer of Cranwell from Navy to Air Force control, he transferred from the Royal Navy to the Royal Air Force. He was appointed Officer Commanding Number 4 Squadron of the Boys' Wing at Cranwell and he remained there until August 1918. He was the first member of the royal family to be certified as a fully qualified pilot. During the closing weeks of the war, he served on the staff of the RAF's Independent Air Force
Independent Air Force
The Independent Air Force , also known as the Independent Force or the Independent Bombing Force and later known as the Inter-Allied Independent Air Force, was a World War I strategic bombing force which was part of the British Royal Air Force and used to strike against German railways, aerodromes...

 at its headquarters in Nancy. Following the disbanding of the Independent Air Force in November 1918, he remained on the continent for two months as a staff officer with the Royal Air Force until posted back to Britain.

In October 1919, Albert went up to Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

, where he studied history, economics and civics for a year. On 4 June 1920, he was created Duke of York
Duke of York
The Duke of York is a title of nobility in the British peerage. Since the 15th century, it has, when granted, usually been given to the second son of the British monarch. The title has been created a remarkable eleven times, eight as "Duke of York" and three as the double-barreled "Duke of York and...

, Earl of Inverness
Earl of Inverness
The title of Earl of Inverness was first created in 1718 in the Jacobite Peerage of Scotland by James Francis Edward Stuart for the Honourable John Hay of Cromlix, third son of the 7th Earl of Kinnoull, but became extinct upon the death of the grantee in 1740.It has been created several times in ...

 and Baron Killarney. He began to take on more royal duties. He represented his father, the King, and toured coal mines, factories, and railyards. Through such visits he acquired the nickname of the "Industrial Prince". His stammer, and his embarrassment over it, together with his tendency to shyness, caused him to appear much less impressive than his older brother, Edward. However, he was physically active and enjoyed playing tennis. He developed an interest in working conditions, and was President of the Industrial Welfare Society
The Work Foundation
The Work Foundation is a British not-for-profit organisation and independent authority providing advice, consultancy and research on the future of work, improving the quality of working life, leadership, economic and organisational effectiveness. The foundation works with government, business...

. His series of annual summer camps for boys between 1921 and 1939 brought together boys from different social backgrounds.

Marriage

In a time when royals were expected to marry fellow royals, it was unusual that Albert had a great deal of freedom in choosing a prospective wife. In 1920 he met for the first time since childhood Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the youngest daughter of the Earl
Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne
Claude George Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, KG, KT, GCVO, TD, was a landowner and the maternal grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II....

 and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. He became determined to marry her.

Although Lady Elizabeth was a descendant of King Robert the Bruce (Robert I of Scotland) and King Henry VII of England
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

, she was, according to British law, a commoner. She rejected his proposal twice and hesitated for nearly two years, reportedly because she was reluctant to make the sacrifices necessary to become a member of the royal family. In the words of Lady Elizabeth's mother, Albert would be "made or marred" by his choice of wife, and after a protracted courtship Elizabeth agreed to marry him.

They were married on 26 April 1923 in Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in the City of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English,...

. The newly-formed British Broadcasting Company
British Broadcasting Company
The British Broadcasting Company Ltd was a British commercial company formed on 18 October 1922 by British and American electrical companies doing business in the United Kingdom and licensed by the British General Post Office...

 wished to record and broadcast the event on radio, but the Chapter
Chapter (religion)
Chapter designates certain corporate ecclesiastical bodies in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Nordic Lutheran churches....

 vetoed the idea (although the Dean, Herbert Edward Ryle
Herbert Edward Ryle
Herbert Edward Ryle KCVO DD , was an author, Old Testament scholar, and the Dean of Westminster.-Early life:Dr Ryle was born in Onslow Square, South Kensington, London, on 25 May 1856, the second son of John Charles Ryle , the first Bishop of Liverpool, and his second wife, Jessie Elizabeth Walker...

, was in favour). Lady Elizabeth was styled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York after their marriage. Albert's marriage to a British commoner was considered a modernising gesture.

From December 1924 to April 1925, the Duke and Duchess toured Kenya
Kenya Colony
The Colony and Protectorate of Kenya was part of the British Empire in Africa. It was established when the former East Africa Protectorate was transformed into a British crown colony in 1920...

, Uganda and the Sudan
Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
Anglo-Egyptian Sudan referred to the manner by which Sudan was administered between 1899 and 1956, when it was a condominium of Egypt and the United Kingdom.-Union with Egypt:...

, travelling via the Suez Canal
Suez Canal
The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

 and Aden
Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

. During the trip, they both went big game hunting
Big game hunting
Big game hunting is the hunting of large game. The term is historically associated with the hunting of Africa's Big Five game , and with tigers and rhinos on the Indian subcontinent. In North America, animals such as bears and bison were hunted...

.

Because of his stammer, Albert dreaded public speaking. After his closing speech at the British Empire Exhibition
British Empire Exhibition
The British Empire Exhibition was a colonial exhibition held at Wembley, Middlesex in 1924 and 1925.-History:It was opened by King George V on St George's Day, 23 April 1924. The British Empire contained 58 countries at that time, and only Gambia and Gibraltar did not take part...

 at Wembley
Wembley
Wembley is an area of northwest London, England, and part of the London Borough of Brent. It is home to the famous Wembley Stadium and Wembley Arena...

 on 31 October 1925, one which was an ordeal for both him and the listeners, he began to see Lionel Logue
Lionel Logue
Lionel George Logue CVO was an Australian speech therapist and stage actor who successfully treated, among others, King George VI, who had a pronounced stammer.-Early life and family:...

, an Australian-born speech therapist. The Duke and Logue practised breathing exercises, and the Duchess rehearsed with him patiently. Subsequently, he was able to speak with less hesitation. With his delivery improved, the Duke opened Parliament House
Old Parliament House, Canberra
Old Parliament House, known formerly as the Provisional Parliament House, was the house of the Parliament of Australia from 1927 to 1988. The building began operation on 9 May 1927 as a temporary base for the Commonwealth Parliament after its relocation from Melbourne to the new capital, Canberra,...

 in Canberra
Canberra
Canberra is the capital city of Australia. With a population of over 345,000, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory , south-west of Sydney, and north-east of Melbourne...

 during a tour of the empire in 1927. His journey by sea to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji took him via Jamaica, where Albert played doubles tennis partnered with a black man, which was unusual at the time and taken locally as a display of equality between races.

The Duke and Duchess of York had two children: Elizabeth (called "Lilibet" by the family), and Margaret
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger daughter of King George VI....

. The Duke and Duchess and their two daughters lived a relatively sheltered life at their London residence, 145 Piccadilly
Piccadilly
Piccadilly is a major street in central London, running from Hyde Park Corner in the west to Piccadilly Circus in the east. It is completely within the city of Westminster. The street is part of the A4 road, London's second most important western artery. St...

. One of the few stirs arose when the Canadian Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution...

, R. B. Bennett
R. B. Bennett
Richard Bedford Bennett, 1st Viscount Bennett, PC, KC was a Canadian lawyer, businessman, politician, and philanthropist. He served as the 11th Prime Minister of Canada from August 7, 1930, to October 23, 1935, during the worst of the Great Depression years...

, considered the Duke for Governor General of Canada
Governor General of Canada
The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II...

 in 1931—a proposal that the King rejected on the advice of his ministers.

Reluctant king

On 20 January 1936, King George V died and Prince Edward ascended the throne as Edward VIII. In the Vigil of the Princes
Vigil of the Princes
The Vigil of the Princes is the unofficial name given to two occasions when male members of the British Royal Family have stood guard during the lying in state of one of their relatives during a British State Funeral.-King George V:...

, Prince Albert and his three brothers took a shift standing guard over their father's body as it lay in state
Lying in state
Lying in state is a term used to describe the tradition in which a coffin is placed on view to allow the public at large to pay their respects to the deceased. It traditionally takes place in the principal government building of a country or city...

, in a closed casket, in Westminster Hall.

As Edward was unmarried and had no children, Albert was the heir presumptive
Heir Presumptive
An heir presumptive or heiress presumptive is the person provisionally scheduled to inherit a throne, peerage, or other hereditary honour, but whose position can be displaced by the birth of an heir or heiress apparent or of a new heir presumptive with a better claim to the position in question...

 to the throne. George V had severe reservations about Edward, saying, "I pray God that my eldest son will never marry and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne." Less than a year later, on 11 December 1936, Edward VIII abdicated
Edward VIII abdication crisis
In 1936, a constitutional crisis in the British Empire was caused by King-Emperor Edward VIII's proposal to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite....

 the throne in order to marry his mistress, Wallis Simpson, who was divorced from her first husband and divorcing her second. Edward had been advised by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin
Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, KG, PC was a British Conservative politician, who dominated the government in his country between the two world wars...

 that he could not remain King and marry a divorced woman with two living ex-husbands. Edward chose abdication in preference to abandoning his marriage plans. Thus Albert became king, a position he was reluctant to accept. The day before the abdication, he went to London to see his mother, Queen Mary
Mary of Teck
Mary of Teck was the queen consort of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Empress of India, as the wife of King-Emperor George V....

. He wrote in his diary, "When I told her what had happened, I broke down and sobbed like a child."

On the day of the abdication, the parliament of the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

 removed all mention of the monarch from the Irish constitution
Constitution of the Irish Free State
The Constitution of the Irish Free State was the first constitution of the independent Irish state. It was enacted with the adoption of the Constitution of the Irish Free State Act 1922, of which it formed a part...

. The next day, it passed the External Relations Act, which appointed the monarch only as its representative in foreign affairs. The two acts essentially made the Irish Free State a republic without removing its links to the Commonwealth.

Courtier and journalist Dermot Morrah alleged that there was brief speculation as to the desirability of bypassing Albert (and his children) and his brother, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
The Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester was a soldier and member of the British Royal Family, the third son of George V of the United Kingdom and Queen Mary....

, in favour of their younger brother Prince George, Duke of Kent
Prince George, Duke of Kent
Prince George, Duke of Kent was a member of the British Royal Family, the fourth son of George V and Mary of Teck, and younger brother of Edward VIII and George VI...

. This seems to have been suggested on the grounds that Prince George was at that time the only brother with a son
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
The Duke of Kent graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on 29 July 1955 as a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Scots Greys, the beginning of a military career that would last over 20 years. He was promoted to captain on 29 July 1961. The Duke of Kent saw service in Hong Kong from 1962–63...

.

Early reign

Albert assumed the regnal name
Regnal name
A regnal name, or reign name, is a formal name used by some monarchs and popes during their reigns. Since medieval times, monarchs have frequently chosen to use a name different from their own personal name when they inherit a throne....

 "George VI" to emphasise continuity with his father and restore confidence in the monarchy. The beginning of George VI's reign was taken up by questions surrounding his predecessor and brother, whose titles, style and position were uncertain. He had been introduced as "His Royal Highness Prince Edward" for the Abdication broadcast, but George VI felt that by abdicating and renouncing the succession Edward had lost the right to bear Royal titles, including "Royal Highness". In settling the issue, George's first act as King was to confer upon his brother the title HRH The Duke of Windsor
Duke of Windsor
The title Duke of Windsor was created in the Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1937 for Prince Edward, the former King Edward VIII, following his abdication in December 1936. The dukedom takes its name from the town where Windsor Castle, a residence of English monarchs since the Norman Conquest, is...

, but the Letters Patent
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

 creating the dukedom prevented any wife or children from bearing royal styles. George VI was also forced to buy from Edward the royal residences of Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle is a large estate house in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It is located near the village of Crathie, west of Ballater and east of Braemar. Balmoral has been one of the residences of the British Royal Family since 1852, when it was purchased by Queen Victoria and her...

 and Sandringham House
Sandringham House
Sandringham House is a country house on of land near the village of Sandringham in Norfolk, England. The house is privately owned by the British Royal Family and is located on the royal Sandringham Estate, which lies within the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.-History and current...

, as these were private properties and did not pass to George VI automatically. Three days after his accession, on his 41st birthday, he invested his wife, the new queen consort
Queen consort
A queen consort is the wife of a reigning king. A queen consort usually shares her husband's rank and holds the feminine equivalent of the king's monarchical titles. Historically, queens consort do not share the king regnant's political and military powers. Most queens in history were queens consort...

, with the Order of the Garter
Order of the Garter
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

.

George VI's coronation
Coronation of the British monarch
The coronation of the British monarch is a ceremony in which the monarch of the United Kingdom is formally crowned and invested with regalia...

 took place on 12 May 1937, the date previously intended for Edward's coronation. In a break with tradition, Queen Mary attended the ceremony as a show of support for her son. There was no Durbar held in Delhi
Delhi
Delhi , officially National Capital Territory of Delhi , is the largest metropolis by area and the second-largest by population in India, next to Mumbai. It is the eighth largest metropolis in the world by population with 16,753,265 inhabitants in the Territory at the 2011 Census...

 for George VI, as had occurred for his father, as the cost would have been a burden to the government of India
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

. Rising Indian nationalism
Indian independence movement
The term Indian independence movement encompasses a wide area of political organisations, philosophies, and movements which had the common aim of ending first British East India Company rule, and then British imperial authority, in parts of South Asia...

 made the welcome that the royal couple would have received likely to be muted at best, and a prolonged absence from Britain would have been undesirable in the tense period before World War II. Two overseas tours were undertaken, to France and to North America, both of which promised greater strategic advantages in the event of war.

The growing likelihood of war in Europe dominated the early reign of George VI. The King was constitutionally bound to support Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

's appeasement of Hitler. However, when the King and Queen greeted Chamberlain on his return from negotiating the Munich Agreement
Munich Agreement
The Munich Pact was an agreement permitting the Nazi German annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The Sudetenland were areas along Czech borders, mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without...

 in 1938, they invited him to appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace, in London, is the principal residence and office of the British monarch. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is a setting for state occasions and royal hospitality...

 with them. This public association of the monarchy with a politician was exceptional, as balcony appearances were traditionally restricted to the royal family. While broadly popular among the general public, Chamberlain's policy towards Hitler was the subject of some opposition in the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

, which led historian John Grigg
John Grigg (writer)
John Edward Poynder Grigg was a British writer, historian and politician. He was the 2nd Baron Altrincham from 1955 until he disclaimed that title under the Peerage Act on the day it received the Royal Assent in 1963.-Early years:John Grigg was the son of Edward Grigg, a Times journalist...

 to describe the King's behaviour in associating himself so prominently with a politician as "the most unconstitutional act by a British sovereign in the present century".
In May and June 1939, the King and Queen toured Canada
1939 royal tour of Canada
The 1939 royal tour of Canada was a cross-Canada royal tour by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. It was the first visit of a reigning monarch to Canada. It began May 17, 1939 and saw the royal couple visit every Canadian province as well as the United States and the Dominion of Newfoundland...

 and the United States. From Ottawa
Ottawa
Ottawa is the capital of Canada, the second largest city in the Province of Ontario, and the fourth largest city in the country. The city is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario...

, the royal couple were accompanied throughout by Canadian prime minister
Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution...

 William Lyon Mackenzie King
William Lyon Mackenzie King
William Lyon Mackenzie King, PC, OM, CMG was the dominant Canadian political leader from the 1920s through the 1940s. He served as the tenth Prime Minister of Canada from December 29, 1921 to June 28, 1926; from September 25, 1926 to August 7, 1930; and from October 23, 1935 to November 15, 1948...

, to present themselves in North America as King and Queen of Canada. George was the first reigning monarch of Canada to visit North America, although he had been to Canada previously as Prince Albert and as Duke of York. Both Governor General of Canada
Governor General of Canada
The Governor General of Canada is the federal viceregal representative of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II...

 Lord Tweedsmuir
John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir
John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir was a Scottish novelist, historian and Unionist politician who served as Governor General of Canada, the 15th since Canadian Confederation....

 and Mackenzie King hoped that the King's presence in Canada would demonstrate the principles of the Statute of Westminster 1931
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

, which gave full self-government to the British Dominions and recognised each Dominion as having a separate crown. Thus, at his Canadian residence, Rideau Hall
Rideau Hall
Rideau Hall is, since 1867, the official residence in Ottawa of both the Canadian monarch and the Governor General of Canada. It stands in Canada's capital on a 0.36 km2 estate at 1 Sussex Drive, with the main building consisting of 170 rooms across 9,500 m2 , and 24 outbuildings around the...

, George VI personally accepted and approved the Letter of Credence
Letter of Credence
A letter of credence is a formal letter usually sent by one head of state to another that formally grants diplomatic accreditation to a named individual to be their ambassador in the country of the head of state receiving the letter...

 of the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Daniel Calhoun Roper
Daniel Calhoun Roper
Daniel Calhoun Roper was a U.S. administrator, particularly under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, born in Marlboro County, South Carolina...

. The official royal tour historian, Gustave Lanctot
Gustave Lanctot
Gustave Lanctot, OC, FRSC, also spelled Gustave Lanctôt, was a Canadian historian and archivist.Born in Saint-Constant, Quebec, he studied law at Université de Montréal and was called to the Quebec Bar in 1907. A Rhodes Scholar, he studied political science and history from 1909 to 1911 while at...

, stated: "When Their Majesties walked into their Canadian residence, the Statute of Westminster had assumed full reality: the King of Canada had come home."

The entire trip was a measure intended to soften the strong isolationist
Isolationism
Isolationism is the policy or doctrine of isolating one's country from the affairs of other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic commitments, international agreements, etc., seeking to devote the entire efforts of one's country to its own advancement and remain at peace by...

 tendencies among the North American public with regard to the developing tensions in Europe. Although the aim of the tour was mainly political, to shore up Atlantic support for the United Kingdom in any future war, the King and Queen were enthusiastically received by the public. The fear that George would be compared unfavourably to his predecessor, Edward VIII, was dispelled. They visited the 1939 New York World's Fair
1939 New York World's Fair
The 1939–40 New York World's Fair, which covered the of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park , was the second largest American world's fair of all time, exceeded only by St. Louis's Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. Many countries around the world participated in it, and over 44 million people...

 and stayed with President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 at the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 and at his private estate
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site
The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site preserves the Springwood estate in Hyde Park, New York, United States of America. Springwood was the birthplace, lifelong home, and burial place of the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt...

 at Hyde Park, New York
Hyde Park, New York
Hyde Park is a town located in the northwest part of Dutchess County, New York, United States, just north of the city of Poughkeepsie. The town is most famous for being the hometown of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt....

.

World War II

In September 1939, Britain and the self-governing Dominions, but not the Irish Free State, declared war on Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. George VI and his wife resolved to stay in London, despite German bombing raids
The Blitz
The Blitz was the sustained strategic bombing of Britain by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941, during the Second World War. The city of London was bombed by the Luftwaffe for 76 consecutive nights and many towns and cities across the country followed...

. They officially stayed in Buckingham Palace throughout the war, although they usually spent nights at Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, notable for its long association with the British royal family and its architecture. The original castle was built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I it...

. The first German raid on London, on 7 September 1940, killed about one thousand civilians, mostly in the East End. On 13 September, the King and Queen narrowly avoided death when two German bombs exploded in a courtyard at Buckingham Palace while they were there. In defiance, the Queen famously declared: "I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel we can look the East End in the face". The royal family were portrayed as sharing the same dangers and deprivations as the rest of the country. They were subject to rationing restrictions, and U.S. First Lady
First Lady of the United States
First Lady of the United States is the title of the hostess of the White House. Because this position is traditionally filled by the wife of the president of the United States, the title is most often applied to the wife of a sitting president. The current first lady is Michelle Obama.-Current:The...

 Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. She supported the New Deal policies of her husband, distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and became an advocate for civil rights. After her husband's death in 1945, Roosevelt continued to be an international...

 remarked on the rationed food served and the limited bathwater that was permitted during a stay at the unheated and boarded-up Palace. In August 1942, the King's brother, Prince George, Duke of Kent
Prince George, Duke of Kent
Prince George, Duke of Kent was a member of the British Royal Family, the fourth son of George V and Mary of Teck, and younger brother of Edward VIII and George VI...

, was killed on active service.

In 1940, Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister, though personally George would have preferred to appoint Lord Halifax
E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax
Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, , known as The Lord Irwin from 1925 until 1934 and as The Viscount Halifax from 1934 until 1944, was one of the most senior British Conservative politicians of the 1930s, during which he held several senior ministerial posts, most notably as...

. After the King's initial dismay over Churchill's appointment of Lord Beaverbrook
Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook
William Maxwell "Max" Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, Bt, PC, was a Canadian-British business tycoon, politician, and writer.-Early career in Canada:...

 to the Cabinet, he and Churchill developed "the closest personal relationship in modern British history between a monarch and a Prime Minister". Every Tuesday for four and a half years from September 1940, the two men met privately for lunch to discuss the war in secret and with frankness.

A strong bond of friendship was forged between the King and Queen and President and First Lady during the 1939 royal tour, which had major significance in the relations between the United States and the United Kingdom through the war years.

Throughout the war, the King and Queen provided morale-boosting visits throughout the United Kingdom, visiting bomb sites and munitions factories, and in the King's case visiting military forces abroad. He visited France in December 1939, North Africa and Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

 in June 1943, Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 in June 1944, southern Italy in July 1944, and the Low Countries in October 1944. Their high public profile and apparently indefatigable determination secured their place as symbols of national resistance. In 1945, crowds shouted "We want the King!" in front of Buckingham Palace during the Victory in Europe Day
Victory in Europe Day
Victory in Europe Day commemorates 8 May 1945 , the date when the World War II Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. The formal surrender of the occupying German forces in the Channel Islands was not...

 celebrations. In an echo of Chamberlain's appearance, the King invited Churchill to appear with him on the balcony to public acclaim. In January 1946, George addressed the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 at their first assembly, which was held in London, and reaffirmed "our faith in the equal rights of men and women and of nations great and small".

Empire to Commonwealth

George VI's reign saw the acceleration of the dissolution of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

, which had begun with the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference
1926 Imperial Conference
The 1926 Imperial Conference was the sixth Imperial Conference held amongst the Prime Ministers of the dominions of the British Empire. It was held in London from 19 October to 22 November 1926...

, when the Dominion
Dominion
A dominion, often Dominion, refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, constituting the British Empire and British Commonwealth, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century. They have included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland,...

s were acknowledged to have evolved into sovereign
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 states over a period of years—a declaration which was formalised in the Statute of Westminster 1931
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

. The process of transformation from an empire to a voluntary association of independent states, known as the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

, gathered pace after World War II, especially during the ministry of Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

. British India became the two independent dominions of India
Dominion of India
The Dominion of India, also known as the Union of India or the Indian Union , was a predecessor to modern-day India and an independent state that existed between 15 August 1947 and 26 January 1950...

 and Pakistan
Dominion of Pakistan
The Dominion of Pakistan was an independent federal Commonwealth realm in South Asia that was established in 1947 on the partition of British India into two sovereign dominions . The Dominion of Pakistan, which included modern-day Pakistan and Bangladesh, was intended to be a homeland for the...

 in 1947. George relinquished the title of Emperor of India
Emperor of India
Emperor/Empress of India was used as a title by the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II, and revived by the colonial British monarchs during the British Raj in India....

, and became King of India and King of Pakistan instead. He remained King of Pakistan until his death, but in 1950 George ceased to be King of India when it became a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations, recognising George's new title as Head of the Commonwealth
Head of the Commonwealth
The Head of the Commonwealth heads the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation which currently comprises 54 sovereign states. The position is currently occupied by the individual who serves as monarch of each of the Commonwealth realms, but has no day-to-day involvement in the...

. Other countries left the Commonwealth, such as Burma in January 1948, Palestine (divided between Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and the Arab states) in May 1948 and Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

 in 1949.

In 1947, the King and his family toured Southern Africa. The Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa
Union of South Africa
The Union of South Africa is the historic predecessor to the present-day Republic of South Africa. It came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unification of the previously separate colonies of the Cape, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange Free State...

, Jan Smuts
Jan Smuts
Jan Christiaan Smuts, OM, CH, ED, KC, FRS, PC was a prominent South African and British Commonwealth statesman, military leader and philosopher. In addition to holding various cabinet posts, he served as Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948...

, was facing an election and hoped to make political capital out of the visit. George was appalled, however, when instructed by the South African government to shake hands only with whites, and referred to his South African bodyguards as "the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

". Despite the tour, Smuts lost the election the following year, and the new government instituted a strict policy of racial segregation.

Illness and death

The stress of the war had taken its toll on the King's health, exacerbated by his heavy smoking
Tobacco smoking
Tobacco smoking is the practice where tobacco is burned and the resulting smoke is inhaled. The practice may have begun as early as 5000–3000 BCE. Tobacco was introduced to Eurasia in the late 16th century where it followed common trade routes...

 and subsequent development of lung cancer
Lung cancer
Lung cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in tissues of the lung. If left untreated, this growth can spread beyond the lung in a process called metastasis into nearby tissue and, eventually, into other parts of the body. Most cancers that start in lung, known as primary...

 among other ailments including arteriosclerosis
Arteriosclerosis
Arteriosclerosis refers to a stiffening of arteries.Arteriosclerosis is a general term describing any hardening of medium or large arteries It should not be confused with "arteriolosclerosis" or "atherosclerosis".Also known by the name "myoconditis" which is...

. Princess Elizabeth, the heiress presumptive, took on more royal duties as her father's health deteriorated. A planned tour of Australia and New Zealand was postponed after the King suffered an arterial blockage in his right leg, which was operated on in March 1949. The delayed tour was re-organised with Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is the husband of Elizabeth II. He is the United Kingdom's longest-serving consort and the oldest serving spouse of a reigning British monarch....

, taking the place of the King and Queen. The King was well enough to open the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition in Britain in the summer of 1951. It was organised by the government to give Britons a feeling of recovery in the aftermath of war and to promote good quality design in the rebuilding of British towns and cities. The Festival's centrepiece was in...

 in May 1951, but on 23 September 1951, he underwent a pneumonectomy
Pneumonectomy
A pneumonectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a lung. Removal of just one lobe of the lung is specifically referred to as a lobectomy, and that of a segment of the lung as a wedge resection .-Indications:...

 where his left lung was removed following the discovery of a malignant tumour. At the State Opening of Parliament
State Opening of Parliament
In the United Kingdom, the State Opening of Parliament is an annual event that marks the commencement of a session of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is held in the House of Lords Chamber, usually in November or December or, in a general election year, when the new Parliament first assembles...

 in November, the King's speech from the throne
Speech from the Throne
A speech from the throne is an event in certain monarchies in which the reigning sovereign reads a prepared speech to a complete session of parliament, outlining the government's agenda for the coming session...

 was read for him by the Lord Chancellor
Lord Chancellor
The Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, or Lord Chancellor, is a senior and important functionary in the government of the United Kingdom. He is the second highest ranking of the Great Officers of State, ranking only after the Lord High Steward. The Lord Chancellor is appointed by the Sovereign...

 Lord Simonds
Gavin Simonds, 1st Viscount Simonds
Gavin Turnbull Simonds, 1st Viscount Simonds PC, KC was a British judge, politician and Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.-Background and education:...

. His 1951 Christmas broadcast
Royal Christmas Message
The Queen's Christmas Message is a broadcast made by the sovereign of the Commonwealth realms to the Commonwealth of Nations each Christmas. The tradition began in 1932 with a radio broadcast by George V on the British Broadcasting Corporation Empire Service...

 was recorded in sections, and then edited together.

On 31 January 1952, despite advice from those close to him, he went to the airport to see off Princess Elizabeth, who was going on her tour of Australia via Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

. On 6 February, George VI died from a coronary thrombosis
Coronary thrombosis
Coronary thrombosis is a form of thrombosis affecting the coronary circulation. It is associated with stenosis subsequent to clotting. The condition is considered as a type of ischaemic heart disease.It can lead to a myocardial infarction...

 in his sleep at Sandringham House in Norfolk, at the age of 56. His daughter Elizabeth flew back to the UK from Kenya as Elizabeth II. Because George died in his sleep during the night, his precise moment of death, and Elizabeth's accession, is not known.

His funeral took place at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
St George's Chapel is the place of worship at Windsor Castle in England, United Kingdom. It is both a royal peculiar and the chapel of the Order of the Garter...

, on 15 February 1952, after a lying in state
Lying in state
Lying in state is a term used to describe the tradition in which a coffin is placed on view to allow the public at large to pay their respects to the deceased. It traditionally takes place in the principal government building of a country or city...

 at Westminster Hall. He was interred in the Royal Vault until transferred to the King George VI Memorial Chapel inside St. George's on 26 March 1969. In 2002, the remains of his widow, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was the queen consort of King George VI from 1936 until her husband's death in 1952, after which she was known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, to avoid confusion with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II...

, and the ashes of his daughter Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon was the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger daughter of King George VI....

, who both died that year, were interred in the chapel alongside him.

Legacy


In the words of Labour M.P. George Hardie
George Hardie (Labour politician)
George Downie Blyth Crookston Hardie was a Scottish Labour politician, and the younger brother of the party's founder Keir Hardie.After leaving school, he became an engineer and an activist in the Independent Labour Party....

, the abdication crisis of 1936 did "more for republicanism than fifty years of propaganda". George VI wrote to his brother, Edward, that in the aftermath of the abdication he had reluctantly assumed "a rocking throne", and tried "to make it steady again". He became king at a point when public faith in the monarchy was at a low ebb. During his reign his people endured the hardships of war, and imperial power was eroded. However, as a dutiful family man and by showing personal courage, he succeeded in restoring the popularity of the monarchy.

The George Cross
George Cross
The George Cross is the highest civil decoration of the United Kingdom, and also holds, or has held, that status in many of the other countries of the Commonwealth of Nations...

 and the George Medal
George Medal
The George Medal is the second level civil decoration of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.The GM was instituted on 24 September 1940 by King George VI. At this time, during the height of The Blitz, there was a strong desire to reward the many acts of civilian courage...

 were founded at the King's suggestion during the Second World War to recognise acts of exceptional civilian bravery. He bestowed the George Cross on the entire "island fortress of Malta
Malta
Malta , officially known as the Republic of Malta , is a Southern European country consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily, east of Tunisia and north of Libya, with Gibraltar to the west and Alexandria to the east.Malta covers just over in...

" in 1943. He was posthumously awarded the Ordre de la Libération
Ordre de la Libération
The Ordre de la Libération is a French Order awarded to heroes of the Liberation of France during World War II. It is an exceptional honor, the second highest after the Légion d’Honneur and only a small number of people and military units have received it, exclusively for deeds accomplished...

 by the French government in 1960, one of only two people (the other being Churchill) to be awarded the medal after 1946.

There are a number of geographical features, roads, and institutions named after George VI. These include King George Hospital in London; King George VI Highway and King George Station
King George Station
King George Station is located on an elevated portion of the Expo Line, a part of Metro Vancouver's SkyTrain rapid transit system. The station itself is in Surrey and is the current eastbound terminus of the Expo Line.-Location:...

 in Surrey, British Columbia
Surrey, British Columbia
Surrey is a city in the province of British Columbia, Canada. It is a member municipality of Metro Vancouver, the governing body of the Greater Vancouver Regional District...

; George VI Sound
George VI Sound
George VI Sound or Canal Jorge VI or Canal Presidente Sarmiento or Canal Seaver or King George VI Sound or King George the Sixth Sound is a major bay/fault depression, 300 miles long in the shape of the letter J, which skirts the east and south shores of Alexander Island, separating it from the...

 in Antarctica; and the King George VI Chase
King George VI Chase
The King George VI Chase is a Grade 1 National Hunt chase in Great Britain which is open to horses aged four years or older. It is run at Kempton Park over a distance of about 3 miles , and during its running there are eighteen fences to be jumped...

, a horse race in the United Kingdom.

In 1955 a statue of the king in his Garter robes was erected just off The Mall and Carlton Gardens in London. A neighbouring statue of his wife was unveiled in 2009. Another statue of the king can be found in the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens
Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens
The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens is one of the oldest zoological and botanical centres in the world. It occupies an area of 5.6 hectares at Mid-levels, on the northern slope of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong...

.

On screen, George VI has been portrayed by, among others, Colin Firth
Colin Firth
SirColin Andrew Firth, CBE is a British film, television, and theatre actor. Firth gained wide public attention in the 1990s for his portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 television adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice...

, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor
Academy Award for Best Actor
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role is one of the Academy Awards of Merit presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize an actor who has delivered an outstanding performance while working within the film industry...

 for the role in the 2010 film The King's Speech, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture
Academy Award for Best Picture
The Academy Award for Best Picture is one of the Academy Awards of Merit presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to artists working in the motion picture industry. The Best Picture category is the only category in which every member of the Academy is eligible not only...

.

Titles and styles

  • 14 December 1895 – 28 May 1898: His Highness Prince Albert of York
  • 28 May 1898 – 22 January 1901: His Royal Highness Prince Albert of York
  • 22 January 1901 – 9 November 1901: His Royal Highness Prince Albert of Cornwall and York
  • 9 November 1901 – 6 May 1910: His Royal Highness Prince Albert of Wales
  • 6 May 1910 – 4 June 1920: His Royal Highness The Prince Albert
  • 4 June 1920 – 11 December 1936: His Royal Highness The Duke of York
  • 11 December 1936 – 6 February 1952: His Majesty The King
    • 11 December 1936 – 14 August 1947 : His Imperial Majesty The King-Emperor (in regard to British India)

George held a number of titles throughout his life, as successively great-grandson, grandson and son of the monarch. As sovereign, he was referred to most often as simply The King or His Majesty; if a distinction was necessary, this was modified to His Britannic Majesty, His Imperial Majesty, His Canadian Majesty, etc. In his position as sovereign, George automatically held the position of Commander-in-Chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 in some realms, such as Canada and the United Kingdom.

Arms

As Duke of York, George bore the royal arms of the United Kingdom differenced with a label
Label (heraldry)
In heraldry, a label is a charge resembling the strap crossing the horse’s chest from which pendants are hung. It is usually a mark of difference, but has sometimes been borne simply as a charge in its own right....

 of three points argent
Argent
In heraldry, argent is the tincture of silver, and belongs to the class of light tinctures, called "metals". It is very frequently depicted as white and usually considered interchangeable with it...

, the centre point bearing an anchor azure
Azure
In heraldry, azure is the tincture with the colour blue, and belongs to the class of tinctures called "colours". In engraving, it is sometimes depicted as a region of horizontal lines or else marked with either az. or b. as an abbreviation....

—a difference earlier awarded to his father George V when he was Duke of York, and then later awarded to his grandson, Prince Andrew, Duke of York
Prince Andrew, Duke of York
Prince Andrew, Duke of York KG GCVO , is the second son, and third child of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh...

. As king, he bore the royal arms undifferenced.



Ancestry



External links

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