George V
King of the United Kingdom and her dominions
beyond the Seas; Emperor of India
Photographic Portrait
Reign 6 May 1910 - 20 January 1936
Coronation 22 June 1911
Predecessor Edward VII
Successor Edward VIII
Consort Mary of Teck
Edward VIII
George VI
Mary, Princess Royal
Henry, Duke of Gloucester
George, Duke of Kent
Prince John
Full name
George Frederick Ernest Albert
HM The King
HRH The Prince of Wales
HRH The Duke of Cornwall
HRH The Duke of York
HRH Prince George of Wales
Royal House House of Windsor
House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
Royal anthem God Save the King
Father Edward VII
Mother Alexandra of Denmark
Born 3 June 1865
Marlborough House, London
Baptised 7 July 1865
Windsor Castle, Windsor
Died 20 January 1936
Sandringham House, Norfolk
Burial 29 January 1936
St George's Chapel, Windsor

George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert; 3 June 1865 - 20 January 1936) was the first British monarch belonging to the House of Windsor, as a result of his creating it from the British branch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. As well as being King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (from 1927, split into King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and King of Ireland) and the Commonwealth Realms, George was also the Emperor of India. George reigned from 6 May 1910 through World War I (1914-1918) until his death in 1936.

King George V is remembered for his role in World War I, during which he relinquished all German titles and styles on behalf of his relatives who were British subjects; and changed the name of the royal house from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor. Another significant event in his reign was the passing of the Statute of Westminster which separated the crown so that George ruled the dominions as separate kingdoms.

Early lifeEdit

George was born on 3 June 1865, at Marlborough House, London. His father was The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. His mother was The Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra), the eldest daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. As a grandson of Queen Victoria in the male line, George was styled His Royal Highness Prince George of Wales at birth.

He was baptised in the Private Chapel of Windsor Castle on 7 July 1865 and his godparents were the King of Hanover, the Queen and Crown Prince of Denmark, the Prince of Leiningen, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Alice and the Duke of Cambridge.[1]

As a younger son of the Prince of Wales, there was no expectation that George would become King as his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor, was second in line to the throne after their father.


Given that George was born only fifteen months after his brother Prince Albert Victor, it was decided to educate both royal princes together. The Prince of Wales appointed John Neale Dalton as their tutor, although neither excelled intellectually. In September 1877 both brothers joined the training ship HMS Britannia at Dartmouth.[2]

For three years from 1879 the royal brothers served as midshipmen on HMS Bacchante, accompanied by Dalton. They toured the British Empire, visiting Norfolk, Virginia, the colonies in the Caribbean, South Africa and Australia, as well as the Mediterranean, South America, the Far East and Egypt. Dalton wrote an account of their journey entitled The Cruise of HMS Bacchante.[3] Between Melbourne and Sydney, Dalton records a sighting of the Flying Dutchman (see entry for full account of sighting). When they returned to the UK, the brothers were parted with Albert Victor attending Trinity College, Cambridge and George continuing in the Royal Navy. He travelled the world and visited many areas of the British Empire, serving actively in the navy until his last command in 1891. From then on his naval rank was largely honorary.[4]


As a young man destined to serve in the Navy, Prince George served for many years under the command of his uncle, Prince Alfred, who was stationed in Malta. There, he grew close to and fell in love with his uncle's daughter, his first cousin, Marie of Edinburgh. His grandmother, his father and his uncle all approved the match, but the mothers, the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Edinburgh both opposed it. When George proposed, Marie refused, guided by her mother. She later became Queen of Romania.[5]

In 1891, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence became engaged to his second cousin once removed, Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (always called "May"), the only daughter of Prince Francis, Duke of Teck and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge. However, Albert Victor died of pneumonia six weeks later, leaving George second in line to the throne and likely to succeed after his father.[6] This effectively ended George's naval career.

Queen Victoria still favoured Princess May as a suitable candidate to marry a future king, so she persuaded George to propose to May. George duly proposed, and May accepted. This arranged marriage was a success, and unlike his father, George reportedly did not take a mistress.[6] Throughout their lives the couple exchanged notes of endearment and loving letters.

The marriage of George and May took place on 6 July 1893 at the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace in London. It was claimed that at the wedding, the crowd were confused as to who was the Duke of York (later George V) and who was the Tsarevitch (later Nicholas II) of Russia, because their beards and dress made them look alike superficially.[7] However, their remaining facial features were quite different.[8]

Duke of YorkEdit

In 1892, Queen Victoria created George, Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killarney. After George's marriage to Mary, she was styled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York.

The Duke and Duchess of York lived mainly at York Cottage[9], Sandringham, Norfolk a relatively small house where their way of life mirrored that of a comfortable middle-class family rather than grand royalty. George preferred the simple, almost quiet, life in marked contrast to his parents. Even his official biographer dispaired of George's time as Duke of York, writing: "He may be all right as a young midshipman and a wise old king, but when he was Duke of York...he did nothing at all but shoot animals and stick in stamps."[10]

It has been claimed that George was a very strict father, to the extent that his children were terrified of him, and he is said to have remarked, "My father was frightened of his mother, I was frightened of my father, and I am damned well going to see to it that my children are frightened of me." In reality there is no direct source for the quote and it is likely that his parenting style was little different to that adopted by most people at the time.[11]

As Duke and Duchess of York, George and May carried out a wide variety of public duties. In 1901, they toured the British Empire, visiting Australia, where the Duke opened the first session of the Australian Parliament upon the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia. Their tour also included South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand, where (as they were now the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York) Cornwall Park in Auckland was named in their honour by its donor, John Logan Campbell, then Mayor of Auckland.

Prince of WalesEdit

On 22 January, 1901, Queen Victoria died, and George's father, Albert Edward, ascended the throne as King Edward VII. At that point George inherited the titles of Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay. For the rest of that year, George was styled His Royal Highness The Duke of Cornwall and York, until 9 November 1901 when he was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester.

King Edward VII wished his son to have more preparation and experience prior to his future role. In contrast with Queen Victoria, who excluded Edward from state affairs, George was given wide access to state documents and papers. He often read over the papers with his wife, whose intellect was considerably broader than his. May often helped write her husband's speeches.


In 1911, the King and Queen travelled to India for the Delhi Durbar on December 12, where they were presented to an assembled audience of Indian dignitaries and princes, as the Emperor and Empress of India. George wore the newly-created Imperial Crown of India at the ceremony. Later, the Emperor and Empress travelled throughout India, visiting their new subjects. George took the opportunity to indulge in hunting tigers, shooting 36.[12] Also during one season in Sandringham he shot 1,209 pheasants.

World War IEdit

As King and Queen, George and Mary saw Britain through World War I, a difficult time for the Royal Family, as they had many German relatives. Although a female-line great granddaughter of King George III, Queen Mary was the daughter of the Duke of Teck, a morganatic section of the Royal House of Württemberg. King George's paternal grandfather was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha; the King and his children bore the titles Prince and Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duke and Duchess of Saxony. The German Emperor Wilhelm II, who for the British public came to symbolise all the horrors of the war, was the king's first cousin, "Willy." The King had brothers-in-law and cousins who were British subjects but who bore German titles such as Duke and Duchess of Teck, Prince and Princess of Battenberg, Prince and Princess of Hesse and by Rhine, and Prince and Princess of Schleswig-Holstein-Sønderburg-Augustenberg. Writer H G Wells wrote about Britain's "alien and uninspiring court", and George famously replied: "I may be uninspiring, but I'll be damned if I'm alien."[13])

On 7 July 1917, George V issued an Order in Council that changed the name of the British Royal House from the German-sounding House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the House of Windsor, to appease British nationalist feelings. He specifically adopted Windsor as the surname for all descendants of Queen Victoria then living in the United Kingdom, excluding females who married into other families and their descendants.[14]

Finally, on behalf of his various relatives who were British subjects he relinquished the use of all German titles and styles, and adopted British-sounding surnames. George compensated several of his male relatives by creating them British peers. Thus, overnight his cousin, Prince Louis of Battenberg, became Louis Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven, while his brother-in-law, the Duke of Teck, became Adolphus Cambridge, 1st Marquess of Cambridge. Others, such as Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein and Princess Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, simply stopped using their territorial designations. In Letters Patent gazetted on 11 December 1917, the King restricted the style "His (or Her) Royal Highness" and the titular dignity of "Prince (or Princess) of Great Britain and Ireland" to the children of the Sovereign, the children of the sons of the Sovereign, and the eldest living son of the eldest living son of a Prince of Wales.[15]

The Letters Patent also stated that "the titles of Royal Highness, Highness or Serene Highness, and the titular dignity of Prince and Princess shall cease except those titles already granted and remaining unrevoked." Relatives of the British Royal Family who fought on the German side, such as Prince Ernst August of Hanover, 3rd Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale (the senior male-line great grandson of George III) and Prince Carl Eduard, Duke of Albany and the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (a male line grandson of Queen Victoria), were simply cut off; their British peerages were suspended by a 1919 Order in Council under the provisions of the Titles Deprivation Act 1917. George also removed their garter flags from St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle under pressure from his mother, Queen Alexandra.

When Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, a first cousin of George through his mother, Queen Alexandra (Nicholas II's mother was Queen Alexandra's sister) was overthrown in the Russian Revolution of 1917, the British Government offered asylum to the Tsar and his family but worsening conditions for the British people, and fears that revolution might come to the British Isles, led George to think that the presence of the Romanovs might seem inappropriate under the circumstances.[16] Despite the later claims of Lord Mountbatten of Burma that Lloyd George, the great Liberal, was opposed to the rescue of the Romanovs, records of the King's private secretary, Lord Stamfordham, suggest that George V opposed the rescue against the advice of Lloyd George. Advanced planning for a rescue was undertaken by MI1, a branch of the British secret service,[17] but possibly because of a strengthening of the Bolshevik guard, the plan was never put into operation. The Tsar and his immediate family thus remained in Russia and were murdered by Bolshevik revolutionaries in Yekaterinburg in 1918.

Later lifeEdit

During and after World War I, many of the monarchies which had ruled most European countries fell. In addition to Russia, the monarchies of Austria, Germany, Greece, and Spain also fell to revolution and war, although the Greek monarchy was restored again shortly before George's death. Most of these countries were ruled by relatives of George. In 1922, a Royal Navy ship was sent to Greece to rescue his cousins, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg and their children, including Prince Philip, who would later marry George's granddaughter, Elizabeth II. George also took an interest in the political turmoil in Ireland, expressing his horror at government-sanctioned killings and reprisals to Prime Minister Lloyd George.[18]

During the General Strike of 1926 the King took exception to suggestions that the strikers were 'revolutionaries' saying, "Try living on their wages before you judge them."[19] He also advised the Government against taking inflammatory action.[20]

In 1932 George agreed to deliver a Royal Christmas speech on the radio, an event which was to become an annual event. He wasn't in favour of the innovation originally but was persuaded by the argument that it was what his people wanted.[21] By the silver jubilee of his reign in 1935, he had become a well-loved king, saying in response to the crowd's adulation, "I cannot understand it, after all I am only a very ordinary sort of fellow."[22] But George's relationship with his heir, Prince Edward deteriorated in these later years. George was disappointed in Edward's failure to settle down in life and disgusted by his many affairs with married women. He was reluctant to see Edward inherit the crown. 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".

George was quoted as saying about his son Edward: "After I am dead the boy will ruin himself in 12 months," and later about Albert and Lilibet: "I pray to God that my eldest son Edward will never marry and have children, and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne."[23]


World War I took its toll on George's health, which began to deteriorate. He had always had a weak chest, a weakness exacerbated by heavy smoking. A bout of illness saw him retire to the sea, by Bognor Regis in West Sussex.[24] A myth later grew that the King's last words, upon being told that he would soon be well enough to revisit Bognor Regis, were "bugger Bognor!"[25][26]

George never fully recovered his health. In the evening of 15 January 1936, the King took to his bedroom at Sandringham House complaining of a cold, he would never leave the room alive.[27] The King became gradually weaker, drifting in and out of consciousness. The diary of his physician, Lord Dawson of Penn, 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 the 20 January. When the King was already comatose and close to death, Dawson hastened the King’s end by giving him a lethal injection of cocaine and morphine, both to prevent further strain on the family and so that the news of his death could be announced in the morning edition of The Times newspaper.[28][29] He died between 11.45 p.m. and 12.10 a.m., and is buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

At the King's lying in state in Westminster Hall, his four surviving sons, King Edward VIII, the Duke of York, the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent, mounted the guard at the catafalque on the night of 28 January, the day before the funeral as a mark of respect to their father.

At the procession to George’s Lying in State, as the cortege turned into New Palace Yard, the Maltese Cross had fallen from the Imperial Crown and landed in the gutter. The new King, Edward VIII, saw it fall and wondered whether this was a bad omen.[30][31] He would abdicate before the year was out.

Titles, styles, honours and armsEdit


  • 1865-1892: His Royal Highness Prince George of Wales
  • 1892-1901: His Royal Highness The Duke of York
  • 1901: His Royal Highness The Duke of Cornwall and York
  • 1901-1910: His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales
  • 1910-1936: His Majesty The King (outside of the United Kingdom, and on account of India, the Sovereign was sometimes referred to by the style His Imperial Majesty the King-Emperor).


King Edward VIII23 June 189428 May 1972later the Duke of Windsor; married Wallis Simpson; no issue
King George VI14 December 18956 February 1952married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon; had issue (including Elizabeth II)
Mary, Princess Royal25 April 189728 March 1965married Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood; and had issue
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester31 March 190010 June 1974married Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott; had issue
Prince George, Duke of Kent20 December 190225 August 1942married Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark; had issue
Prince John12 July 1905January 1919Died from epilepsy


George was a well-known stamp collector, and played a large role in building the Royal Philatelic Collection into the most comprehensive collection of United Kingdom and Commonwealth stamps in the world, in some cases setting record purchase prices for items. His enthusiasm for stamps, though denigrated by the intelligentsia, did much to popularise the hobby.


  • A statue of King George V was unveiled outside the Brisbane City Hall in 1938 as a tribute to the King from the citizens of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The square on which the statue stands was originally called Albert Square, but was later renamed King George Square in honour of King George V.
  • The King George's Fields were created as a lasting and fitting memorial by a committee in 1936 chaired by the then Lord Mayor of London. Today they are each registered charities and are under the guidance of the National Playing Fields Association
  • The World War I Royal Navy battleship HMS King George V and the World War II Royal Navy battleship HMS King George V were named in his honour
  • The national stadium of Newfoundland in St. John's was named King George V Park in 1925.
  • Rehov ha-Melekh George ha-Hamishi ("King George V Street") is a major thoroughfare in both Jerusalem and in Tel-Aviv. It is the only street in the former city named for a non-Jewish monarch.
  1. The Times (London), Saturday, 8 July 1865, p.12
  2. David Sinclair, Two Georges: The Making of the Modern Monarchy (Hodder and Stoughton, London 1988) p.50
  3. Sinclair, p.55
  4. Sinclair, p.69
  5. James Pope-Hennessy, Queen Mary (George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., London, 1959) p.250-251
  6. 6.0 6.1 Lynn Picknett, Clive Prince, Stephen Prior & Robert Brydon (2002). War of the Windsors: A Century of Unconstitutional Monarchy, pp. 29-30. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84018-631-3.
  7. The Times (London) Friday, 7 July 1893, p.5
  8. See, for example, Susan Morrow, Cousins Divided: George V and Nicholas II (Sutton Publishing, 2006) cover picture or A photograph of them side-by-side
  9. Renamed from Bachelor's Cottage
  10. Harold Nicolson's diary quoted in Sinclair, p.107
  11. See Sinclair, pp.93 ff for a full discussion
  12. This figure is given as 21 in some biographies
  13. Sir Harold Nicolson, King George the Fifth: His Life and Reign (Constable and Co., London, 1952) p.308
  14. The official website of the British Monarchy
  15. Nicolson, p.310
  16. Sinclair, p.148 and Nicolson, p.301
  17. John Crossland, British Spies In Plot To Save Tsar In: The Sunday Times, 15 October 2006
  18. Sinclair, p.114 and Nicolson, p.347
  19. Sinclair, p.105
  20. Nicolson, p.419
  21. Sinclair p.154
  22. Sinclair, p.1
  23. Philip Ziegler, King Edward VIII: The Official Biography (Collins, London, 1990), p.199
  24. Pope-Hennessy, p.546
  25. Andrew Roberts and Antonia Fraser, The House of Windsor (Cassell and Co, London, 2000) p.36
  26. Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens (Robinson Publishing, London, 1998) p.699
  27. Pope-Hennessy, p.558
  28. Francis Watson, The Death of George V In: History Today (1986) vol.36, pp.21-30
  29. J H R Ramsay, A king, a doctor, and a convenient death In: British Medical Journal 28 May 1994 vol.308 p.1445
  30. HRH The Duke of Windsor, A King’s Story (Cassell and Co., London, 1951) p.267
  31. The cross, comprised of a sapphire and 200 diamonds, was retrieved by a military man following later in the procession.

External linksEdit

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