United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
King of the
United Kingdom, Ireland
and British Dominions:
11 December 1936 – 6 February 1952
Silver Half Crown 32.3mm (14.00 grams) .500 Silver (0.2258 oz. ASW)
Reference: KM# 856 Obverse Designer: T.H. Paget Reverse Designer: George
Krueger-Gray Edge: Reeded
GEORGIVS VI D:G:BR:OMN:REX, Bare head of George VI left.
FID:DEF IND:IMP HALF CROWN 1940 around quartered shield flanked by crowned
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Britain, also known as Britain is an
island in the
North Atlantic off the north-west coast of
continental Europe. With an area of 209,331 km2
(80,823 sq mi), it is the
largest island in Europe and the
ninth-largest in the world. In 2011 the island
had a population of about 61 million people, making it the
third-most populous island in the world, after
Japan. It accounts for the majority of the
British Isles archipelago, along with over
1,000 smaller surrounding islands, including
the island of
Ireland to its west.
The island is part of the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
constituting most of its territory: most of
Wales are on the island, with their respective
Cardiff. Politically, the term Great Britain
usually extends to include surrounding islands that form part of England,
Scotland, and Wales. The island is dominated by an
oceanic climate with quite narrow temperature
differences between seasons.
Kingdom of Great Britain resulted from the
England (which already comprised the
present-day countries of
Wales) in 1707. More than a hundred years
before, in 1603,
King James VI,
King of Scots, had inherited the throne of
England, but it was not until 1707 that the Parliaments of the two countries
agreed to form a unified state. In 1801, Great Britain
united with the neighbouring
Kingdom of Ireland, forming the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland,
which was renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland after
Irish Free State seceded in 1922.
VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was
King of the United Kingdom and the
Dominions of the
British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936
until his death. He was the last
Emperor of India and the first
Head of the Commonwealth.
As the second son of
King George V, he was not expected to inherit
the throne and spent his early life in the shadow of his elder brother,
Edward. He served in the
Royal Navy and
Royal Air Force during the
First World War, and after it took on the usual
round of public engagements. He married
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923 and they had
George's elder brother ascended the throne as Edward VIII upon the death of
their father in 1936. However, later that year Edward revealed his desire to
marry the divorced American socialite
Wallis Simpson. British Prime Minister
Stanley Baldwin advised Edward that for
political and religious reasons he could not marry a divorced woman and remain
Edward abdicated in order to marry, and George
ascended the throne as the third monarch of the
House of Windsor.
During George's reign the break-up of the
British Empire and its transition into the
Commonwealth of Nations accelerated. The
parliament of the
Irish Free State
removed direct mention of the monarch from
the country's constitution on the day of his
accession. Within three years, the Empire and Commonwealth, except the Irish
Free State, was at
Nazi Germany. In the next two years, war with
Japan followed. Though
Britain and its allies were ultimately
victorious, the United States and the
Soviet Union rose as pre-eminent
world powers and the British Empire declined.
independence of India and Pakistan in 1947,
George remained as king of both countries, but the title Emperor of India
was abandoned in June 1948. Ireland
formally declared itself a republic and left
the Commonwealth in 1949, and India became a republic within the Commonwealth
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. His elder
daughter, Elizabeth, succeeded him.
Four kings: Edward VII (far right), his son George, Prince of Wales,
later George V (far left), and grandsons Edward, later Edward VIII
(rear), and Albert, later George VI (foreground), c. 1908
George VI was born at
York Cottage, on the
Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, during the reign
of his great-grandmother
His father was Prince George,
Duke of York (later
King George V), the second and eldest-surviving
son of the Prince and Princess of Wales (later
King Edward VII and
Queen Alexandra). His mother was the Duchess of
Queen Mary), the eldest child and only daughter
the Duke and
Duchess of Teck.
His birthday (14 December 1895) was the anniversary of the death of his
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 "Albert Frederick Arthur George" at
St. Mary Magdalene's Church near Sandringham
three months later.a
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
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. In 1898, Queen Victoria issued
Letters Patent that granted the children of the
eldest son of the Prince of Wales the
Royal Highness, 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 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, 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. Prince Albert moved up to third-in-line to the throne, after
his father and elder brother.
From 1909, Albert attended the
Royal Naval College, Osborne, as a naval
cadet. In 1911, he came bottom of the class in
the final examination, but despite this he progressed to the
Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.
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.
Prince Albert (left) at an
dinner in 1919 with
Sir Hugh Trenchard
Albert spent the first six months of 1913 on the training ship
West Indies and on the east coast of Canada.
He was rated as a
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 the First World War. He was
mentioned in despatches for his action as a
turret officer aboard Collingwood in the
Battle of Jutland (31 May – 1 June 1916), an
indecisive engagement with the
navy that was the largest naval action of the
war. He did not see further combat, largely because of ill health caused by a
duodenal ulcer, 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's training
With the establishment of the
Royal Air Force 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 until mid-1918,
before reporting to the RAF's Cadet School at
St Leonards-on-Sea where he completed a
fortnight's training and took command of a squadron on the Cadet Wing.
He was the first member of the royal family to be certified as a fully qualified
During the closing weeks of the war, he served on the staff of the RAF's
Independent Air Force at its headquarters in
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, where he studied
history, economics and civics for a year.
On 4 June 1920, he was created
Duke of York,
Earl of Inverness and
He began to take on more royal duties. He represented his father, 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 played
Wimbledon in the Men's Doubles with
Louis Greig in 1926.
He developed an interest in working conditions, and was President of the
Industrial Welfare Society. His series of
annual summer camps for boys between 1921 and 1939 brought together boys from
different social backgrounds.
Wedding of Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady
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 and
Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. He became
determined to marry her.
She rejected his proposal twice, in 1921 and 1922, reportedly because she was
reluctant to make the sacrifices necessary to become a member of the royal
In the words of Lady Elizabeth's mother, Albert would be "made or marred" by his
choice of wife. After a protracted courtship, Elizabeth agreed to marry him.
They were married on 26 April 1923 in
Westminster Abbey. Albert's marriage to someone
not of royal birth was considered a modernising gesture.
The newly formed
British Broadcasting Company wished to record
and broadcast the event on radio, but the Abbey
Chapter vetoed the idea (although the
Herbert Edward Ryle, was in favour).
Lady Elizabeth was styled "Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York" after their
The Duke and Duchess either side of the Mayor of
, Australia, 1927
From December 1924 to April 1925, the Duke and Duchess toured
Uganda, and the
Sudan, travelling via the
Suez Canal and
Aden. During the trip, they both went
big game hunting.
Because of his stammer, Albert dreaded public speaking.
After his closing speech at the
British Empire Exhibition at
Wembley on 31 October 1925, one which was an
ordeal for both him and his listeners,
he began to see
Lionel Logue, 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 the new
Parliament House in
Canberra, Australia, 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. The Duke and Duchess and their two
daughters lived a relatively sheltered life at their London residence, 145
Piccadilly. They were a close and loving
One of the few stirs arose when the
Canadian Prime Minister,
R. B. Bennett, considered the Duke for
Governor General of Canada in 1931—a proposal
that King George V rejected on the advice of the
Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs,
J. H. Thomas.
George VI holds the
Sceptre with the Cross
Cullinan I Diamond
Imperial State Crown
is on the
right. Portrait by Sir
Edward VIII abdication crisis
King George V had severe reservations about Prince Edward, saying, "I pray
God that my eldest son will never marry and that nothing will come between
Bertie and Lilibet and the throne."
On 20 January 1936, George V died and Edward ascended the throne as Edward VIII.
Vigil of the Princes, Prince Albert and his
three brothers took a shift standing guard over their father's body as it
lay in state, in a closed casket, in
As Edward was unmarried and had no children, Albert was the
heir presumptive to the throne. Less than a
year later, on 11 December 1936, Edward VIII
abdicated in order to marry his mistress,
Wallis Simpson, who was divorced from her first
husband and divorcing her second. Edward had been advised by British Prime
Stanley Baldwin 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. 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
Oireachtas, the parliament of the
Irish Free State,
removed all direct mention of the monarch from
Irish constitution. The next day, it passed the
External Relations Act, which made provision
for the monarch to act as the state's representative in foreign affairs. The two
acts made the Irish Free State a republic in essence 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
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, in favour of
their younger brother
Prince George, Duke of Kent. This seems to have
been suggested on the grounds that Prince George was at that time the only
Town Hall decorated for
the Coronation, 1937
Albert assumed the
regnal name "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
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 and style "His Royal Highness The
Duke of Windsor", but the
Letters Patent 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 and
Sandringham House, 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
queen consort, with the
Order of the Garter.
George VI's coronation took place on 12 May
1937, the date previously intended for Edward's coronation. In a break with
tradition, Queen Mary attended the ceremony in a show of support for her son.
There was no
Durbar held in
Delhi for George VI, as had occurred for his
father, as the cost would have been a burden to the
government of India.
Indian nationalism 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 the Second World War. 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
appeasement of Hitler.
However, when the King and Queen greeted Chamberlain on his return from
Munich Agreement in 1938, they invited him to
appear on the balcony of
Buckingham Palace 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, which led historian
John Grigg 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".
George VI grants
to laws in the
, 19 May 1939. His
consort, Queen Elizabeth, is to the right.
In May and June 1939, the
King and Queen toured Canada and the United
Ottawa, the royal couple were accompanied
Canadian Prime Minister
William Lyon Mackenzie King,
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
Lord Tweedsmuir and Mackenzie King hoped that
the King's presence in Canada would demonstrate the principles of the
Statute of Westminster 1931, 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, George VI personally accepted and
Letter of Credence of the newly appointed U.S.
Ambassador to Canada,
Daniel Calhoun Roper. The official royal tour
Gustave Lanctot, 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 trip was intended to soften the strong
isolationist 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 and stayed with
Franklin D. Roosevelt at the
White House and at
his private estate at
Hyde Park, New York.
A strong bond of friendship was forged between the King and Queen and the
President during the tour, which had major significance in the relations between
the United States and the United Kingdom through the ensuing war years.
Second World War
In September 1939, Britain and the self-governing Dominions, but not Ireland,
declared war on
George VI and his wife resolved to stay in London, despite German
bombing raids. They officially stayed in
Buckingham Palace throughout the war, although they usually spent nights at
The first German raid on London, on 7 September 1940, killed about one thousand
civilians, mostly in the
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
Eleanor Roosevelt 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, was killed on
George VI (left) with
Field Marshal Montgomery
Belgium, October 1944
Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain
as Prime Minister, though personally George would have preferred to appoint
After the King's initial dismay over Churchill's appointment of
Lord Beaverbrook 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.
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 in June 1943,
Normandy 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.
While talking to the
Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir
Alan Brooke at a social function in 1944 about
Field Marshal Montgomery, Brooke mentioned that
every time he met 'Monty' he thought he was after his job. The King replied:
"You should worry, when I meet him, I always think he's after mine!"
In 1945, crowds shouted "We want the King!" in front of Buckingham Palace
Victory in Europe Day 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 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 (right) with British prime minister
, July 1945
George VI's reign saw the acceleration of the dissolution of the
British Empire. The
Statute of Westminster 1931, had already
acknowledged the evolution of the
Dominions into separate
sovereign states. The process of transformation
from an empire to a voluntary association of independent states, known as the
Commonwealth, gathered pace after the Second
World War, especially during the ministry of
British India became the two independent
Pakistan in 1947.
George relinquished the title of
Emperor of India, and became King of India and
King of Pakistan instead. In 1950 he ceased to be King of India when it became a
republic within the Commonwealth of Nations, but he remained King of Pakistan
until his death and India recognised his new title of
Head of the Commonwealth. Other countries left
the Commonwealth, such as
Burma in January 1948,
Palestine (divided between
Israel and the Arab states) in May 1948 and the
Republic of Ireland in 1949.
In 1947, the King and his family toured Southern Africa.
The Prime Minister of the
Union of South Africa,
Jan Smuts, 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
Despite the tour, Smuts lost
the election the following year, and the new
government instituted a
strict policy of racial segregation.
Illness and death
of George VI, 1951
The stress of the war had taken its toll on the King's health,
exacerbated by his heavy
and subsequent development of lung cancer among other ailments, including
arteriosclerosis and possibly
thromboangiitis obliterans. A planned tour of
Australia and New Zealand was postponed after the King suffered an arterial
blockage in his right leg, which threatened the loss of the leg and was treated
with a right
lumbar sympathectomy in March 1949.
Princess Elizabeth, the heir presumptive, took on more royal duties as her
father's health deteriorated. The delayed tour was re-organised, with Elizabeth
and her husband, the
Duke of Edinburgh, taking the place of the King
and Queen. The King was well enough to open the
Festival of Britain in May 1951, but on 23
September 1951, his left
lung was removed by
Clement Price Thomas after a malignant tumour
In October 1951, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh went on a
month-long tour of Canada; the trip had been delayed for a week due to the
King's illness. At the
State Opening of Parliament in November, the
speech from the throne was read for him by the
Christmas broadcast of 1951 was recorded in
sections, and then edited together.
On 31 January 1952, despite advice from those close to him, the King went to
London Airport to see off Princess Elizabeth,
who was going on her tour of Australia via
Kenya. On the morning of 6 February, George VI
was found dead in bed at
Sandringham House in Norfolk. He had died from
coronary thrombosis in his sleep at the age of
His daughter Elizabeth flew back to Britain from Kenya as
Queen Elizabeth II.
From 9 February for two days his coffin rested in
St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, before
lying in state at
Westminster Hall from 11 February.
His funeral took place at
St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on the
He was interred initially in the Royal Vault until he was transferred to the
King George VI Memorial Chapel inside St. George's on 26 March 1969.
In 2002, fifty years after his death, the remains of his widow,
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, and the ashes
of his younger daughter
Princess Margaret, who both died that year,
were interred in the chapel alongside him.
Statue of George VI at
Cultural depictions of King George VI
In the words of Labour M.P.
George Hardie, 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.
George Cross and the
George Medal were founded at the King's
suggestion during the Second World War to recognise acts of exceptional civilian
He bestowed the George Cross on the entire "island fortress of Malta" in 1943.
He was posthumously awarded the
Ordre de la Libération 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 Reservoir in Surrey, United
King George VI Highway and
King George Station in
Surrey, British Columbia;
George VI Sound in Antarctica; and the
King George VI Chase, a horse race in the
On screen, George VI has been portrayed by, among others,
Colin Firth, who won an
Academy Award for Best Actor for the role in
The King's Speech, a 2010 film that won the
Academy Award for Best Picture.
styles, honours and arms
List of titles and honours of King George VI
Titles and styles
Royal cypher (monogram), 1949
- 14 December 1895 – 28 May 1898: His Highness Prince Albert
- 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
- 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
King-Emperor (in regard to British
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. In his position
as sovereign, George automatically held the position of
As Duke of York, George bore the
royal arms of the United Kingdom differenced
label of three points
argent, the centre point bearing an anchor
azure—a difference earlier awarded to his
father George V when he was Duke of York, and then later awarded to his
Prince Andrew, Duke of York. As king, he bore
the royal arms undifferenced.
Coat of arms as Duke of York
Coat of arms as King of the United Kingdom (except
Coat of arms in Scotland
Coat of arms in Canada