George V of the United Kingdom

King George V
Reign 6 May 191020 January 1936
Predecessor Edward VII
Successor Edward VIII
Spouse Mary of Teck
Issues Edward VIII
George VI
Princess Mary
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
Prince George, Duke of Kent
Prince John
Royal House Windsor
Father Edward VII
Mother Alexandra of Denmark
Born 3 June 1865
Died 20 January 1936

George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert) (3 June 186520 January 1936) was the first British monarch belonging to the House of Windsor (formerly known as the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha). As well as being King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (from 1927, 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 until his death, which included World War I (1914-1918).

King George V relinquished all German titles and styles on behalf of his relatives who were British subjects. In 1931, the Statute of Westminster separated the crown so that George ruled the dominions as separate kingdoms. He changed his personal name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.

Early life


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 July 7, 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 Earl of Tipperary.

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.


British Royalty
House of Windsor

George V
   Edward VIII
   George VI
   Mary, Princess Royal
   Henry, Duke of Gloucester
   George, Duke of Kent
   Prince John
   Elizabeth II
   Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
   William of Gloucester
   Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester
   Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
   Prince Michael of Kent
   Princess Alexandra of Kent
Edward VIII
George VI
   Elizabeth II
   Margaret, Countess of Snowdon
Elizabeth II
   Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
   Princess Anne, Princess Royal
   Prince Andrew, Duke of York
   Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
   Prince William of Wales
   Prince Henry of Wales
   Princess Beatrice of York
   Princess Eugenie of York
   Lady Louise Windsor

Given that George was born only fifteen months after his brother Prince Albert Victor, it was decided to educate both royal princes together. The Queen appointed John Neale Dalton as their tutor. Given the importance of Prince Albert Victor's expected future role, both brothers were given a strict programme of study, although neither excelled intellectually.

Later the royal brothers served as Naval cadets on HMS Bacchante, accompanied by Dalton. They toured the British Empire, visiting the colonies in Australia and the Far East, and also acquiring tattoos in Japan. When they returned to the UK, the brothers were parted with George joining the Royal Navy and Albert Victor attending Trinity College, Cambridge. George served in the navy until 1891. He travelled the world and visited many areas of the British Empire. He also acquired many tattoos, and a parrot that he took home to England with himself.


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.

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. [1]

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. Despite its being an arranged marriage, George and May's marriage was largely successful, and unlike his father, George reportedly did not take a mistress. [1]

Their marriage took place on 6 July 1893 at the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace in London. The couple had six children in total, listed below.

Name Birth Death Notes.
King Edward VIII (later the Duke of Windsor), 23 June 1894 28 May 1972 married Wallis Simpson (19 June 1896 - 24 April 1986); no children.
King George VI 14 December 1895 6 February 1952 married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (4 August 1900 - 30 March 2002; and had children (including Elizabeth II).
Mary, Princess Royal 25 April 1897 28 March 1965 married Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood (9 September 1882 - 23 May 1947); and had children.
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester 31 March 1900 10 June 1974 married Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott (25 December 1901 - 29 October 2004); and had children.
Prince George, Duke of Kent 20 December 1902 25 August 1942 married Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (13 December 1906 - 27 August 1968); and had children.
Prince John 12 July 1905 18 January 1919 Died from epilepsy aged 13.

Duke of York

Prince George (second from the right) and family, circa 1891
Prince George (second from the right) and family, circa 1891

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

The Duke and Duchess of York lived mainly at York Cottage, Sandringham, Norfolk a relatively small house where their way of life was almost that of an ordinary family. George preferred to live a simple life, a marked contrast to his parents. He was also a very strict father, to the extent that his children were terrified of him. He once said that, "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."

As Duke and Duchess of York, George and May carried out a wide variety of public duties. In 1900, 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 continued to New Zealand in 1901, 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 Wales

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, Princess May, who had a much wider intellect than he. May also helped write speeches for her husband.


Monarchical Styles of
George V of the United Kingdom
Reference style: His Majesty
Spoken style: Your Majesty
Alternative style: Sire

On 6 May 1910, King Edward VII died, and the Prince of Wales ascended the throne. George was now King George V and May chose the regal name of Queen Mary. This was in keeping with Queen Victoria's wishes that no British Queen be named Victoria after her death. Their coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on 22 June 1911.

On 11 December 1911, the King and Queen travelled to India for the Delhi Durbar, 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, while ignoring his planned timetable to visit various dignitaries. Also during one season in Sandringham he shot 1,209 pheasants.

World War One

George V and Queen Mary dressed for the Opening of Parliament
George V and Queen Mary dressed for the Opening of Parliament

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." [2]

On 17 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. [2]

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 dated 30 November 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. [3]

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, 2nd 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.

Another of George's cousins was the Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, a first cousin of George through his mother, Queen Alexandra. Nicholas II's mother was Queen Alexandra's sister. The two men were almost identical in appearance. According to legend, Nicholas was mistaken for George at his own wedding reception. When the Russian Revolution of 1917 overthrew the ruling Romanovs, George asked his ministers to ensure that the Tsar and his family be saved and brought to Britain for their safety. Worsening conditions for the British people, and fears that revolution might come to the British Isles, led George to develop an atmosphere of austerity about himself. He reversed his position on the Romanovs, thinking that their presence might seem inappropriate under the circumstances. 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, Stamfordham, suggest that George V did this against the advice of Lloyd George, who is often wrongly blamed for the loss of the Romanovs. The Tsar and his immediate family thus remained in Russia and were murdered by Bolshevik revolutionaries in Yekaterinburg in 1918. [4]

George V with King Albert I and Crown Prince Leopold of Belgium.
George V with King Albert I and Crown Prince Leopold of Belgium.

Later life

During and after World War I, many of the monarchies which had ruled most European countries fell. Emperor Nicholas II of Russia was executed in 1918. 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, George sent a Royal Navy ship to rescue his cousins, Prince Andrew of Greece and Princess Alice of Battenberg and their children, including Prince Philip, who would later marry George's granddaughter, Elizabeth II. [5] George also took an interest in the political turmoil in Ireland, expressing his horror at government-sanctioned killings and reprisals in a letter to Prime Minister Lloyd George.

World War I took its toll on George's health, which began to deteriorate rapidly. 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 where Queen Mary helped nurse him back to health (however, reputedly the King's last words, upon being told that he would soon be well enough to revisit Bognor Regis were "... bugger Bognor!!!") He did live to see the silver jubilee of his reign, in 1935, by which time he had become a well-loved king.

George's relationship with his heir, Prince Edward also deteriorated in his 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 also 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 affectionally 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." [6]


Statue of King George V by William Reid Dick, outside Westminster Abbey, London. (January 2006)
Statue of King George V by William Reid Dick, outside Westminster Abbey, London. (January 2006)

George died on 20 January 1936 at Sandringham House, and is buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. His end was allegedly hastened by his physician, Lord Dawson of Penn, who, it is rumoured, gave him a lethal injection of cocaine and morphine to ease his suffering.[7]

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 January 28th, the day before the funeral as a mark of respect to their father.

At George's funeral procession, as the funeral cortege turned into New Palace Yard, the Maltese Cross fell from the Crown and landed in the gutter. This was viewed as a bad omen for the new King, Edward VIII, who would abdicate before the year was out. [8]


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.


Statue of King George V in King George Square (Statue of King George V is outside Brisbane City Hall)
Statue of King George V in King George Square
(Statue of King George V is outside Brisbane City Hall)

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 in front of the Brisbane City Hall, 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

Styles from birth to death

  1. 3 Jun 1865- 1892: His Royal Highness Prince George of Wales
  2. 1892- 22 Jan 1901: His Royal Highness The Duke of York
  3. 22 Jan- 29 Nov 1901: His Royal Highness The Duke of Cornwall and York
  4. Nov 1901- 6 May 1910: His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales
  5. 6 May 1910- 20 Jan 1936: His Majesty The King


Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Picknett, Lynn, Prince, Clive, Prior, Stephen & Brydon, Robert (2002). War of the Windsors: A Century of Unconstitutional Monarchy, pp. 29, 30. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1-84018-631-3.
  2. ^ a b Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, pp. 11, 12, 14.
  3. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, p. 13.
  4. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, p. 19, 20.
  5. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, p. 84, 85.
  6. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, p. 97.
  7. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, p. 97–99.
  8. ^ Picknett, Prince, Prior & Brydon, p. 99.

Preceded by:
Edward VII
King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Succeeded by:
Himself, under new style
Emperor of India
Succeeded by:
Edward VIII
Preceded by:
Himself, under old style
King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Succeeded by:
Himself, under new style
Preceded by:
Himself, under old style
King of the United Kingdom and British dominions beyond the seas
Succeeded by:
Edward VIII
Preceded by:
The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston
Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
Succeeded by:
The Earl Brassey
Preceded by:
The Duke of Cambridge
Grand Master of the Order of St Michael and St George
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
New Creation
Duke of York
Succeeded by:
Merged in Crown

Monarchs of the United Kingdom
 Kingdom of Great Britain Anne | George I† | George II† | George III
 United Kingdom  George III†/‡ | George IV‡ | William IV‡ | Victoria | Edward VII | George V** | Edward VIII** | George VI** | Elizabeth II**
* Also Monarchs of Ireland | ** Also Monarch of the Commonwealth Realms|† Also Elector of Hanover |‡ Also King of Hanover

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