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Archive for the ‘King George V’ Category

George 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.

George 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.

It was Christmas, 1939, and Great Britain was at war with Nazi Germany. Like his father before him, King George VI would continue the holiday tradition of addressing the British Empire in a live radio message. That year, he would broadcast from the royal country house at Sandringham, where he and his family would spend Christmas.

The Royal Residence at Sandringham, England

The Royal Residence at Sandringham, England

King George VI and his family leave Buckingham Palace, 1939, to spend Christmas at their country house at Sandringham. Pictured are the King and his wife Queen Elizabeth, daughters Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. Princess Elizabeth would become Queen Elizabeth upon the death of her father in 1952.

King George VI and his family leave Buckingham Palace, 1939, to spend Christmas at their country house at Sandringham. Pictured are the King and his wife Queen Elizabeth, daughters Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. Princess Elizabeth would become Queen Elizabeth upon the death of her father in 1952.

You will remember that King George VI was not a man comfortable with public speaking. His struggle to overcome a debilitating speech impediment – a stutter – was immortalized in the 2011 American Academy Award-winning film for Best Picture, “The King’s Speech.” A shy, nervous man, a heavy smoker and drinker (it would kill him at 56), King George VI would have preferred to have remained the Duke of York, living a quiet, out-of-the-public eye life with his sturdy wife and two rosy-cheeked daughters.

British Royal Princesses Elizabeth (l.) and Margaret Rose. February 1939, 7 months before the outbreak of WWII

British Royal Princesses Elizabeth (l.) and Margaret Rose. This photo was taken in February 1939, seven months before the outbreak of WWII.

King George VI – born Albert, called Bertie – never wanted to be king. He wasn’t supposed to be king. He was only king because his brother David had abdicated the throne in 1936 and he, Bertie, was next in line. Nevertheless, unwillingness aside, this unlikely monarch would rise to the occasion and be the very king the British people so sorely needed in a time of great trouble.

It was December 25, 1939, the day of the broadcast. Dressed in the uniform of the Admiral of the Fleet, the tall and too thin sovereign approached the table where two radio microphones were set up, taking his seat.

King George VI addresses his people on September 19, 1939, at the outbreak of WWII.

King George VI addresses his people on September 19, 1939, at the outbreak of WWII.

Taking a few deep breaths, he began to speak, slowly yet solidly. Measuring his words carefully, he spoke from the heart:

“A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle we shall remain undaunted.”

Toward the end of his nine-minute broadcast, he said:

“I feel that we may all find a message of encouragement in the lines which, in my closing words, I would like to say to you:”

He then read from a poem given to him by his 13-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth,

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.’”*

He finished by saying,

“May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.”

For a king not known for compelling speeches, this one would be a landmark. It united King and Country in common cause and inspired the people to hold fast. After all, at this point in history, no one knew that the Allies would triumph. Britain was to face five more years of war and brutal bombing by Hitler before the day of liberation would arrive. The end of 1939 was a shaky time and great leadership by King, Queen, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill would hold Britain steady against the Nazi aggressors.

Queen Elizabeth and King George VI of Great Britain stop at Vallence Road, Stepney, in the East End, London, to examine the debris following an air raid in the Second World War. October 4, 1945

Queen Elizabeth and King George VI of Great Britain stop at Vallence Road, Stepney, in the East End, London, to examine the debris following an air raid in the Second World War. October 4, 1945

King George VI pins a Distinguished Service Medal on Chief Petty Officer C.L.Baldwin in December 1939.

King George VI pins a Distinguished Service Medal on Chief Petty Officer C.L.Baldwin in December 1939.

Listen to the last four minutes of the King’s Christmas 1939 message here:

For more about the British Royal Family on this blog, click here.

Click here for the full text of the King’s 1939 Christmas Message plus The REAL austerity Christmas: How a nation gripped by fear kept calm and carried  on three months after outbreak of war in 1939

*“The Gate of the Year,” by Minnie Haskins (1908)

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At a 1968 British society wedding in Kent, Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor snaps a souvenir picture of the Queen Mum (seated), mother of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen Mum

At a 1968 British society wedding in Kent, Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor cannot resist snapping a souvenir picture of "the Queen Mum" (seated), mother of Queen Elizabeth II.

“The Queen Mum,” born Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1900-2002), was the beloved British Royal Family matriarch from 1953 until her death at age 101. Of Scottish birth, she served as Queen consort to her husband King George VI from 1936 until his death in 1952, when their daughter Princess Elizabeth took the throne as Elizabeth II.

During the London Blitz in WWII, the Queen Mum – who was then naturally referred to as Queen Elizabeth – insisted that she and the King remain in Buckingham Palace after it was bombed by the German luftwaffe. The Queen remarked to her mother-in-law that she was more affected by the bombing of the East End of London than by the bombing of the Palace:

“I’m glad we have been bombed,” she said. “Now, I can look the East End in the eye.” (1)

British King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth (later Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) survey the damage to Buckingham Palace from German bombs. Both the King and Queen were in the Palace when the attack hit the palace grounds and chapel on the morning of September 13, 1940. As they made their way to the palace shelter, they felt the Palace shake under the assault of high explosive and incendiary bombs. They were unhurt. Undeterred by the danger, the royal couple vowed to stay in London in the Palace.

I am still just as frightened of bombs as I was at the beginning,” the Queen wrote to a favourite niece. “I turn bright red and my heart hammers….I’m a beastly coward but I do believe that a lot people are, so I don’t mind! Well, darling, I must stop. Tinkety tonk old fruit and down with the Nazis.”(2)

Her indomitable spirit in the face of German aggression boosted British morale to such a degree that Adolf Hitler called her “the most dangerous woman in Europe.”

Her scary skinny sister-in-law, Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, hated and mocked her, calling her by the unflattering nickname “Cookie” behind her back, mocking her love of sweets and resulting plumpness. The Queen Mum, however, did not hide her love of fun, jokes, champagne, and good food. In the 2010 movie, “The King’s Speech,” the Queen Mum, played by Helena Bonham Carter, is shown eating candies in the backseat of a car.

Her ultimate accolade for anyone or anything was “delicious.”(2)

Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

A new book by British monarchy chronicler, Brian Hoey, gives us yet another “behind the palace walls” glimpse of the Queen Mum enjoying her sweets.  Not in Front of the Corgis, scheduled for a June 2012 release, relates this anecdote: 

Lord Callaghan, when he was prime minister (1976-1979), was a frequent guest of the Queen Mother’s at Clarence House. Once, when just the two of them were present, she was eating from an enormous box of chocolates when he arrived.  She asked him if he would like one. He said, “Yes.” She then pointed to one in the middle of the box and said, “Have that one.” During the time he was eating his one specified chocolate, she ate three more. 

She then invited him to take another, once again selecting the one he should have. This went on for the remainder of the morning, with Her Majesty always pointing to the ones he could have.

As Callaghan left, he spoke to The Queen’s Page, asking why he was offered only particular chocolates by the Queen. The Page let him in on the secret:

“Those are the ones with hard centers. Her Majesty only eats the chocolates with soft centers.”(3)

(1) Source: BBC

(2) Source: The Daily Beast

(3) Source: The Daily Beast

Faithful readers:

  •  For more on the Queen Mum on this blog, click here.
  • For more on the British Royal Family on this blog, click here.
  • For more on Elizabeth Taylor on this blog, click here.
  • For more on Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor on this blog, click here.

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Queen Elizabeth and her consort Prince Philip visit Richmond, Virginia, May 3, 2007.

Prince Philip of England’s upbringing was far from normal. He was born June 10, 1921, on a kitchen table on the Greek island of Corfu in a house that had no electricity, hot water, or indoor plumbing. The only son and fifth and final child of Princess Alice of Battenberg and Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark was christened Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark. The platinum blond toddler learned sign language to communicate with his deaf mother.

Prince Philip (center) with parents, ca. 1923 (Lisa's History Room)

Prince Philip of Greece’s father was a professional soldier in the Greek Army. When Turkey invaded Greece in 1922, Prince Andrew was accused of treason; he was tried, convicted, and jailed and faced possible execution by firing squad. Princess Alice (known as Princess Andrew to English speakers) appealed to her British relative, King George V, for help. Remembering what had happened to his Russian cousin the Tsar when he had refused his cry for rescue, the King quickly dispatched the HMS Calypso to remove Andrew, his wife, their four daughters, and Baby Philip from Greece. Prince Andrew boarded the ship carrying his 18-month-old son in an orange crate. They sailed for France.

For the next eight years, Prince Philip’s family lived in exile in Paris. Philip learned to speak English, French, and German, but no Greek. His family was royal – but not rich – and depended upon the charity of relatives and friends to feed, house, clothe, and educate them while in exile from their mother country.

Prince Philip of England's family poses for a photograph ca. 1930. A young Prince Philip stands to the right of his mother, Princess Andrew (Alice of Battenberg) and Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (called Andrea). From left to right are Philip's sisters, all Princesses of Greece & Denmark: Margarita, Theodora, Sophie, and Cecilie.

In 1930-31, the family fell completely apart. All four of Philip’s sisters, who were educated in Germany, married German noblemen and moved to Germany. Then Prince Andrew abandoned his wife and Philip and ran off to live with his mistress on her yacht anchored in the Mediterranean off Monte Carlo where Andrew quickly became addicted to the gaming tables.

Philip’s mother collapsed under the strain. She suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized in Switzerland at the famed Bellevue Sanatorium. That left little Philip all alone in Paris, with no one to care for him. He was only nine.

Philip was then sent to England to be cared for by his maternal grandmother.  But then she died. Next he moved in with his Uncle George, who, by 1938, was dead also. Philip was 17 at the time.

Then another of his maternal uncles, Lord Louis Mountbatten, British sea lord and the last Viceroy of India stepped in and took Philip under his wing. “Uncle Dickie” took an intense interest in his promising nephew. He made grand plans for him.

Prince Philip as a young midshipman in the Royal Navy, ca. late 1930s

Even though Philip was a Greek citizen, Uncle Dickie pulled a few strings so that Philip could join the Royal Navy as a midshipman. Then Uncle Dickie began to pave the way for Philip to marry the future Queen of England. In 1939, he arranged for Philip to entertain King George VI‘s two daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, while the King and Queen Elizabeth toured Dartmouth Naval College.

When Princess Elizabeth met Philip, she was only 13. She fell head-over-heels in love with the tall, handsome, and athletic young man. The two became pen pals and wrote constantly to one another during the next six years of world war. He celebrated the Christmas of 1943 with her and her family at their Scottish estate, Balmoral. The press hailed the romance as the love match of the century.

I

In this July, 1951 photo (a year before King George VI's death and Princess Elizabeth's ascension to the British throne), Princess Elizabeth and her mother, Queen Elizabeth, arrive at Westminster Abbey to attend the wedding of Lady Caroline Montagu-Douglas-Scott to Mr. Ian Hedworth Gilmour. Princess Elizabeth's mother - who styled herself "Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother," after her daughter became Queen Elizabeth II - had a fussy, overdressed sense of fashion. Her hats were generally broadbrimmed, trimmed in lace or swaths of chiffon, or piled high with feathers. Her neckline was often V-shaped and adorned with her trademark triple strand of pearls. Her dresses were feminine, flirty, and accented by enormous brooches and rings. As she aged, she dressed in fruity colors like pink, lime, and yellow. Her dresses and hats always matched in color. Her girlish style, peaches-and-cream complexion, pudginess, and sunny smile suggested a sweetness and wholesomeness that made her extremely popular at home and abroad. The Queen Mother, nee Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, died in her sleep in 2002 at the age of 101. (Lisa's History Room)

It was no surprise when, on July 9, 1947, the Palace announced that Prince Philip of Greece and Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain were officially engaged. Philip was 26; Elizabeth, 21. The wedding was set for November 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey. The King and Queen were not wild about the idea of Elizabeth marrying before the age of 25, but it didn’t matter what they wanted. Elizabeth wanted Philip and she was going to have him.

Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain and Prince Philip of Greece announce their engagement, July 9, 1947. (Lisa's History Room)

Buckingham Palace shifted into high gear planning the royal wedding:

“This was not simple a marriage ceremony, but an affair of state that would focus world attention on the British monarchy. Consequently the King and Queen told him [Prince Philip] that his sisters and their German husbands, some of whom had supported Hitler’s Third Reich, could not possibly be included. So they remained in Germany and listened to the service on the radio.” (1)

Still focused on the guest list, the Queen addressed the issue of Philip’s mother, Princess Andrew, whom she considered “pleasant but odd.” Although Philip’s mother had had nothing to do with Philip since he was 9, Princess Andrew had nevertheless been quite busy while others raised her son. After several years of Swiss therapy in the early 1930s, she had rejoined society and taken up charitable works. During WWII, she saved a Jewish family named Cohen from being sent to the death camp by sheltering it in her Greek home.

After the war, Princess Andrew founded a religious order called the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary dedicated to helping the sick and the needy in Greece. Princess Andrew became a nun, taking a vow of celibacy, although she had born 5 children. She had a habit – a nun’s habit – that she wore all the time. It consisted of a drab gray robe, white wimple, cord, and rosary beads. She was commonly referred to as “Sister Andrew.”

Queen Elizabeth was understandably terrified that Princess Andrew would show up at the wedding at Westminster Abbey wearing her nun’s habit and embarrassing the family in a large way. The Queen pressed the issue with Philip. As a result, Princess Andrew appeared at her son’s wedding wearing a demure hat and a simple silk dress, which the Queen later described as “very pretty and most appropriate.”

Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip marry on November 20, 1947

Six years later King George VI was dead. Elizabeth and Philip returned to Westminster Abbey for Elizabeth to be crowned Queen.

The coronation was held on June 2, 1953 and televised, at Elizabeth’s request, so that all her subjects could see her crowned. Twenty million viewers watched the seven-hour BBC-TV marathon. The ceremony began as the guests began their stately procession down the long aisle of Westminster Abbey, ahead of the Queen, to take their seats.

Prince Philip’s mother was among the guests. She turned heads as she processed up the aisle wearing a long grey dress and a flowing head-dress that looked remarkably like a nun’s habit! She had had it especially made for the coronation.

Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, Prince Philip's mother (bottom left) processes down the aisle of Westminster Abbey for her daughter-in-law Elizabeth's coronation as Queen Regnant of Great Britain. June 1953. Princess Andrew is dressed in an outfit resembling her usual attire - a nun's habit. (Lisa's History Room)

Princess Andrew, 1965

Princess Andrew died at Buckingham Palace in 1969. According to her wishes, she was buried in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. On October 31, 1994, Princess Andrew’s two surviving children, Prince Philip and Sophie, Princess George of Hanover, went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial, in Jerusalem to witness a ceremony honouring their mother. Princess Andrew was called “Righteous among the Nations” for having hidden a Jewish family in her home in Athens during WWII.

(1) Kelley, Kitty. The Royals. New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1997.

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1936 The Year of Three British Kings: George V, Edward VIII, George VI

1936 The Year of Three British Kings: dad George V and his 2 sons - George VI & Edward VIII

The year 1936 brought many changes within the British monarchy. In January of that year, the first monarch of the House of Windsor, King George V, died and his son, Edward VIII ascended the throne. King Edward VIII though was not destined to rule long. He had a married American mistress – Wallis Warfield Simpson – who was in the process of divorcing her second husband. The King’s choice of sweetheart would soon bring him tumbling down.

Wallis Warfield Simpson, Duchess of Windsor (1896-1986). Wallis' second husband Ernest Simpson couldn't keep her happy. She was accustomed to a grander style of living than he was capable of providing. She found that way of life with the then Prince of Wales, who ascended to the British throne in 1936 as King Edward VIII. The King was obsessed with Wallis, showering with jewels and clothes and taking her on expensive cruises - while she was still married to Mr. Simpson. Wallis had cast her spell.

Wallis Warfield Simpson, Duchess of Windsor (1896-1986). Wallis' second husband Ernest Simpson couldn't keep her happy. She was accustomed to a grander style of living than he was capable of providing. They were living well beyond their means and having to fire servants when, in 1931, she was introduced to the playboy Prince of Wales, who ascended to the British throne in 1936 as King Edward VIII. The King - called "David" by his friends and family - dropped all his other married girlfriends and became obsessed with Wallis, showering her with jewels and clothes and taking her on expensive ocean cruises - while she was still Mrs. Married Simpson.

The King shocked the nation – already reeling from the King’s scandalous behavior of appearing in the society pages with Mrs. Simpson – by announcing that he planned to marry Mrs. Simpson.

The British people and the government would never have accepted Mrs. Simpson as their queen. Divorced people were not accepted at court, especially ones with two living ex-husbands. Although the King was not forbidden to marry Mrs. Simpson, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin advised him, on religious and political grounds, that he must make a choice between the throne and marrying Mrs. Simpson – or the government would resign.

By December 1936, King Edward had made his decision. He used his power to expedite Wallis’ divorce from Ernest Simpson [divorces took years back then] then, declared to his kingdom – the United Kingdom, Canada, and India – that it was impossible to carry out his duties “without the help and support of the woman I love,” and gave up the throne. Edward became the only monarch in the history of Great Britain to voluntarily abdicate. Edward’s younger brother, King George VI, then ascended the throne. Edward did marry Wallis and they became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, settling in France until World War II began.

 

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon [pictured] was Wallis’ sister-in-law. She was married to King George VI, the Duke of Windsor’s younger brother who ascended the throne following his  1936 abdication. Elizabeth was known as “The Queen Mum” in later years, after King George VI died in 1952 and their daughter, “Lilibet,” became Queen Elizabeth II. Queen Elizabeth II’s mother – also called Queen Elizabeth when she was queen – died in 2002 at the age of 101.  The Queen Mum hated Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, and was determined that Wallis would never reenter British society after causing the abdication crisis. She also blamed the Duke and Wallis for the premature death of her husband George VI in 1952 upon the stress of his reign as king – again, because of her brother-in-law’s abdication to marry Wallis. Wallis wasn’t so happy with the Queen herself and returned her hostile sentiments, ridiculing the Queen’s fussy style of confectionary dress by nicknaming her “Cake.” Wallis had never forgotten the snub that King George VI gave her – at his wife Queen Elizabeth’s insistence – of refusing to allow Wallis to be referred to as “Her Royal Highness.”"The Queen Mum" in later years. Queen Elizabeth II's mother died in 2002 at the age of 101. She hated the Duchess of Windsor and the Duchess of Windsor returned her sentiments, calling her the dowdy duchess [when the Queen Mum was the Duchess of York] and "Cake" for her confectionary style of dressing.

The abdication and the subsequent exile to France of the newly titled Duke and Duchess of Windsor turned out to be a gigantic blessing for the UK, because, by September of 1939, Great Britain would declare war on Nazi Germany. It was a good thing King Edward VIII had been replaced with the level-headed King George VI and his queen, Queen Elizabeth (known later as the Queen Mum). They had the good sense to see the threat a Nazi Germany presented and the courage to lead the British people through the terrible bombings of Great Britain by the Nazis. King George VI began his reign as a reluctant king. He was a nervous man with a pronounced stutter who never wanted to rule. But, with Queen Elizabeth by his side, they were able to summon the strength from God and selves to help the British people endure the war and oppose the Nazi regime.

“When war broke out in 1939, George VI and his wife resolved to stay in London and not flee to Canada, as had been suggested. The King and Queen officially stayed in Buckingham Palace throughout the war, although they usually spent nights at Windsor Castle to avoid bombing raids. George VI and Queen Elizabeth narrowly avoided death when two German bombs exploded in a courtyard at Buckingham Palace while they were there.”

So, as history would have it, Great Britain owes an enormous debt to Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, for spiriting the Duke away before he could do any real harm. At the time, it seemed a great sadness for the Duke to have to give up the throne because convention wouldn’t allow for him to be married to the Duchess. But now we know that it would have been a disaster for him to be King during World War II. Because, as it turned out, both he and the Duchess were  Nazi sympathizers. They held their wedding ceremony at the Chateau de Cande in Mont, France, the home of Nazi collaborator Charles Bedaux.

Within months, Bedaux had arranged for them to travel to Germany to dine with Adolf Hitler. It was widely believed that Hitler planned to install the Duke back on the British throne after the Germans had conquered England. The Duke was desperate for a kingdom and made no secret of his fondness for fascism. Fortunately,the Duke’s brother, the King, got wind of his brother’s nefarious activities and schemes and, at the start of the War, whisked him and the Duchess off to a British island [the Bahamas] far out in the Caribbean. Had  Edward been the British monarch during WWII, not George VI, we might today to looking at a frighteningly different world order.

King George V, the Duke of Windsor’s father, never thought much of his son David. He was disgusted by his son’s playboy ways and inability to grow up and settle down.

The King [George V] was reluctant to see Edward inherit the Crown, and was quoted as saying of Edward [the Duke of Windsor]:”After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in 12 months.”

George V knew his son well. King Edward VIII…or “David,” the Prince of Wales,  the Duke of Windsor, – he had so many names, it can be so confusing – was self-indulgent to the point of self-destruction. King Edward VIII’s reign as monarch was one of the shortest in British history, lasting  only 325 days, or about 11 months, one month less than his father had so sagely predicted. Edward never did have a coronation ceremony. He was never crowned king.

Readers, for more on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor on this blog:

See “Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor” and “Coco Chanel, Nazi Lovers, and the Windsor Set.”

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