George V of the United Kingdom

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: British History Post 1900; Monarchs of Great Britain

George V
King of the United Kingdom and her dominions
beyond the Seas; Emperor of India
King George V
King George V
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 (aged 70)
Sandringham House, Norfolk
Burial 29 January 1936
St George's Chapel, Windsor

George V ( 3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936), born George Frederick Ernest Albert, was the first British monarch belonging to the House of Windsor, which he created from the British branch of the German House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. As well as being King of the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth Realms, George was also the Emperor of India and the first King of the Irish Free State. George reigned from 6 May 1910 through World War I (1914–1918) until his death in 1936.

From the age of 12 George served in the Royal Navy, but upon the unexpected death of his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, he became heir to the throne and married his brother's fiancée, Mary of Teck. Although they occasionally toured the British Empire, George preferred to stay at home with his stamp collection, and lived what later biographers would consider a dull life because of its conventionality.

When George's father, King Edward VII died in 1910, he became King-Emperor. He was the only Emperor of India to be crowned there. During World War I 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. During his reign, the Statute of Westminster separated the crown so that George ruled the dominions as separate kingdoms, and the rise of socialism, fascism and Irish republicanism changed the political spectrum.

George was plagued by illness throughout much of his later reign; he was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward, upon his death.

Early life and education

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. 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 Albert Victor nor George excelled intellectually. In September 1877 both brothers joined the training ship HMS Britannia at Dartmouth. Their father thought that the navy was "the very best possible training for any boy."

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. Between Melbourne and Sydney, Dalton records a sighting of the Flying Dutchman, a mythical ghost ship. When they returned to the UK, the brothers were separated 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.

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
    Prince William of Gloucester
    Richard, Duke of Gloucester
    Edward, Duke of Kent
    Prince Michael of Kent
    Princess Alexandra


As a young man destined to serve in the Navy, Prince George served for many years under the command of his uncle, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, 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, father and uncle all approved the match, but the mothers, the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Edinburgh, both opposed it. The Princess of Wales thought the family was too pro-German, and the Duchess of Edinburgh disliked England. 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. This effectively ended George's naval career, as he was now expected to assume a more political role.

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. The marriage was a success, and 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. The Times claimed that at the wedding, the crowd may have been 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. However, their remaining facial features were quite different up close.

Duke of York

On 24 May 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, a relatively small house in Sandringham, Norfolk 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 despaired 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 kill [i.e. shoot] animals and stick in stamps."

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 was denigrated by the intelligentsia.

George as Duke of Cornwall and York in 1901.
George as Duke of Cornwall and York in 1901.

Randolph Churchill claimed that George was a strict father, to the extent that his children were terrified of him, and that George had remarked to Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby: "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 George's parenting style was little different from that adopted by most people at the time. George and May had five sons and a daughter.

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 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 to Edward himself, whom Queen Victoria had excluded from state affairs, George was given wide access to state documents and papers by his father. George in turn allowed his wife access to his papers, as he valued her counsel, and May often helped write her husband's speeches.

In 1906 he toured India, where he was disgusted by racial discrimination and campaigned for greater involvement of Indians in the government of the country.

King and Emperor

On 6 May 1910, King Edward VII died, and the Prince of Wales ascended the throne. George was now King George V and May was Queen. George had never liked his wife's habit of signing official documents and letters as "Victoria Mary" and insisted she drop one of the names. Neither thought she should be called Queen Victoria, and so she became Queen Mary. Their coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on 22 June 1911. 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 21. On 18 December 1913 George shot over a thousand pheasants in six hours at the home of Lord Burnham, although even he had to acknowledge that "we went a little too far" that day.

"A good riddance"A 1917 Punch cartoon depicting King George V sweeping away his German titles. Changing the name of his family's royal house from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor was a popular move.
"A good riddance"
A 1917 Punch cartoon depicting King George V sweeping away his German titles. Changing the name of his family's royal house from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor was a popular move.

World War I

From 1914 to 1918 Britain was at war with Germany. 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. Queen Mary, although British herself, was the daughter of the Duke of Teck, a descendant of the German Royal House of Württemberg.

The King'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 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."

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.

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.

King George V (right) with his first cousin Tsar Nicholas II (their mothers - Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom and Empress Maria Fyodorovna of Russia - were sisters). Berlin, 1913
King George V (right) with his first cousin Tsar Nicholas II (their mothers - Queen Alexandra of the United Kingdom and Empress Maria Fyodorovna of Russia - were sisters). Berlin, 1913

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 Maria Fyodorovna, 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. Despite the later claims of Lord Mountbatten of Burma that David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister, 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, but because of the strengthening Bolshevik position and wider difficulties with the conduct of the war, 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.

Two months after the end of the war, the King's youngest son, John, died aged 13 after a short lifetime of ill-health. George was informed of the death by the Queen who wrote, "[John] had been a great anxiety to us for many years…The first break in the family circle is hard to bear but people have been so kind & sympathetic & this has helped us much."

Later life

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. 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." He also advised the Government against taking inflammatory action.

In 1932 George agreed to deliver a Royal Christmas speech on the radio, an event which was to become an annual event. He was not in favour of the innovation originally but was persuaded by the argument that it was what his people wanted. He was concerned by the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, and warned the British ambassador in Berlin to be suspicious of the fascists. 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." 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 appalled 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 within 12 months," and later about Albert and Lilibet: "I pray to God my eldest son will never marry and have children, and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne."


Statue of King George V by William Reid Dick, outside Westminster Abbey, London
Statue of King George V by William Reid Dick, outside Westminster Abbey, London

World War I took a toll on George's health, and his heavy smoking exacerbated recurring breathing problems. A bout of illness saw him retire to the seaside resort of Bognor Regis in West Sussex. A myth later grew that the King's last words, upon being told that he would soon be well enough to revisit the town, were " bugger Bognor!"

George never fully recovered. 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. 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 admits hastening 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. He died at 11.55 p.m. and is buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

At the procession to George's Lying in State in Westminster Hall, as the cortege turned into New Palace Yard, the Maltese Cross fell 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 for his new reign.

As a mark of respect to their father, George's 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.


Statue of King George V in King George Square outside Brisbane City Hall
Statue of King George V in King George Square 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 was originally called Albert Square, but was later renamed King George Square in honour of King George V. In London, a statue by William Reid Dick stands outside the east end of Westminster Abbey.

The King George's Fields in London were created as a 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 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 Tel-Aviv, the only streets in these Israeli cities named after a non-Jewish monarch. In Paris, France, a large avenue from the top of the Champs-Elysées down to the Seine river and an underground station were named for George V.

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.

Other information

Newfoundland dollar bill featuring King George V
Newfoundland dollar bill featuring King George V


  • 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
    • in Scotland: 1901– 1910: His Royal Highness The Prince George, Duke of Rothesay
  • 1910– 1936: His Majesty The King
    • and, occasionally, outside of the United Kingdom, and with regard to India: 1910- 1936: His Imperial Majesty The King-Emperor


George V's ancestors in three generations
George V of the United Kingdom
Edward VII of the United Kingdom
Paternal grandfather:
Albert, Prince Consort
Paternal great-grandfather:
Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Paternal great-grandmother:
Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
Paternal grandmother:
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Paternal great-grandfather:
Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn
Paternal great-grandmother:
Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Alexandra of Denmark
Maternal grandfather:
Christian IX of Denmark
Maternal great-grandfather:
Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Maternal great-grandmother:
Louise Caroline of Hesse-Kassel
Maternal grandmother:
Louise of Hesse-Kassel
Maternal great-grandfather:
Prince William of Hesse
Maternal great-grandmother:
Charlotte of Denmark


Name Birth Death Notes
King Edward VIII 23 June 1894 28 May 1972 later the Duke of Windsor; married Wallis Simpson; no issue
King George VI 14 December 1895 6 February 1952 married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon; had issue (including Elizabeth II)
Mary, Princess Royal 25 April 1897 28 March 1965 married Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood; and had issue
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester 31 March 1900 10 June 1974 married Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott; had issue
Prince George, Duke of Kent 20 December 1902 25 August 1942 married Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark; had issue
Prince John 12 July 1905 18 January 1919 Died from seizures
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