George V 1865-1936, King of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Dominions beyond the seas, Emperor of India, was born at Marlborough House, London, 3 June 1865, the second child of the Prince and Princess of Wales, later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. He was baptized at Windsor Castle on 7 July following by the names of George Frederick Ernest Albert. Like Richard I, Henry VIII, Charles I, and other notable sovereigns he was not born to the expectation of kingship: his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence [qv.], (known as Prince Eddy), was his senior by seventeen months, and Prince George remained a younger son for the first twenty-six years of his life. Nor at that moment in the history of the monarchy could it have been asserted with confidence that he would have attained to the throne even had he been the elder. There were many still living who remembered the peculiar contribution to the history of their times made by the sons of George III; and although twenty-one years of ideal married life had done much to endear Queen Victoria to her subjects, the period of muffled seclusion which had elapsed since the death of the Prince Consort was already beginning to be the subject of murmuring, and the reported manner of life of the Prince of Wales lent support to the nascent republican sentiment.
But of disquieting possibilities such as these the young princes and their three sisters were unaware as their childhood pursued its course in an atmosphere of sustained happiness and affection. In his attachment to his children the Prince of Wales was only surpassed by their mother; her happiest hours were spent in the nursery, and Prince George's mind was formed from earliest infancy under the spell of her charm and merriment. To her, as also to the memory of his father, he remained devoted throughout life.
An intellectual circle it was not, neither did the arts find place within the sphere of its interests, beyond a certain proficiency at the piano on the part of the mother. But all the ingredients for happiness were there, the family was sufficiently numerous to mitigate the disadvantages of isolation, and with the simple pleasures of childhood the early years passed in uneventful contentment. No undue stress was laid upon book-learning, of which in his youth the Prince of Wales had received a surfeit. They lived while in London at Marlborough House; their seaside visits were based upon Osborne in the Isle of Wight; August and September would find them at Abergeldie adjoining the Balmoral estate in Scotland. But for the most part it was Sandringham House in Norfolk that they regarded as home, the house which his father had built and for which King George himself all his life retained a particular affection. Here in an extensive domain of heath and pine in the bracing east coast air they roamed and played and rode, leading the normal country life of the days before motors, sharing the pride of other Norfolk families in their county and their home.
Within the family circle Prince George was distinguished by an irrepressible fund of spirits: so affectionate, though sometimes rather naughty, as Queen Victoria noted in her diary. In later years he would credit his youthful self with a hot temper, the germ perhaps of that occasional irascibility which marked his nature without disguising the essential kindliness beneath. He showed from the first more character than his elder brother. His open manner and twinkling eye brought him in boyhood friendships that endured through life. With the same loyalty he retained an abiding affection for the Rev. John Neale Dalton, his tutor between the ages of six and eighteen. Dalton left to become a canon of Windsor; his death in 1931 terminated an unbroken intimacy of sixty years.
At the age of twelve (1877) Prince George, together with his brother, joined the old wooden training ship Britannia at Dartmouth as a naval cadet. Younger than his fellows (indeed the youngest cadet ever admitted) and small even for his age, he underwent the full curriculum, in addition to further instruction in the humanities from Dalton who continued in attendance as tutor. The brothers were allowed to share a special cabin, but their only other distinction, as the King was wont to recall in later years, was that their services were at the command of all who desired a princely fag. Thus with the theory of navigation the future Prince of Wales acquired the practice of Ich Dien. To the seamanship he took kindly from the first, enjoying in particular the handling of a boat, in which sphere later on his proficiency was to become marked.
After the prescribed course of two years the brothers passed out in the summer of 1879. Prince George, whose nature always responded to the call of the sea, had already set his heart upon a naval career, and this aspiration found favour both with his father and the Queen. Both brothers were posted in August to the Bacchante, a fully-rigged cruiser-corvette with auxiliary engines and a complement of four hundred and fifty. This proved to be their home for the next three years. In it they first made an eight months' cruise to the West Indies by way of Gibraltar and a preliminary excursion into the Mediterranean. Prince Eddy's sixteenth birthday was celebrated when they were at Port of Spain, Trinidad (8 January 1880); the occasion was marked by their being both rated as midshipmen. This brought them level with two of King George's lifelong friends among their shipmates, John Scott (later seventh Duke of Buccleuch) and Rosslyn Wemyss (later Lord Wester Wemyss) [qv.] who was destined to rise to the top of his profession.
From this short cruise the princes returned in May 1880. After two months' leave they set off again in the Bacchante, which was now to form part of a flying squadron of five ships of the line detached for an extended training cruise round the Horn to Vancouver and thence to China and Japan, the passages being made largely under sail. Dalton accompanied them as governor, being entered on the ship's books as acting chaplain; and he it was who subsequently edited from the princes' diaries and letters two ponderous volumes, published in 1886, entitled The Cruise of H.M.S. Bacchante 1879-1882. In the course of some 1,500 pages every detail of both cruises is recorded, together with a mass of interesting information about the topography and development of the places visited; but the work is conceived in so improving a style as to iron out all traces of individuality in the two princes.
The squadron assembled off Vigo, whence on 31 October (1880) course was set for the River Plate; Monte Video was reached on 22 December. Resuming the cruise on 19 January (1881) they reached the Falkland Islands on the 24th. Here they were intercepted by a signal from home bidding them abandon the projected passage to the Pacific and sail instead to the Cape of Good Hope, there to show the flag at a moment when British prestige in South Africa was at a low ebb. They accomplished this 4,000-mile voyage in three weeks, arriving at the Cape on 16 February, eleven days before the third successive humiliation inflicted by the Boers upon the British, at Majuba Hill.
The squadron was not in the event called upon to land a force. On 9 April it sailed once more, this time on a 5,000-mile trip across the Indian Ocean to Australia. Visits were paid to Albany (15 May), Adelaide, Melbourne, Ballarat (where the brothers descended a gold mine), Sydney, and Brisbane. They left the shores of Australia on 20 August with regret after enjoying the hospitality of its inhabitants for three months. They now set off for Fiji, where they passed a week (3-9 September) before embarking on another voyage of 4,000 miles to Japan. Yokohama was reached on 21 October, and after a month in the country they crossed to Shanghai (22 November) and thence passed down the coast to Hong-Kong (20 December), and so to Singapore (9 January 1882). Returning by Colombo to Suez (1 March), they were able to enjoy a month's sightseeing in Egypt, after which they crossed to Jaffa (28 March) and made their way on horseback through the Holy Land, covering thus close on 600 miles in the course of six weeks. On 6 May they rejoined the Bacchante at Beirut and crossed to Athens, where for ten days the brothers were the guests of their maternal uncle, King George of the Hellenes, before returning home through the Mediterranean.
Immediately upon their return to Portsmouth both princes were confirmed by Archbishop Tait in Whippingham church (8 August) in the presence of Queen Victoria. Exactly three years had passed since she had taken leave of Prince George, then a child of fourteen. Now at seventeen he was on the threshold of manhood, more travelled by far than his father at forty; incomparably more so than herself at sixty-three or than any of her predecessors on the throne. Throughout 45,000 miles of voyaging he had shared cheerfully and unselfishly in the hard fare and arduous duties of a young officer at sea, in standards of comfort which would now be regarded as primitive. He had measured himself against the responsibility of every junior officer for the lives of the men in his cutter. When the journey had first been mooted the Queen had noted (Diary, 15 May 1879): Mr. Smith and others are afraid lest something might happen if both boys went: her will had prevailed, but something very nearly had happened when the Bacchante narrowly escaped shipwreck in a storm off Southern Australia. From the first the understanding had been (Diary, 7 February 1877) that Georgie should only enter the Navy if he liked it. Now he had tasted the salty life of the sea and found it good.
For the next year Prince George remained ashore. After a holiday, of which the most enjoyable part was the shooting at Abergeldie, the two brothers were taken to Lausanne in order to improve their French. Upon their return in the following June (1883) their ways parted: the elder entered the army; the younger, bereft of Dalton's affectionate tutelage, joined the corvette Canada for service on the North America station. Her captain, Francis Durrant, became his governor and remained his friend. He stayed with his aunt Princess Louise [qv.], whose husband (the Marquess of Lorne, qv.) was governor-general of Canada; and a visit to Niagara just warranted the modest claim made in later years that he had set foot on the soil of the United States of America. Before his return to England in July 1884 he had visited his future dominions in the West Indies for the second time. On his nineteenth birthday (3 June 1884) he had been promoted sub-lieutenant, and on 4 August he was invested with the Order of the Garter by Queen Victoria at Osborne.
In September Prince George joined the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, where the work is very hard; nine hours a day (Queen's diary, 7 December). After six months he secured a first class in seamanship, gunnery, and torpedo work, and he next proceeded to Portsmouth for his course in pilotage. Here, as in the Britannia, his advancement owed little to his august station, for Captain (afterwards Admiral of the Fleet Lord) Fisher wrote: Prince George only lost his first class at Pilotage by 20 marks. The yarn is that one of his examiners, an old salt-horse sailor, didn't think it would do to let him fancy he knew all about it. These obstacles negotiated, he was promoted lieutenant.
To his satisfaction Prince George was now appointed as fifth lieutenant to the Thunderer, under Captain (Sir) Henry Stephenson, whom he had known all his life, as equerry to his father, as captain of the royal yacht, and as captain of a ship accompanying the Bacchante on her long cruise. To him the Prince gave unstinted loyalty and devoted service, and from him he received in return disinterested counsel in the spirit of the father's dictum, you can do him no greater service than being very strict with him.
Prince George remained until November 1888 on the Mediterranean station, where his uncle Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh [q.v.], was commander-in-chief. At the jubilee Queen Victoria appointed him her personal naval aide-de-camp on 21 June 1887. He was in London for this occasion, and again on 1 June 1889 when he received the freedom of the City at Guildhall. A month later he attained his first independent command on commissioning torpedo boat No. 79. In May 1890 he was advanced to the command of a gunboat of the first class, the Thrush, which he at once took across the Atlantic to Montreal after towing a torpedo boat out to Gibraltar on the way. Still a lieutenant, he brought his ship home in the following year and was promoted commander in August 1891 on paying her off.
Although he commanded the cruiser Melampus in the autumn maneuvres of 1892, the curtain had now fallen on Prince George's cherished naval career, save for a brief reappearance in 1898 when he took the first-class cruiser Crescent for a three months' cruise. A stroke of fate, as calamitous at the time as it proved fortunate in the event, substituted for the career of his choice the prospect of a lifelong burden which few would choose. On 14 January 1892 the Duke of Clarence died of pneumonia. Overnight Prince George found himself second in succession to the throne.
The death of his brother fell like a hammer-blow upon Prince George. For the first eighteen years of his life he had hardly been separated for a day from Prince Eddy, with whom he had shared a community of interest both within the circle of a singularly united family and in the turbulent days of their first introduction to naval life. He was himself only just recuperating from typhoid fever. While he had still been confined to bed the betrothal had been announced between the Duke of Clarence and their cousin, Princess Victoria Mary (May) of Teck. Six weeks later the Duke had in turn fallen ill, and within six days had died.
In the Queen's birthday honours list (1892) Prince George was created Duke of York, with the subsidiary titles of Earl of Inverness and Baron Killarney. He was introduced into the House of Lords on 17 June by his father and his uncle the Duke of Connaught. A suite of apartments was arranged for him in St. James's Palace, together with an unpretentious cottage in the grounds of Sandringham; to these the appellations York House and York Cottage were respectively assigned.
The next year (1893) brought him to another important milestone, his betrothal (3 May) to the Princess who was to have been his sister-in-law. She was the daughter of Prince Francis Paul Charles Louis Alexander, Duke of Teck, a member of the royal house of Württemberg long resident in England, and of Princess Mary Adelaide Wilhelmina Elizabeth of Cambridge, granddaughter of King George III and thus first cousin to Queen Victoria. The marriage took place in the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace, on 6 July. ‘I cannot say how pleased I am’, wrote the Queen to her daughter, the Empress Frederick. ‘The more I see of her the more I like her. ¼ She is really a very dear good sensible girl, and very wise, and so distinguée. I feel very happy about them.’ This union, which the Queen with characteristic discernment had commended, brought to the future King the greatest blessing of his life. Their close companionship, which was to last to the end of his reign, exemplified a lofty standard of family life in an age of loosening domestic ties; and his Consort, by her gentle tact and wisdom, her studied detachment from politics, her informed interest in the royal collections, and her supreme dignity and presence, was destined to reveal herself to the realm and empire as a queen of stature rarely equalled, never surpassed.
The seven years which followed were to prove the quietest period that the Duke was to know. In November 1894 he visited St. Petersburg for the funeral of his uncle the Emperor Alexander III (who had married the Princess of Wales's sister) and the wedding of his ill-fated successor Nicholas II. Between the latter and himself there was a startling physical resemblance and a brotherly affection; the bride, moreover, being a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was also his first cousin. In August 1897 and again in April 1899 the Duke and Duchess paid visits to Ireland, where they were received with enthusiasm. For the rest, there were continual engagements and claims, all of which were met with cheerfulness. Now, as ever, the Duke delighted to devote his leisure to various forms of outdoor sport, chief among them being yachting and shooting. During these years too were born his first four children: Prince Edward, later King Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor (23 June 1894); Prince Albert, later Duke of York and King George VI (14 December 1895); Princess Mary, later Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood (25 April 1897); and Prince Henry, later Duke of Gloucester (31 March 1900); to these were subsequently added a further two sons: Prince George, later Duke of Kent (20 December 1902), who was killed on active service 25 August 1942; and Prince John (12 July 1905) who died 18 January 1919.
On 22 January 1901 the death of Queen Victoria brought to a close an epoch both in time and in social outlook. The Duke now became Duke of Cornwall as of right, and eligible for the Principality of Wales when it should please his father to confer it upon him. His new position necessarily involved an increase in his public duties as the only son of a sexagenarian king. Tension between sovereign and heir neither began nor ended in the Victorian age; and a comparison between the dispositions of King Edward VII and his son can have afforded little hope of an amelioration in this traditionally uneasy relationship. But it had been given to Queen Alexandra to forge throughout her family a powerful bond of mutual love, and she was now to witness its happy fulfilment. Unlike though they were in disposition, between King Edward VII and his son there existed on both sides a degree of trust and affection rare in their respective stations, and not a passing cloud disturbed the harmony of their intercourse throughout the reign. Every day the Prince of Wales would discuss current topics with the King; nor, after his own accession, did a day pass without its recollection of a father to whose memory he remained jealously devoted to the end.
The outset of a new reign involves changes and adjustments in the royal household. From the ensuing redistribution the Duke of Cornwall and York (as he now for a short while became) drew the services of Sir Arthur Bigge (later Lord Stamfordham) [q.v.], and an association thus began which was to end only with the latter's death thirty years later. Bigge had served a fifteen years' apprenticeship under Sir Henry Ponsonby [q.v.], whom in 1895 he had succeeded as private secretary to Queen Victoria. He thus brought to his work for the new heir to the throne an intimate acquaintance with the politics and personalities of the preceding twenty years; and this knowledge of affairs, coupled with a selfless devotion and an immense capacity for work, proved an asset to his master of which it is impossible to overestimate the importance. King George's household was at all times a happy and efficient structure, reflecting his perspicacity in the right choice of men: but the acquisition of Bigge was an uncovenanted stroke of fortune which the King and the ministers of a whole generation were destined to bless.
As early as 1893, a few months after his marriage, the Duke had received an invitation from the various colonies in Australia to make a tour in those parts, and the New Zealand government had raised the question afresh after the diamond jubilee of 1897. For his part he would willingly have acceded, but various circumstances had operated to postpone the plan. In August 1900, however, Queen Victoria had signified her consent, urged thereto by an important development in the structure of the empire which called for a demonstration of her imperial interest. On 18 September a proclamation was issued in London announcing that from New Year's Day 1901 the constituent colonies in Australia, together with Tasmania, would be federated into a single unit: it was the first session of this new Commonwealth parliament that was to provide the occasion for the royal tour. Early in December the Queen sanctioned the extension of the itinerary to include a visit to Canada. Preparations were well advanced when the Queen died. It was decided that the tour should take place as planned, but that mourning should be worn and festivities correspondingly curtailed.
Leaving Portsmouth in the Ophir on 16 March 1901 the Duke and Duchess followed the route through the Mediterranean. At Gibraltar they inspected the embryo harbour works then under construction and the subject of controversy at home. At Malta they found a comfortable assurance of security in the fact that no land-battery could be constructed within a range of sixty miles: nevertheless a vigilant Admiralty was experimenting with the new Brennan torpedo, of which a demonstration was witnessed. In the words of Sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace: ‘Whether this ingenious instrument would prove a formidable weapon in real warfare the experts alone can decide, but it is certainly a very pretty toy to play with in time of peace.’ The inconveniences of distance were already being mitigated by wireless telegraphy, which enabled a message to be received from as far as 180 miles away with the aid of a ship stationed midway; it was evident that it might presently ‘in certain circumstances be of enormous assistance to the navy’.
After calling at Suez and Aden the royal party reached Colombo on 12 April, and here in the course of an address the Duke first alluded to the need for increased trade with the mother country which was to prove the keynote of his observations throughout the tour. Thence they proceeded via Singapore to call for the second time in his life at Albany, Western Australia, before passing along the southern coast to Melbourne. Here on 9 May, amid scenes of the greatest enthusiasm, he opened parliament in the Exhibition Building in the presence of 15,000 spectators. After paying tribute to the spontaneous participation of the land and sea forces of Australia in the South African war, he expressed the King's heartfelt satisfaction and thankfulness for the achievement of political union among the Australian colonies. Here, as also at Brisbane and Sydney which they next visited, an enthusiastic ovation was accorded them, and the Duchess won all hearts by her simple dignity and practical interest in all that they were shown. From Sydney they crossed to New Zealand, where particular attention was devoted to the welfare of the Maori population. On the return journey calls were made at Hobart and Adelaide; and so across the Indian Ocean to Mauritius and Durban. At Pietermaritzburg the Duke held a military investiture in the presence of Lord Kitchener, then conducting the final stages of the South African war.
After calling at Cape Town course was set across the Atlantic for Quebec, where the Duke and Duchess landed on 16 September. In the course of the ensuing five weeks they crossed and recrossed Canada in a train specially built by the Canadian Pacific Railway, making many stops on the way. In a series of felicitous speeches the Duke thanked the Canadian people for the timely help accorded to the home country in her hour of need, and was once more impressed by the fervent loyalty to the throne which he had observed on his first visit eighteen years earlier.
Leaving Newfoundland on 25 October, the Duke was received at Portsmouth by the King on 1 November and experienced the joy of seeing his children once more. It had not been easy for the King to spare his services for so long a period at a time when only the Duke of Connaught was available to assist in the functions inseparable from the opening of a new reign. In a letter written on his sixtieth birthday (9 November) King Edward wrote to his son: ‘In creating you to-day Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester I am not only conferring on you ancient titles which I bore for upwards of 59 years, but I wish to mark my appreciation of the admirable manner in which you carried out the arduous duties to the Colonies which I entrusted you with. I have but little doubt that they will bear good fruit in the future and knit the Colonies more than ever to the Mother Country. God bless you, my dear boy, and I know I can always count on your support and assistance in the heavy duties and responsible position I now occupy.’
On 5 December, in the course of a memorable speech at Guildhall, the Prince of Wales paid tribute to the intense loyalty which animated the inhabitants of the territories which he had visited; and with this loyalty, he said, were evidences of their readiness to share the burden and responsibility of membership of the Empire. In a passage which attained world-wide attention he then spoke of ‘the impression that seems generally to prevail among our brethren across the seas, that the old country must wake up if she intends to maintain her old position of pre-eminence in her colonial trade against foreign competitors’.
During the nine years of his father's reign the Prince of Wales devoted himself to the public duties incumbent upon the heir to the throne. He was now the only son, and the Duke of Connaught was still pursuing a distinguished military career, largely overseas. Active and intelligent though King Edward VII was, he was no longer young; moreover, he was in the habit of passing a quarter of the year on the continent. In political affairs the Prince had much to learn. The King, his own experience fresh in his mind, saw to it that state papers were at his son's disposal: ministers would come to see him, and he formed the habit of listening to debates in both Houses. How great was his debt during these formative years to the sage and experienced Bigge he acknowledged at Christmas 1907 in a letter which does credit to both: ‘I was much touched by your kind letter received this morning. You have nothing to thank us for, it is all the other way. I fear sometimes I have lost my temper with you, and often been very rude, but I am sure you know me well enough by now to know that I did not mean it. — For all these past services I offer you my thanks from the bottom of my heart. I am a bad hand at saying what I feel, but I thank God I have a friend like you.’
The Prince lived during these years at Marlborough House when in London. For country retreats he had Frogmore House in the Home Park at Windsor, Abergeldie Castle near Balmoral, and York Cottage at Sandringham¾always his favourite home. Here through many a winter day he perfected his shooting, the sport at which he early reached and long retained pre-eminence. In these middle years too he sometimes fished, occasionally rode to hounds, and often played golf and lawn tennis. Cricket and football he always enjoyed as a spectator. But above all he delighted in sailing his famous yacht Britannia, the closely contested supremacy of which he noted with statistical pride in his diary. Long experience, coupled with an Englishman's love of the sea, had wrought in him the ideal yachtsman, and he revelled in a sport in which he did not need the advice of any man. For indoor recreation he relied upon his lifelong interest in the postage stamps of the British Empire. Here, as with shooting and yachting, he was an expert in his own right, his knowledge in this specialized field being scientific and detailed. It remained his hobby until the end of his life and served as a relief from the cares of state, particularly during the years of war. Thus, whether indoors or out, he was as amply furnished with internal resources as most men, and this boon contributed not a little to his buoyancy of spirits in a position necessarily lonely.
As Prince of Wales he paid several visits to the courts of Europe, spent twelve days in Ireland in January 1905, and enjoyed yet another visit to Canada in July 1908. But his most important overseas undertaking was the tour which he and the Princess carried out in India under the guidance of Sir Walter Lawrence [q.v.] in the winter of 1905-1906. Reaching Bombay in the Renown on 9 November they were immediately involved in a series of visits which took them from the Khyber Pass to Rangoon and Mandalay, across by sea to Madras and up to the Afghan frontier again before re-embarking at Karachi on 19 March. As the guest of Lord Kitchener the Prince had followed the course of the maneuvres in the Frontier country: ‘Lord Kitchener is a perfect host’, he wrote in his diary; ‘I have the greatest admiration for him as a strong man and a good soldier.’ He enjoyed the four and a half months of this visit, in the course of which he formed lasting friendships and laid the foundation of that pride and affection which always marked his references to India and its inhabitants.
The death of King Edward VII on 6 May 1910 was an overwhelming sorrow which the pressure of immediate events was powerless to alleviate. The funeral on the 20th was attended by the rulers of Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Bulgaria. As they dispersed to their countries (from which all but the first three were destined to be evicted) it was in no cheerful spirit that the new King turned to face responsibilities which he had never sought. The political climate was such as to tax even his experienced and popular father: he felt himself alone, ill-equipped to handle a complex situation, and little known to his four hundred million subjects. He was, moreover, vexed by the circulation of a story concerning his alleged marriage in 1890 to a lady in Malta, a criminal libel which brought the maximum term of imprisonment to its utterer on 1 February 1911. It was a strange charge to bring against a sovereign of unimpeachable virtue, whose crowning benediction was a happy domestic life.
For the first twelve months of his reign the King was sufficiently occupied in acquiring the habit of sovereignty. There were political problems to master, acquaintances to be made, rulings to be given upon domestic rearrangements. For these purposes he welcomed the respite from public and social functions which the long term of public mourning afforded. But the midsummer pomps of 1911 were the prelude to a period of activity. The coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey on 22 June was a triumph of careful preparation. Its pageantry and ritual made a profound impression upon all, and not least upon the central figure, who was touched to deep emotion by the solemnity of the occasion and heartened by the bewildering ovations of his crowded capital. In the following week Their Majesties carried out two public drives through London, attended a thanksgiving service at St. Paul's Cathedral, gave a party at the Crystal Palace to 100,000 London schoolchildren, and reviewed at Spithead the largest naval fleet ever assembled. A fortnight after the coronation the King and Queen set out for Dublin, where they were accorded an enthusiastic reception during a five-day visit. Recrossing to Wales, they spent a similar period in the Principality, their most memorable function being the investiture of the Prince of Wales at Carnarvon Castle on 13 July: ‘the dear boy did it all remarkably well and looked so nice’, the King recorded in his diary. From Wales they passed on to Holyrood, there to be greeted by the plaudits of loyal Scottish subjects.
Back in London, at a time of strong political ferment, the King's thoughts were engaged upon the state visit to his Indian Empire upon which he had set his heart. On 11 November 1911 he set out from Portsmouth with the Queen in the Medina, escorted by four cruisers, and with this flotilla (containing little short of 4,000 officers and men) arrived at Bombay on 2 December. At the ancient capital of Delhi he was accommodated in an enormous camp of 40,000 tents, and here as King Emperor he held on the 12th a state Durbar of matchless magnificence. With his coronation robes he wore a crown of diamonds provided by the Indian government in order to obviate the necessity of transporting the traditional regalia overseas. Enthroned upon a platform set in a spacious amphitheatre, His Majesty received the homage of the ruling princes and British governors, and announced the substantial boons customary upon such occasions. He then made a dramatic announcement, the secret of which had been well kept. Speaking in a clear voice he declared that the seat of government was to be transferred from Calcutta to Delhi and that there was to be established a governorship of Bengal similar to those of Madras and Bombay.
These ceremonies concluded, the King turned to the enjoyment of ten days' tiger shooting in Nepal, after which he ‘took leave of the kind Maharajah, his sons and all his people, with much regret. They have spoilt us with kindness and given us the best sport in the world.’ Their Majesties spent nine days in Calcutta before re-embarking at Bombay on 10 January 1912. How much this visit had meant to the King is clear from his diary: ‘To-day I regret to say is our last day in India. The Legislative Council presented an address of farewell. I quite broke down in reading my answer. ¼ Our second visit to India is now over and we can thank God that it has been an unqualified success from first to last. It was entirely my own idea to hold the Coronation Durbar at Delhi in person, and at first I met with much opposition. But the result has I hope been more than satisfactory and has surpassed all expectations. I am vain enough to think that our visit will have done good in India. We have been fully repaid for our long journey.’
The King, in assuming the troubled inheritance bequeathed to him by his father, had found himself immediately confronted with a constitutional crisis of the gravest character. In order to meet the cost of the old age pensions and the increased estimates necessitated by the threat of German naval competition, the liberal government had been faced with the task of levying additional taxation. The budget of 1909 had consequently raised the income-tax from 1s. to 1s. 2d. and imposed a novel supertax of 6d., together with certain land taxes. The House of Lords, which had not endeared itself to the Commons by rejecting several of their proposed measures of reform, on 30 November had taken the unprecedented step of throwing out the budget in toto, thus setting the stage for a trial of strength between the two chambers. The issue was barely joined before the throne was deprived of a sovereign of exceptional political acumen, and a crucial responsibility devolved upon his untried and inexperienced successor.
The new King was unaware that within a month of his father's death important meetings and conversations had taken place between the King's private secretary, Lord Knollys, Archbishop Davidson, Balfour, and Esher, concerning the possibility of King Edward being pressed by Asquith to give a contingent guarantee for the creation of peers: he only learned this in December 1913 [Royal Archives, sub Home Rule iii. 63]. But it was known that King Edward had caused an intimation to be conveyed by Knollys (15 December 1909) that in no event would he consent to an ad hoc creation until after a second general election, in which the issue should have been placed squarely before the people. It is a reasonable inference, but no more, that had the condition been fulfilled and the need arisen, King Edward would not have withheld the use of his prerogative. The first election took place immediately upon the Lords' rejection of the budget, upon the text that the Commons alone were to control finance and that any non-financial bill sent up to the Lords in three successive sessions should receive the royal assent. With this mandate the liberals were again returned to power (28 January 1910) with a majority reduced from 335 to the still effective figure of 123. The Lords now (28 April) accepted the budget. But they had been playing for high stakes and were faced with the parliament bill, which limited their powers for the future. It was at this juncture (6 May) that King Edward died.
In the political truce which followed it was at Asquith's suggestion that the question at issue was referred to a constitutional conference consisting of four liberals and four conservatives. The conference met from June until November without achieving agreement, and the prime minister proceeded to fulfil the condition which the late King had postulated. In December 1910, for the second time within a twelvemonth, the country was once more consulted, and again returned the liberals, with a majority of 125. To anticipate the course of events it may here be added that on 10 August 1911, in an atmosphere of political excitement unsurpassed in modern times, the Lords accepted the parliament bill by the narrow majority of seventeen votes.
But before the December election the new King had been placed in an unenviable position. Asquith was unexcelled in the use of language at once precise and enigmatic. On 14 April 1910 he had told the House of Commons: ‘In no case would we recommend dissolution except under such conditions as will ensure that in the new parliament the judgement of the people as expressed in the election will be carried into law.’ On 11 November he explained the political situation to the King, pointing out that should the Lords remain obdurate a final settlement could only be brought about by the willingness of the Crown to exercise its prerogative. He told the King that he would not ask for any guarantees before the election [Royal Archives, K. 2552 (2). 72]: for the moment he contented himself with stating the case, and left it for consideration [Spender and Asquith, vol. i, p. 296].
None the less, five days later Asquith and Crewe felt constrained to seek from the King at Buckingham Palace (16 November) a secret and ‘hypothetical understanding’ that sufficient peers would be created should need arise in the parliament that was yet to be elected. ‘His Majesty said that his only wish was to do what was right and constitutional and best for the country in the present circumstances. The King then felt with reluctance that it would be impossible not to act upon their advice and therefore agreed to the understanding’ [Royal Archives, ut sup.]. In the carefully chosen words of Crewe (House of Lords, 8 August 1911), ‘We ascertained His Majesty's view that, if the opinion of the country were clearly ascertained upon the parliament bill, in the last resort a creation of peers might be the only remedy, and might be the only way of concluding the dispute. His Majesty faced the contingency and entertained the suggestion as a possible one with natural, and if I may be permitted to use the phrase, in my opinion with legitimate reluctance. But it is altogether inaccurate, and I might use a stronger phrase, to say that at that time we asked His Majesty for guarantees. The whole position was obviously hypothetical.’
Shades of meaning were here involved to which the King's mind was a stranger. It can hardly be matter for surprise that he should feel that he was being expected to underwrite the words uttered in April by the prime minister, and to implement in advance the construction which plain men would place upon them in the constituencies. He felt for the rest of his life that he might have been trusted to take the right step should the occasion have arisen. Asquith, for his part, held the Crown in high veneration: as the case presented itself to him it was not a matter of trusting the King, but of coercing the conservative peers, who were in no mood to be persuaded though one rose from the dead. Even when at a later date (18 July) the secret was by agreement divulged, there were those who declined to believe that the sovereign would indeed subject the constitution to so severe a strain.
The King harboured no resentment either against Crewe, who remained to the end one of his closest personal friends, or against Asquith, for whom he reserved a high, if watchful, esteem. When, in the hour of Asquith's political adversity, the King, of his own mere motion, created his former prime minister one of the now less powerful peers (February 1925) he interpreted with characteristic insight the corporate feeling of the nation, and took a personal pleasure in doing so.
The Parliament Act, in drawing the teeth of the House of Lords, created for the King a difficulty unforeseen, by him at any rate, at the time. Its preamble announced the intention to set up a new second chamber; but since this could not be done at once the Act made provision for restricting the powers of the House of Lords in the meanwhile. Although not intended to affect the position of the sovereign, it nevertheless removed the first check upon the operations of the Commons; and this elimination of one branch of the legislature necessarily increased the responsibility of the King when a bill, thrice rejected by the upper House, came up for the royal assent. No longer could the Lords force a dissolution, even in the few cases where they had that power before the passing of the Act; henceforth the sovereign alone must decide whether a bill which comes from a single chamber is of such gravity that, with all the attendant risks of bringing the Crown into party politics, an appeal to the country against the advice of his ministers would be justified.
This dilemma was not long in making itself felt. Already by the spring of 1912 preparations of a military nature in the province of Ulster were affording grounds for misgiving, and the debates which followed the introduction of the home rule bill on 11 April were carried on in an atmosphere of passion. The same autumn (27 September) Bonar Law, staying at Balmoral, took occasion to indicate the thankless position in which it appeared that the King would find himself. The government, he argued, admitted its responsibility for carrying out the preamble of the Parliament Act, and in the meanwhile the constitution was in suspense: it was doubtful whether the government still had the support of the country: it would once more rely upon the exercise of the royal prerogative to overcome the opposition of the peers. It was the identical quandary expressed in different terms, and it seemed that the King would again find himself compromised.
The home rule bill, forced through the Commons by the aid of the closure and the support of the Irish and labour members, was first rejected by the Lords on 13 January 1913. Re-submitted, it was thrown out afresh on 15 July. Then followed ten months during which the King observed with dismay a worsening situation in which, to the disorders attendant upon the suffragette menace, it seemed certain that an uprising in Ireland was to be added. To imagine that in a time of crisis it is the ministers alone who tender advice to the sovereign would be to overlook the operations of the Post Office and the press. From all sides he was urged to take this course or that: to dismiss his ministers, to impose a dissolution, to demand a referendum, to issue a state paper defining his position and intentions, to grant (or alternatively to withhold) the royal assent. Whatever the nature of the advice there was evident in all quarters a recognition of his impartiality, a desire to safeguard his constitutional position, a disposition to seek a possible solution, and a loyal sympathy in the dilemma in which he was placed.
His course was not made easier by the rosy optimism with which the prime minister appeared to confront the rising storm. The King listened with inward sympathy to those who counselled strong action, but schooled himself in the exercise of a stronger forbearance. An anxious winter gave way to the yet more vexed summer of 1914, and still his voice was heard, now by one leader and now by another, urging patience and restraint in public utterance, suggesting fresh lines of accommodation, a renewal of private negotiation, concession here, conciliation there. Whether Ireland was to have home rule or not, he had told Asquith on 13 December, was for the politicians to settle. But as king he held that it was his duty by every means in his power to prevent the outbreak of civil strife in any part of his kingdom; that was his responsibility and he should do his best to fulfil it.
Space forbids a detailed examination of the part played by the King throughout the long-drawn-out crisis, but a month, that of February 1914, may be chosen as a sample. On the 2nd Stamfordham wrote a letter of reassurance on the King's behalf to Bonar Law, saying that His Majesty was not so pessimistic as he, and that as to any special communication to his ministers the King's action would be guided by time and circumstance. On the 5th the King saw Asquith at Windsor and had a serious conversation about possible trouble in the army, such as eventually occurred at the Curragh, and repeated that he could not allow bloodshed among his loyal subjects without exerting every means in his power to avert it. On the 11th he wrote personally congratulating Asquith upon his moderate and conciliatory speech in the House. On the 12th Stamfordham was sent to ask Asquith whether he thought that it would be helpful for the King to urge moderation upon Bonar Law and Sir Edward Carson [q.v.] in entertaining the government proposals. On the 20th he had members of the opposition to dinner. On the 25th Stamfordham wrote on his behalf to Bonar Law regretting the rasping tone of his speech the night before; and on the following day to Asquith deploring the acrimonious nature of the debates. On the 27th the King had the members of the government to dinner and held long conversations with the prime minister. Next morning he sent Stamfordham to tell Carson that His Majesty had delivered to Asquith the kindly personal messages with which Carson had entrusted him; that Asquith had been touched and would like to reopen negotiations with him; and to express the King's hope that Carson would refrain from making a bitter speech on the following Tuesday. And so it went on for month after month, the King, with a degree of patience formerly to seek in his natural habit of mind, propounding every means that ingenuity could devise for effecting a reconciliation.
On 21 March, after a number of officers at the Curragh had resigned rather than take part in the coercion of Ulster, the King addressed to the prime minister a letter of sharp protest that he had been left to learn of the incident from the public press next day. It was not, as it happened, Asquith's fault; and it proved fortunate in the event since it subsequently cleared the King from the imputation of complicity which in the heat of the moment had been directed against him in certain quarters.
On 1 May the King, on his own initiative, invited Mr. James Lowther (later Viscount Ullswater) to Buckingham Palace and there prevailed upon him to address to the prime minister an offer to invite the various leaders to meet under his presidency, as Speaker, with a view to arriving at a solution. On 22 June (Coronation Day) the King wrote a personal letter to Asquith recalling to his memory a sentence in the message which he had addressed to his subjects on that occasion three years previously. ‘Whatever perplexities or difficulties may lie before me and my people’, he had then written, ‘we shall all unite in facing them resolutely, calmly and with public spirit, confident that under Divine guidance the ultimate outcome may be to the common good.’ ‘The perplexities and difficulties’, he now wrote, ‘have not grown less with time, and there is greater need than ever that they should be met and dealt with in that spirit upon which I then felt I could confidently depend. I know that I can count upon your support in the fulfilment of my hopes and prayers of three years ago.’
The prospect of a conference was discussed on 16 July between Stamfordham and Asquith, with the result that on the following day the latter submitted to the King a request that he might be allowed to announce that His Majesty would invite representatives of all parties to Buckingham Palace for a full and free discussion of the outstanding issues. On the 18th invitations were sent by Stamfordham to Lansdowne and Bonar Law, Carson and Craig, Redmond and Dillon; Asquith and Crewe represented the government, and the Speaker presided. The speech with which His Majesty welcomed the members on the 21st was a model of simple eloquence. ‘For months’, the King said, ‘we have watched with deep misgivings the course of events in Ireland. The trend has been surely and steadily towards an appeal to force, and to-day the cry of civil war is on the lips of the most responsible and sober minded of my people. We have in the past endeavoured to act as a civilising example to the world, and to me it is unthinkable, as it must be to you, that we should be brought to the brink of a fratricidal war upon issues apparently so capable of adjustment as those you are now asked to consider, if handled in a spirit of generous compromise. My apprehension in contemplating such a dire calamity is intensified by my feelings of attachment to Ireland and of sympathy for her people who have always welcomed me with warmhearted affection. Gentlemen, you represent in one form or another the vast majority of my subjects at home. You also have a deep interest in my Dominions overseas, who are scarcely less concerned in a prompt and friendly settlement of this question. I regard you then in this matter as trustees for the honour and peace of all. Your responsibilities are indeed great. The time is short. You will I know employ it to the fullest advantage and be patient, earnest and conciliatory in view of the magnitude of the issues at stake. I pray that God in His infinite wisdom may guide your deliberations so that they may result in the joy of peace and settlement.’
These hopes were not to be fulfilled. After four meetings the conference broke down upon a point insignificant in comparison with the issues involved. But the King had done his best; and if during the lapse of valuable time the forces unleashed in Ireland had become too strong for their leaders, it was due to no inactivity on his part. Events of yet greater moment supervened to avert the immediate consequences, and the controversy was laid aside, as it was hoped, for the duration of the European war. In a letter to the King dated 17 September Asquith wrote: ‘He hopes he may be allowed to express his respectful sympathy with, and admiration of, the patience and the strict observance of constitutional practice, together with the tact and judgment, which in a time of exceptional difficulty and anxiety, Your Majesty has never for a moment failed to exercise.’
War on the cosmic scale of that which was now about to break out involves every citizen in strain and distress from which the sovereign is not immune. The rhythm of his work is intensified; the inspection of hospitals brings the horror of the conflict continually before his eyes; he is apprised of perils without, and doubts and dissensions within, of which his subjects are unaware. But from the constitutional point of view war provides few occasions for the intervention of a king who finds himself at the head of a united and harmonious nation, intent upon the pursuit of a common purpose. For months King George had nursed the hope that agreement upon the Irish question would have been reached. Patiently he had studied the timing of his final attempt to produce a settlement. Now, when his conference had failed, it could hardly be otherwise than with a sense of momentary relief that he observed the dramatic unfolding of events. Overnight the nation which had been sliding rapidly into disruption and civil war had braced itself to meet a sterner issue, standing united once more before the threat from without.
Of its implications the King was in no doubt. As early as 8 December 1912 he had written from Sandringham to the foreign secretary: ‘My dear Grey, Prince Henry of Prussia paid me a short visit here two days ago. In the course of a long conversation with regard to the present European situation, he asked me point blank, whether in the event of Austria and Germany going to war with Russia and France, England would come to the assistance of the two latter powers. I answered undoubtedly yes under certain circumstances. He professed surprise and regret but did not ask what the circumstances were. He said he would tell the Emperor what I told him. Of course Germany must know that we could not allow either of our friends to be crippled. I think it is only right that you should know what passed between me and the Emperor's brother on this point.’
Now, on 26 July 1914, the day on which the Admiralty cancelled leave and bade the fleet stand by at Portland, it happened that the King received another visit from Prince Henry, then on a holiday in England. At that moment Belgium had not been invaded and the Cabinet was working against wind and tide to avert a European conflict. The King told the prince that England still hoped not to be drawn in, and the Emperor, to whom his brother reported the conversation, interpreted it as an assurance of British neutrality, come what might. The incident is dealt with in a letter from Lord Wigram to The Times of 2 June 1938. The German claim subsequently based upon the interview was demolished by the archivist of the House of Hohenzollern, Dr. Kurt Jagow, in the Berliner Monatshefte for July-August 1938 [see The Times, 30 June 1938, under ‘The Word of a King’, with leading article].
Most of the war the King spent at Buckingham Palace, visiting Windsor for a month at Easter and six weeks in the late summer; Balmoral was too remote, but at times he enjoyed a few days at Sandringham, occasionally taking out his gun to shoot game which he sent to the hospitals. Early in 1915 he made a gift to the Exchequer of £100,000, an example which was later followed by others. On 6 April 1915 he gave orders that no wine, spirits, or beer should be consumed in the royal household, observing a like abstinence himself; and from February 1917 strict adherence to the new rationing regulations was imposed throughout the palace, from the royal table downwards. The war had not long started when, within the space of little more than a week, there fell in action three members of his personal suite to whom he was especially devoted, Lord Charles Petty-Fitzmaurice, Lord Crichton, and Lord John Hamilton, together with his first cousin Prince Maurice of Battenberg. His own two eldest sons were hostages to fortune, the Prince of Wales in the army from the outset, Prince Albert in the battle of Jutland in May 1916. The removal in deference to an unreasoning popular outcry in October 1914 of his brilliant cousin by marriage, Prince Louis of Battenberg (afterwards Marquess of Milford Haven) [q.v.], from his office of first sea lord, involved the King in a conflict of loyalties. The dramatic loss of Lord Kitchener in June 1916 he felt as something more than a national calamity, for he had long held him in personal affection as well as the highest professional esteem.
The formation of Asquith's coalition government in May 1915 brought the first labour minister into the King's service in the person of Arthur Henderson [q.v.] at the Board of Education. The next change of government, in December 1916, involved the extrusion of Asquith by Lloyd George, to whose talents the King frequently paid generous and encouraging tribute, although on personal grounds he missed the sturdy and unruffled presence of his first prime minister. The fissures and stresses which gave birth to the new administration have been recorded in the leading political biographies, and in great detail in Lord Beaverbrook's Politicians and the War (1928). Asquith resigned on 5 December and Bonar Law was invited to form a government. At the instance of the latter the King on the following day held a conference attended by Asquith, Balfour, Bonar Law, Lloyd George, and Henderson; but since Asquith felt unable to serve under his leadership, Bonar Law abandoned the attempt and the King accordingly entrusted the task to Lloyd George. In reply to the King's letter offering him the Garter Asquith wrote: ‘I trust that Your Majesty will permit me, in all gratitude and humility, to decline. I have had the honour of serving Your Majesty as Prime Minister continuously from the first day of your reign. Through times of much difficulty and peril Your Majesty has honoured me with unstinted confidence and unwavering support. I desire no higher distinction.’
On 20 June 1917 the following announcement appeared in the press: ‘The King has deemed it desirable, in the conditions brought about by the present war, that those princes of his family who are his subjects and bear German names and titles should relinquish these titles, and henceforth adopt British surnames.’ In consequence of this decision four new peerages were created. The Duke of Teck and his brother, Prince Alexander, became Marquess of Cambridge and Earl of Athlone; Princes Louis and Alexander of Battenberg became Marquesses of Milford Haven and Carisbrooke; members of the Teck and Battenberg families adopted the surnames Cambridge and Mountbatten respectively. At a meeting of the Privy Council held on 17 July His Majesty announced his intention, embodied in a royal proclamation of the same date, of adopting on his own behalf and that of all his subjects descended from Queen Victoria the name of Windsor for the Royal House and Family. The ‘sublime inspiration’, as Lord Rosebery called it, came to Lord Stamfordham, who was unaware at the time that King Edward III had been styled ‘Sir Edward de Windsor, King of England’ in a deed dated 1375 [Record Office, C. 2121]. Finally, by letters patent dated 11 December 1917, the Princely title and its attendant appellation Royal Highness were confined to the children of a sovereign and of the sons of a sovereign (with the addition of the special case of the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales). To the grandchildren of the sons of a sovereign in the direct male line was assigned the style and title of the children of dukes.
The extent of the burden shouldered by the King during the war years was not apparent to the public owing to the secrecy which necessarily cloaked his movements. The record of his activities reveals that he paid 300 visits to military hospitals, each a taxing ordeal for a sensitive nature; nor was the personal distribution of 58,000 decorations accomplished without fatigue. He inspected 300 naval and military formations and a like number of factories engaged upon war work. He paid five visits to the Grand Fleet and seven to his armies in France and Belgium. In October 1915, after the abortive battles of Neuve Chapelle and Loos, murmurs demanding a change in the high command made themselves heard (prime minister's secretary to Stamfordham, 7 October), and the King was able during his tour later in the month to ascertain the views of the leading generals in the field. It was early in December that Sir John French was replaced by Sir Douglas Haig, a change effected by Asquith upon his sole responsibility [Spender and Asquith, vol. i, p. 191]. This same tour in France came to an untimely end when a restive mount, frightened by the cheering of the troops, reared and fell backwards on the King fracturing his pelvis. Such visits to his armies in the field had a stimulating effect upon the troops, none more so than that undertaken at his own instance at the end of March 1918, a week after the opening of the final German onslaught.
The labours of the King during the war had been pursued with an absence of publicity congenial to him, but the conclusion of hostilities brought him to the front once more. The agony and triumph of the past four years were over and with the sudden release of tension the relief of millions found expression in widespread demonstrations of affection and loyalty to the throne. Alike on Armistice Day and in the later celebrations of Peace Day in 1919 it was to the palace that all steps were turned in the exuberance of a common emotion. In a series of public appearances the King and Queen were greeted with a demonstrativeness of affection to which the past afforded no parallel, and the scenes witnessed in the course of six drives through the capital in the days immediately succeeding the armistice were re-enacted at the close of the month both in Edinburgh and in Paris. Particularly notable was the address delivered to both Houses of Parliament on 19 November in which the King dwelt on the dedication of the whole British race to the demands of war and called for a heightened sense of individual and national duty in the years ahead. ‘For centuries past’, he declared, ‘Britain has led the world along the path of ordered freedom. Leadership may still be hers among the peoples who are seeking to follow that path.’
If hostilities had ceased on the continent the case was otherwise in Ireland, where the best that the government could claim was that it had murder by the throat. The Home Rule Act of December 1920, although repudiated by the South, had been accepted by Northern Ireland, and the Ulster parliament was to be opened in June 1921. Despite the untoward aspect of Irish affairs the Cabinet felt that an occasion of such high imperial significance should be marked by the presence of the sovereign in person. The King would have been other than himself had he not readily acceded. ‘As is naturally to be expected’, Stamfordham wrote to the prime minister of Northern Ireland on 9 June, ‘there is a very strong difference of opinion about the King going to Belfast, and many Irishmen, including those residing in that country, tell me that His Majesty is running considerable risk in going. Once the Government had expressed the wish that His Majesty should go, you may be quite certain that the King would not look back for one instant: and as to personal risk, I can frankly say that this has not entered into His Majesty's calculations¾it would be entirely contrary to his nature for it to do so.’ At the last minute the Ulster government expressed the desire that the Queen should go too, and the invitation was accepted with equal alacrity. Their Majesties crossed to Belfast on 22 June and there, in the City Hall, the King delivered a speech striking in its dramatic timing and sincerity of utterance. ‘I am emboldened’, His Majesty declared, ‘to look beyond the sorrow and the anxiety which have clouded of late my vision of Irish affairs. I appeal to all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand of forbearance and conciliation. It is my earnest desire that in Southern Ireland too there may ere long take place a parallel to what is now passing in this hall. The future lies in the hands of my Irish people themselves. May this historic gathering be the prelude of a day in which the Irish people, under one parliament or two, as those parliaments may themselves decide, shall work together in common love for Ireland upon the sure foundation of mutual justice and respect.’
‘None but the King’, wrote Lloyd George, ‘could have made that personal appeal.’ It was the more unfortunate that, on the evening before it was uttered, the lord chancellor (Birkenhead) should have held threatening language in the House of Lords, and that on the same day the secretary of state for war should have announced in the Commons that more troops and every soldier available would be sent to Ireland.
Three days later the King sent Stamfordham to urge the prime minister to make fresh overtures to Southern Ireland while the iron was hot. General Smuts, then providentially in London for the Imperial Conference, crossed to Dublin on 5 July; and assuredly there was no one who, from personal experience and elevation of character, was better qualified to act as intermediary. The subsequent interviews in London between Lloyd George and Mr. de Valera were followed by a series of communications which continued into the autumn, the Cabinet insisting that allegiance to the throne and membership of the Commonwealth should be postulates to any conversations.
A critical point had been reached when Lloyd George, then in Scotland, summoned a Cabinet meeting at Inverness on 7 September to approve the dispatch of a note couched in aggressive language and possibly naming a time limit for the truce which had been in operation since 11 July. It happened that the King was then staying at Moy, twelve miles from Inverness. His Majesty received the prime minister at breakfast on the morning of the Cabinet meeting, and the proposed draft was discussed between them. The King suggested numerous alterations in the text, the elimination of all threats and contentious phrases, and the inclusion of an invitation to the Sinn Fein representatives to meet the prime minister at once. The latter then drew up a fresh draft in the conciliatory tone which the King had advocated, and this was accepted by the Cabinet later in the morning. The Irish delegates came to London in mid-November, and the articles of agreement inaugurating the Irish Free State were signed on 6 December. ‘I humbly congratulate Your Majesty’, wrote the prime minister, ‘on the triumph of the famous Ulster speech from the throne.’
It is the characteristic of King George's reign that his constitutional troubles came early. High seas had been running when the sailor King had put out: the Irish strife, the parliament bill, the embittered struggle over Welsh disestablishment, the bizarre war conducted by the suffragettes against the community, these all had been overwhelmed in the crowning convulsion of the European conflict, with the passing of which it seemed that the storm had spent its force. Difficulties remained, both in the national and international spheres, but with one or two exceptions they were such as called for no personal intervention on the part of the King. To the ceaseless round of duty which is the inescapable lot of the sovereign, he addressed himself with a devotion which bore fruit in the increasing regard and affection of all ranks of his subjects. In a period of disillusionment and moral disintegration the King and Queen were observed by all men to set a course of public service and to uphold the traditional standards of family life. The marriage of Princess Mary in 1922 proved an occasion of rejoicing to the entire nation, and the later marriages of his younger sons brought the King three daughters each of whom in turn greatly endeared herself to him. Always at his easiest with children, he reserved the tenderest affection for Princess Elizabeth, whose infant presence never failed to ensure his happiness during the closing decade of his life.
The ‘coupon’ election of December 1918 had given to Lloyd George's coalition a further lease of life until November 1922, when the conservative party was returned and the King sent for Bonar Law. An ailing man at the time, he sank beneath the load in the following May, giving it to be understood that he would prefer not to tender advice as to his successor. The King decided to summon Stanley (later Earl) Baldwin, then little known, in preference to the brilliant and experienced Lord Curzon. To mitigate the disappointment he caused Curzon to be invited to return from the country in order to learn from Stamfordham the reason for the choice. (It is not the case that the King summoned Curzon with the intention of offering him the premiership but was persuaded to the contrary.). Curzon was mortified upon his arrival to find the purpose of the interview to be other than that which his eagerness had led him to expect; but he bore the intimation with nobility and the King spoke words of healing and gratitude to him at their meeting on 29 May. That the blow should have been so bitter reveals the fallibility of human memory and judgement where self-interest is most strongly engaged; for on 24 May 1919 Curzon himself, in a letter to the King concerning his precedence as lord president, had written: ‘The Prime Minister, who is commonly a member of the House of Commons, and will in all likelihood almost invariably be so in the future, has already been placed before the Lord President.’ If ever there would recur circumstances in which the prime minister might reasonably be a peer it was not now, when labour was the official opposition, and being unrepresented in the Lords would be unable to hear policy expounded by the head of the government.
Five months after taking office Baldwin sought a dissolution in order to obtain a mandate for protection, which Bonar Law had pledged himself not to introduce. The King deprecated a second election within the twelvemonth, but the prime minister ‘said that he had committed himself’ (King's diary, 12 November 1923) and the King yielded. After the election in December, for the first time a House of Commons was returned in which there were three parties, each prepared to form a government, yet none commanding a majority. Parliament met on 15 January; a week later the government was defeated and Baldwin resigned. The King sent for Ramsay MacDonald [q.v.].
At this first attainment of labour to office there were many croakers. The King was not among them. ‘Thank God’, he once wrote to a friend, ‘I am an optimist, and I believe in the commonsense of the people of this country.’ It was by the twin landmarks of character and principle that he had been in the habit of judging men, and in the mirror of working-class opinion he had always found the reflection of his own unassuming dignity and friendliness. ‘To-day’, recorded Stamfordham on 22 January 1924, ‘the King saw Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and entrusted to him the formation of a new Government, which he undertook. He assured the King that, though he and his friends were inexperienced in governing and fully realised the great responsibilities which they would now assume, nevertheless they were honest and sincere, and his earnest desire was to serve his King and country. They may fail in their endeavours, but it will not be for want of trying to do their best. The King told Mr. Ramsay MacDonald that he might count upon his assistance in every way. His Majesty asked only for frankness between them. His Majesty went on to say that, little expecting to occupy his present position, he served in the Navy for fourteen years and thus had opportunities of seeing more of the world and mixing with his fellow creatures than would otherwise have been the case; while during the past fourteen years he had naturally gained much political knowledge and experience of the working of the machine of government under four different Prime Ministers. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald spoke very openly and said he was sure the King would be generous to him and understand the very difficult position he was in.’
With the members of the new administration the King was at once at home. That they might get to know each other's outlook on the world he gave it to be understood that he would like to see them in turn, at their convenience, for a quiet talk, and his diary records twenty such interviews in the month of February. ‘He is an extreme socialist’, he noted of the minister of health, ‘and comes from Glasgow. I had a very interesting conversation with him.’ The household arrangements worked smoothly because both parties intended that they should. The King made it known informally that the question of court dress was one for the ministers to settle as might seem best to them; and judging that it would conduce to the greater convenience of their guests, Their Majesties initiated a series of afternoon parties at the Palace. In his turn the prime minister, unlike Peel in 1839, himself desired the King to take the political appointments in the royal household and deal with them as His Majesty thought fit. It was agreed that after placing the customary whips at the disposal of the government the King should nominate the lord chamberlain, lord steward, master of the horse, the captains of the bodyguard and yeomen, and three of the lords in waiting: but in order to safeguard the constitutional position the submissions continued to be made by the prime minister, and the officials concerned undertook not to speak or vote against the government or participate in political activities outside.
‘Some day’, declared an eminent scientist as late as 1920, ‘we may have the Prime Minister, or even the Monarch himself, addressing by word of mouth, and at one and the same time, all the different parts of the entire British Empire.’ This daring forecast came true on St. George's Day 1924, when the King opened the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley; and, thus established, the precedent was followed on several occasions towards the close of the reign. Over a long period of time he had stood for peace and goodwill among the family of nations under his care, and it was natural that he should be in their thoughts at Christmas time. In a series of admirably turned broadcasts each Christmas Day from 1932 onwards his voice found a welcome in British homes throughout the world, establishing a new intimacy between sovereign and subject and kindling in all hearts the proud sense of kinship one with another. He essayed no flights of oratory, being content to greet each family with a personal message of kindliness and to assert a simple faith in the continued guidance of a divine Providence. Recordings of these homely addresses will enable posterity to judge the nature of the man, and go far to explain the singular hold which he established upon the affections of a quarter of the population of the world.
Under a three-party system the lot of a minority government is unenviable, for a nod exchanged between the opposition leaders can terminate its life at any moment: nor for the sovereign is the position free from ambiguity, for the dissolution and re-election of parliament may only prolong the position of stalemate. To a conservative vote of censure on the Campbell case the liberals moved, on 8 October 1924, an amendment calling for the milder step of a committee of inquiry into the withdrawal of the prosecution. But MacDonald chose to stand at bay on the first issue. He had only held office for nine months, but he had shown that labour was capable of bearing rule, proved himself an acceptable minister to the King, done well in the vexed sphere of foreign affairs, and equipped his Cabinet with political experience. His numerical strength was insufficient to effect the introduction of socialism in the present parliament, and he was not ill content to declare his innings closed. The King accordingly returned from Balmoral on the morning after the government's defeat (9 October) and received the prime minister, who sought a dissolution. That the Campbell case was in itself insufficient justification for a third general election within two years was manifest, but the circumstances were unusual. To decline the first request of a young and inexperienced party might have exposed the King's impartiality to question; and moreover it was clear that any extension of the government's lease could only be for a term of weeks. The King therefore granted the dissolution, but took the step of recording his reasons in a memorandum addressed to the prime minister. After the election on 29 October he sent for Baldwin, whose government was destined to last for more than four years.
As early as June 1916 Asquith had announced that an Imperial Conference would be held after the war to consider the recasting of the government of the Empire. When the Dominions were enrolled as separate members of the League of Nations the time had come to define that elusive constitution which was the casual offering of the British race to the science of politics. It was Lord Balfour who, with a courageous sweep of onward vision, devised the formula adopted as the Nicene Creed of the Commonwealth in 1926 and embodied in the Statute of Westminster in 1931. No longer was parliament in the home country to control the overseas Dominions: henceforward the King alone was to constitute the bond in a voluntary association of free peoples, whose co-operation would be effective only in so far as it was willingly accorded. The abdication of the sovereign in 1936 still further loosened the attachment of the Irish Free State: the furnace of a second war served but to anneal the links with the remainder of the British Empire. If Great Britain was fortunate in 1926 in having at hand a statesman of the stature of Balfour, she was no less fortunate in the possession of a King fitted alike by character and by experience to retain the allegiance of her sister nations.
The General Strike in May 1926 was a challenge to constitutional government which the Cabinet met with firmness and the nation with good humour. To an informal suggestion that recourse might be had to the precedent of the Buckingham Palace conference of 1914 the King replied that he would take no such action except upon the advice of his prime minister. He grasped the significance of a football match at Plymouth between the police and the strikers; and when the Cabinet was considering ‘freezing’ trade union funds he observed with dry common sense that men denied the use of their own money were apt to turn to other people's. He took exception to the announcement in the official British Gazette that all ranks of the armed forces of the Crown would receive the full support of the government in any action taken in the honest endeavour to aid the civil power. When after nine days the strike collapsed, ‘Let us forget’, he wrote in a message to his people, ‘whatever elements of bitterness the events of the past few days may have created, and forthwith address ourselves to the task of bringing into being a peace which will be lasting because, forgetting the past, it looks only to the future with the hopefulness of a united people.’
Hitherto King George had been blessed with good health. He was no stranger to a passing attack of rheumatism, was a little careful about his food, and was not immune from the common cold: indeed an intractable bout of influenza in the spring of 1925 had even induced him to commission the royal yacht for a month's cruise in the Mediterranean, averse though he was from foreign travel. But apart from his typhoid fever in 1891 he had escaped lightly until, at the age of sixty-three, he contracted an illness of the gravest character. On 21 November 1928 he took to his bed at Buckingham Palace with a streptococcal infection which necessitated a severe operation for the drainage of the chest on 12 December.
A week earlier the King had been able to execute a warrant appointing six counsellors of state: the Queen, his two eldest sons, the archbishop of Canterbury, lord chancellor, and prime minister. ‘Whereas We have been stricken by illness and are unable for the time being to give due attention to the affairs of Our Realm’, the preamble stated, any three of the counsellors were empowered to discharge the royal office: but they were not to dissolve parliament, nor confer titles, ‘nor act in any manner or thing in which it is signified by Us or appears to them that Our special approval should be previously obtained.’ The council was held in a manner identical with that adopted when Queen Victoria was en retraite after the death of the Prince Consort (Letters, series ii, vol. i, p. 6): the council assembled in the audience chamber adjoining the bedroom, the home secretary read the order paper standing in the communicating doorway, the King assented and signed the document with his own hand.
Throughout the sombre December days crowds kept vigil outside the palace railings; thousands upon thousands read the bulletins and turned silently away. For several weeks death hovered about the sick chamber and kept in doubt the issue upon which the hopes of millions turned. At length patience and courage had their reward, and on 9 February 1929 the patient was taken by ambulance to Craigweil House, near Bognor. Here he remained until 15 May, when he made the journey to Windsor.
The wound, however, was not yet healed and the King was in considerable discomfort when, during the first week in June, he had to deal with a change of ministry. Baldwin's government had reached the end of its course while he had been ill: the labour party had been returned (again in a minority) at the general election on 30 May, and on 8 June the new ministers journeyed to Windsor to receive their seals of office. If it was a strange complexion of political parties, it was a singular council that assembled once more outside the bedroom in which the King was seated in his dressing-gown. On the previous afternoon he had braced himself to receive separately each member of the outgoing ministry, and had accepted the custody not only of their seals of office but also of the great seal of the realm. Sidney Webb (later Lord Passfield) received two separate seals, for the Dominions and for the Colonies, notwithstanding that he was at the time a member of neither House. The King himself broke the customary silence with a kindly comment, observing that Miss Bondfield became ipso facto a privy councillor as minister of labour, and was the first woman to attain either status.
On 1 July the King returned to London, and on the 7th drove with the Queen to St. Paul's Cathedral for a service of national thanksgiving upon his nominal recovery. But he was not yet out of the wood. Eight days later he was subjected to a further small operation which delayed until the end of August his departure to Sandringham for recuperation in the health-giving and familiar surroundings of home. In the new year (21 January 1930) his voice was once more heard on the wireless when he opened the London Naval Conference, and he broadcast again in the following November at the inauguration of the Indian Round Table Conference. During the years that remained to him he passed for a fit man, although he was induced to take things more easily and to spare himself undue exertion.
It was largely on account of the unemployment position that the labour party had come into power, but it found itself in the grip of forces far transcending the strength of one party in one country. When it took office there were just over a million unemployed in Great Britain; despite all the government's efforts the figure had doubled in the next twelve months, and risen afresh to 2,800,000 by September 1931, when the cost of unemployment benefits exceeded contributions by more than a million pounds a week. As early as October 1930 the grave financial prospect had been engaging the attention of the Cabinet, and early in June 1931 a royal commission had recommended the unpalatable step of saving £24,000,000, partly by increasing workmen's contributions. A crisis was precipitated by the publication on 31 July of the report of the Economy Committee under the chairmanship of Sir George (later Lord) May, calling for the raising of an extra £120,000,000 if the next year's budget was to be balanced; and events proved that even this was an under-estimate by fifty millions. The situation thus revealed spread alarm among foreign nations which had deposited their gold reserves for safety in London, and a rapid series of withdrawals brought the Bank of England to the edge of bankruptcy.
The position was already threatening when on 20 August the King went north to Balmoral: his own inclination was to have postponed his departure, but in order not to disturb public confidence the prime minister advised his adhering to his programme. He arrived there on the Friday morning, but on the Saturday the reports from London were so grave that he decided to return that evening, and he was back at Buckingham Palace by breakfast time on Sunday (23 August). At 10.30 he saw MacDonald, who reported that while he and some of his colleagues favoured a ruthless policy of retrenchment, Henderson and a substantial proportion of the Cabinet were unyielding in their opposition. He accordingly felt that he would have no option but to resign, but the King urged him to remain in office and cheered him with words of encouragement and support. At 12.30 the King saw Sir Herbert (later Viscount) Samuel, acting leader of the liberal party, and was impressed by his clear arguments in favour of an all-party government under MacDonald's leadership. At 3 the King saw Baldwin, who patriotically undertook to sink party differences and serve under MacDonald; or, failing that, to carry on the government with the aid of the liberals, having previously obtained the King's consent to a dissolution as soon as the financial situation had been restored.
At 10.15 the same evening the prime minister returned to the palace to tender the resignation of the Cabinet in view of its continued internal dissension. The King urged him to reconsider his own position in view of the support which the other parties were willing to lend him and the confidence which a united front would inspire among foreign creditors at a moment when the banking resources of the country were to be measured rather in hours than in days. The prime minister asked the King to hold a conference of the three party leaders next morning. At 10 o'clock on the 24th the King accordingly received MacDonald, Baldwin, and Sir Herbert Samuel and requested them to come to some arrangement for carrying on the government; after half an hour His Majesty withdrew, and an hour later was gratified to learn that they had come to a provisional agreement. At 4 MacDonald returned and accepted the commission to form an all-party administration. ‘If you will permit me to say so’, he wrote on the 29th in answer to a generous letter from the King, ‘Your Majesty's own conduct has been a great inspiration and guidance to my colleagues and myself, not only during these recent days of great trouble and heart-searching, but throughout the years when we have had the honour of being your special servants.’
Interpreting the mood of the nation, the King spontaneously gave up £50,000 of his civil list and the other members of the Royal Family made corresponding sacrifices, thus identifying themselves with those of all classes upon whose incomes drastic cuts were now imposed. The flight of capital had been checked, but not wholly stemmed. The economic blizzard was beginning to strike other countries, which were calling home their capital in order to strengthen their own position; moreover, the fundamental issue of a protective tariff could only be solved by a general election, the result of which continued to disturb foreign confidence. It was, however, the mutiny in the Atlantic Fleet at Invergordon in the middle of September, consequent upon the reduction in naval rates of pay, which immediately started a fresh run on the Bank, causing the government to abandon on 20 September the gold standard to which Great Britain had returned in May 1925. The general election on 27 October resulted in an overwhelming endorsement by the nation of the King's action in promoting an all-party government.
In considering advice from Lord Rosebery as prime minister it would have been open to Queen Victoria to observe that she had been on the throne before he was born. In like manner Time, the sovereign's friend, had dealt kindly with King George, whose shadow had lengthened as his day drew in. Those who had moved in public affairs throughout the preceding quarter of a century had learned to repose trust in his disinterested judgement: deprived though he had been of Stamfordham in March 1931, few among his advisers could claim a greater store of political experience, and his later ministers were apt not only to tender but to seek advice. The extent to which he had become the father of his people was disclosed during the silver jubilee celebrations in 1935, on the eve of his seventieth birthday. He had observed the preparations with a detached, even a deprecatory eye, and he was frankly taken aback by the welcome which awaited himself and the Queen on their return to London after the customary Easter residence at Windsor. On 6 May Their Majesties drove to St. Paul's Cathedral through sunlit streets gay with flags and packed with cheering crowds. Although advancing years had taken their toll and he was no longer the man he had been, none discerned in the happy joy-bells the knell of a passing reign. The numerous jubilee functions were hardly concluded when, on 7 June, MacDonald resigned the leadership of the all-party government and the King took leave with regret of one who had been his valued prime minister for over a quarter of his reign. He replaced the conduct of affairs with confidence in the hands of Baldwin and withdrew to Sandringham for a rest. Here, six months later, after an illness short and peaceful in its close, he died 20 January 1936.
Happy alike in the manner and the moment of his passing, King George was well spared the events of the ensuing years. Many and moving were the tributes paid to his memory throughout the world while the life of the Empire was stilled in the silence of a deep and intimate sorrow. For four days and nights his coffin lay in a sublime setting beneath the ancient rafters of Westminster Hall and 800,000 of his subjects waited in the wintry weather to witness a scene breath-taking in its august majesty. On 28 January the funeral took place at Windsor, where in due course a tomb of rare beauty and symbolic simplicity was erected in the nave of St. George's Chapel.
In person King George was slightly below the middle height, neatly made, and impeccably dressed in the style before last. His voice was strong and resonant, his prominent eyes arrestingly blue. Moderate in diet, he drank hardly at all but smoked heavily. His mode of life was of an extreme regularity, his occupations being predictable to the day, almost indeed to the hour, given the precedent of the previous years. His naval training had implanted habits of discipline. Punctual himself, he discountenanced unpunctuality in others. Rules were made to be obeyed, and he was not slow to check infractions of traditional observances and duties, by whomsoever they were committed. His disapproval of the High Court of Parliament assuming the appearance of a dormitory during the course of an all-night sitting was marked by a letter which, but for the vigilance of a subordinate official, would have raised the hoary spectre of the rights of his faithful Commons. So valued a counsellor as Balfour, when betrayed by pressure and inadvertence into undertaking a foreign mission without previously notifying the sovereign, incurred a brisk reminder that the throne was not unoccupied. He did not lack moral courage, as when he bluntly told Lloyd George that he knew nothing of the army, or reminded Birkenhead on one occasion, and Joynson-Hicks on another, that Cabinet ministers were expected to conform to a dignified standard of dress when appearing on a public platform. Such occasions, however, were rare, and he never suffered them to impair the ease and cordiality of his personal intercourse. Towards his labour ministers in particular he revealed a generous consideration.
Although not pietistically inclined, the King was all his life a sound churchman and early formed the habit of daily Bible reading. He attended Sunday morning service wherever he might be; when travelling in India his train used to be stopped for the purpose. Both archbishops of Canterbury (Davidson and Lang) were among his closest personal friends; he secured promising men as preachers and week-end guests, and took pains to inform himself independently about candidates recommended for higher preferment. Among the fighting services the navy never lost the hold which it had early established upon his affections. He loved the ships and their men; he knew the leading officers, read the leading books. If the army ranked second it was by the narrowest of margins. Nearly every summer with the Queen he would enjoy a week at the Royal Pavilion at Aldershot and be among the soldiers from early morning until nightfall. He would ride out to watch the training, visit barracks in the afternoon, and give dinner parties every evening in order to get to know the younger officers and their wives. The occasion (12 June 1922) when the Irish regiments, disbanded after the formation of the Free State, handed to him their colours to be laid up in Windsor Castle was one of the most affecting experiences of his life. It was with pride and admiration that he observed the rise of the Royal Air Force, and he manfully opposed its suggested abolition, during the disarmament phase in the early 'thirties. At the notion of entering an aeroplane himself he would shake his head.
It was with humility that King George recognized his shortcomings in the field of the humanities. He would deplore the technical nature of his education, ruefully wishing that he had been taught Latin instead of trigonometry. In French he was reasonably proficient, in German less so. To the perusal of state documents he applied himself with diligence tempered with distaste; he was concerned on one occasion to find that Baldwin himself had not studied certain papers issued by the Cabinet, and his secretaries had to read the newspaper carefully if they were to escape being similarly ensnared. His private reading amounted to some forty books a year, largely contemporary biographies. Writing he found uncongenial. ‘Naturally my language does not approach yours in style or finish’, he wrote, in sending to Stamfordham a clear account of a certain interview. It is true that his letters and the diary which he kept throughout his life owed little to the graces of composition or calligraphy; but no one could write a more generous message of encouragement to an overdriven prime minister or an exiled governor-general, and his letters gained in sincerity what they lacked in stylistic virtuosity. One of the most unrewarding fruits of human toil is the weekly letter home of a schoolboy son: he had four such, and to each he would return a hand-wrought reply even at moments of greatest pressure.
In London the King was commonly to be seen in the summer riding in Rotten Row with a friend before breakfast. He often went to the theatre and he enjoyed a musical play and the more familiar operas. He did not like to miss a good Rugby match at Twickenham, a cup-tie final at Wembley, a test match at Lord's, or the lawn tennis championship at Wimbledon: at such spectacles and many others throughout the season no figure was more familiar or more welcome. His nature also responded to such revelations of human endurance as the various attempts upon Mount Everest or the polar regions, and he was apt to send for individual members of the expeditions upon their return in order to ply them with questions.
In private life the King's interests lay in the pursuits associated with the English country gentleman. Apart from those already alluded to, his love of racing far outstripped the meagre successes of his own stable, and he was as faithful to Newmarket, Epsom, and Aintree as to Ascot itself. Farming he both encouraged and practised, although it was never numbered among his more personal hobbies. It is noteworthy, however, that his experimental plot of flax at Sandringham was in 1931 the only example of its cultivation in England, and it was to a large extent due to the King's persistence in this field in the period between the wars that home-grown flax was enabled to contribute towards the needs of the war of 1939-1945. When in the country he was attentive to his social duties and every year would pay a round of calls on his neighbours, tenants, and village friends, many of whom he had known all his life. He almost always had guests in the house and was a gifted host. He had a remarkable memory and was a good raconteur. His recollections of past events were interesting and often of an unreserved frankness; concerning current affairs he observed a more guarded discretion. Beneath a bluff and bantering manner he was a man of marked kindness and geniality, of the type that likes to see others happy. Although he was modest about his own accomplishments, he possessed in fact the range of qualities best calculated to appeal to Englishmen of all classes, not least in his mistrust of cleverness, his homespun common sense, his dislike of pretension, his ready sense of the ludicrous, and his devotion to sport.
King George was served by a household knit together in the fellowship of a common loyalty. Some had been chosen from among the friends of his childhood, not a few from his associates in the navy; others, recruited with care as his establishment increased, were assimilated into a circle from which retirement was rare. The daily round was governed by protocol and precedent. This unwritten code was respected at every level, with the result that contentment reigned, and unhastening order prevailed alike on occasions of ceremonial pageantry and in the well-regulated routine of domestic life. In former times it was the custom to speak of the prince and his ‘family’: of King George it may truly be said that he had two families, and that he was hardly less devoted to his household than to his children. Affection was thus harnessed to the service of duty in a court remarkable alike for the precision of its arrangements and the harmony of its personal relationships.
King George sat for the following artists in the years shown. Sir Luke Fildes (1912, for the state portrait, Windsor). (Sir) Arthur Cope (1912, for H.M. Queen Mary, the United Service Club, and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth [destroyed by enemy action in 1942]; 1926, for Windsor; 1928, for the Royal Academy): his portrait for the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes, was lost by fire in 1929. (Sir) John Lavery (1913, for the conversation piece, with the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and Princess Mary, National Portrait Gallery). A. T. Nowell (1920, for the Leys School, Cambridge). Charles Sims (1924, for a portrait which proved unsuccessful). Richard Jack (1926, for Fulham Town Hall and the Junior Constitutional Club). Oswald Birley (1928, for the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff; 1930, for the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes; 1932, for the Royal Welch Fusiliers, Wrexham; 1933, for Lincoln's Inn and the Royal Artillery Mess, Chatham; 1934, for Windsor). John Berrie (1931, for the King's Liverpool Regiment; 1935, for the Canberra War Memorial, Australia). Harrington Mann (1932, for the Junior United Service Club). F. W. Elwell (1932, for the throne room at Holyrood).
His Majesty also gave sittings to the following sculptors. Sir George Frampton (1913, for the marble bust in Guildhall, London). (Sir) Bertram Mackennal (1913, for two marble statues for India, presumbaly Delhi and Madras): he also designed the head on the coinage, the reverse of which was the work of G. Kruger Gray. (Sir) W. Reid Dick (1933, for the bust in marble at Buckingham Palace and in bronze at the Mansion House, London): he also executed the memorials in Sandringham and Crathie churches, the recumbent effigy in St. George's Chapel, Windsor, and the statue outside the east end of Westminster Abbey. Kathleen Scott (Lady Kennet) (1935, for the bronze bust for the Hearts of Oak, Euston Road).
John Gore's King George V: a Personal Memoir, 1941, will remain the standard authority on the life of the King, especially in its more intimate aspect. This truthful and revealing book was promoted by King George VI and Queen Mary while the memory of its subject was fresh in the minds of those who had known him: no information was withheld from its author, who received assistance from many of the King's friends. The political background may be conveniently followed in D. C. Somervell's The Reign of King George the Fifth, 1935, and John Buchan's The King's Grace, 1935. Much further information is contained in the memoirs and biographies of the leading figures of the reign. John Stephenson, A Royal Correspondence, 1938; Sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace, The Web of Empire, 1902; H. F. Burke, The Historical Record of the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, 1911; John Fortescue, Narrative of the Visit to India of King George V and Queen Mary, 1912; Stanley Reed, The King and Queen in India, 1912; J. A. Spender and C. Asquith, Life of Lord Oxford and Asquith, 2 vols., 1932; Harold Nicolson, Curzon, the Last Phase, 1919-1925 (1934), pp. 353 ff.; L. S. Amery, Thoughts on the Constitution, 1947, pp. 21, 22; Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, December 1920 and October 1944; Royal Archives; personal knowledge.
Contributor: Owen Morshead.