The Robinson Library
The Robinson Library >> England >> 20th Century
George V

King of Great Britain and Emperor of India, 1910-1936

King George V

George Frederick Ernest Albert was born at Marlborough House, London, on June 3, 1865, the second son of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.

In 1877, George and his older brother, Prince Albert Victor, became naval cadets aboard the Britannia. In 1879, the brothers joined the H.M.S. Bacchante, aboard which they made a voyage to the West Indies and became midshipmen. In 1880, the Bacchante, with both brothers aboard, visited South America, South Africa, Australia, the Fiji Islands, Japan, Ceylon, Egypt, Palestine, and Greece. A narrative of the voyage, taken from the brothers' letters, diaries, and notebooks, was published as The Cruise of H.M.S. Bacchante in 1886. The brothers separated at the end of the tour, in 1882.

While Albert left his naval career to assume duties related to being heir presumptive to the throne, George continued his career. He passed through the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, and through gunnery and torpedo schools, and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1885. Serving in the Mediterranean, the English Channel, in North America, and in the West Indies, he became Commander in 1891, Captain in 1893, Rear Admiral in 1901, and Vice-Admiral in 1903. George became heir presumptive to the throne when Albert, by now Duke of Clarence, died in January 1892. He was created Duke of York, Earl of Inverness, and Baron Killarney that same year.

On July 6, 1893, George married Princess Victoria Mary of Teck. The couple would have a total of six children: Prince Edward Albert (1894); Prince Albert Frederick George, Duke of York (1895); Princess Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary (1897); Prince Henry William Frederick Albert, Duke of Gloucester (1900); Prince George Edward Alexander Edmund, Duke of Kent (1902); Prince John Charles Frances (1905-1919).

Soon after his father became king in 1901, George, now Prince of Wales, and Princess Mary visited Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada.

King of Great Britain and Emperor of India

George succeeded to the throne upon the death of his father on May 6, 1910, and was formally crowned King George V at Westminster Abbey on June 22, 1911.

At the time of his accession, Britain was embroiled in a constitutional crisis over the House of Lords, which had refused to pass a budget bill submitted by the Liberal Government. In response, the House of Commons had passed a bill limiting the Lords' powers by removing its power to veto a bill from the Commons, which of course the Lords also refused to pass. The crisis was finally resolved in 1911 after the Liberal government obtained the King's promise to create sufficient peers to overcome Conservative opposition. Both bills subsequently passed, with no mass creation of peers being necessary. With the constitutional crisis solved, the King and Queen became the only reigning British monarchs to visit India, where he was formally installed as Emperor on December 12, 1911.

During World War I, the King and Queen both gained immediate and lasting popularity for their courage and devotion. Throughout the war the King always appeared in public wearing his naval uniform, and was always seen as a strong symbol of British resolve. He made over 450 visits to troops, with many of those visits taking place at or near the front lines, and over 300 visits to hospitals treating wounded soldiers. He pressed for proper treatment of German prisoners-of-war and for more humane treatment of conscientious objectors. On June 17, 1917, the King announced that the royal family would no longer carry the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (popularly known as the House of Hanover) name, and would be known as the House of Windsor, after the Castle of the same name, instead.

The Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin and subsequent civil war resulted in establishment of the Irish Free State (later the Irish Republic) in 1922, while the six northern counties remained part of the United Kingdom. The King played a conciliatory role during the crisis and subsequent negotiations.

King George V readily accepted the first Labour Government in 1924. After the world economic slump of 1929, the King persuaded the Labour leader to head a National Government composed of all parties, which subsequently won the election of 1931.

The Statute of Westminster of 1931 gave Dominion Parliaments the authority to pass laws without reference to United Kingdom laws and abolished various reserve powers still possessed by Crown and Parliament, meaning the Dominions were no longer subordinated to the Parliament in London and were only linked through a common allegiance to the Crown.

King George V died at Sandringham on January 20, 1936. He was succeeded by his oldest son, who assumed the throne as King Edward VIII.

Encyclopędia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopędia Britannica, Inc., 1957.

King Edward VII
King George VI
World War I
King Edward VIII

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> England >> 20th Century

This page was last updated on June 16, 2018.