George V embodied diligence and duty and sought to represent his subjects, rather than define government policy, as his predecessors Victoria and Edward had.
George was born on 3 June 1865 in London, the second son of the Prince of Wales. When George was 18 he went into the Royal Navy, but the death of his elder brother in 1892 meant he had to leave a career he enjoyed, as he was now heir to the throne. He married his elder brother's fiancée, Princess Mary of Teck, and they had six children. In 1901, George's father became king and in May 1910, George himself became king. His reign began amid a constitutional crisis over the government's attempt to curb the power of the House of Lords. After the Liberal government obtained the king's promise to create sufficient peers to overcome Conservative opposition in the Lords (and won a second election in 1910), the Parliament Bill was passed by the Lords in 1911 without a mass creation of peers. 1911 also saw George's visit to India, the only king-emperor to make the journey.
Public respect for the king increased during World War One, when he made many visits to the front line, hospitals, factories and dockyards. In 1917 anti-German feeling led him to adopt the family name of Windsor, replacing the Germanic Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
After the overthrow of the Russian Tsar in 1917, the post-war world saw the toppling of monarchies all over Europe, many of them related to the British royal family. The king's relationship with parts of the British Empire changed too. The 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and subsequent civil war resulted in the setting up of the Irish Free State in 1922, which became a dominion, while the six northern counties remained part of the United Kingdom. The Statute of Westminster of 1931 meant dominion parliaments could now pass laws without reference to United Kingdom laws. This paradoxically increased the monarchy's importance, since the dominions (no longer subordinated to one supreme parliament at Westminster) were now linked through common allegiance to the crown. India gained a measure of self-governance in 1935.
In 1924, George readily accepted the first Labour government. In 1931 the international economic slump caused a political crisis in Britain. The king promoted the idea of a 'national coalition' government of Labour, Conservatives and Liberals, which was eventually formed.
In 1935, the king celebrated his Silver Jubilee, an occasion of great public rejoicing. He died on 20 January 1936 and was succeeded by his son Edward.