History

King George VI making his radio broadcast to the nation after the outbreak of World War II, 3 September 1939.

King George VI

George VI became king suddenly following the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, in 1936. He worked hard to adapt to this unexpected role, particularly during the difficult years of World War Two.


Picture: King George VI making his radio broadcast to the nation after the outbreak of World War II, 3 September 1939. (Getty Images)

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The Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain

Introduction

King George VI making his radio broadcast to the nation after the outbreak of World War II, 3 September 1939. King George VI

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More information about: King George VI

King George was born on 14 December 1895 at Sandringham in Norfolk, the second son of the Duke of York, later George V. He was christened Albert after his great-grandfather, Prince Albert. In 1909, went to Dartmouth Naval College and joined the Royal Navy - seeing action in the World War One Battle of Jutland - and then the Royal Air Force. In 1920, he was created Duke of York and began to take on royal duties. In 1923, he married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, youngest daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore. They had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret.

Following the abdication of his elder brother, Edward VIII, George was proclaimed king on 12 December 1936 and crowned in May the following year. He and the queen paid state visits to France in 1938, and to Canada and the United States in 1939, making George the first British monarch to enter the US. George supported Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement towards Germany and Italy. When Chamberlain resigned in May 1940, the king wished to replace him with Lord Halifax, but was persuaded to accept Winston Churchill, whose wartime leadership he then supported unreservedly.

During the war George visited Allied armies on several battle fronts and toured the home front extensively. He also created the George Cross for 'acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger' - an award for courage for acts not carried out under fire from an enemy. The Royal family's refusal to leave Britain during the conflict and their active involvement in the war effort won them many admirers.

Although his symbolic leadership in Britain was crucial during World War Two, George's reign was perhaps most important for the accelerating evolution of the British Empire into the Commonwealth of Nations and the post-war transformation of Great Britain into a welfare state. His hereditary title of Emperor of India ceased in 1947 when India and Pakistan became separate independent countries. From 1948, his health deteriorated, and he died on 6 February 1952, a few months after undergoing an operation for lung cancer. His elder daughter Elizabeth succeeded him as monarch.

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