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Series 16 - 3. Spirit of Battle
Image for Good King George

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Last on

Wed 14 Apr 2010 11:00 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 14 April 2010

Next month marks the centenary of the accession of King George V in May 1910. This programme presents a re-evaluation of his reign.

George V is sometimes caricatured as a blimpish boor, interested mainly in shooting and stamp collecting. But he helped to secure stability through some of the most turbulent events in our history -- the constitutional crisis over the Budget; Irish Home Rule; the Great War; the Russian revolution; the General Strike; the depression. He can be seen as the first monarch to understand the true constitutional function of the monarchy and its potential role in uniting a disparate people. He was the first monarch to broadcast to the nation and the empire, and he was a conscientious figurehead in the First World War. During the first Labour government in history he was welcoming and even handed, and later he played a key role in securing Ramsay MacDonald's place as Prime Minister of the National Government of 1931. At his jubilee in 1935 he was feted by all classes and seemed genuinely surprised by his own popularity and touched by the warmth of the celebrations. He embodied Bagehot's dictum about the benefits of a family on the throne.

Yet George was not without his faults, he was old fashioned, set in his ways, obsessed by protocol and by correct dress to an extent that seems ridiculous now. He did not have a good relationship with his son and heir, the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII; he could be a martinet, he could be bad tempered.

The programme interviews George V's biographer, Kenneth Rose; Sarah Bradford, the biographer of George's younger son, the future George VI, as well as historians of the period, an expert on the King's shooting prowess, and an expert on his stamp collection . It also reveals the true story behind the King's most famous exclamation "Bugger Bognor!"

Presenter Simon Heffer. Producer Chris Bond.

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