British History 2:
From the French Revolution to World War II
Topic: "Majesties and Royal Highnesses"

by Laura Cenicola & Mareike Aumann

Glossary: George VI

Political Career:

When George VI took the throne on December 12th in 1936, after his brother had abdicated it, the popular opinion towards monarchy was at its lowest point since after Prince Albert's death, during Victoria's reign. He paid state visits to France (1938), and to Canada and the United States (1939). He was the first British monarch to enter the United States. Soon Europe got closer to another World War. Though George supported his Prime Minister's appeasement policy towards Germany and Italy, the peace could not be held up. On September 3rd in 1939 Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. George, like his father, visited the troops, munitions factories, supply docks, as well as bomb damaged areas, to offer support. He founded the George Cross and George Medal to be awarded for acts of bravery by citizens. Chamberlain resigned from his duty in May 1940. George was persuaded to accept Winston Churchill as new Prime Minister. When London was bombed by the Nazis, the Royal Family remained at Buckingham Palace and George vowed he would defend his home to the death if necessary. The behavior and actions of the King and Queen during the war supported the prestige of the monarchy.

Though the United Kingdom faced hardship during the years following the war, this did not affect the popularity of the King because he had predicted so. The war in fact had strengthened the bond between the King and his people. His reign was perhaps most important for the support of the increasing evolution from the British Empire into the Common Wealth of Nations. Between 1945 and 1950 Great Britain went through numerous market transitions. The Bank of England, transportation, energy production, health care and for the most part the industry were for some part opened for public ownership.

Personal Life:

George VI was born on December 14th in1895 at Sandringham, Norfolk. He was the second son of George V and Mary of Teck. He was a rather shy boy and great admired his older brother Edward. From his early childhood up until his thirties he had a great stammer in his speech which increased his shyness even more, nevertheless an Australian therapist helped him to overcome his speaking disorder. He went to Dartmouth Naval College in 1909, joined the Royal Navy and later the Royal Air Force. George was made Duke of York in 1920 and began to take on some royal duties.
In 1923 he got married to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. They had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. George VI died from cancer on February 6th in 1952 in Sandringham.
George was described by Logue: The "slim, quiet man with the tired eyes" had a troubled reign, but he did much to leave the monarchy in better condition then he found it in.


Back to previous page