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King George 6th
King George 6th
King George 6th. December 1895 - Feb. 1952
King George 6th was forced into taking the crown after his brother, King Edward 8th abdicated so that he could marry a twice divorced woman. George, whose real names were Albert Frederick Arthur George, and always called Bertie by the family, was a very reluctant king. He was content to be the Duke of York, to live with his beautiful wife and two daughters, to hunt and fish and carry out the duties of his office. All that changed when his brother decided that because the establishment would not let him marry the woman he loved and raise her status to Queen, he would abdicate and go into exile.
George had developed a stammer in his early years, made worse by the attitude of his father, King George 5th. His father would embarrass the boy by shouting at him to ' Get it out, boy, Get it out.' and by forcing him to write using his right hand although George was clearly left handed. A particular trial that George hated was when, on their grandparents birthdays the children were made to memorise a poem, write it out and tie it with ribbon. Then, after reciting the poem in front of parents, grandparents and guests, present it to the person whose birthday it was. George went through agonies trying to form the words to the satisfaction of his father.
His stammer got worse as the years progressed and he began to fear having to make speeches and talking in public. He became very shy and withdrawn.
Bertie and David with their father and grandfather
Bertie in the Navy
Bertie's career had been mapped out for him. As the second son of the future king he was going to join the Royal Navy. His first stop at the age of thirteen was the Royal Naval College, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Osborne House had originally been Queen Victoria's house but on her death Edward 7th gave it to the nation as a convalescent home for injured servicemen. A part of it was turned into a school for Naval Cadets. His elder brother was already there, and Bertie joined him, the both of them being bullied by older boys mercilessly. Bertie was found one day tied up tight in a hammock so he couldn't escape. Bertie was no scholar, and he struggled with his mathematics and science lessons, his stammer not helping matters at all. In his final exams he was bottom, 68th out of the class of 68.
Just after this time, King Edward 7th died and Bertie's father was proclaimed King George 5th. The next year, 1912, Bertie joined his brother David at Dartmouth Royal Naval College for training in how to become a Royal Naval Officer. In September 1913, Bertie was drafted to H.M.S. Collingwood as a Junior Midshipman. His stammer caused him untold problems, as when he had to report to senior ranks he either didn't speak at all or an explosion of gobbledegook came out of his mouth. War with Germany broke out in 1914 and Bertie stayed on board Collingwood and saw action at the Battle of Jutland as a gunnery officer. The four years of the war saw Bertie in and out of hospitals suffering from stomache trouble. Firstly the doctors dec ided he had appendicitis and removed them. Then it was back to Collingwood. After still more stomach trouble the doctors diagnosed a weakening of the muscles in the stomach wall. Finally he was diagnosed with stomach ulcers and underwent surgery. In 1918 Bertie joined the Royal Naval Air Service as a pilot. Later the RNAS merged with the Royal Flying Corps to form The Royal Air Force and Bertie became Commanding Officer of Number 4 squadron.
Long struggle with his speech
On 26th April 1923 Bertie married the love of his life, Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, the daughter of the Earl and Countess Strathmore, a society beauty, The King was delighted and told his eldest son David that he should also be thinking of marriage. David would not hear of it as he loved being the playboy. The King despaired of his son David and predicted that when the boy was king, he would ruin himself within a year. He was right, his eldest son could not take the pressure of being king and he abdicated in 1936.
In 1926 Bertie started taking lessons from an Australian speech therapist who had had success in his home country and had come to London with his wife and family. After years of the regime that Lionel Logue put him through, with breathing exersizes, formation of words and speech practice, he eventually improved so much that Bertie was able to speak in public and to make radio broadcasts.
The trials that Bertie went through are well documented in the brilliant movie, 'The King's Speech.'
When David abdicated the throne after only 327 days, Bertie took over from him and was crowned King George 6th. His problems with speech making and public speaking intensified and Lionel Logue worked with him tirelessly over the years, gradually making progress little by little until the King gained enough self confidence to speak in public without fear of stammering. Logue had done a tremendous job.
At the end of the 1939 to 1945 war with Germany, the king's health was deteriorating. The strain of six years of war were telling. He still carried out his duties, travelling to Commonwealth Countries, showing the flag, but he was weakening. His Christmas broadcast of 1950 was a real trial. He spoke as if he were exhausted, sometimes only whispering. He thanked his subjects for all their prayers and good wishes.
In May 1951 the king opened the Festival of Britain, and spoke of it being, ' a celebration of Britain's abiding courage and vitality.' Photographs of the king at this time show him gaunt, exhausted and in very poor health. Later that year he was diagnosed with a malignant tumour on his left lung. The operation was succesful and he was making a good recovery, although the Christmas Day address to the nation was a recorded message, on the advice of his doctors. He insisted that his daughter, Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip go ahead with their planned trip to Kenya, Australia and New Zealand in January 1952. On 5th February the king enjoyed a day of shooting game. People around him said he was happier than they had known him for a very long time. That night he retired to bed and the following morning a servant found him dead. He had suffered a fatal blood clot to the heart. His long battle was over.