George V of Windsor (born George Frederick Ernest Albert in London on June 3 1865) is the current King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the British Dominions Across the Sea, Defender of the Faith and Emperor of India since May 6 1910, after the death of his father, King Edward VII. He is the first British monarch belonging to the House of Windsor and he is currently in exile in Canada.
George Frederick Ernest Albert was born on June 3 1865, at Marlborough House, London. His father was the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. His mother was the Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra), the eldest daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. As a grandson of Queen Victoria in the male line, George was styled His Royal Highness Prince George of Wales at birth. As a younger son of the Prince of Wales, there was no expectation that George would become King as his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor, was second in line to the throne after their father.
Given that George was born only fifteen months after his brother it was decided to educate both royal princes together. In September 1877 both brothers joined the training ship HMS Britannia at Dartmouth. Their father thought that the navy was "the very best possible training for any boy". For three years from 1879 the royal brothers served as midshipmen on HMS Bacchante and toured the British Empire, visiting the colonies in the Caribbean, South Africa and Australia. When they returned to England, the brothers were separated with Albert Victor attending Trinity College in Cambridge and George continuing in the Royal Navy. He travelled the world and visited many areas of the British Empire, serving actively in the navy until his last command in 1891 when his brother Albert Victor died of pneumonia, leaving George second in line to the throne and likely to succeed after his father. From then on his naval rank was largely honourary.
Duke of York
On May 24 1892 Queen Victoria created George, Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killarney. After George's marriage to Victoria Mary of Teck, she was styled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York. The Duke and Duchess of York lived mainly at York Cottage, a relatively small house in Sandringham, Norfolk, where their way of life mirrored that of a comfortable middle-class family rather than royalty. George preferred the simple, almost quiet, life in marked contrast to his parents and was a well-known stamp collector, playing a large role in building the Royal Philatelic Collection into the most comprehensive collection of United Kingdom and Empire stamps in the world, in some cases setting record purchase prices for items.
Prince of Wales
As Duke and Duchess of York, George and May carried out a wide variety of public duties. On the death of Queen Victoria on January 22 1901, George's father, Albert Edward, ascended the throne as King Edward VII. George inherited the titles of Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay, and for much of the rest of that year, George was styled His Royal Highness The Duke of Cornwall and York. In 1901, George and May toured the British Empire, visiting Australia, where the Duke opened the first session of the Australian Parliament upon the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia. Their tour included South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand, where Cornwall Park in Auckland was named in their honour by its donor, John Logan Campbell, then Mayor of Auckland.
On November 9 1901, George was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. King Edward VII wished his son to have more preparation and experience prior to his future role and therefore George was given wide access to state documents and papers. He in turn allowed his wife access to his papers as he valued her counsel and she often helped write his speeches. In 1906 George toured India where he was disgusted by racial discrimination and campaigned for greater involvement of Indians in the government of the country.
King and Emperor
On May 6 1910, King Edward VII died, and the Prince of Wales ascended the throne, becoming King George V. George had never liked his wife's habit of signing official documents and letters as "Victoria Mary" and insisted she drop one of those names. Neither thought she should be called Queen Victoria and so she became Queen Mary. Their coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on June 22 1911. The coronation was celebrated by the Festival of Empire in London. Later in 1911, the King and Queen travelled to India for the Delhi Durbar, where they were presented to an assembled audience of Indian dignitaries and princes as the Emperor and Empress of India. George wore the newly-created Imperial Crown of India at the ceremony. Then the Emperor and Empress travelled throughout India, visiting their new subjects.
During the Weltkrieg
In August 1914 war broke out with Germany: it was the beginning of the Weltkrieg. The German Kaiser Wilhelm II, who for the British public came to symbolise all the horrors of the war, was the King's first cousin. Queen Mary, although British like her mother, was the daughter of the Duke of Teck, a descendant of the German Royal House of Württemberg. The King also had brothers-in-law and cousins who were British subjects but who bore German titles such as Duke and Duchess of Teck, Prince and Princess of Battenberg, Prince and Princess of Hesse and by Rhine, and Prince and Princess of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg.
On July 17 1917, George V issued an Order-in-Council that changed the name of the British Royal House from the German-sounding House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor, to appease British nationalist feelings. He specifically adopted Windsor as the surname for all descendants of Queen Victoria then living in the United Kingdom, excluding women who married into other families and their descendants. Finally, on behalf of his various relatives who were British subjects, he relinquished the use of all German titles and styles and adopted British-sounding surnames. George compensated several of his male relatives by creating them British peers.
During the war the King's youngest son, John, died aged 13 after a short lifetime of ill-health.
After signing the Peace with Honour the King struggled to keep the remnants of its empire intact and had to face many hard decision such as the creation of the Australasian Confederation. When the 1925 British Revolution broke out, all the members of the Royal Family had to flee to Canada, the only place of the British Empire that was not touched by the revolutionary waves. After the Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King's refusal of letting the British government in exile replace the Canadian government, George himself replaced the office of Governor-General and assumed his role of King of Canada. For his position he meddled in Canadian internal affairs, supporting the conservative government which pushed for the reconquest of the Home Isle. His relations with the liberals and King in particular were strained.
The Weltkrieg took a toll on George's health and the Revolution in the Home Isles and the subsequent flight to Canada exacerbated his health problems. He long suffered from emphysema, bronchitis, chronic obstructive lung disease and pleurisy. In 1928, he fell seriously ill, and for the next two years his son Edward took over many of his duties. Despite that, George's relationship with his heir has deteriorated in recent years. George is disappointed in Edward's failure to settle down in life and appalled by his many affairs with married women. He seems reluctant to see Edward inherit the crown; in contrast, he is fond of his second eldest son, Prince Albert, and dotes on his eldest granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth.
George married Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (known as "May" to her family, after her birth month), the only daughter of Prince Francis, Duke of Teck, and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge. The marriage of George and May took place on July 6 1893 at the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace in London. They had six children:
- Edward, Prince of Wales born on June 23 1894
- Albert, Duke of York born on December 14 1895
- Mary, Princess Royal, born on April 25 1897
- Henry, Duke of Gloucester, born on March 31 1900
- George, Duke of Kent born on December 20 1902
- John, born on July 12 1905 and died from seizures on January 18 1919