Saturday 17 October 2009

King George VI, the servant king and perhaps our best for 250 years

His Highness Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George of York (3 years later styled His Royal Highness after the 1898 letters patent of Queen Victoria) was born at Sandringham on 14 December 1895.

He died, on 6 February 1952, having ruled as King George VI of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions from 11 December 1936 until his death. He was the last Emperor of India (until 1947), the last King of Ireland (until 1949), and the first Head of the Commonwealth.

His family name of Wettin (or more fully Welf-Este-Wettin) was later changed to Windsor in view of the war with Germany. The Welf-Este family had ruled in Saxony and Bavaria and northern Italy. The Wettin family were their ancestors who had ruled Saxony.

The Hanover dynasty, from whom Queen Victoria descended, were Welf-Este and the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty, from whom Prince Albert, the Prince Consort of Queen Victoria, descended, were Wettin.

Interestingly, the Italian branch of the Welf family (the Guelphs) were the pro-papal party against the pro-imperial party, the Waiblingen, (the Ghibellines), during the investiture contest in the 11th century.

As the second son of King George V, Prince Albert ("Bertie") was not expected to inherit the throne and spent his early life in the shadow of his flamboyant elder brother, Edward, later King Edward VIII, and, later still, Duke of Windsor.

Prince Albert served in the Royal Navy during World War I, and fought at the Battle of Jutland, and after the war took on the usual round of public engagements. He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923, daugher of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, and they had two daughters, Elizabeth (who succeeded him as Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret.

The Duke and Duchess of York with their daughter, later Queen Elizabeth II

His elder brother ascended the throne as King Edward VIII on the death of their father in 1936. However, less than a year later Edward revealed his desire to marry the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. The British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, advised Edward that he could not marry Mrs Simpson and remain king, this being contrary to the teachings of the Church of which he was temporal head.

So, when Edward abdicated in order to marry, King George VI was crowned in his place and ascended the throne as the third monarch of the House of Windsor.

On the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the Coronation

Within twenty-four hours of his accession the Irish parliament, the Oireachtas, passed the External Relations Act, which essentially - and illegally - removed the power of the monarch in Ireland.

Further events greatly altered the position of the monarchy during his reign: three years after his accession, his realms, except Ireland, were at war with Nazi Germany and later with Italy and the Empire of Japan.

Though Britain and its allies were ultimately victorious, the United States and the Soviet Union rose as pre-eminent world powers and the British Empire declined. With the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, and the foundation of the Republic of Ireland in 1949, George's reign saw the acceleration of the break-up of the Empire and its transition into the Commonwealth of Nations.

King George had been a sickly child and often suffered from ill health and was described as "easily frightened and somewhat prone to tears".

The young Duke and Duchess

His parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, were generally removed from their children's day-to-day upbringing, as was not uncommon in aristocratic families of that era. He was forced to write with his right hand although he was naturally left-handed, and developed a stammer that lasted for many years. He suffered from chronic stomach problems as well as knock knees, for which he was forced to wear painful corrective splints that kept him awake at night and often in tears of pain.

Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901, and the Prince of Wales succeeded her as King Edward VII. The Duke of York became the new Prince of Wales. Prince Edward moved up to second in line to the throne, and Prince Albert was third.

From 1909, Albert attended the Royal Naval College, Osborne as a naval cadet. In 1911, he came bottom of the class in the final examination, but despite this he progressed to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. When Edward VII died in 1910, Albert's father became King George V. Prince Edward was created Prince of Wales, and Albert was second in line to the throne.

TRH Princes David (later King Edward VIII) and Albert (later King George VI) as Osborne naval cadets with their father, HRH the Duke of York (later King George V), and grandfather, HM King Edward VII

Albert was commissioned as a midshipman on 15 September 1913 and one year later began service in World War I. His fellow officers gave him the nickname "Mr Johnson".

He was mentioned in dispatches for his action as a turret officer aboard HMS Collingwood during the Battle of Jutland (31 May–1 June 1916), an indecisive action against the German navy which emerged as a strategic victory for the United Kingdom.

He did not see further action in the war, largely because of ill health caused by a duodenal ulcer.

In February 1918, he was appointed Officer in Charge of Boys at the Royal Naval Air Service's training establishment at Cranwell. With the establishment of the Royal Air Force two months later and the transfer of Cranwell from Navy to Air Force control, he transferred from the Royal Navy to the Royal Air Force.

He was appointed Officer Commanding Number 4 Squadron of the Boys' Wing at Cranwell and he remained there until August 1918. During the closing weeks of the war, Albert served on the staff of the Independent Air Force at its headquarters in Nancy. Following the disbanding of the Independent Air Force in November 1918, he remained on the continent as a staff officer with the Royal Air Force.

In October 1919, Albert went up to Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied history, economics and civics for a year.

On 4 June 1920, he was created Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killarney. He then began to take on royal duties; he represented his father, the King, toured coal mines, factories, and railyards, and acquired the nickname of the "Industrial Prince".

But it was the Abdication crisis that changed his life forever for then Albert was to become King-Emperor, an appointment he dreaded and did not want. But he was the choice of Providence and he did his duty and was crowned in a glittering ceremony which can be seen in this clip shown in cinemas at the time:

His speech impediment, and his embarrassment over it, together with his tendency to shyness, caused him to appear much less impressive than his older brother, Edward. However, he was physically active and enjoyed playing tennis. He developed an interest in working conditions, and was President of the Industrial Welfare Society. His series of annual summer camps for boys between 1921 and 1939 brought together boys from different social backgrounds, from elite public schools like Eton and Harrow together with boys from slum schools and grammar schools.

The King and Queen with Mr MacKenzie-King, the Canadian Prime Minister

Because of his stammer, Albert dreaded public speaking. After his closing speech at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley on 31 October 1925, which was an ordeal for both him and the listeners, he began to see Lionel Logue, an Australian-born speech therapist. The Duke and Logue practised breathing exercises, and the Duchess rehearsed with him patiently.

As a result of the training, the Duke's opening address at Australia's Federal Parliament at Canberra in 1927 went successfully, and he was able to speak subsequently with only a slight hesitation. Most famously, the King was able to give his famous broadcast near the beginning of the war - "the King's Speech" - and here it is:

"The King's Speech" - speech of King George VI near the start of World War II

Shortly before Albert became king, a position he was reluctant to accept, he went, the day before the abdication, to London to see his mother, Queen Mary. He wrote in his diary, "When I told her what had happened, I broke down and sobbed like a child".

The Coronation of King George VI

After war broke out in September 1939, George VI and his wife resolved to stay in London, despite German bombing raids. They officially stayed in Buckingham Palace throughout the war, although they usually spent nights at Windsor Castle.

The first German raid on London, on 7 September 1940, killed about one thousand civilians, mostly in the East End.

On 13 September, the King and Queen narrowly avoided death when two German bombs exploded in a courtyard at Buckingham Palace while they were there. In defiance, the Queen famously declared: "I am glad we have been bombed. We can now look the East End in the face".

The King (left) with General Sikorski, the Polish Commander-in-Chief in World War II

The royal family shared the same dangers and deprivations as the rest of the country. They were subject to rationing restrictions, and Eleanor Roosevelt, champagne-socialist wife of the US President, remarked on the rationed food served and the limited bathwater that was permitted during a stay at the unheated and boarded-up Palace. The White House, needless to say, was never bombed during the war. In August 1942, the King's brother, Prince George, Duke of Kent, was killed on active service.

Throughout the war, the King and Queen provided morale-boosting visits throughout the United Kingdom, visiting bomb sites and munitions factories, and (in the King's case) visiting military forces abroad. Their high public profile and apparently indefatigable determination secured their place as symbols of national resistance. In 1945, crowds shouted "We want the King!" in front of Buckingham Palace during the Victory in Europe Day celebrations. The King invited Churchill to appear with him on the balcony to public acclaim.

When he died in 1952, King George VI was one of the best beloved of British monarchs. He had become, rightly, a symbol of self-sacrifice and duty. His attitude to monarchy was that of a Christian king, namely that it was a role that should imitate Christ the King, the suffering servant king who sacrificed his own desires to serve his people.

Yes, it is true that King George VI was obliged to become a Freemason, as part of the usual British Protestant establishment ritual, but that was not where his heart was. His heart, a profoundly Christian heart, was with his people, his duty, the Empire, his family and, ultimately, with God.

It is true that he was not a Christian saint like St Edmund, St Edward of Mercia, St Edward the Confessor, St Oswald, St Osbert, St Kenelm and other British kings, but he was, nonetheless, a good, humble and devout man, a fine husband and father to his wife and children and a fatherly figure to his people. In short, he was a good model for Christian kings to follow.

May God give peace and eternal rest to the soul of our last King-Emperor and his wife, our last Queen-Empress!



Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

You leave out one detail, most pertinent to your title.

The King, as you rightly say, was a pious man, somewhat more "high-church" than his daughter, and every morning in his private chapel attended the Holy Communion service, where every day he assisted his chaplain as the altar server.

Thus, though not a Catholic in faith, his understanding of service extended, like the Catholic emperors, even to the altar.

umblepie said...

Thank you Tribunus, for this interesting and informative post. I have always thought of King George VI as a good man, in every sense of the word, and a good and Christian King. You intimate that he was close to his mother Queen Mary, who I understand from one source, was very sympathetic to the Catholic Faith, and who was reputed to have been received into the Church before she died. I do not know if this is correct, can you possibly confirm? Whatever the case it would seem that she had considerable influence.

Anita Moore said...

Years ago, I saw a documentary about King George VI, one feature of which that made an impression in my mind was what was said about the change that came over the king after his anointing. He seemed to have received a certain strength and confidence that he had not previously had. I was struck by the fact that although the anointing of a king is obviously not one of the Seven Sacraments, it was for George VI nevertheless a channel of grace. I think it was indeed providential that he, and not his brother Edward, occupied the throne during those dark days.

(What physical strength King George must have needed to wear the crown of St. Edward during his coronation. That crown has to weigh a ton!)

P.S. In your list of English king-saints, don't forget King Aethelberht of Kent, who received St. Augustine of Canterbury and gave England her first written laws!

Stephen D. said...

Thank you for this post that highlights King George VI as a model of Christian kingship. My perception of him, his wife, and his daughter has been one of basic admiration for continuing the heritage of positive Christian examples (even if outside the fullness of the Church) set by his forebears such as King George III and Queen Charlotte, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and King George V and Queen Mary. Even though King Edward VII was unfortunately a philanderer, his efforts to promote peace in Europe seem worthy of commendation, and his wife, Queen Alexandra, seemed to bear his infidelity with dignity and grace.

In her biography of George VI entitled The Reluctant King, Sarah Bradford writes that, while young, the king "had learned a simple, deep faith in God from his grandmother, Queen Alexandra, which was always to be of great importance to him. Although no great reader, one book on the historical truth of the Resurrection, The Empty Tomb, made a great impression on him and he frequently referred to it" (p. 53). With regard to his participation in Freemasonry, Bradford conveys that there was a genuine attraction there that stayed with him over the years, and in the last year of his life, "he was to write of the important part which freemasonry had to play in the 'spiritual and moral regeneration of the world'" (p. 89). However, as would be consistent with what you expressed in your post, anything positive that he admired in Freemasonry would be derivative from the elements of truth it took from the Church. Bradford writes that his "interest in ritual and his feeling for family tradition found expression in freemasonry," and that "the ideals of the Craft - brotherly love, service, and truth - appealed to him" (pp. 86-87).

Bradford notes that George VI installed his younger brother, Prince George, Duke of Kent, as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge. In light of both that fact and and the fact that the present Duke of Kent and Prince Michael of Kent are both high-level Freemasons, it's also interesting to note that the Kent branch of the Windsors currently contains all the Catholics among George V's descendants and their spouses. Given that it also has been reported that Queen Elizabeth II has some misgivings about the present direction of the Church of England and the Holy Father's recent creation of an Anglican ordinariate, his planned visit to the UK next year should be interesting.

On a side note, but related to the House of Windsor, have you seen the award-winning television film The Lost Prince? I found it a rather affecting portrayal of the twilight of the Edwardian era through the eyes of the developmentally disabled Prince John, but done so in a way that does not villainize King George V and Queen Mary in a way that one might think contemporary filmmakers would be inclined to do.

Stephen D. said...

Also, I realize that my wording may have inadvertently conveyed that Queen Elizabeth II had additional misgivings about the pope's creation of an Anglican ordinariate, but I've read nothing to that effect nor would I really expect it to be the case.

Harry said...

You are a disgusting man or woman, and a liar. His Majesty, George VI, Emperor King, Defender of the Faith, was not, never was a Papist, or unlike his father, grgandfather or in deed Queen Victoria, a slobberer and groveller toward the Vatican.

He was King when the greatest act carried out by the glorious, ongoing Protestant reformation was carried out - the total and complete destruction of the Jesuit operated Vatican supported Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany evil.

Whilst Protestants were dying to crush Hitler, Papists in Ireland and the US were doing their best to aid Hitler and his Italian stooge. Did HM the King run? Did he hide? No. He fully backed the good folk of Britain in their destruction of Hitler. He despised Romanism and all it's evils.

The fact that you moderate your comments show what a liar you are.You and your babylon church are finished.

Revelation 17.

Tribunus said...

The above hardly needs comment, so vapid is it.

Fully 1/5th of the world's population are Catholic and the Protestant Reformation is dying on its feet and this poor fool thinks the Catholic Church is finished.

Yeah, right, Harry.

The later Queen Mother, whom I had the honour to meet on several occasions, made it quite clear that her husband did not hate Catholics. Neither did she.

But - hey - what is the point of trying to persuade anyone who seriously thinks that the atheists Hitler and Mussolini were both Jesuits?

Perhaps he also thinks that the Rev Ian Paisley is a secret Moslem?

The "good folk of Britain" are the first to laugh at the rather pathetic ramblings of poor, sorry old Harry.

Off you go, now, Harry and mind how you go...

A Square Lady said...

The Late King's Freemasonry, I believe, was part of what made him a "Christian King" and a Servant to his People. I also believe his heart WAS in his Masonry and made him a more rounded person.

Tribunus said...

Since the "god" of Freemansonry is evidently not the Christian God but a vague, ill-defined "Supreme Architect of the Universe" which is more akin to a pagan god, proves you wrong.

But I will allow that modern British Freemasonry is, today, more of a conservative than a revolutionary force and so not as bad as its ancestor.

We can at least agree that King George VI was a good king.

Water Wishes said...


It was bad enough that after the First World War the Canadian government, illegally, collected taxes even though the war debt was paid but the whole scam got a lot worse after the Second World War.

When the Second World War was over, McKenzie King, was Prime Minister, Canada had a multi-coloured flag, and King George VI, was Canada's King.

Click here to read about the Red Flag, Canada's Communist coloured symbol.

Under the direction of McKenzie King, Canada's House of Commons, which is part of Canada's Federal Government, passed a law which is now generally referred to as the Income Tax Act, 1948. Over the next several decades, successive amendments were made to the Income Tax Act, 1948, so that, even today, Canada's Income Tax Act is nothing more, legally, than an amended version of the Income Tax Act, 1948.

The problem is that there is that conflicting evidence about whether or not the Income Tax Act, 1948, ever received the King's Consent, or what is called Royal Assent, a requirement under section 91 of the British North America Act, nor, was it properly introduced pursuant to a clear mention of it in the Speech from the Throne at the opening of Parliament for the 1947-48 Session, as required by sections 55 of the British North America Act. based on these developments, it appears that the Income Tax Act, 1948, never became law and all amendments to it are not law because an amendement to a nullity is a nullity.

John said...

Your view of Freemasonry is nearly as benighted as Harry's view of the Roman church. ANY Freemason's duties are, in order: to his God, to his family, to his profession, to his country, and (somewhere much farther down the list) to his fraternity. Now, if you argue that the only possible definition of God is your own, then God is neither omnipotent, nor infinite, nor omniscient, and there's a problem.

Tribunus said...

Well, John, at least we can agree that Harry's view is benighted!

But, sorry, John, the fact that YOU are a Freemason does not make it right.

Anglophone Freemasons, as I said had you but read it, are, by and large, fairly benign and a force for conservatism and therefore relatively good.

But other Freemasons are not so good.

The original Freemasons wanted to be "free" of the moral constraints imposed by Christianity and, in particular, they resented the Church's opposition to enslaving native peoples.

You last paragraph is so obviously illogical that it hardly deserves comment.

Since God is omnipotent, infinite and omniscient, He could not have given us numerous contradictory religions to believe in, could he?

They cannot be both contradictory AND right, can they?

Only one religion can be right and that one must be the one God gave us which is, first, Judaism, and then, after Christ, Catholicism.

But do not fear. Anyone who sincerely believes his own version of Christianity to be true, and lives by it, will still get to heaven.

Unlike Protestants, we Catholics do not believe that only Catholics go to heaven, although we do believe that, in heaven, everyone will recognise the truth of the Catholic faith.

So take comfort, John, and be content.

And try to avoid hating people, if you can. It is not good for the soul.

John said...

"Since God is omnipotent, infinite and omniscient, He could not have given us numerous contradictory religions to believe in, could he?"

He most certainly could have! As for the contradictions, they may well be in your own finite understanding, rather than in God's omniscience.

If God, by definition, is omnipotent, infinite, and omniscient, and man is NONE of these, humans' views of God—INCLUDING, by the way, the Vatican's, since the Vatican is a human institution—is not omnipotent, nor infinite, and certainly is not omniscient.

You argue, rather feebly, I might add, that an omnipotent, infinite, and omniscient God chose one (e.g., YOUR) way of revealing Himself to humankind, despite the fact that humans do not and cannot even comprehend God's power, infinity, and knowledge.

By claiming that you have the only answer to humankind's eternal questions, you either raise yourself to the level of God—which is blasphemy— or lower God to your level of understanding—which is equally blasphemous.

Now, we can't have it both ways, can we?

Please do not preach to me that your own view of God is the correct and only one. That denies ME my God-given powers of thought and spirituality, whether they coincide with yours or not.

And please spare me your arrogance of assured rectitude as well, because I'm not buying any of it, as is my own God-given right.

I think it entirely possible that God has spoken to his children through many prophets, in many times, and in many tongues. Knowing that has absolutely nothing to do with my being a Christian, and everything to do with respecting another person's understanding of God's revelation.

Your comment about hatred is risible indeed! Toleration and charity, my friend, are among God's great gifts. You appear to have them in very short supply.

By all means, if you want to limit God to having revealed Himself only through the Roman church, then continue in that belief, with the blessing of all. You have no right, human or otherwise, to constrain others to believe as you do.

Tribunus said...


Let’s analyse your response, shall we?

You claim that God, who is omnipotent, omniscient, infallible and inerrant, could “most certainly” have given us numerous contradictory religions and the contradictions are, according to you, in our finite understanding but not in God’s omniscience.

So, according to you, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, Presbyterianism and, who knows, perhaps also Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, are all true, it’s just that we humans cannot see that they are really all in accord and do not contradict each other.

The Westminster Confession of 1646 became and remains the subordinate standard of doctrine in the Church of Scotland, and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide. After the Bible it is the primary statement of Presbyterian belief.

Paragraph II thereof states:

“…the Popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ's one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.”

The Roman Catholic Council of Trent, Session XXII, in 1542, enacted the following canons:

“Canon 1: If anyone says that in the mass a true and real sacrifice is not offered to God; or that to be offered is nothing else than that Christ is given to us to eat, let him be anathema.

Canon 4: If anyone says that by the sacrifice of the mass a blasphemy is cast upon the most holy sacrifice of Christ consummated on the cross; or that the former derogates from the latter, let him be anathema.”

Paragraph VI of the Westminster Confession states thus:

“…the Pope of Rome…is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ”.

Paragraph 9, Chapter 4 of Pastor Aeturnus, a Constitution of the First Vatican Council of 1870, enacted thus:

“9. Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our saviour, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.”

Go ahead and tell us all how your coherently reconcile these total opposites.

Over to you, John!

Tribunus said...

Well, John?

Oh, dear. You can’t reconcile these two diametrically opposed views of Christianity, can you?

But you still think that God says they are BOTH true.

If you think that, John, then you are calling God a LIAR and THAT is most certainly blasphemy.

It is also hypocrisy, since you accuse others of doing the very thing that you do.

Your arguments are not only feeble – they are non-existent!

If God were to come down from heaven and say to you:

“John, This is my Church. Accept it and believe!”,

what would you do?

You would have to accept it, wouldn’t you?

You could not say to God:

“I cannot accept your Church because if I did I would be ‘claiming to have the only answer’ and so be pretending to be God”.

God would answer:

“John, I have told that it is my Church. If you reject it you reject me”.

But, if you were obedient to God, you would accept his Church and believe.

If disobedient, then you'd claim the right to reject God's Church.

And, THAT, John, is exactly what God has done. He became man to tell us where to find His Church and he warned against those who would not accept it.

He preached to you, through Scripture and the Church, that HIS view of the Church is the only correct one.

You, foolish man that you are, arrogantly claim the right to say TO GOD:

“God, you are denying me my powers of thought and spirituality”.

You thereby reject God.

Ridiculously, you claim to “respect another person’s understanding of God’s revelation” but it is ABUNDANTLY clear that you DO NOT RESPECT AT ALL the Roman Catholic position and doubtless many others.

Indeed, you crassly insult it.

That is intolerance and uncharity, John, not tolerance and charity. Thus you make yourself a hypocrite.

And what did God call them?

Whited sepulchres! White on the outside but all foul and unclean within. That’s what God called them.

You make further stupid mistakes.

You confuse “rectitude” with orthodox theology. They are not the same. Your thinking is muddled and ill-educated.

Then you claim that those who disagree with you and reject your errors are somehow “constraining” you to believe as they do.

What nonsense!

No-one is stopping you believing whatever fantasy you want to believe but we have a perfect right to tell you that you are wrong.

Indeed, toleration means precisely allowing people to tell others they are wrong.

But, then, you are not tolerant, are you, John?

You proclaim tolerance but don’t practice it.

And that is hypocrisy.

See if you can learn to stop hating people who don’t agree with you, John.

It is is uncharitable and intolerant.