George V - Encyclopedia




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"GEORGE V. (1865-), King of Great Britain and Ireland (see 11.745), succeeded to the British throne on the death of his father King Edward VII., May 6 1910. By the Regency Act 1 910 (a temporary constitutional necessity in view of the fact that his eldest son, Prince Edward, was then not 16) his consort Queen Mary was at once nominated to become regent in the event of a demise of the Crown while the heir to the throne was under age. A new Civil List for the Crown, fixed at £470,000 a year, was approved by Parliament in 1910. An important change in the King's accession declaration was also embodied in an Act of that year, to the satisfaction of his Roman Catholic subjects, the following short and simple formula being substituted for the old " no popery " manifesto which had long been resented by them: " I do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God profess, testify and declare, that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments which secure the Protestant succession to the Throne of my Realm, uphold and maintain the said enactments to the best of my power according to law." The coronation at Westminster Abbey on June 22 1911 was attended by representatives from all parts of the Empire and other countries, and, in order to complete the public assumption of royal authority throughout the United Kingdom, the King and Queen, with the Prince of Wales (as Prince Edward was created on June 23 1910) and Princess Mary, made State visits to Ireland, Wales and Scotland during July. There followed later in the year an important extension of the whole principle of the recognition of Imperial sovereignty in the visit made by their Majesties to India, and the coronation ceremonies at the ancient capital of Delhi (Dec. 12 1911). They left England on Nov. 11 and did not return till Feb. 5 1912.

From the very first, King George and Queen Mary showed in all their actions their earnest desire to use their royal position in the most public-spirited manner. At the death of so active, popular and influential a sovereign as King Edward VII., in the midst of grave parliamentary difficulties, and conditions of social-economic unrest and industrial conflict, the country was fortunate in the fact that so much had already been done to establish the Throne in the hearts of the people as a central and unifying national and Imperial force, distinct and aloof from sectional interests of party or class. Under King George, the Sailor-King, - whose exhortation " Wake up, England!" in the speech he had made in 1901 at the Guildhall, when returning from his colonial tour as Duke of York, had never been forgotten - a further strengthening of this conception of the functions of the Throne was steadily pursued. King George and Queen Mary, assisted by other members of the royal family, devoted themselves on every available occasion, public or private, to the task of making the influence of the court a pure, useful and kindly one in the life of the country. It may briefly be noted that in the summer of 1912, for the first time, State visits were paid to a London music-hall (the Palace) and to Henley Regatta, while the King also went to Lord's on the occasion of the test-match between Australian and South African cricketers, and had the teams presented to him. But the King and Queen were not content with lending themselves, constantly though unostentatiously, to the scenic side of royalty: they mingled graciously and sympathetically with different classes of society, and were ever active in accepting new opportunities of service. Thus Queen Mary, after a royal visit to the Dowlais steel works at Merthyr (June 27 1912), took tea with a Welsh miner's wife, and during a tour through the industrial districts of Yorks. King George went down the Elsecar colliery (July 9 1912), and showed himself no less handy in wielding a pick than in bringing down grouse on a Scottish moor. Such incidents, which naturally attracted attention early in the reign, became too familiar with the public in later years to need chronicling in detail. The personal tastes both of King George and Queen Mary were known to lie in characteristically British domestic directions, while the King's well-known hobby of stamp-collecting 1 and his long-standing reputation as one of the best shots in the country, were typical links with popular interests of one sort or another. Facilities were wisely extended to the press to give contemporary publicity to the royal doings. Enhanced confidence resulted in the British Throne and its occupants, whose happy domestic relations were, moreover, universally appreci'ated.2 ' From his midshipman days on the " Bacchante," the King had been a keen stamp-collector, his uncle the Duke of Edinburgh having even then been hon. president of the Philatelic Society, London, and being succeeded in that position by King George (while Duke of York) in 1896. The royal collection is the completest in existence, and in 1920 the King, in a message to the Junior Philatelic Society, assured its members of his " unabated interest in stamp-collecting." 2 It is now purely a curious episode in the history of scandalmongering that, at the time when King George came to the Throne, a story was current in various quarters that he had been secretly married before his marriage with the Queen, and that this earlier wife was alive, though for dynastic purposes the union was ignored. In 1893 this cruel allegation had been privately contradicted, at Queen Victoria's desire, by confidants of the royal family such as Sir Theodore Martin and Canon Dalton, in letters to various people of influence and newspaper editors (including the present writer); but it was revived, to the King's natural annoyance, and with the danger of public misconception and ill-feeling if it were not finally disproved, in 1910. It was hoped that the public contradictions authoritatively given by the Dean of Norwich (Dr. Russell Wakefield) in a speech in July 1910, by Mr. W. T. Stead in the Review of Reviews for that month, and by Sir Arthur Bigge (afterwards Lord Stamfordham) in Reynolds' Newspaper (Oct. 30 1910) would put an end to it; but it was repeated in a definite way by a certain Edward Mylius in Nov. and Dec. 1910 in a " republican " paper called the Liberator, published in Paris and circulated in England under the auspices of the Indian revolutionary Krish The political history of the period from 1910 onwards is dealt with in the article English History (see also British Empire). With a less popular sovereign on the throne, the development of the domestic political crisis which was obviously impending when King Edward died might have created more embarrassment than actually was produced in the public mind, as regards the functioning of the Crown in relation to parliamentary government. It was generally felt, indeed, that Mr. Asquith's use of the royal prerogative in 1911, however justifiable on political grounds, in securing the King's assent to the creation of enough new peers, if necessary, for overcoming the resistance of the House of Lords to the Parliament bill, involved a more uncomfortably violent disclosure of the domination of the parliamentary executive than had ever before been regarded as convenable in the working of English party government. But the responsibility for the use of the royal prerogative for such a purpose was, by common consent, put upon the Government; and the political bearing of the incident on the constitutional position of the Crown was effectively minimized in the controversy between the parties. On the other hand, the value of the influence of the Crown as standing above and outside domestic party politics, continued to be emphasized, alike by such incidents as the Buckingham Palace conference in 1914 on the Irish deadlock, though unhappily abortive; by the increased momentum given throughout the British Empire to the progress of its conception as an Imperial Commonwealth of self-governing nations with a common sovereign; and by the events of the World War, during which the King and the royal family in various ways consolidated their hold on the loyal affections of the British people.

From the opening of the World War in Aug. 1914 the King and Queen, jointly and severally, set themselves to make the royal influence an encouragement to every form of national activity in aid of the fighting forces. The nation found in the Throne, from the moment when war started, the embodiment of its will-to-victory and of its patriotic devotion. Queen Mary herself gave a lead to the war work of women, details of which are given elsewhere (see Women'S War Work), in many notable directions. King George's own messages to the nation, during the war years and afterwards, were admirably conceived navarma. In this the writer declared that the King, when a midshipman, had in 1890 married at Malta a daughter of Admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour; that his subsequent marriage in 1893 was therefore bigamous and shameful, and the Church, by conniving at it, had been guilty of subordinating its own principles to reasons of State. Copies of the Liberator were seized by the police, and Mylius was arrested and on Feb. I 191 tried for criminal libel before the Lord Chief Justice and a special jury. Evidence was given by Sir M. Culme-Seymour and others absolutely contradicting the whole fabrication. The admiral had no daughter whom the King could have married in 1890; one of his daughters died unmarried in 1895 without ever knowing the King, the other (Mrs. Napier) had not met him between 1879 and 1898; the King was not at Malta between 1888 and 1901; the Maltese registers were produced, and contained no record. of any such marriage. Mylius refused to give evidence, his claim that the King ought to appear as a witness to be cross-examined by him being overruled; and the jury promptly found him guilty. He was sentenced to the maximum penalty of a year's imprisonment; and the attorney-general then read a statement signed by the King that he had never been married to anyone but the Queen and that he would have attended in person to give evidence if the law officers of the Crown had not insisted that it would be unconstitutional for him to do so. The whole affair caused naturally a great sensation, but the effect was excellent, and the straightforward action taken by the King - for it was known that the Government doubted the expediency of bringing the matter into court - confirmed public opinion as to the character of the new occupant of the throne. He had insisted on having the truth told, and was not prepared to forgo his rights as a man simply because, as a king, he was above the law.

The exposure of this malicious libel may indeed be said to have put an end, once for all, to all forms of personal aspersion on the King's private character; for, coincidently, no less absurd stories had been current that he drank too much, - a charge which was utter nonsense to all his personal friends and acquaintances, who knew him ever to have been the most abstemious of men. Still, in spite of its gross absurdity, the charge was made, and had been publicly denounced as unfounded by the Dean of Norwich in the speech already referred to in July 1910. After the Mylius case this calumny, too, sank into the oblivion it merited.

for initiating or supporting the special efforts required from the public from time to time in the organization of the home front-notably his messages appealing for voluntary national service (Oct. 23 1915), compulsory military service (May 25 1916), strengthening of the volunteer forces against the risk of invasion (Jan. 27 1917), general economy in food (May 2 1917), the observance of a special day of prayer on Sunday Jan. 6 1918 (Nov. 7 1917), and those on the victory itself (Nov. 19 1918), on the need for subscriptions to the Victory Loan (June 12 1919), on the signing of the Peace Treaty (June 28 1919), appealing for support to the " King's National Roll " of employers who would take discharged soldiers into their employ (Aug. 18 1919), for the League of Nations (Oct. 13 1919), and for the celebration of the first anniversary of Armistice Day, by two minutes' silence on the iith hour of the i ith day of the I ith month of the year (Nov. 6 1919). A collection of the King's numerous speeches and replies to addresses, and his constant messages to the Dominions and India, to the army and the navy, or in such special connexions as the repatriation of prisoners of war or the success of The Times' Red Cross fund, would make a bulky volume, and were always full of inspiration and good cheer for those who received them. The King and Queen regularly went in state to prorogue and open Parliament in successive sessions, and on frequent occasions royal visits were paid during the war to important factories and workshops at the munitions centres throughout the country, as well as to shipbuilding yards, hospitals and other institutions engaged in war-work of one kind or another. The King's inspections of provincial industrial establishments included visits to Glasgow and the Clyde (May 1915), Coventry and Birmingham (July 1915), Leeds and Sheffield (Sept. 1915), Nottingham (Dec. 1916), Liverpool, Manchester, Barrow and Gretna (May 1917), Newcastle-on-Tyne, Hull and Rosyth (June 1917), Glasgow for a third time (Sept. 1917), Bristol for a second time (Nov. 1917), Bradford, Huddersfield and Leeds (May 1918).

The King was also constantly inspecting the forces at home, visiting the various camps, and holding investitures for conferring honours and decorations-indeed the total number of war decorations personally conferred by him from the outbreak of war up to the end of 1919 reached the colossal figure of 50,669. Moreover, periodical visits were made by the King to the Grand Fleet (July 8-Io 1915; June 18 1916; June 27 1917; and July 23 1918), and to the battle-front in France (Nov. 29-Dec. 5 1914; Oct. 21-Nov. I 1915; Aug. 7-Aug. 15 1916; July 3-July 14 1917; March 28-30 and Aug. 5-13 1918). It was during his visit to the front in 1915 that, on Oct. 28, King George met with a somewhat serious accident, which laid him up for some weeks, through his horse rearing and falling backwards on him, being startled by the sudden cheering of a regiment whom he was inspecting; but after being safely brought back home he made a good recovery from his injuries. On the 1917 visit Queen Mary accompanied the King to France, and returned with him, but made a separate tour while there. Finally, after the Armistice, the King made another visit to Paris and to the battle-fields, Nov. 27-Dec. 10 1918, and had an enthusiastic reception in the French capital (Nov. 28-30). On each of his last two French visits a distance of about Boo m. was covered by motor-car.

In other directions during the war period, the King's desire to set an example of patriotic self-abnegation was illustrated by two specially notable actions-his announcement on March 30 1915 that the serving of alcoholic liquor for his own use and that of the royal family and household would be suspended (as from April 6), in order to assist in the movement for increased temperance and economy in wartime, and his spontaneous gift, on March 31 1916, of £ioo,000 to the Exchequer out of the Privy Purse, to be used as the Government might decide in relief of war expenditure. The long record of royal attendances at notable ceremonies included such occasions as the funeral services at St. Paul's for Lord Roberts (Nov. 19 1914) and Lord Kitchener (June 13 1916), the commemoration service there on the entry of the United States into the war (April 20 1917), the Albert Hall commemoration of the first Seven Divisions (Dec. 15 1917), the thanksgiving at St. Paul's on Their Majesties' silver wedding (July 6 1918), the presentation to the King at Buckingham Palace by the special Japanest mission of the sword and badge of a Japanese field-marshal (Oct. 29 1918), the U.S. navy and army baseball match at Stamford Bridge (July 4 1918), the Drury Lane matinee of the Shakespeare tercentenary celebration (May 2 1916), and Their Majesties' visit to the Bank of England and the Stock Exchange (Dec. 18 1917). On the occasion of Their Majesties' silver wedding, the King and Queen were received at the Guildhall. (July 6 1918) and were presented with a cheque for £53,000, subscribed by the citizens of London, to be devoted to charities by Their Majesties' wish, together with a silver tankard once owned by Charles II.

On July 17 1917 it was announced that King George V. had abandoned all German titles for himself and his family. At the same time a proclamation was issued to the effect that henceforth the royal house of Great Britain and Ireland would be known, not as the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but as the house of Windsor. It had previously been announced (June 20 1917) that the King had decided that those princes of his family who were British subjects but bore German titles should relinquish those titles in favour of British names. The following peerages were consequently conferred :-The Duke of Teck and Prince Alexander of Teck, brothers of Queen Mary, adopted the surname of Cambridge, in allusion to their descent from the Duke of Cambridge, seventh son of George III., and became respectively Marquess of Cambridge and Earl of Athlone; Prince Louis of Battenberg (see 3.53 1), brother of Queen Victoria's son-in-law Prince Henry of Battenberg, adopted the surname of Mountbatten, and became Marquess of Milford Haven,. his eldest son assuming the courtesy title of Earl of Medina; while the sons of Princess Henry of Battenberg, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria, also adopted the surname of Mountbatten, the eldest, Prince Alexander, receiving the title of Marquess of Carisbrooke. Princess Henry of Battenberg herself resumed the style of Princess Beatrice.

With the return of peace it was possible for the more normal activities of court life to be resumed on the lines already familiar before the war, but in the long list of later royal functions some stand out typically as worthy of record for their special appeal to contemporary public interest. Immediately after the Armistice in 1918, the King and Queen on successive days made popular progresses through different sections of London, and received general ovations, in carriage drives through the city (Nov. II), to a special thanksgiving at St. Paul's (Nov. 12), through the East End (Nov. 13), the south (Nov. 14), the north (Nov. 15), the north-west (Nov. 18) and the south-west (Nov. 22). On Dec. 27 a great banquet was given in honour of President Wilson at Buckingham Palace, where he and Mrs. Wilson were staying with the King and Queen. During 1919, mention may also be made of Their Majesties' visit (March 4) to Westminster school, to witness the " tossing of the pancake " on Shrove Tuesday; the King's presentation of a cup to the New Zealand Rugby football team at Twickenham after their match against a French army team (April 19); Their Majesties' presence at the thanksgiving at St. Paul's on the signing of the Peace Treaty (July 6), and at the river procession (sea services commemoration) on the Thames (Aug. 4); the King's banquets at Buckingham Palace to the Shah of Persia (Oct. 31), to the President of the French Republic (Nov. io), and to the Prince of Wales on his return from his world tour (Dec. i); and the King's visit to the Oxford and Cambridge Rugby football match (Dec. 9). As time went on the King's long-standing interest in sport was indeed regularly shown by his presence at the chief popular events, whether at race meetings, football or cricket; and public appreciation of this royal interest in sport was enhanced by the way in which the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York (as the King's second son, Prince Albert, was created in 1920) were also taking an active part in it on their own account. On no such occasion was popular enthusiasm shown more emphatically than in the reception given to the King and the Duke of York at Stamford Bridge on April 23 1921, when the King presented the Football Association's cup to the Tottenham Hotspur team on its victory over the Wolverhampton Wanderers in the final tie. On June 21-2 1921, the King and Queen visited Belfast, going and returning by sea, in order that His Majesty might inaugurate the new Northern Irish Parliament under Sir James Craig's premiership. In Dec. the engagement of Princess Mary to Viscount Lascelles, son of the Earl of Harewood, was a happy event in the Royal Family. (H. C11.)

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