King George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George Windsor1) (December 14, 1895 - February 6, 1952), was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of other commonwealth realms from 1936 to 1952. Generally known within his family as "Bertie" and to the public before becoming king as Prince Albert, he was the second son of the then- Duke of York (later George V of the United Kingdom), and his duchess, later Queen Mary. Prince Albert was created Duke of York, Earl of Inverness, and Baron Killarney in 1920, the same peerages that his father had held from 1892 to 1901.
There seemed no likelihood of his ever attaining the throne, because his elder brother, the bright and popular Prince Edward, was ahead of him in the line of succession. Accordingly, Prince Albert was allowed to serve in the Royal Navy during World War I and had a certain amount of freedom in his choice of wife. He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923, after she had turned him down several times.
King George VI
King of the United Kingdom
of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (1936-52)
King of Ireland (1936-1949)
Emperor of India (1936-1948)
Because of the distance between them and the throne, the Duke and Duchess of York were able to bring up their two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, in a relatively normal environment, without the pomp and circumstance that might otherwise have surrounded them. Albert was a shy man, who suffered throughout his life from a severe stammer. He was dismayed when his elder brother David, having acceded to the throne in 1936 as King Edward VIII, decided to abdicate, leaving him to take on the crown. His Coronation at Westminster Abbey occurred on May 12, 1937 and upon taking the throne, he chose the name "George VI", partly to comply with Queen Victoria's wish that no king of England have the name "Albert" and partly to restore confidence in the monarchy by using the same name as his father.
A few years later, World War II broke out, and the royal family, whose popularity had been waning, sought to set an example and were a decisive factor in keeping up the nation's spirits. The king's morale-boosting Christmas broadcast to the nation, early in the war, went down in history.
After the war, the king's health deteriorated rapidly. He was suffering from lung cancer and last appeared in public at London Airport to see his daughter Elizabeth off on a tour of Africa. He died suddenly at Sandringham House on February 6, 1952, and is buried at Windsor Castle. His elder daughter, still in Africa, succeeded him as Queen Elizabeth II. At the exact moment of succession, she was actually up a tree - in a tree-top hotel; possibly a unique circumstance for any such event.
King George VI also served as the last King of Ireland in accordance with the provisions of the (Irish) External Relations Act, 1936, until its repeal and the coming into force of the Republic of Ireland Act, 1948, in April 1949. Though some questioned whether the former Act actually made him King of Ireland, that fact was explicitly acknowledged in a debate in the Irish Senate in December 1948 by then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) John A. Costello, himself a former Irish Attorney-General. It was also accepted by then Irish President, Sean T. O'Kelly. Current Irish president Mary McAleese attended the funeral of his widow, Queen Elizabeth, the last Queen of Ireland, in 2002.
King George VI was also the last Emperor of India before independence was granted in 1947.
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1 At the time of his birth, Prince Albert's surname was Wettin and the Royal House name was Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. In 1917, both the dynastic name and personal surname were changed to Windsor owing to their Germanic origins (the UK being at war with Germany).