George was born in London during the reign of Queen Victoria and was third in the line of succession behind both his father and elder brother Prince Albert Victor. He served in the Royal Navy from 1877 to 1892 until the unexpected death of his brother placed him directly in line for the throne. Upon his grandmother’s death in 1901, his father ascended the throne as Edward VII and George was made Prince of Wales. He was crowned king-emperor upon the death of his father in 1910.
George's turbulent reign saw Britain's defeat in the Weltkrieg to Germany, the economic crisis of the 1920s, the collapse of the British Empire, and the British Revolution of 1925. In 1917, he renamed the royal family from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor in response to anti-German sentiment. After signing the Peace with Honour in 1919, George struggled to hold the fractious empire together in the face of economic stagnation and decline. He was forced to flee the home isles during the British Revolution of 1925 for the Dominion of Canada, where he currently resides in exile with his family.
His heir apparent is Edward Albert, Prince of Wales.
George Frederick Ernest Albert was born on 3 June 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 honorary.
Duke of York
On 24 May 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 22 January 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 9 November 1901, George was made 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 6 May 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 22 June 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 17 July 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 making 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 refused to let 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 6 July 1893 at the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace in London. They had six children:
- Edward, Prince of Wales born on 23 June 1894
- Albert, Duke of York born on 14 December 1895, married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, born on 4 August 1900 and they have two daughters
- Princess Elizabeth, born 21 April 1926
- Princess Margaret, born 21 August 1930
- Mary, Princess Royal, born on 25 April 1897, married Henry George Charles Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood, born on 9 September 1882 and they have two sons
- George Henry Hubert Lascelles, born 7 February 1923
- Gerald David Lascelles, born 21 August 1924
- Henry, Duke of Gloucester, born on 31 March 1900, married Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott, born 25 December 1901
- George, Duke of Kent born on 20 December 1902, married Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, born 13 December 1906
- John, born on 12 July 1905 and died from seizures on 18 January 1919
Prime Ministers during his reign
- H. H. Asquith (1908-1916), Liberal Party
- David Lloyd George (1916-1919), Liberal Party
- Bonar Law (1919-1923), Conservative Party
- Ramsay MacDonald (1923-1924), Labour Party
- Austen Chamberlain (1924-1925), Conservative Party