George VI, born 14-12-1895 in Sandringham House, was not expected to inherit the throne and spent his early life in the shadow of his elder brother, Edward, who died age 77, on 28-05-1972. He served in the Royal Navy during World War I, and after the war took on the usual round of public engagements. When king Edward chose abdication in preference to abandoning his marriage plans, Albert became king, a position he was reluctant to accept. He wrote in his diary, “When I told my mother what had happened, I broke down and sobbed like a child.” Albert assumed the style and title of King George VI to emphasize continuity with his father and restore confidence in the monarchy. They visited the 1939 New York World’s Fair and stayed with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
at the White House and at his estate at Hyde Park, NY. 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 07-09-1940, killed about one thousand civilians, mostly in the East End. 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. He visited France in December 1939, North Africa and Malta in June 1943, Normandy
in June 1944, southern Italy in July 1944, and the Low Countries in October 1944 On 13-09-1944, the King and Queen narrowly avoided death when two German bombs exploded in a courtyard at Buckingham Palace whilst 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 royal family were portrayed as sharing the same dangers and deprivations as the rest of the country. In 1940, Winston Churchill
replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister, though personally George would have preferred to appoint Lord Halifax, who died age 78, on 23-12-1959. In 1945, crowds shouted “We want the King!” in front of Buckingham Palace during the Victory in Europe Day celebrations. In an echo of Arthur Nevil Chamberlain´s
appearance, the King invited Churchill to appear with him on the balcony to public acclaim. In a time when royals were expected to marry fellow royals, it was unusual that Albert had a great deal of freedom in choosing a prospective wife. In 1920, he met for the first time since childhood Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. He became determined to marry her. She rejected his proposal twice, in 1921 and 1922, reportedly because she was reluctant to make the sacrifices necessary to become a member of the royal family. In the words of Lady Elizabeth’s mother, Albert would be “made or marred” by his choice of wife. After a protracted courtship, Elizabeth agreed to marry him. The Duke and Duchess of York had two children: Elizabeth