Sunday, 23 February 2014

Three Royal Cousins: George V

File:George V of the UK (head).pngGeorge V was never meant to be king. He was the spare and always destined to remain in the shadow of his older brother, Albert Victor, known as Eddy to his family. Sadly, Eddy died of influenza in 1892. And so George's life changed.

George, who had taken a back seat to his brother, had to slide into the Prince of Wales' shoes, a role that came with an enormous amount of responsibility. It was not a position he wanted, and just like his cousin Tsar Nicholas II, George had no desire to be king. Nor was he prepared for it. George had been tutored alongside Eddy but joined the navy whilst his brother went on to higher education. Adding to his insufficient education, George spoke no foreign languages, a must for any royal. Nicholas II, for example, spoke his native Russian as well as English, French and German. His English was so flawless that he spoke it with no hint of an accent.

The truth was, George was a simple Englishman with simple interests. He liked stamp collecting and hunting, preferring to stay at home rather than carry out his extensive royal duties. His dullness, family values and lack of extravagance were, in many ways, the key factors in deciding the fate of the British monarchy. As Germany and Russia eagerly removed their kings from their thrones, George remained firmly planted in his. He and his beloved wife Queen Mary (who had been betrothed to Eddy just weeks prior to his death) were to set the foundations for the modern British royal family. George is, of course, known for introducing the Royal Christmas Speech, a tradition that continues to this day.

History hasn't been exactly kind to the king and queen, particularly after the release of The King's Speech. George and Mary, known as May, were a devoted couple, although they appear to history to be distant and cold. The couple had a complex relationship with their children. They were very much typical upper-class parents of their time, leaving childcare mostly in the hands of their servants. Mary loved her children, just like George, but the couple were nevertheless strict with them. Mary and George went on to have six children, five boys and a girl. 

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David - Known as David, he is the first King in English history to have 'willingly' abdicated. David went on to become Edward VIII, the king who abdicated for love. His passionate obsession with Wallis Simpson is well known and rocked the very foundations of the royal family. However, it was not all romance. David was extremely dependent on Wallis, and historians have now suggested that he may have had autistic tendencies. Certainly, David seems to have struggled with anorexia and extreme behaviour throughout his life. David is a Hebrew name meaning 'beloved'.

File:The children of George V, 1910.jpgAlbert Frederick Arthur George - History was to repeat itself. The second son, one who had no interest in being king, was to once again ascend the British throne. Bertie, as George VI was known to his family, had no desire to be monarch. David was the charismatic one, the one who was always at parties mingling with high society. Bertie had a stammer, was usually unwell, and preferred to remain in the shadows of his brother, the heir. But it was not to be. With David's abdication, Bertie dutifully but reluctantly stepped into the spotlight. His daughter, Elizabeth, is still on the throne and has seen the British royal family through some of its most difficult moments. Bertie was named after his great-grandfather, Queen Victoria's Consort, Price Albert. His name means noble and bright.

Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary - Her name would have been much more adventurous had Queen Victoria had her way. George's only daughter was born in the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, and so Queen Victoria would have preferred for the child to be named Diamond. The couple stuck with the traditional and chose four family names. Mary, as she was known, married Henry, Viscount Lascelles. There were rumours that Mary was forced by her parents to marry Lascelles, who was 15 years her senior. Her brother David was certainly set against the marriage, but the wedding went ahead nevertheless. There are many theories for the origin of Mary and her meanings, such as 'beloved' and 'sea of bitterness'.

Henry William Frederick Albert -As the third son there was less pressure put upon Henry. He joined the army and had a successful military career, becoming Governor-General of Australia, a post which he filled for 2 years. Henry, like Bertie, was shy and not very comfortable in large crowds. Henry married Alice Christabel Montagu Douglas Scott, daughter of the 7th Duke of Buccleuch & Queensberry, Scotland’s largest landowner. Henry means home ruler.

George Edward Alexander Edmund - George could have been a great scandal to the prim and proper image of the royal family. He was bisexual and had a number of affairs, both with women and men. Although he had three legitimate children with his wife Princess Marina of Green, George is also rumoured to have fathered two illegitimate children from his affairs with English author, Barbara Cartland, and American socialite, Kiki Preston. George died in 1934 in an air crash on active service. George means farmer.

John Charles Francis - The youngest son, John was afflicted with a number of illnesses. He suffered from epilepsy and as he grew it became increasingly evident that he also suffered from learning difficulties and maybe even autism. He was kept away from much of the public eye, leading many to believe that he was hidden because of his conditions and the shame he brought to the family. It was true that John was a secluded little boy and saw mainly only his family. Nevertheless, his parents seemed that have held a great fondness for him. He died from a seizure aged 13. John means God is gracious.

Grandchildren of George V

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary
Margaret Rose
Alexandra Helen Elizabeth Olga Christabel

George Henry Hubert 
Gerald David
William Henry Andrew Frederick
Richard Alexander Walter George
Edward George Nicholas Paul Patrick
Michael George Charles Franklin  

Images: George V in Coronation Robes by Luke Fields, and The Children of George V, 1910.