It’s eighty years ago that King George V died, on 20 Janaury 1936.
He died before the start of WWII, although the signs of war were troubling, just as they had been when he became King in May 1910. Although a first cousin of both German Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the Kings family connections could not prevent the catastrophe to come.
In 1936, at age 70, the King had been in failing health for some time with a chronic bronchial complaint, made worse because of his “weary heart” due to an earlier infection or abscess in his lungs in 1928 (brought on no doubt by his heavy smoking). His final illness was brief, however. It was only four days before his death that the Queen sent for Lord Dawson, the royal physician. Dawson’s records, released in November 1986 showed that he administered two injections of morphine and cocaine at about 11 o’clock on the night of 20 January 1936, just after he had written a brief medical bulletin that declared, “The King’s life is moving peacefully toward its close.”
“A Peaceful Ending at Midnight,”said the headline the next morning in the newspaper.
Many believe the King was euthanised, probably so that his death would make the morning rather than the afternoon paper, and therefore be more dignified. Sounds bizarre to me.
Here is an account of his death from”The Australian Womans Weekly” at the time.
We will probably never really know what sort of a man he was – grumpy and domineering like Michael Gambon’s version in “The Kings Speech”, or did he lack(ed) intellectual curiosity and sophistication – but the King seemed to be well loved by the people of Great Britain and Australia.
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