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Published on July 23rd, 2015 | by Sarah Jubb

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George V And The Great War

George V took to the British throne in 1910 after the death of his father, King Edward VII. He was the grandson of Queen Victoria, the longest reigning monarch in British history, and he only became the heir after his elder brother died suddenly. Upon taking the crown he became the King of the United Kingdom and its British Dominions, as well as the Emperor of India.

Due to the fact that his brother, Prince Albert Victor, was expected to be king, George instead joined the Royal Navy and was in active service all over the world. He had to leave this career when his brother died as he was now the heir to the throne, meaning he had to take up the duties of his elder brother.

A Constitutional Crisis

He married his brother’s fiancée, Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, a year after his death and they had six children together. George was also an avid stamp collector and he helped to expand the Royal Philatelic Collection, paying large prices for rare stamps. A visit to India in 1911 marked the first time a King-Emperor had made this journey.

At the time of his accession there was a constitutional crisis in the British government over the attempt to curb the House of Lords power. The Liberal government managed to gain the promise of King George that more Liberal peers would be created in order to overcome the Conservative opposition. As a result, Parliament Act 1911 was passed and removed the power of the Lords to veto bills, with a few exceptions.

The Great War

The most important aspect of George’s rule was the First World War which began in 1914. Kaiser Wilhelm II was George’s first cousin and the prevalence of German royalty in the British royal family clashed with the anti-German sentiments at the time. As a result of this, in 1917 George issued a royal proclamation that officially changed the British royal house from House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the more British sounding House of Windsor.

He was also popular among his people for his many visits to the troops and hospitals, showing a caring side to the monarchy. The Russian Revolution of 1917 saw the overthrowing of another of George’s first cousins, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. There were initially attempts to give the Russian imperial family asylum, but this fell through and they were eventually killed by Bolsheviks in 1918. Some of the extended imperial family were rescued and brought to Britain.

The Russian imperial family was only one of many royal families in Europe to fall after World War One, which saw many revolutions across the continent oust their royalty. It also saw huge change for Britain as nationalists in Ireland fought for independence, resulting in Ireland being partitioned in 1922 into the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland.

Changes in the Empire

The Statute of Westminster in 1931 allowed the British Dominions to pass laws without having to refer to the United Kingdom laws, giving them more independence from the UK. It also meant that any changes to the succession of the throne, such as the Perth Agreement in 2011 that saw all the Commonwealth nations agreeing to replace male-preference primogeniture with absolute primogeniture, allowing females to take precedence over younger sons and also allowing ending the ban on marrying Catholics.

King George V died in 1936 after years of various illnesses, only a year after he had celebrated his Silver Jubilee. He was succeeded by his son Edward, who became King Edward VIII and caused a constitutional crisis before the year was out due to his marriage proposal to the American Wallis Simpson.

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