King George V in World War 1 I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?
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King George V in World War 1 I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

August 24, 2019

His personality was reserved and unassuming,
and yet he was monarch over the largest empire the world has ever seen. When the war came he saw his duty as the face
of determination for his people. King George V. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to a Great War
Bio special episode about George V, King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions,
and Emperor of India. George was born June 3, 1865, during the 64
year reign of his grandmother, Queen Victoria. George Frederick Ernest Albert was the second
son of the Prince and Princess of Wales, the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. In 1871, he and his older brother Albert Victor,
whom the family called Eddy, were entrusted to the care of the tutor Reverend John Neale
Dalton, who would form a lifelong friendship with both boys. There does seem to be a certain lack in their
education, though, as neither ever learned a foreign language, unusual for a monarch
at the time, and misspellings, poor grammar, and syntax errors appeared in George’s correspondence
and journals for his whole life. George, as the second son of the Prince of
Wales, was not in direct line for succession, so almost from the moment of his birth, it
had been decided that he would make a career in the navy. George was 12 years old when he joined the
Royal Navy, together with Eddy. At first, his training was confined to England,
but from 1879 to 1882, he traveled to Gibraltar, the Balearic Islands, Palermo, Madeira, Barbados,
Martinique, Jamaica, Bermuda, Ireland, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, the Falklands, Australia, New
Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon, Egypt, Palestine, and Greece. En route, he and his brother each acquired
three tattoos, including a red and blue dragon on their arms. Yep, the king with the dragon tattoo. Soon after, Eddy went to Cambridge; George
continued in the navy. George was actually quite a capable young
commander, first of Torpedo Boat 79 in home waters, and then of the HMS Thrush, based
in Halifax, in 1891. The following year, Eddy came down with influenza
and died, the day before his 28th birthday and a month before his marriage. George was now in direct line of succession
to the throne, and his naval career was suddenly over. Created a Duke, he had some official duties,
though the most important role of an heir to an hereditary monarchy was to marry and
reproduce. Queen Victoria sidestepped the possible lengthy
process of finding a mate for George by strongly suggesting that he marry Eddy’s former fiancée,
Mary, the Princess of Teck. Princess Mary was the granddaughter of the
Duke of Wurttemberg. Now, he had married a Countess, but according
to succession laws she was viewed as non-royal, so the marriage was morganatic. Despite this, George married her – she was
also his second cousin once removed – June 6, 1893. The couple moved into York Cottage. Thing is, his mother Alexandra and her three
daughters were not welcoming to Mary. Much of the court also looked down on Mary
because of her “common” blood. So Mary withdrew into herself and the two
lived a quiet life in the country, more like the upper middle class than royalty. Queen Victoria died in 1901 and Edward VII
succeeded her as king. George, now the Prince of Wales and direct
heir to the throne, spent much of the next decade touring the empire. He was particularly troubled by the casual
racism he saw in India and for the rest of his life took an active interest in Indian
affairs. As King he would return to Indian for a Durbar
– a king’s court of formal and informal meetings with his subjects, and during the
first few months of the war, he allowed the Royal Pavilion at Brighton to be converted
into a hospital for wounded Indian troops. In fact, his somewhat egalitarian attitude
was one of the first things George brought to his reign when Edward died in 1911 and
George became King George V. For example, he refused to make the traditional
Accession Declaration until the anti-Catholic rhetoric that had been part of it since 1689
was removed. As King, George continued to enjoy his favorite
pastimes of stamp collecting and hunting. Many courtiers were irked that he did not
continue most of the grand social events of his father. On August 4th, 1914, on the advice of his
ministers, George V declared war on Germany. Crowds outside Buckingham Palace cheered. George’s reserved social life was fairly
well suited to the demands of war, though his ministers implored him to show more optimism. He responded that, “we sailors never smile
while on duty.” He never minded being thought glum, and remarked
of his wartime activities, “I do things because they are my duty, not as propaganda.” He deplored many of the methods of modern
war, calling zeppelin raids on Britain simple murder. As for German submarines sinking merchant
vessels, he said, “It is disgusting that naval officers could do such things.” He really believed that Britain should retain
the moral high ground and when British ships flew the flag of the neutral US to avoid attack,
said that he’d rather sink under his own colors. He also, perhaps because of his own German
heritage, tried to protect his subjects of German extraction or bearing German names. Despite his efforts, Admiral Prince Louis
of Battenberg was forced to resign as First Sea Lord by public opinion about his Austrian
and German background. Lord Haldane, who had actually formed and
organized the British Expeditionary Force, the Territorial Army, and the General Staff
was also forced to resign because of comments he’d made in 1912 about Germany being his
“spiritual home”, since attending University there four decades earlier. George’s efforts might have been more successful
had he done more on separating the British monarchy from German relations at war with
it. He was opposed to removing the Kaiser and
his family as honorary commanders of the British units they were actively engaged in fighting
against, and pretty much everyone was shocked when he said Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein
was not really fighting on the side of the Germans since he had only been put in charge
of a camp of British prisoners. So there were plenty of people who questioned
his loyalty to Britain. George was offended by such questions. When H.G. Wells called his court “alien
and uninspiring”, George said “I may be uninspiring, but I’ll be damned if I’m
alien.” In 1917, George changed the name of is family
from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor, which it remains today. In response, the Kaiser said that he was going
to attend the opera, “The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha”, which is pretty funny. Funnier than the Kaiser usually was, actually. The King’s relatives also got Anglicized
names. Louis of Battenberg became Louis Mountbatten,
for example. Over the course of the war, George would make
450 visits to his troops, 300 to hospitals, and over 200 to munitions factories. He personally awarded over 50,000 decorations. His family would serve as well; his son, the
future King Edward VIII, in the army, and his son, the future King George VI, in the
navy. His health began to be negatively affected
by all the travel, and he even broke his pelvis after being thrown from a horse during an
inspection in France in 1915. By 1918, his suffering took a noticeable physical
toll. Still, apart from his public appearances,
his role in the decision making and planning of the war was very limited. He actually saw himself as a constitutional
monarch more as a mediator, and he did express his opinions regularly to the Prime Ministers
of the day. Asquith valued his advice, like removing John
French as Commander in Chief; Lloyd George mostly ignored it. He was very much opposed to offensives away
from the western front. East Africa, Salonika, Gallipoli, and Mesopotamia
were for him distractions. He was quite happy when his old friend Sir
Douglas Haig succeeded French as commander, and he stood by Haig throughout the war. When peace came, he was overjoyed, and he
and Queen Mary waved to the crowds from the balcony at Buckingham Palace night after night. He never forgave his cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm,
for the war, and thought he should be tried for his role in the outbreak of hostilities. And the postwar years didn’t bring George
much peace. He was horrified by the carnage in Ireland,
the Civil Lists were reduced, which brought on a financial crisis for the royal family,
the Commonwealth was formed, on and on. Life kept rolling. All of that is well beyond the scope of this
channel, though. King George V took to his bed January 15,
1936. On the 20th, seeing that he was near death,
his doctor, Lord Dawson, without consulting the royal family, gave him a lethal dosage
of morphine and cocaine just before midnight. This was so his death would be reported in
the morning edition of the Times, and not the “less appropriate… evening journals.” His legacy is simple; unlike most of the other
monarchies of Europe postwar, his survived. His simple tastes and lifestyle were much
more relatable to his subjects than the extravagance of his father, and King George V saw the role
of king as a duty, and his role in a constitutional monarchy as a private voice of advice to his
ministers and as a quiet face of determination to his people. We want to thank Schuyler Ingram and Elbert
Pham for helping with the research for the episode. If you want to learn more about another monarch
leading his country through WW1, you can click right here to watch our episode about Belgium
King Albert I. Check out our subreddit for all kinds of cool
information and community debates about World War 1 and don’t forget to subscribe. See you next time.

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  1. You forgot to mention that George V was the only British King to attend personally his coronation as Emperor of India. Most time they just sent a proxy but not George

  2. Reminds me of an anecdote from Into the Silence, by Wade Davis: "One night late in the war [surgeon] Geoffrey Keynes was operating in a dungeon of a citadel at Doullens on a young soldier whose genitals had been mutilated by a shell fragment. He paused for an instant to rub the sweat from his brow and looked up to see King George V standing at his side, observing the procedure. Without a word or gesture, Keynes turned back to concentrate on his work, utterly ignoring his sovereign."

  3. Could you do one of these on George VI of England? From what I understand he had some military service during WWI.

  4. He was also the last monarch to knight a man on the Battlefield (Sir John Monash)

    In fact, can someone do a special on John Monash as he's said to be the man who won the war.

  5. I'm just impressed that with all the destruction of Europes monarchies, the British monarchy was able to survive both world wars

  6. Said it before and saying it again, that's why I love monarchy.
    There are many others kings that I love as they did way much better than any president could ever do.

  7. George of England, Wilhelm of Germany and Nicholas of Russia = three stooges. Unfortunately, this three caused millions of death not millions of laughs.

  8. 00:02:36,629 –> 00:02:39,930
    Princess Mary was the granddaughter
    of the Duke of Wurttemberg.

    Princess Mary was the daughter of the Duke of Wurttemberg and her father was Francis, Duke of Teck. She was also the granddaughter of King George III of Britain.

  9. Wilhelm II was Chancellor of Oxford University. His portrait used to be on the wall in the Examination Schools; probably still is.

  10. George V may have been progressive for that era but he was not a "constitutional" monarch… the uk has never had a constitutional monarchy

  11. In August 1914 he told his foreign secretary: "You must find a reason for war, Grey".
    Note here, the German leadership had already asked Grey if GB would remain neutral, if Germany did not invade Belgium.
    Grey refused.

    And so off they went.
    A million young men from the Empire to the slaughter…

  12. He never forgive Kaiser Wilhelm about war. But he was the one who declared war against Germany, such an ignorant!

  13. Interestingly no mention was made about the fate of the Romanovs when they were refused safety in England.

  14. This is one of many reincarnations of myself. The never ending cycle of life and death was , is and always will be.

  15. Before the British Royal family became known has the house of 'Windsor ' they were known as sachs coberg cotha because of their family ties to the Kaiser.

  16. The Kaiser had a certain amount of disdain for George's unassuming manner . He kept time with the nouveau riche in England . Wilhelm though royal blood should never go yaghting with well to do merchant , calling one of them a green grocer .

  17. Sounds like one of the better kings, we need more personable leaders than our current elites who think only of themselves.

  18. If he lived 3 more years, it would've been interesting to see what he had to say about a second war with Germany.

  19. I wonder also how responsible he felt for the deaths of the Tsar and his family for refusing them asylum. This may have weighed heavily on him, too.

  20. Alexandra of Denmark was the sister of Dagmar of Denmark who was Nicholas II's mother. Edward the VII was the son of Queen Victoria of England and Queen Alexandra of Russia- Nicholas II's wife was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

  21. “ Yup a King with a dragon tattoo”, loved the wedding picture; actually the whole Bio is terrific 👍
    Thanks for the post. ..morale high ground even during war, an oxymoron ?

  22. My love for the late nineteenth century brought me here! After all the ww1 has is routes in that period in history. Great show I wouldn't ask for better channel! Thanks

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