King George V King George and Queen Mary: The Royals Who Rescued the Monarchy


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King George V

Examining the legacy of a couple who saved the monarchy from disaster. King George V was an unlikely moderniser but his innovations helped the monarchy survive.


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In November 1918, King George V and Queen Mary celebrated victory

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with their people after the dark years of the First World War.

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But the newsreel images of a confident king and queen

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amongst a contented people were deceptive.

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Britain had won the war, but for the British monarchy,

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a new battle at home was beginning after the catastrophic conflict.

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With crowned heads falling across Europe,

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revolution in Russia and militant socialism on the march in Britain,

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the monarchy faced one of the most dangerous moments in its history.

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King George V and Queen Mary

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could not have been a more unlikely pair of saviours.

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Born and brought up in the Victorian age,

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they were conservative to their fingertips,

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yet in the face of unstoppable change,

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they created the House of Windsor

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and forged a new relationship with the British people.

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They were innovators, which everyone's forgotten.

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They didn't mind updating the monarchy.

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George and Mary put the Royal Family on a pedestal as an example to be followed,

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and they embraced democratic reform.

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This is really a new take on the monarchy.

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They're having a direct relationship between the monarchy and the people -

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the people's King.

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But as parents, George and Mary were far less successful

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and in their dysfunctional family life, they courted disaster.

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This two-part portrait of King George and Queen Mary

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examines the extraordinary legacy of the king and queen

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who shaped our monarchy and whose influence persists to this day.

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On the face of it, Prince George was hardly the ideal candidate

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for the task of steering the monarchy into the modern age.

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For the first 35 years of his life, George's grandmother,

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Queen Victoria, sat on the throne and dominated the Royal Family.

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As merely the second son of the Prince of Wales,

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George wasn't expected to become king at all.

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And his upbringing did little to equip him for the challenge.

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George was barely educated at all, really.

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In fact, the general feeling was that royalty was above education,

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so education as such, no, culture, no -

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he confused later in life the word "highbrow" with "eyebrow"

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and indeed, his official biographer, Harold Nicolson,

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said that he had the intellectual capacities of a railway porter.

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In keeping with the time-honoured royal tradition,

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George got his education on the high seas.

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At the age of 12, he was packed off with his older brother,

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Prince Eddy, to train as a naval cadet.

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Prince George loved the Navy.

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The structure and order of the Navy sort of gave him a personality

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when he hadn't really had much of one before

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and I think he liked the rules,

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the neatness and the finish of the whole thing.

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Certainly, far from objecting to the restrictions of the naval life,

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he took to it like a duck to water.

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I think he saw a great logic to the way the naval life worked.

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Military training is all about giving people

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a sense of their own responsibility and a clarity

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of how to carry out the duty of delivering it and for the Navy,

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because you're at sea, you're living in confined spaces,

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he went through the gun deck life and it was very regimented,

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very strict and he would have found that reassuring

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and it would have given him a template for how he lived the duty of the whole of his life.

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George emerged from 15 years at sea

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with the common sense outlook of a naval officer

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and a taste for charts, rigid routine and quarterdeck discipline.

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To his family's dismay,

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the same could not be said of George's scandalous older brother,

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Eddy, the Duke of Clarence,

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who stood directly in the line of succession.

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The press certainly had a bit of a field day with the scandal

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and gossip about young Eddy.

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There were rumours that he was Jack the Ripper,

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there were rumours that he was involved in homosexual scandal,

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where he'd dressed up in a homosexual brothel and was known as Victoria.

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These are all unsubstantiated but they give an indication

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of the rakish kind of behaviour that Eddy was generally suspected of.

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To deal with her wasteful grandson, in 1891,

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Queen Victoria arranged to marry Eddy off to a sensible girl of good Anglo-German stock,

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Princess May of Teck.

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But just weeks before the wedding day,

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Eddy, unreliable to the last, caught the flu and died.

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George's world was turned upside down.

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Not for the first or last time in the Royal Family's history,

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a dependable second son was thrust unwillingly into the line of succession

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by the actions of a reckless older brother.

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Eddy's death is an absolute cataclysm for George.

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I think the prospect of becoming the heir

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and eventually becoming king was awful to George.

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I think there was nothing he dreaded more. He hated going out in public.

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He dreaded meeting strangers.

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The whole idea of a huge public role filled him with total dread.

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George had not only taken his brother's place as a future king,

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he also came under pressure to step into Eddy's shoes at the altar

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and marry his brother's intended bride.

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I think he's horrified by this idea.

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You know, his brother is barely cold in his grave and he just

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doesn't want to think about it and he finds the idea very distasteful.

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But Queen Victoria was quite unsentimental about the whole thing

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and she's absolutely in there, right from the start, saying, "Have you seen May?"

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By tradition, the pool of acceptable breeding stock for the British Royal Family

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was limited to a handful of Protestant princesses,

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ideally German ones, and Queen Victoria was determined

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her good work in finding May should not go to waste.

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Princess May of Teck seemed to fit the bill admirably.

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She was only a Serene Highness,

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she wasn't really out of this top-drawer of royals,

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but nevertheless, she seemed a sensible, solid and obedient kind of girl.

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She actually had been rather flattened into submission

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by her gigantic mother, who was a very large lady

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and a very ebullient lady who told her what to do.

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Within six weeks of Prince Eddy's death,

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a new round of courtship rituals got underway.

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In May 1893, a tea was arranged

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at the home of George's sister in Richmond Park.

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Under strict instructions to do the decent thing,

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George and May were bundled into the garden.

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It was presented as a love match

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but it was the most flagrantly dynastic match that you could possibly imagine.

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He did what he was told. In fact, he did absolutely what he was told.

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He was told to take May out to look at the frogs in the garden.

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He took her out and looked at the frogs in the garden

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and duly proposed to her and married her.

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The couple, both buttoned-up and rigidly formal,

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were agonisingly restrained in each other's company.

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But there was at least a spark of genuine feeling.

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"Dear George, I am very sorry I am so shy with you.

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"It is stupid to be so stiff.

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"Really, there is nothing I would not tell you

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"except that I love you more than anybody

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"and this I cannot tell you myself, so I write it to relieve my feelings."

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"Thank God we both understand each other.

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"I feel it unnecessary for me to tell you how deep my love for you is.

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"I feel it growing stronger every time I see you,

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"though I may appear shy and cold."

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In July 1893,

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George and May were married at St James's Palace in London.

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But for the next 17 years,

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their home was to be far from the metropolis,

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at York Cottage on the Sandringham estate,

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a residence perfectly tailored to George's limited requirements.

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They lived in what by royal standards was a very small house.

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People made disparagingly sneering remarks about it

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and described it as "a glum little villa."

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The drawing room was very small.

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You couldn't get more than about two or three people in it.

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George loved this, because he hated entertaining and it was a wonderful excuse

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not to have lots of people to stay and lots of people to dinner.

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A very important part of George V's character

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was that he was a country man living out in Sandringham.

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He genuinely loved those months

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in the freezing East Anglia countryside

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with the wind whistling in from the North Sea.

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He was a very ordinary man.

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You know, you didn't see much of him at the opera.

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The only music George cared for was the roar of his treasured shot guns.

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He absolutely loved shooting.

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He would have been out shooting every day of his life if he could.

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Always shooting the double guns, which means he had two guns,

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went bang, bang, handed over

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and his loader produced another two - bang, bang.

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And he could, in each flush of pheasants, take as many possible birds as he could

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and he generally killed them stone dead.

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Shunning the bright lights and frivolity of London's high society,

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George knuckled down to the dynastic business of creating heirs.

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In just over 10 years, Princess May produced a girl and five boys

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and George set about instilling them with his beloved naval discipline.

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The children lived this very, very strange existence.

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It's almost like a ship, with their father as the captain,

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marching up and down the quarterdeck, and when they got things wrong, he punished them.

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The Windsor librarian said the Windsors themselves make bad parents.

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They're like ducks, they trample on their young.

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To a great extent, I think George did trample on his young.

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He was an authoritarian. Discipline, punctuality were everything.

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And that, of course, included mealtimes.

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So, everybody was mustered well before the clock struck.

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Prince Henry, Harry as he was known,

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arrived at the table just as the clock was striking the hour.

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His father just looked at him and he fainted.

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Prince George liked to spend quality time

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away from his family in the safety of his study,

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amidst the comforting world of the Imperial postal system,

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fixed within the leaves of his stamp albums.

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The red albums consist of 328 albums,

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each of about 50 pages.

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So, you're getting to about 16,000 pages.

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It's not a pastime for people who are impatient.

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You can get a feel for a sense of order.

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He was extremely precise,

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punctilious to a very high degree.

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Most people who are collectors,

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there's perhaps a degree of pedantry about them.

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There's an eye for detail.

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This collection is no different.

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He was an extremely serious collector.

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He focused on Great Britain and Empire.

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Of its kind, the collection is undoubtedly pre-eminent,

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top collection in the world, whatever you want to call it.

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Is it complete? Yes, it is.

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Every stamp issued by every Commonwealth country, the lot.

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In 1910, George's quiet life came to an end.

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With the death of his father, Edward VII,

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the stamp-collecting country squire became King George V.

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"I am heartbroken and overwhelmed with grief.

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"May God give me strength and guidance

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"in the heavy task which has fallen upon me."

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George wasn't only a king. He was also an emperor.

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Shortly after his coronation, he and his Queen Empress

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travelled to India to receive the homage of their imperial subjects.

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The British Empire had at its centre, India.

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The Raj was the jewel in the crown, but the crown had never been.

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Queen Victoria had never gone, and nor had Edward VII.

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Here at last, the newly-crowned King wanted to go to India,

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and he did, because that's what the old imperial tradition was.

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The King Emperor taking possession of the whole thing

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and he went hell for leather to make it a great event.

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It was a magnificent sight, a fantastic spectacle

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such as the Empire and India had never seen before.

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He got a 101-gun salute.

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This huge display of pomp and power was supposed to indicate

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a kind of secular version of the Divine Right of Kings.

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I think George felt that once he had been acclaimed

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in this quite dramatic and spectacular way,

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he really was the most important Royal personage on Earth.

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For George, it was an intoxicating vision

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of Britain's glorious role as the world's greatest power,

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but the world of majesty that he surveyed from his imperial throne

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was about to be torn apart.

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In 1914, the world went to war.

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In the four years of slaughter that followed,

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his Victorian idyll of reassuring certainty was shattered.

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George found himself at war with his own cousin,

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the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, in a conflict

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that would leave the European system of monarchies in ruin.

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The war was a terrible, terrible shock.

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I think everything about it, he absolutely abhorred.

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It tore his family apart.

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It created this terrible chaos

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but that incredible sense of duty that he always had kicked in.

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I think he felt that it was his duty to be quiet about it.

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Just to be patriotic and he looked worse and worse.

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He got these terrible bags under his eyes.

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People said he looked like a worn out old penny.

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The First World War was a bewildering assault

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upon everything the King held dear.

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But George's problems were just beginning.

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As the casualty lists mounted, the British public's enthusiasm

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for war turned into bitter resentment of all things German.

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There were during the war, of course, huge spy scares,

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there was an enormous amount of jingoism and chauvinism.

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There were attacks on Bechstein pianos and dachshunds

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and Hoch and other German products, and in particular,

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people in high places with German names were frowned upon.

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King George and his advisors feared that anti-German feeling could

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spill over into hostility towards Britain's most well-known German family,

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the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas of Buckingham Palace.

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When the first major bombing raid over London was conducted

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by German aircraft called Gotha bombers, George's Hanoverian roots

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appeared not just an embarrassment but a real liability.

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In the summer of 1917, the King received a bombshell of his own.

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George was at a dinner party at Buckingham Palace

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and a lady-in-waiting, Lady Maud Warrender,

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let slip that it was murmured in certain circles

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that perhaps the King and the Royal Family

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wasn't quite as loyal and patriotic as it might be.

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George was incredibly upset by all this.

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He was described as having turned pale.

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It clearly had an absolutely appalling effect on him.

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Though his family was unequivocally German,

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he did genuinely feel himself to be 100% English.

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I think it was HG Wells who once referred to the King

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as being an uninspiring alien.

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The King was said to have said angrily,

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"Damn it, I may be uninspiring but I'm not an alien."

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For 200 years, the Royal Family's German roots had been central

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to their very identity.

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They spoke German, married Germans

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and had until recently regarded themselves as German.

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To safeguard his future,

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George now turned his back on two centuries of family history.

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"By the King, a proclamation,

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"declaring that the name of Windsor is to be borne by his Royal house

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"and family and relinquishing the use of all German titles."

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By adopting the name Windsor, George had transformed his family name

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from a dangerous liability into a reassuring emblem of Britishness.

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It's an absolutely brilliant name, if you think about it.

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There was this castle which went back to William the Conqueror.

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It was as English as could be.

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It was really a kind of stroke of genius.

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It absolutely pinned the Royal Family

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to something that was quintessentially English.

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As a result, we have the House of Windsor.

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Cutting the family's links with its German roots

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was just the start of the Royal revamp.

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George was determined to give his new dynasty not just a new name

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but entirely new values.

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George's father, King Edward VII, had been a man of many vices.

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He had twice dragged the family name into the mud

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being called upon to give evidence

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in shocking divorce and gambling trials.

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In the court of King George, monogamy was the order of the day.

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We have seen enough of the intrigue and meddling of certain ladies.

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I'm not interested in any wife except my own.

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He's really a throwback in many respects.

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His father was an Edwardian, George was really a Victorian.

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His father had gone out, had lots of mistresses,

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drunk and eaten a very great deal and generally had a very good time.

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George, he's somebody who wants life always to feel safe.

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The court of George V

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and Queen Mary is much more domestic than the court of Edward VII.

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George V liked to go to bed every night at 10 past 11, precisely.

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After dinner, the Queen gets out her knitting needles and knits or sews.

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A lot of people who'd known the old court complain

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that this is domestic, this is very boring.

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George was deliberately turning back the clock

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to the values of his grandmother, Queen Victoria, and woe befell

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anybody who sought to sully the good name of the Windsor dynasty,

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as Daisy Warwick, one of Edward VII's mistresses, found to her cost.

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Daisy Warwick, who was perhaps the most important of Edward VII's

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mistresses, tells the Royal advisors that she is going to publish

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a large amount of letters.

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She was trying to blackmail George V. She wanted to be paid £100,000.

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This provokes total panic amongst the Royal advisors.

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Effectively, what happens is that the Royal solicitor serves her

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with a sort of notice that she's going to be committed

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to Holloway unless she shuts up.

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And so she does shut up.

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She gets very brutal treatment indeed

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and given the fact that she had been a really important person

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in his father's life, I do think it's quite an extreme reaction.

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It does show rather a frightened king, I think.

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George had good reason to feel embattled.

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In 1917, his armies were mired in a seemingly endless war

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with Germany and his own first cousin, the Kaiser.

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And reports from George's other reigning first cousin,

0:23:040:23:07

Tsar Nicholas II in Russia, were even worse.

0:23:070:23:11

"Bad news from Russia.

0:23:130:23:15

"Practically a revolution has broken out

0:23:150:23:17

"and some of the guards regiments have killed their officers.

0:23:170:23:20

"Of course, this rising is against the government and not the Tsar."

0:23:200:23:25

The King was in denial.

0:23:270:23:30

The communist revolution was nothing less than

0:23:300:23:32

a full-blooded assault on the very concept of monarchy.

0:23:320:23:35

Two days later, George's cousin was deposed

0:23:350:23:38

and three centuries of imperial rule were ended.

0:23:380:23:42

George was in despair.

0:23:420:23:45

George had about 50 first cousins all over Europe.

0:23:450:23:50

But of all his cousins, the person he was closest to was Nicholas.

0:23:500:23:57

They both looked incredibly alike.

0:23:570:24:00

Even as children, the servants in the castles in Denmark

0:24:000:24:06

where they went for the holidays would get them muddled up.

0:24:060:24:09

Although in adult life they didn't meet very often,

0:24:090:24:12

I think there was definitely a sort of sense of bond between them.

0:24:120:24:16

George writes very sweet letters to Nicholas.

0:24:160:24:19

He will always say things like,

0:24:190:24:21

"I regard you as one of my closest friends.

0:24:210:24:23

"If there's anything I can ever do for you, I will."

0:24:230:24:28

With revolution raging in Russia,

0:24:300:24:32

in April 1917 Cousin Nicky turned to George for help.

0:24:320:24:36

After an emergency meeting at Buckingham Palace,

0:24:370:24:41

the King agreed that asylum in Britain should be offered

0:24:410:24:44

to the Tsar and his young family.

0:24:440:24:46

A few days later, George thought again.

0:24:460:24:50

His private secretary said, "Look.

0:24:510:24:53

"This could cause a lot of trouble, a lot of dissent,

0:24:530:24:56

"because the Tsar was regarded as a tyrant."

0:24:560:24:58

The Royal cousinhood looked as though it was going to take

0:24:580:25:03

pre-eminence over the concerns of democracy.

0:25:030:25:06

The fact was, though,

0:25:060:25:08

really his sole raison d'etre was to keep the British monarchy in being.

0:25:080:25:13

The King was not going to risk the House of Windsor

0:25:150:25:18

by rescuing the House of Romanov.

0:25:180:25:22

Two weeks after the offer of asylum, the Palace wrote to the Foreign Secretary.

0:25:220:25:26

"Every day, the King is becoming more concerned about the question

0:25:260:25:30

"of the Emperor and Empress coming to this country.

0:25:300:25:33

"It will be very hard on the King and arouse much public comment."

0:25:330:25:38

The Government insisted that it was too late to withdraw their offer.

0:25:400:25:44

George was adamant

0:25:440:25:45

and fired off a volley of increasingly desperate letters.

0:25:450:25:49

Under sustained Royal bombardment, the Government relented.

0:25:490:25:52

The offer of asylum was withdrawn.

0:25:520:25:56

It wasn't that the Government wanted to block it.

0:25:560:25:59

It was George and his private secretary who blocked it, and they

0:25:590:26:02

had to say several times before the Government would actually accept it.

0:26:020:26:06

It is a real example of dynastic ruthlessness.

0:26:060:26:10

You've got to cut your connections with things that are going

0:26:100:26:13

to damage you.

0:26:130:26:15

George had successfully neutralised another threat

0:26:150:26:18

to the monarchy's public image. But his ruthlessness had a cost.

0:26:180:26:22

On 16th July, 1918, George's cousin, his wife

0:26:220:26:27

and their five children were murdered by the Bolsheviks.

0:26:270:26:31

Four months later, King George and his people celebrated victory in the First World War.

0:26:360:26:41

But the festivities masked deep concerns.

0:26:420:26:45

During the war and in its aftermath,

0:26:490:26:51

the crowned heads of 27 Royal houses were deposed or abdicated, including

0:26:510:26:56

the Russian Tsar, the German Kaiser and the Austro-Hungarian Emperor.

0:26:560:27:01

The war was almost the only thing one can conceive of

0:27:030:27:07

which could have changed George and it did change George.

0:27:070:27:10

The monarchs of Europe started falling like ninepins.

0:27:100:27:14

It inspires such a sense of anxiety in him that it really forces him

0:27:140:27:20

to think about what the British monarchy is

0:27:200:27:23

and how it's going to survive.

0:27:230:27:25

In the new democratic age,

0:27:270:27:29

universal suffrage had enshrined the principle of one person, one vote.

0:27:290:27:35

With mass unemployment, chronic industrial unrest

0:27:350:27:39

and militant socialism on the march,

0:27:390:27:42

the outlook for British monarchy was bleak.

0:27:420:27:44

The rupture between the old world

0:27:450:27:47

and the new could not have been more alarming.

0:27:470:27:51

"The King is daily growing more anxious

0:27:520:27:54

"about the question of unemployment.

0:27:540:27:57

"The people grow discontented and agitators seize their opportunities.

0:27:570:28:01

"The police interfere, troops are called out and riot begets riot.

0:28:010:28:05

"And possibly revolution."

0:28:050:28:08

George was infected by this fear and periodically, of course,

0:28:080:28:12

the Labour Party sang "The Red Flag," much to George's chagrin.

0:28:120:28:17

As a result of this, he was always on the lookout for subversion.

0:28:170:28:23

He was very worried that what this presaged was the revolution

0:28:230:28:27

and we all know what that would have led to -

0:28:270:28:30

the guillotine set up in Trafalgar Square, that sort of thing.

0:28:300:28:33

That was the nightmare that he was faced with.

0:28:330:28:36

In a series of secret meetings during and after the war,

0:28:360:28:39

the King and his advisors pondered how to preserve and strengthen the monarchy.

0:28:390:28:44

When you go into the Royal Archives,

0:28:460:28:49

there's a fascinating folder there called Unrest In The Country.

0:28:490:28:54

It's dated 1917.

0:28:540:28:57

It was drawn up by George V's extraordinary private secretary,

0:28:570:29:02

Stamfordham. One of the great strengths of George V was that

0:29:020:29:05

he knew his limitations and he knew that this private secretary,

0:29:050:29:09

Stamfordham, was infinitely more on the ball than he was.

0:29:090:29:12

He let him bring in left-wing clerics, social workers,

0:29:120:29:19

to find out and report what was going on in the country.

0:29:190:29:23

Someone said, "You know, I was in a second-class railway carriage

0:29:230:29:27

the other day and I saw 'Down with the Kaiser and all Kings.'"

0:29:270:29:31

Second-class railway carriages in those days,

0:29:310:29:34

that's the equivalent of business class.

0:29:340:29:36

It was first-class, second-class, third-class -

0:29:360:29:39

so what was in the third-class carriages?

0:29:390:29:42

It was time to find out.

0:29:420:29:43

The King and Queen now set out on a quest, to bring what had once

0:29:490:29:53

been a lofty, remote monarchy into line with the British people.

0:29:530:29:57

The thought of having to go out and talk to people he didn't know,

0:29:580:30:01

and make public speeches, was his idea of hell.

0:30:010:30:06

But he forces himself to go out, travel round the country.

0:30:060:30:10

He goes to depressed areas like South Wales and the north-east,

0:30:100:30:15

and he visits miners' homes.

0:30:150:30:17

Remember, this is a time of great industrial strife.

0:30:190:30:22

The King and Queen don't say this is frightful, send in the army.

0:30:220:30:26

On the contrary, what they are doing is actually going to the mining

0:30:260:30:29

districts and trying to see for themselves and talk to the people.

0:30:290:30:33

What's interesting is this is really a new take on the monarchy.

0:30:330:30:38

It's saying that instead of the role being purely political

0:30:380:30:41

and dealing with parties and politicians, what they are doing

0:30:410:30:44

is having a direct relationship between the monarchy and the people.

0:30:440:30:48

The people's king.

0:30:480:30:51

The people's king even discovered

0:30:520:30:55

a new-found interest in the people's game.

0:30:550:31:00

"I went to a football match at which there were 73,000 people.

0:31:020:31:06

"At the end, they sang the national anthem and cheered tremendously."

0:31:060:31:10

"No Bolsheviks there."

0:31:130:31:14

The King wasn't only dishing out the silverware to sporting heroes.

0:31:180:31:23

Previously, Royal honours had been reserved for the establishment

0:31:230:31:27

and those who could afford them.

0:31:270:31:30

Now, everybody could get a medal on the basis of merit

0:31:300:31:33

in the form of the Order of the British Empire.

0:31:330:31:35

In two years, the King handed out 15,000 of the newly-minted gongs.

0:31:350:31:40

The trick that George V and Queen Mary carried out was to create

0:31:420:31:49

a link between the top, themselves, and the bottom.

0:31:490:31:53

The people.

0:31:530:31:56

To create a reputation that had nothing to do with

0:31:560:31:59

the aristocracy, so that when the social structures got knocked

0:31:590:32:03

sideways in the rest of Europe, the King was quite happy

0:32:030:32:07

because his supporting constituency was the ordinary people.

0:32:070:32:12

It's a strange medieval idea,

0:32:140:32:16

that the King and the people are linked and the aristocracy

0:32:160:32:20

and the middle classes and the rich people don't matter.

0:32:200:32:22

That between the top and the bottom there is an essential unity

0:32:220:32:26

and that is what George V embodied.

0:32:260:32:29

But in the new democratic age, the British Monarchy was not

0:32:320:32:36

the only organisation vying for the loyalty

0:32:360:32:39

of the working man and woman.

0:32:390:32:41

The people's king had a rival for the affections of his subjects

0:32:410:32:45

in the form of the people's party.

0:32:450:32:48

In 1924, Labour formed Britain's first socialist government,

0:32:480:32:52

led by a one-time supporter of Lenin, Ramsay MacDonald.

0:32:520:32:58

For a king who privately abhorred socialism,

0:33:000:33:03

this was to be a major test of constitutional tact.

0:33:030:33:06

"Today, 23 years ago, dear Grandmamma died.

0:33:080:33:12

"I wonder what she would have thought of a Labour Government."

0:33:120:33:16

As George braced himself to meet his ministers, he made clear

0:33:170:33:22

that one thing was not negotiable.

0:33:220:33:25

King George V laid down the law in the most minute way about clothes.

0:33:250:33:30

A gentleman should never appear in a morning suit with a coloured tie.

0:33:300:33:36

Strange rubrics of that kind that George laid down.

0:33:360:33:40

The funny thing about this was that when the socialists eventually

0:33:400:33:44

gained power, as they did in 1924 with a minority government,

0:33:440:33:48

what really preoccupied King George V was the whole business about

0:33:480:33:53

whether they should wear knee-breeches or whether

0:33:530:33:56

they should come to court in ordinary clothes, or what sort

0:33:560:34:00

of concessions they should wear, and he was absolutely obsessed by this.

0:34:000:34:04

With some Labour ministers unable or unwilling to purchase a full

0:34:060:34:09

set of court dress, George's trusted private secretary,

0:34:090:34:13

Lord Stamfordham, as ever, had the answer.

0:34:130:34:17

"I have ascertained from Messrs Moss Bros,

0:34:170:34:20

"which I believe is a well-known and dependable firm, that they

0:34:200:34:23

"have in stock a few suits of regulation dress from £30 complete."

0:34:230:34:28

With his ministers suitably attired,

0:34:320:34:34

the next phase of George's plan was set in motion.

0:34:340:34:38

The victory of the Labour Government of 1923-24 was one of those

0:34:380:34:44

moments when George showed that he'd really learnt something.

0:34:440:34:48

He very smoothly dealt with the accession of these new MPs

0:34:480:34:54

who were far more radical than anybody else he'd previously seen.

0:34:540:34:59

He invited them all to Buckingham Palace.

0:34:590:35:02

His speed and his quickness in welcoming them

0:35:020:35:07

helped to make what could have been a bumpy transition very smooth.

0:35:070:35:12

George's charm offensive worked.

0:35:130:35:16

Labour politicians were actually delighted to come along

0:35:180:35:21

to Buckingham Palace to be spoken to by the King and Queen.

0:35:210:35:24

If you spent half a lifetime struggling against poverty,

0:35:240:35:30

working your way through trade unions,

0:35:300:35:33

working your way through political organisations, and to become

0:35:330:35:36

a power in the land, how is that ratified, how is that confirmed?

0:35:360:35:42

What makes that seem worthwhile?

0:35:420:35:44

It's when you're in the presence of the King and Queen

0:35:440:35:47

and they treat you seriously.

0:35:470:35:49

"If Royalty had given the Labour Government the cold shoulder,

0:35:500:35:53

"we should have returned the call.

0:35:530:35:55

"It has not.

0:35:550:35:57

"The King has never seen me as a minister without making me feel

0:35:570:36:00

"he is also seeing me as a friend."

0:36:000:36:02

In public, the King had bent over backwards to accommodate

0:36:040:36:07

the realities of his role as a constitutional monarch.

0:36:070:36:10

But from the beginning, George ruled his own household with an iron fist.

0:36:130:36:18

George's private views were not that different, in many respects, from

0:36:200:36:25

his autocratic cousins, the Kaiser in Germany and even the Tsar in Russia.

0:36:250:36:31

But the only place he really could be an autocrat was

0:36:310:36:34

in his own household, and he was.

0:36:340:36:36

May was frightened of George, even though he doted on her.

0:36:380:36:42

She was certainly intimidated by him and to such an extent,

0:36:420:36:46

for example, that he laid down the law about what kind of clothes

0:36:460:36:50

she would wear and, therefore, she wore very old-fashioned kinds of clothes.

0:36:500:36:55

She respected him not just as her husband but as the King.

0:36:550:37:00

This is extraordinarily important where she was concerned.

0:37:010:37:04

He was much more than just a husband whom she doted on.

0:37:040:37:09

He was a monarch who was tantamount to a domestic god.

0:37:090:37:14

George was determined that his task of reinventing the monarchy

0:37:160:37:20

was not a one man job.

0:37:200:37:22

The House of Windsor was to be a family concern.

0:37:220:37:26

He appeared on most public occasions with his wife, Mary, by his side.

0:37:260:37:32

A departure from his father who left his Queen at home.

0:37:320:37:35

As his children grew older, the King put them to work

0:37:360:37:39

in the family business.

0:37:390:37:42

What George and Mary wanted to do with their children

0:37:430:37:46

was to clearly put them to work to improve the message of monarchy

0:37:460:37:50

that he wanted to put across

0:37:500:37:52

and they were deployed.

0:37:520:37:54

Edward, Prince of Wales, visited the United States.

0:38:000:38:03

All the American newspapers visited him too.

0:38:030:38:06

They besieged him on the boat and pursued him everywhere.

0:38:060:38:09

In 1924, George dispatched his oldest son, David,

0:38:090:38:14

the Prince of Wales, on a marathon tour of the Empire to cement

0:38:140:38:17

the bonds between his distant peoples and their mother country.

0:38:170:38:22

The effect was sensational.

0:38:220:38:24

David was the most gregarious, enthusiastic, charming prince.

0:38:240:38:29

His debonair character, mixing with the fact that he was

0:38:290:38:34

the future King Emperor, made him really attractive to people.

0:38:340:38:38

The Prince of Wales had devastating charm.

0:38:390:38:42

It's very easy for Royals to have charm -

0:38:420:38:45

all you have to do is smile politely. He was the real thing.

0:38:450:38:49

He had got this kind of amazing star appeal that he could wow a multitude.

0:38:490:38:55

He could go into a room filled with angry coal miners,

0:38:550:38:57

within 10 minutes, he'd be leading them in a sing-song.

0:38:570:39:01

In the years after the First World War, the Prince clocked up

0:39:030:39:06

16 tours of the far-flung Empire in the service of king and country.

0:39:060:39:11

But George wasn't satisfied.

0:39:130:39:15

David didn't much enjoy being pushed around but his scary dad, George,

0:39:180:39:24

is absolutely determined to make sure

0:39:240:39:26

that they get on and do their duty.

0:39:260:39:29

David loathed it and it made him gradually, gradually,

0:39:290:39:34

more and more angry.

0:39:340:39:36

It built and built and it tightened and tightened.

0:39:360:39:38

That burdened him down.

0:39:380:39:41

Getting these endless letters.

0:39:410:39:43

When you're, like any boy is, longing for your father's affirmation,

0:39:430:39:48

and he never got it.

0:39:480:39:50

On his son's work for the monarchy,

0:39:500:39:53

the King was ever-grudging in his praise, but on every other aspect

0:39:530:39:57

of his son's life, the King never failed to offer

0:39:570:40:01

his scathing opinion.

0:40:010:40:03

The King attached enormous importance to outward appearance.

0:40:030:40:07

He would notice with an eagle eye,

0:40:070:40:10

one person in a room had got some detail of his costume wrong

0:40:100:40:15

and he would point it out ruthlessly and ridicule him for it.

0:40:150:40:19

The Prince of Wales didn't give a damn.

0:40:190:40:23

This was the time of flappers and of lipstick and of cocktails

0:40:270:40:30

and of nightclubs and all the sort of things, in fact,

0:40:300:40:33

that his eldest son, David, enjoyed.

0:40:330:40:37

This helped, I think, to focus the antipathy between the two men.

0:40:370:40:42

There was one famous occasion when George V said to David,

0:40:420:40:49

his oldest son, "You dress like a cad.

0:40:490:40:53

"You behave like a cad. You are a cad - get out!"

0:40:530:40:55

Increasingly disillusioned,

0:40:580:41:00

David found comfort in the arms of a series of married women.

0:41:000:41:04

The Prince of Wales seemed to be reverting

0:41:040:41:07

to the ways of his grandfather, King Edward.

0:41:070:41:10

He not only rejected his father's Victorian morality.

0:41:140:41:18

Increasingly, David lacked his father's respect

0:41:180:41:22

for the institution of monarchy itself.

0:41:220:41:25

"It is rotten having to trot around with the King. Such a waste of time.

0:41:270:41:32

"People can't and won't stand for it nowadays

0:41:320:41:35

"and how well do I abhor all that sort of rot."

0:41:350:41:38

He poured out his soul to Freda Dudley Ward in these letters.

0:41:420:41:47

David was absolutely desperate about his relationship with his father

0:41:470:41:52

and he talked about what a tyrant his father was,

0:41:520:41:55

why he was such a bully as far as his children were concerned.

0:41:550:41:59

Another thing that he said in these letters -

0:41:590:42:02

he wrote to Freda that he

0:42:020:42:04

really thought the age of monarchies and princing - this sort of American

0:42:040:42:09

term he'd picked up - the age of monarchies and princing is over.

0:42:090:42:12

As the gulf between the King and his son widened, George turned

0:42:150:42:19

for reassurance to his second son -

0:42:190:42:22

the shy, stammering Albert, Duke of York.

0:42:220:42:24

In his designated role as inspector of factories,

0:42:250:42:29

Albert's job was to connect with the growing class of industrial workers.

0:42:290:42:33

What he lacked in dazzle, he made up for with his dependability.

0:42:330:42:37

This was not the first time in George's family history

0:42:370:42:41

that a dutiful second son had been called into public life to fill

0:42:410:42:45

the void left by a reckless older brother.

0:42:450:42:47

For George, it was really important that the crown would be passed

0:42:500:42:54

safely to his successor.

0:42:540:42:56

David never looked like he had the moral stability to carry it off.

0:42:560:43:00

Yet he could see in his second son, Bertie, great strengths

0:43:000:43:03

and just as he, George, had come to the throne as a second son,

0:43:030:43:06

so he prayed that maybe Bertie could.

0:43:060:43:09

"You have always been so sensible and easy to work with,

0:43:100:43:14

"and so ready to listen to any advice and agree with my opinions that

0:43:140:43:19

"I feel we have always got on well together.

0:43:190:43:22

"Very different to dear David."

0:43:220:43:24

In 1923, Bertie cemented his position as George's favourite son

0:43:270:43:31

by finding a nice unmarried girl.

0:43:310:43:33

Even though she wasn't royal, George's Victorian father

0:43:330:43:38

had the imagination to move with the times.

0:43:380:43:41

It is with the greatest pleasure that the King and Queen announce

0:43:410:43:45

the betrothal of their beloved son, the Duke of York,

0:43:450:43:49

to the Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon,

0:43:490:43:52

daughter of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore.

0:43:520:43:55

He and Queen Mary had made this quite revolutionary decision,

0:43:580:44:02

that their children did not have to marry royal any more.

0:44:020:44:06

There was a lot of newspaper coverage about Catherine Middleton

0:44:060:44:11

marrying the Duke of Cambridge.

0:44:110:44:13

In fact, the decision to allow them

0:44:130:44:15

to marry out of royal families was much more revolutionary.

0:44:150:44:18

It was a much bigger break with the past.

0:44:180:44:21

A lot of people thought they were mad but he knew they weren't mad.

0:44:210:44:25

What is interesting and contradictory about them is that in one way,

0:44:250:44:30

they loved tradition, they loved the way everything had always been done.

0:44:300:44:34

But at the same time, they were innovators,

0:44:340:44:37

which everyone's forgotten. They didn't mind updating the monarchy.

0:44:370:44:41

If the tradition is no longer useful,

0:44:410:44:43

elbow it and invent another tradition.

0:44:430:44:46

While George busied himself reinventing family traditions,

0:44:490:44:53

by the early 1930s, his wider family were facing disaster.

0:44:530:44:57

With the economy reeling from financial meltdown

0:44:590:45:02

in the banking system,

0:45:020:45:03

massive cuts in Government spending seemed the only way out.

0:45:030:45:09

With the parties in Westminster locked in stalemate

0:45:090:45:12

and the Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald unable to command

0:45:120:45:15

the support of his cabinet, the Labour leader headed

0:45:150:45:19

to Buckingham Palace to offer his resignation.

0:45:190:45:22

With the disastrous collapse of political leadership

0:45:250:45:28

seeming inevitable, the King took action.

0:45:280:45:32

George persuaded him that he shouldn't resign,

0:45:320:45:35

that he should become the head of a national government.

0:45:350:45:38

In a way, this was really quite remarkable.

0:45:380:45:41

George actually did this crucial balancing act

0:45:410:45:45

between the left and the right.

0:45:450:45:47

Despite his intellectual limitations,

0:45:470:45:51

what he possessed was a sort of sublime common sense.

0:45:510:45:54

He knew he had to do it and he did it.

0:45:540:45:56

It has been suggested that the King in some way

0:45:580:46:03

overstepped his constitutional role.

0:46:030:46:06

This was something which was potentially very risky

0:46:060:46:10

for the monarchy, but somebody has got to create a situation

0:46:100:46:18

in which the politicians can somehow

0:46:180:46:23

look to the national interest.

0:46:230:46:26

At that point, the King was absolutely vital

0:46:260:46:28

in acting as the broker between the leading politicians

0:46:280:46:32

and bringing them to a solution.

0:46:320:46:34

George's intervention helped to avert political collapse

0:46:360:46:40

at a time of national crisis.

0:46:400:46:42

The sailor king had turned out to be a shrewd

0:46:470:46:49

navigator of the ship of constitutional monarchy.

0:46:490:46:52

His Majesty the King.

0:47:020:47:05

Through one of the marvels of modern science,

0:47:070:47:11

I am enabled this Christmas Day,

0:47:110:47:16

to speak to all my peoples throughout the Empire.

0:47:160:47:22

On Christmas Day 1932, George notched up another Royal first.

0:47:250:47:31

Seizing upon the latest technology,

0:47:310:47:33

the King took the monarchy directly into the nation's living rooms.

0:47:330:47:37

George V had a very good voice.

0:47:390:47:41

It sounded as though it had been marinated in ancient whisky,

0:47:410:47:45

which it probably had.

0:47:450:47:47

It was deep, it had a timbre to it. It came across.

0:47:470:47:52

Your loyalty, your confidence in me

0:47:520:47:57

has been my abundant reward.

0:47:570:48:00

The King was both distant and magical and yet intimate and paternal,

0:48:020:48:06

and he did it absolutely brilliantly and he became ever more revered,

0:48:060:48:12

I think, as the father of his people.

0:48:120:48:15

I speak now from my home and from my heart to you all.

0:48:170:48:23

To all, to each, I wish a happy Christmas. God bless you.

0:48:260:48:34

Over the course of his 25 years on the throne,

0:48:430:48:46

the King had re-energised the monarchy,

0:48:460:48:49

connected it with the British people

0:48:490:48:52

and given it a new relevance for the modern age.

0:48:520:48:55

In 1935, he and his wife Mary celebrated their Silver Jubilee.

0:48:550:49:01

He was enormously popular but he had grown into the hearts of the people.

0:49:020:49:07

The rapturous reception he met

0:49:070:49:09

when he drove around London during those celebrations.

0:49:090:49:12

It profoundly astonished and deeply moved him.

0:49:160:49:21

He is said to have arrived back in Buckingham Palace

0:49:220:49:25

and said almost in a perplexed way to an equerry,

0:49:250:49:29

"I never knew they felt like that about me."

0:49:290:49:32

Not everybody did.

0:49:330:49:35

By 1935, the King's eldest son David was in his 40s, still unmarried,

0:49:350:49:41

and with a new mistress who was guaranteed to set

0:49:410:49:44

his parents' blood pressure soaring.

0:49:440:49:46

Wallis Simpson was brash, American and dripping with emeralds.

0:49:460:49:52

Worse still, she was twice-married.

0:49:520:49:55

Determined to shut Wallis out, the King flexed his muscles over

0:49:570:50:01

the question of the guest list to a reception at Buckingham Palace.

0:50:010:50:05

But the King's eldest son was no longer so easily pushed around.

0:50:060:50:11

David's father, George V, absolutely put his foot down and said

0:50:110:50:16

they were not to be invited and the Prince of Wales was absolutely

0:50:160:50:20

determined that Wallis was going to be invited to this engagement party.

0:50:200:50:24

Somehow, Wallis made a startling entrance.

0:50:240:50:27

She chose for that evening to wear a violet lame dress with a vivid

0:50:270:50:33

green sash, so you can imagine what a stir she made just entering the room.

0:50:330:50:38

George V was absolutely furious because he could already see

0:50:380:50:42

that this woman had so much power over his son,

0:50:420:50:46

so he was overheard saying, "I never again want that woman in my house."

0:50:460:50:51

By Christmas 1935, the King's health was failing.

0:50:570:51:01

Worn down and desperately anxious about the succession,

0:51:020:51:06

George retreated to the security of his Norfolk estate.

0:51:060:51:10

While David entertained himself at a round of New Year balls,

0:51:110:51:15

the King was joined by his loyal second son and a new addition

0:51:150:51:19

to his family - his grand-daughter, the Princess Elizabeth.

0:51:190:51:24

This gruff tyrant of a father

0:51:240:51:29

turned into a pussycat when it came to being a grandfather,

0:51:290:51:33

particularly with his first little Lilibet, as she called herself.

0:51:330:51:37

She couldn't pronounce her name properly.

0:51:370:51:40

He loved that and he always called her Lilibet.

0:51:400:51:43

You read Lilibet in the diaries all the time.

0:51:430:51:46

When, in the early 1930s, he fell ill and had to go to recuperate,

0:51:460:51:52

he pronounced that he couldn't recuperate unless

0:51:520:51:56

the little princess we sent down.

0:51:560:51:58

For George, bringing up his own children was business.

0:52:000:52:03

That was going to be done the way the Navy had done it.

0:52:030:52:06

For his grandchildren, all that changed.

0:52:060:52:10

When he had his grand-daughter, Elizabeth,

0:52:100:52:13

he just lost his heart to her.

0:52:130:52:16

There's a wonderful photograph of George and Mary with a pram

0:52:180:52:24

and in it is Lilibet, the future Queen Elizabeth II.

0:52:240:52:28

That little slightly smudged picture of the girl looking forwards

0:52:280:52:32

to the direction of the pram.

0:52:320:52:34

It's exactly what George thinks is important

0:52:340:52:38

about monarchy and the family -

0:52:380:52:41

this very clear moral clarity, the compass of family life.

0:52:410:52:46

Stability, togetherness, structure, duty.

0:52:460:52:50

On 25th December,

0:52:530:52:55

the King delivered his last Christmas message to his people.

0:52:550:52:59

Three weeks later, he took to his bed

0:53:020:53:05

and drifted into unconsciousness.

0:53:050:53:07

The following bulletin was issued at 9:25.

0:53:070:53:13

The King's life is moving peacefully towards its close.

0:53:140:53:19

Reporters and well-wishers gathered at the palace gates, but even

0:53:210:53:25

to the end, the court of King George found a way to embrace change.

0:53:250:53:28

In 1918, George had become the first monarch

0:53:320:53:35

to appoint a royal press secretary.

0:53:350:53:38

As the end approached,

0:53:380:53:40

George's spin doctors joined forces with the king's physician.

0:53:400:53:44

The role of the media was very important and it was growing.

0:53:440:53:48

They were even concerned to make sure that they managed

0:53:490:53:52

the manner of the King's death.

0:53:520:53:54

In order that it wasn't announced in what was then seen

0:53:540:53:57

as a rather below-brow newspaper,

0:53:570:54:01

they timed his death so that it wasn't announced

0:54:010:54:05

in the Evening Standard or the working-men's papers of the evening

0:54:050:54:08

which weren't considered to be at the higher standard,

0:54:080:54:11

but rather in The Times.

0:54:110:54:14

The right place for a king's death to be announced.

0:54:140:54:18

A decision was taken which now would be terribly controversial,

0:54:180:54:21

to perhaps hasten the death by mixing certain drugs together.

0:54:210:54:26

That very moving announcement on the radio -

0:54:260:54:29

"The King's life is moving peacefully to its close."

0:54:290:54:34

Signed by the various doctors who had been on duty at Sandringham

0:54:340:54:38

at the time and who had probably delivered the coup de gras.

0:54:380:54:42

London is hushed and all over the world,

0:54:480:54:51

countless millions are waiting to take part in spirit

0:54:510:54:56

in the last journey of His Majesty King George V.

0:54:560:54:59

The King died on 20th January, 1936. His body was brought to London.

0:55:010:55:06

At Westminster Hall, a million mourners filed past the coffin

0:55:100:55:14

to pay their respects to the King who had forged

0:55:140:55:17

a new relationship between the crown and the British people.

0:55:170:55:21

The high and mighty

0:55:300:55:33

Prince Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David...

0:55:330:55:39

..is now become our only lawful and rightful liege Lord Edward VIII.

0:55:420:55:51

God save the King.

0:55:510:55:54

But there was one crucial flaw in King George's master plan.

0:56:000:56:05

As his son, the new King Edward VIII

0:56:070:56:09

watched his own proclamation from a side window at St James's Palace,

0:56:090:56:15

a pale figure in the window beside him was a portent of trouble ahead.

0:56:150:56:19

By reinventing the royal family as exemplars of moral probity,

0:56:210:56:26

George had planted a time bomb within the dynasty.

0:56:260:56:30

And when it exploded, it would fall to George's long-suffering consort

0:56:310:56:36

Queen Mary to rescue the monarchy from disaster.

0:56:360:56:40

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:56:450:56:48

E-mail [email protected]

0:56:480:56:51

A two-part portrait of Elizabeth II's grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary, which examines the lasting legacy of the couple who rescued the monarchy from potential disaster, and whose influence persists to this day.

This episode focuses on King George V. George could not have been a more unlikely moderniser. Born and brought up in the Victorian age he was conservative to his fingertips. Yet in the face of unstoppable social change after the First World War he turned out to be a remarkable innovator, creating the House of Windsor, embracing democratic reform, and reinventing many of the royal traditions that we know today. When he celebrated his silver jubilee in 1935 the monarchy was more popular than ever.

But as a parent King George V was far less successful - he bullied his children and alienated his eldest son and heir, Prince Edward. As one courtier remarked at the time, 'the royal family are like ducks, they sit on their children'. By contrast, King George had a loving relationship with his granddaughter and much of Queen Elizabeth's style and commitment to duty can be traced back to this early influence.