Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thirties Thursday

Here's a poster for one of this year's movies garnering high levels of Oscar buzz. I've seen it. It's tremendous. I urge everyone to see it; the acting, writing and production values are all of the highest calibre.

I thought I'd use this Thirties Thursday post to share a few facts about the real King George VI. To begin with, he didn't actually look much like this:

Although looking at Colin Firth is never a bad thing...

Here's a portrait of the real George VI.

  • Born on December 14, 1895, Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George (known as Prince Albert) was the second son of George and Mary, then known as the Duke and Duchess of York. Unfortunately the baby was born on Mausoleum Day - the anniversary of the death of Prince Albert, (Queen Victoria's husband) and the Queen (who was still very much alive in 1895) insisted that her family always spend the day visiting Prince Albert's grave. No birthday celebrations allowed. This continued until Victoria's death which occurred just after little Prince Albert's 5th birthday.
  • Although he was naturally left-handed, it was decided (as was the norm at this time) for the child to be taught to write with his right hand. Many believe this is when Prince Albert began to stutter.
  • He never enjoyed good health; he was prone to many digestive disorders and when he was in the Navy spent a great deal of his time in Sick Bay.
  • His elder brother, the Prince of Wales, had graduated second to the bottom from the Naval officer training school at Dartmouth, much to his father the King's displeasure. Prince Albert got his brother out of the dog house when he graduated last in his class.
  • He and his brother were exceptionally close. They had been born 18 months apart and were each other's first choice for company as they were growing up. Prince Albert worshiped his blond, charismatic older brother and Prince Edward was very protective of his younger brother. This close relationship was irretrievably damaged during the Abdication crisis of 1936.
  • When he was preparing to propose to his future wife (then known as Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon), Prince Albert was faced with a dilemma. It was unheard of for a royal Prince to propose without knowing he was going to be accepted; back then one did not say 'no' to a Prince. Following the accepted protocol of the time, Prince Albert sent his Private Secretary to Lady Elizabeth to ascertain what her answer would be to a marriage proposal. Lady Elizabeth sent word back through the poor Private Secretary that if Prince Albert wanted an answer, he would have to ask her himself. He did. She refused. Twice. She finally said 'yes' when the determined Prince asked for a third time.
  • He was another member of the Royal family who had inherited the Hanoverian temper; he was prone to large fits of anger which would (luckily) be short-lived. After he became King, he would take out his frustrations on his bath sponge, twisting it into shreds. Royal bath sponges had a short life in those days.
  • During the Abdication crisis, the thought was floated of Edward VIII's successor not being his next brother, but the younger brother, Prince George, Duke of Kent. The Duke had married a Greek Princess and his dark good looks and charm had made him a popular personality. Prince Albert (known as the Duke of York) was not well-known to the British public. His natural shyness and his speech problems meant he did not make many public appearances and even less public speeches.

Of course, he did inherit the throne in December 1936 and was King during the second World War. He became known as George the Good and his unexpected death in 1952 (at the young age of 56) plunged the country into mourning.


  1. Elspeth - Oh, this is such interesting stuff! Thank you :-). I think facts like this make a person seem so much more real. And I find it particularly fascinating to know how much of what happened to the king was because of the culture of his family and his times.

  2. Margot; I'm glad you enjoyed it. The sad part is, I knew all this stuff already. Didn't look up a thing and could have written far, far more.

  3. Thanks so much! I just watched the 2002 made for TV movie, "Bertie and Elizabeth" in anticipation of seeing "The King's Speech". It was sort of a love letter to the Windsors (Wallis Simpson came off as Cruella De Vil) and it wasn't quite clear on the details. This clears them up. Thanks!

  4. Anne; That is my issue with many of these pictures; the portrayal of Wallis Simpson is somewhat one dimensional. She wasn't evil personified. Perhaps I'll do a future post about her! I find their relationship and story endlessly fascinating.

  5. I would love to know the real Wallis Simpson.
    Found it hard to believe she was as nasty as portrayed.

    This piece was fascinating.

  6. I'm impressed (read the comment that you didn't have to look this stuff up). Then again, with my knowledge of history, you could have made it all up out of whole cloth and I wouldn't know the difference.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  7. Interesting! I've not heard of that movie, but you've made quite the sale. :)

    Love that I can always come here for some great pictures along with your good content.

  8. My mother was a Royal Family buff, so I grew up sort of knowing all this stuff (in the sense of being aware of it), but that story about his being rejected twice was charming. But one expects nothing less from the Queen Mother.

  9. I enjoyed learning all these little tidbits -- and want so much to see that movie. It's impressive that you know all of this without looking any of it up? How did that come about?

  10. This movie is being recommended by so many folks that I must see it. And really, if Colin Firth is in it, it will be good.

    Speaking of Colin, have you seen "Easy Virtue?" It's excellent.

  11. December 14th was also the anniversary of the death of Princess Alice, the Queen's daughter.


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