THE INTIMATE LIFE STORY OF KING GEORGE V
THE grave and prolonged illness from which the King has recently recovered, to the joy of his subjects, revealed the world-wide affection and esteem in which his Majesty is held. The intense anxiety which was felt in the early days of December, 1928, has had no parallel as regards the incessant demand for the latest bulletins. The tens of thousands of words which were cabled all over the globe, established a record. This sympathy had its satisfactory reflex action on the King. It was stated by the royal doctors that the King pulled through, largely because he willed himself to live for his people. Day after day, until exhaustion set in, his Majesty would ask if people were enquiring for him; and when he was told of the thousands of sympathetic messages that were pouring in from all parts of the country, he would smile contentedly.
When the deep shadow caused by his illness had lifted, the King gave another proof of how accurately he understands other people. He realized that there were many people who would have been disappointed if he had been taken to Bognor for convalescence without any public announcement of the time and route of his journey. So he insisted that the arrangements should be made known in the Dress, and that the route should be announced. He wanted all those people who cared for him to have the pleasure of seeing the invalid once more in person and happily on the road to recovery. He travelled in an ambulance, with windows unscreened by his own desire, so that people could see him, and he acknowledged their greetings with a wave of his hand.
It is difficult not to dwell on the King’s illness when writing any kind of appreciation of him, for in those three months of anxiety he has come nearer to his subjects than ever before, and his recovery lightened a weight which was becoming almost insupportable. Those of us who were in London during those sad dark days in December, 1928, know the atmosphere that pervaded it. Everyone’s mind was far away in that quiet room in Buckingham Palace; and crowds stood daily near the gates as if that proximity to the King brought them comfort. Nobody said much, but they felt the more. When the first reassuring bulletin came, one could almost hear the sigh of relief that went up.
Honest Bulletins By Command
COME people thought that the public should not have ^ been given such intimate details regarding the King’s illness, and that they should not have been told how ill he was. Vague bulletins, concealing the actual serious condition of the patient, might have been issued; but the King insisted that, from the beginning, the people should not be misled in any way about his illness. In the early stages he had the newspaper reports read aloud to him, so that he might be certain that the doctors’ bulletins were given fully.
The King has seen so much of pain and suffering in his frequent visits to hospitals that he followed his own course of treatment with an expert interest. Having done his best on countless occasions to cheer wounded and dying men, he endured his own sufferings with courage. Royal personages become accustomed to the sight of illness from early youth, for, since the days of Queen Victoria, they have included visits to hospitals in the regular routine of their lives.
The late Dame Agnes Weston told a story of King George in his naval days which reveals his kindly sympathy. “When he commanded H.M.S. Melampus, the Fleet was lying at Portland,” says Dame Agnes Weston. “A boy whom I knew on board the ship had met with a bad accident, and was in the naval sick quarters. It was Sunday, and in the afternoon the Esplanade at Weymouth was crowded by all the rank and fashion, eagerly expecting the arrival of the sailor prince. I went to Portland to my work, and in the sick quarters there was the royal captain, sitting by the bedside of the wounded sailor boy, comforting and cheering him, and eventually, when he left hospital and was invalided out of the Service, finding work for him.”
The outpouring of the world’s sympathy in his illness moved the King profoundly and proved, as we have said, an incentive toward exerting that “will to live” which turned the tide toward recovery.
The Royal “Home”
THEN a number of people interested in the housing problem were received by the King some years ago, the conversation happened to touch on Buckingham Palace in its aspect as a house. “You know,” said the King, “among ourselves—in the family, I mean—we never speak of ‘Buckingham Palace’; we always call it ‘home’.”
The Palace underwent several changes on the King’s accession, and during his reign has been occupied for much longer periods by the Sovereign than was the case in the reigns of Queen Victoria, who disliked it, and King Edward, who preferred Sandringham. King George and Queen Mary’s life at Buckingham Palace has always had a pleasant domestic touch. When their children were young, the King and Queen saw much of them, for the King believed that nothing influenced youthfui minds so much as intercourse with sympathetic and cultured people.
One can recall charming pictures from the early days of the King’s reign. Down the long corridors of Buckingham Palace childish laugher and running footsteps were often to be heard. “Father” was much in dçmand for hide-and-seek—he and his little daughter, Princess Mary, being especially good finders. They often hunted hand-in-hand, because “David”— now the Prince of Wales—“jumped out and frightened one.” The King adored his little daughter. In his study at Buckingham Palace with its rich sombre furniture, the little fairy-like figure of Princess Mary could often be seen enjoying the game of “ride-a-cockhorse” on her father’s foot. He was always a great playmate, as all children discovered. Once little Princess Mary was heard telling her mother that: “Daddy knows all the words, but when I asked Mr.
—to give me one the other day, he didn’t seem to know what to do.” She had implicit faith in the King’s omniscience.
The King could not understand his eldest son’s passion for being an engine-driver, and questioned him about it.
‘T want to be an engine-driver,” reiterated the boy for about the fourth time one day.
“If you can give me one really good reason why you want to be an engine-driver, David, we shall think about it seriously,” said the King. “If anybody gets as far as having a real reason for doing anything, I think they ought to be listened to.”
“Because the drivers are so lovely and dirty!” the Prince answered with sparkling eyes. But apparently this reason was not sufficient, for the Prince did not realize his ambition, though in later years he has driven railway engines on more than one occasion.
The King has always taken a great interest in the Queen’s hobby of interior decoration, and often makes quiet but useful suggestions. They are often to be seen at Sandringham arm-in-arm, going through the rooms together. The King is a very observant man, and seldom omits to notice a new improvement and compliment the Queen upon it. Her Majesty, in turn, takes a very lively interest in the King’s wonderful stamp collection. It is one of the best in the world and the King is justly proud of it. It is the envy of all philatelists. On more than one occasion, the King has assembled at the Palace a group of leading stamp collectors, and his thorough acquaintance with all the rarities proved that he was a connoisseur. A pleasant proof of his better health was given when he sent for some of his stamp albums and catalogues.
The King’s Forethought
TT HAS been said that the King never forgets a face; certainly he never forgets a friend. It is difficult for Royalty to have true friends for, as Tennyson wrote, the “lonely splendor of a throne” is a reality. But King George has an uncanny insight into what is true and what is false, and flatterers stand no chance with him. His friends are of all ages, and are selected from all classes. “No man is a hero to his valet,” it has been said, but those who serve the King are among his best friends. The King is never quite at his ease when motoring unless his chauffeur, Humphreys, is driving him; and it was Humphreys'who drove the ambulance which conveyed him to Bognor. Humphreys, too, invariably accompanies the King when he shoots.
The King believes in his friends, and they on their part never fail him. His consideration for them is almost womanly. One of his friends in a humble walk of life is the Scottish piper, McGregor. During the early part of the King’s illness, regularly at 8 a.m. Piper McGregor would play tunes on his bagpipes underneath the King’s window. One day, however, the King saw that it was raining and sent the nurse down to tell the piper not to come on wet days in future because it was bad for him. By the way, it may be mentioned that the King has always been a student of weather reports. So long ago as 1913 Sir Frederick Ponsonby, writing to the Meteorological Committee, stated: “I am commanded by the King to tell you that his Majesty would be very glad to have a copy of the Daily Weather Report sent to him regularly. His Majesty has always taken a great interest in the chart and details concerning the barometer ever since he was on board H.M.S. Thrush. The King would, therefore, be pleased to receive your Daily Report, and desires me to ask you to be good enough to address it direct to him every day.”
A Sailor King
'T'HERE is one subject that brings invariably a brighter light into the King’s eyes, and that is any mention of the sea or ships. For, after all, though King George has schooled himself into kingship, it was as a sailor that he spent a great part of his life. With his elder brother, the late Duke of Clarence, he made the Navy his profession, and that profession, which he had to abandon when he came to the throne, has always been very dear to him. It is the King in his yacht Britannia racing at Cowes that reveals him in his happiest mood. It was characteristic that one of the first pleasures he enjoyed in his convalescence at Bognor was his sight of the sea and passing ships.
The King at Cowes is a laughing, jovial figure. “Directly I set foot on my yacht, I am the happiest man in the world,” he once remarked to a friend. And he looks it. There is nothing he does not know about yachting, and the crew of the Britannia say that he is the most efficient man aboard. The King’s cheeriness at Cowes is infectious. Once, when landing from his yacht in a stiff breeze, his sailor cap blew off into the mud below the railings. “Well, that’s gone,” laughed the King, as he stood bareheaded in the wind. A little townsboy, however, hopped down quickly, picked it up and returned it to his Majesty in a somewhat dilapidated condition. “Thank you, my boy,” said the King, patting him on the head. “Better a muddy cap than none, don’t you think?”
The Mediterranean cruise that the King and Queen took some time ago was not a success. The King is much happier in home waters, and Cowes Bay and the Norfolk Broads mean much more to him than the Mediterranean or the Atlantic.
A revelation of the King’s earliest interest in Nelson was made in a letter written by the King when a boy of six to a lady from Windsor Castle as follows: “I am writing with your lovely ink, and thank you so much for bringing it down last night, it was so very kind. We went yesterday to see Grandmama’s swords, pistols, guns, the bullet in a locket that killed Nelson, the sword full of arrows, tigers, and peacocks and stars. We will write with this ink to Mama tomorrow . . . We were photographed twice yesterday and the day before; the man took a long time. George.”
The King has the absolute devotion of his servants. They will do anything for him, finding him just, considerate, and yet strict. It was said that he carried the methods of the Navy into his household, but that simply meant that he only condemns a delinquent after a perfectly impartial consideration of the case.
Twenty Years in the Navy
"pOR one whole year in his life, 1883-1884, he was not home at all, serving as a midshipman on board the Canada on the North American and West Indian stations. Few people realize that the King put in twenty years of sea service. He gave one day to the boys of the training ship Conway at Liverpool a reminder of this, and at the same time expressed his own ideals of duty in these words: “I think that I am entitled, from a personal experience of twenty years at sea, to impress upon you three simple qualities which, I am sure, if conscientiously acted up to, will go a long way toward ensuring your success. The qualities to which I refer are truthfulness, obedience and zeal. Truthfulness will give those placed under you confidence in you; obedience will give those placed over you confidence in you; and although I have mentioned zeal last, it is by no means the least important, for without zeal no sailor can be worth his salt.”
The King’s sailor experience enabled him to appreciate the work of mine sweeping and submarine hunting performed by the skippers and crews of the small craft that scoured the waters of the North Sea in the war.
He paid a visit to a boat which had the good fortune to do a piece of work that probably saved a transport from attack.
“When we got back into harbor,” the skipper relates, “I got to know the King was coming, so we made the boat look a bit smart, and presently who should come along but his Majesty, a prince, a lord, and an admiral, and some more. I never saw so much gold lace before. I was all of a shake when they came alongside the quay, and the admiral said; ‘Your Majesty, this is the ship and that is the skipper.’
“Then the King stepped aboard. ‘Skipper,’ says he, quite nice and friendly, ‘I am
very pleased to meet you. I am very proud of you. You are a brave man and so are all your crew.’ Then he shook hands.
“I ‘Majestied’ him at first, but when he called me skipper I just ‘sirred’ him, and he seemed pleased. He put his hand on my shoulder and walked with me forward, congratulating the crew, and having a look round.
He looked down the engine room, and congratulated the engineer on how nice and smart the engines looked.
“ ‘Now, skipper,’ said his Majesty, ‘I should like to see where you sleep,’ and down we went into the cabin.
“ ‘It’s a very nice little place,’ said the King, and then he says to me, ‘which is your bunk, skipper?’ ‘This one, sir,’ and there was a nice counterpane and pillowcase.
The King felt it and said, ‘Very nice and comfortable, too; you can sleep well there.’ Then he asked me how we lived, and I said: ‘Champion in the Navy.’ The Kang shook hands with us again on deck, and then left.”
Of Wide Interests
1 I 'HE King is a thorough Britisher and prefers his own A country and its scenery to that of all others. This does not mean to say that he is not intensely interested in the life and customs of other countries, for he is— especially in India. As King-Emperor he feels a tremendous responsibility for this great country which is under his rule. It is characteristic of the King that when he speaks of India, he never forgets the Indian women and their emancipation. He has never forgotten his tour to India when he was Prince of Wales; even then he was keenly interested in this question. When he was in Calcutta he had a long talk with the late Mr. Gokhale, one of the ablest Indians of his time. “I gather,” he said, “that you think that the people of India would be happier if they were governed by Indians?”
“I cannot say, sir,” said Mr. Gokhale, “that they ■would be happier; but at any rate they would feel a pride in thinking that they were managing their own affairs and taking their place among the self-respecting nations of the world.”
“Ah,” said the future King, “I can quite understand that ambition, but how can you achieve this while fbe women of India remain as they are at present in the unenlightened, dark background?”
When the late Viscount Morley, Secretary of State for India, returned from an interview with the Prince of Wales, as King George then was, he recorded in his diary this comment: “His whole attitude is saturated with sympathy for its people.” His hundreds of millions of Indian subjects may rest assured that their life and destiny are often in the thoughts of their King-Emperor.
During the Great War, all the King’s observation, sense of duty and sincere kindliness were put to the test. In France the King’s visits were an inspiration to thousands of soldiers. Simply and unaffectedly, he mingled with his men as one of them. One had only to look at his face to see how he cared and grieved for the hosts of wounded. His visits to hospitals were greeted with loud cheering, notwithstanding all instructions to the contrary. He had a word of praise for every bit of good work done, a joke for many a patient, and an intimate first-hand knowledge of the war which astounded the Generals who came into contact with him.
The Court in Wartime
AT HOME, King George and his family lived a life of
A Spartan simplicity at Buckingham Palace. Once during a visit to a hospital near London, the King was shown some heating apparatus.
“I suppose you can get hot baths every day,” said the King a little ruefully, and then added, obviously from personal experience: “You can’t lather with soap and cold water, can you?”
At Court, by the King’s command, total abstinence became the rule. There is a story that the Royal servants at Windsor showed a pretty sense of humor. They placed a wreath of laurel at the head of the cellar steps, down which now, alas, no one goes. Quite what the wreath was meant to ir flicate—whether regret or homage—is not clear.
The Royal menus were d in^e to the point of frugality, and Queen Mary filled Wpmalown card for meat allowance like the rest of theLecidedls women. A distinguished visitor to the Palace in®u^~(ise days of the war was so impressed by the smal3 succej served to their Majesties that he suggested thats> even;ails should be published in order to encourage the As for,cts.
The King has neverIS not Recovered from the strain of the war, and he has ha-ps, t forgotten it. Many exservicemen have had cl not Ï thank him for some kindly thought or deed. Retting fance Day is sacred to the King—probably a gready tol more sacred than it is to many people—and the id thlninutes silence is an intense emotional strain to him ve he realizes the sacrifices it commemorates. It is believed that his Majesty caught the cold that started his long illness by standing bareheaded before the Cenotaph on November 11, 1928. What the King means to ex-servicemen was shown by the tremendous ovation given to him at the Daily Express Remembrance Day celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall, just before he fell ill. The men cheered until they were hoarse.
“A Good Sport”
TO SOME people the King would mean far less if he were not that person so beloved of all Englishmen—a good sportsman. Derby Day and Ascot would lose much of their fascination if the King were not there. Newmarket would fall flat if it were not for the friendly, smiling man who walks informally among his subjects in the paddock. You see him laughing over a joke, young in mind and body. If his horse wins a race, the King is as exuberant as any other winning racegoer. He loves horses, although he never hunts nowadays.
Because the King is “a good sport” and also because he loves to be among his people, he attends most of the great sporting events in London. At the cup final at Wembley his arrival is always greeted by a wild outburst of enthusiasm, made even more real by the fact that his Majesty is obviously going to enjoy the game as much as any of the public. The Tattoo, the Military Tournament, the Horse Show—to all of these the King goes, bringing with him the zest and vitality that never leave him. He is extremely interested in air development and in 1928 attended the air pageant at Hendon. Although his Majesty does not travel by air, he has a great belief in this form of transport, and has followed world flights and transatlantic achievements with keen interest.
The King has for many years been fond of lawn tennis, and used to play frequently in the gardens of Buckingham Palace with Princess Mary and the Duke of York, both of whom are excellent players. It will be remembered that the Duke of York, partnered by Wing-Commander Louis Greig, played twice at Wimbledon. The King and Queen enjoy few afternoons in the summer so much as when they visit Wimbledon. On the occasion of the Jubilee there, their Majesties presented medals to a procession of champions and exchampions on the famous centre court. The King discusses the points of a lawn-tennis match with the enthusiasm and knowledge of a keen player.
Riding is his favorite form of exercise, and he likes nothing better than a gallop in Windsor Great Park. Before Princess Mary’s marriage, she and her father used often to ride together, for they were great companions. In London the King has often been seen early in the morning riding in Rotten Row with a friend. Once he saw a little girl with a very large camera, vainly trying with inexperienced hands to take a photograph of him. Pulling up his horse, he asked her whether she would find it easier if he stood still. “Oh, yes, your Majesty, now I can get a lovely one,” said the little girl. The King’s smile was very kind, as he rode away, for his love of all children is well known.
SOME foreigners once said on a visit to England: “We find your King so charming because he has a wide diversity
of tastes.” People often ask the question: “Is the King really fond of all the things he has to do?” Naturally, like other men, King George has his own special tastes, but it is true to say that there is very little in his life that the King does not find or make interesting. This is, of course, in some degree due to his up-
bringing. His father, King Edward, looking back over youthful years of restriction and loneliness, determined that his sons should lead a very different life from his own. He encouraged them to read and travel. When quite young, Prince George was sent on a world tour with his elder brother, the Duke of Clarence. Queen Victoria strongly opposed the greater freedom allowed to the Princes, but on this point King Edward was adamant, and King George has much to thank his father for in this respect. Being a genial person, the King enjoys lively plays at the theatre, and has sometimes attended cinemas. At the last command performance on the variety stage, many well known artistes were seen at their best, and the King laughed until the tears ran down his face.
This sense of humor helped tremendously in pulling him through his grave illness. He joked frequently with the doctors and his nurses. When Nurse Black arrived from the London Hospital to try and suggest new foods for the King who was not taking nourishment, she found her patient very weak, but with a twinkle in his eye:
“If you give me milk in any shape or form, nurse, I shall know it,” he whispered; “you can’t take me in.”
But Nurse Black managed to provide tempting diet, and her patient began to eat again. The King joked with the St.John Ambulance men who were detailed to carry him on a stretcher from the Palace to the motor ambulance. He said that he hoped he was not too heavy, and then remarked laughingly that, in any case, he was not as heavy as the fat policeman outside Buckingham Palace. “I should think he weighs twenty stone,” said the King; and it was found afterwards that this estimate was not far wrong.
C~^N JUNE 3, 1865, Victorian London again had the excitement of hearing of a Royal Prince’s birth. Eighteen months before, the Duke of Clarence, Albert Victor, had been born. But it was the second son of the Prince and Princess of Wales who was destined to become King George V, of Britain.
A most alarming occurrence took place at Marlborough House on July 4, when Prince George was only a month old. Fire broke out on the nursery floor. The Princess was with her two small sons at the time, and was much alarmed when she saw smoke coming up through the floor. The Princess always turned to her husband in cases of emergency, and rushing out on to the landing, she called out dramatically: “Edward, Edward, we are all on fire!” The Prince of Wales, rushing up from his study, helped to tear up the flooring and discover the origin of the fire. Apparently, a smoldering cinder had set fire to some of the dry boards. This fire led to the discovery of a most astounding thing—that Marlborough House was not insured! It would have been a heavy financial loss to the Prince and Princess if it had been burnt to the ground.
On July 7th, Prince George was christened at Windsor, being named George Frederick Ernest Albert. On the same day, Queen Victoria, always a prolific letter-writer, wrote to the King of the Belgians: “Today the christening of the new baby took place, but quietly and not en grande tenue. Still these ceremonies and events are painful to me in the extreme, as you know.”
X^TNG GEORGE’S most vivid memories of his childhood group themselves round Sandringham. The country home of the King in Norfolk can claim distinguished association with the scholarly Earl Rivers, who instigated the arrival of Caxton with his printing press in England. The house was bought from Lady Harriet Cowper as a shooting-box for the Prince and became a real home to all his children. Prince George loved the quiet countryside. When he was quite a little boy, he could distinguish the different birds by their notes, and he was often chosen by his mother to gather flowers for her, because, as she said: “He picked them so tenderly.” He and his brother and sisters loved especially springtime at Sandringham, with pleasant days in the woods, picnics, and merry games.
' I 'HE royal children had few toys, and, they were not allowed to receive gifts except from relatives. The Prince andj Princess of Wales lived a very quiet and informal life at Sandringham. Breakfast! was a meal specially loved by the children,! and there was always a rush as to who1 should be down first to sit next to “Mamma.” Often George, with his swift movements, reached one of the coveted chairs first, and during the meal would wriggle closer and closer to his mother, until at last a sticky little hand was thrust into her’s. One strange nondescript woolly animal accompanied the little Prince during the day and, alas for Victorian discipline, went to bed with him at night! Queen Victoria once caught sight of this animal, and remarked to the Princess of Wales that she thought it was high time the child should learn to do without such things.
“He is only six,” murmured the mother, “and he does love it so.” Prince George, skipping about the nursery, did not know until long afterwards how nearly his pet had been taken from him. The Princess was not an overindulgent mother; she believed in teaching her children to sacrifice themselves for other people and to interest themselves in them. Often, when she was driving with her family, she would pick up village children on their way from school and take them to their cottage homes, often going in and speaking to the mothers. Probably because of her Danish origin, the Princess loved these informal domestic chats, to which she had grown accustomed when she was a girl in Denmark. It is quite certain that at any rate little Prince George appreciated thoroughly his intercourse with ordinary children. He was not averse to a fight with boys of his own age if the occasion demanded.
TOVE of animals was always fostered
' at Sandringham. The Princess was very fond of riding and driving, and loved horses and dogs. She taught her children to love them, too; they had a little Indian pony called “Nawab” which had wonderful red and gold harness and was decorated with ribbons. Prince George was particularly adventurous on this animal, and once accomplished the feat of riding Nawab up the steps and into the club house at West Newton. He was punished for this, but, as a small boy once said: “It is better to be punished after you have done a thing, than just for thinking about doing it.” The royal children had quite a menagerie at Sandringham. There was the dove-house, two heifer calves, two or three ponies, and “Viva,” the beautiful mare belonging to their mother, of which Prince George was very fond. It was the custom of the Prince and Princess of Wales, when at Sandringham, to walk round the grounds with their family and guests after lunch on Sundays, visiting the animals. Prince Eddy and Prince George were allowed to accompany the party, if they had been passably good during the week. Each child went down to the kitchens beforehand, and received a little basket of apples and carrots.
There are old men at Sandringham who shake their heads laughingly at the remembrance of Prince Georgie’s pranks, although his courtesy to people older than himself is also remembered. A story goes that his mother and a clergyman had been paying a visit to one of the cottages on the estate. The latter discovered suddenly, when he reached Sandringham House, that he had left his walking-stick there. Nobody had observed Georgie, but he came forward suddenly with the request: “May I have the pleasure of fetching it for you?”