The Intimate Life Story of King George V
Describing the coronation of King Edward VII and the Prince's tour to India
GRANDPA,” as all the children called King Edward, was at his best among small children, and he lavished a wealth of affection and care upon his three little grandsons and granddaughter. It was only “Grandpa” who could make the first lessons really interesting, and King Edward with “his babies” hanging round him could often be seen in the schoolroom helping them secretly with their lessons.
The King and Queen took the place of the parents so far as was possible, and did their best to make up for their temporary absence.
Queen Alexandra spoilt them as grandmothers always will. Prince David learned this early, and if there was anything ho wanted particularly to do, he would say in confident tones: “I shall ask Grannie.”
After the return of their parents the children went back home, and the next few weeks were spent quietly at Sandringham, during which time the Prince and Princess got to know their children again.
The tour had been noticeably beneficial to the Duchess. It. had given her a deeper sympathy and a wider understanding than before. As Princess of Wales, she had a busy life, but she gave strict attention to her children’s education and saw that it was conducted on the right, lines. A motto in the schoolroom was: “Work while you work, and play while you play.” “Mummie is so jolly when it’s holidays, and so strict when it isn’t,” Prince David once remarked in grumbling mood. “She has to be strict,” said a younger brother wisely, “because if she wasn’t we wouldn’t do any lessons at all.”
The Princess was not always strict. She was the mast delightful company and had the power of amusing people with her reminiscences of travel and her stories. She was delightfully informal. I remember once an important visitor came to York Cottage soon after their
Royal Highnesses’ return. “I did so want to show you my children,” said the Princess, “but David and Bertie have measles, and the other two, poor dears, are in the next room waiting to have it, so I can’t very well.” The visitor reminded her deferentially that she had once promised him a photograph of the children. “So I did,” said the Princess, and drawing out a pocket handkerchief she tied a knot in it. “Now I shall not forget; I will cend it to you tomorrow.” He duly received the photograph.
King Edward's Coronation
rT'HE year 1902 was memorable, the main feature of it being the coronation of King Edward VII. Other events were the death of Cecil Rhodes, the end of the Boer War, and the birth of a fourth son to the Prince of Wales.
The coronation was a tremendous event, for few people living could recall the last. A proclamation was issued, stating that June 26 would be Coronation Day. Excitement and enthusiasm rose to a great height all over the country, but before this event there were many public functions to be attended by the Heir Apparent. In January he went to Berlin to represent King Edward at the Kaiser’s birthday celebration. It was an entirely unofficial visit, and the Princess of Wales did not
accompany her husband. As it was one of the first acts of friendship shown toward the Kaiser since Edward VII. had been King, tremendous importance was given to the visit in the German Press.
In February, the Prince of Wales had a narrow escape from a serious accident. While attending a Shire-horse show at the Agricultural Hall, a horse became restive and ran at the Royal Box. For a moment, it looked as if the Prince had been struck by the horse, and it was only the groom’s tremendous strength that prevented the plunging hoofs of the animal from trampling both the Royal pair. As it was, the hoofs came within a few inches of them. I noticed that although the Prince and Princess made light of the affair, the Princess held her husband’s arm for the rest of the performance and looked very pale. With the courage that has always characterized them both, they refused to leave, thinking that “the people would be disappointed.” It was found afterward that the Duke’s wrist had been badly bruised by the animal, and the injury must have pained him considerably while he sat smiling and talking in the Royal Box. Of all qualities which I admire in King
George, his courage is perhaps the greatest of them all.
As June approached, the excitement of the nation began to grow by leaps and bounds. The weather was wonderful. Visitors from all over the Empire, people from the Provinces and sightseers from America wandered about the streets of London, watching the preparations for one of the most magnificent coronations that history had known. The London parks were being turned rapidly into camps for the soldiers of the British Empire who had been chosen to take part in the military pageant at the Coronation, and one park was set aside solely for the use of the Indian troops. At the beginning of June the King’s guests began to arrive—potentates and princes from the four continents of the world.
The King’s Illness
TI) Y THE end of the first week in June, the decorations were complete. In Whitehall stood the Canadian Arch, and bunting and flags were everywhere. I remember well the first haze of uneasiness which spread over London when, ten days before the date fixed for the Coronation, the King was not well enough to go to the races at Ascot. Not much attention was paid to his absence, and on Midsummer Day the King came to London and drove to the Palace. He was greatly upset by the journey. His doctors grew alarmed, and at 12.45 p.m., on June 24, when the streets were thronged with sightseers, a bulletin was posted up at the Mansion House. It was signed by Lord Lister, Sir Thomas Smith, Sir Francis Laking, Sir Thomas Barlow and Sir Frederick Treves, and stated:
“The King is suffering from Perityphlitis. His condition on Saturday was so satisfactory that it was hoped that with care His Majesty would be able to go through the ceremony. On Monday evening a recrudescence became manifest, rendering a surgical operation necessary today.”
The news of the King’s illness ran through the crowd like wildfire. In a few minutes it had been cabled all over the world. The King’s subjects were wonderful. No word of complaint was heard, although the matenal loss suffered by a great many, on account of the postponed Coronation, was severe. The King, although in great pain, could only say one thing * ver and over again: “Will my people ever forgive me?”
Although the King’s condition was critical for a few days, he was soon pronounced out of danger, and Society began to beguile itself with parties and receptions, and entertain the visitors who had remained in London. The King recovered fairly quickly, and on June 28 a bulletin, signed by the five physicians, announced that:
“We are happy to be able to state that we consider His Majesty out of immediate danger.”
On July 13, the King was well enough to travel by private train to his yacht off Portsmouth. He went for a cruise until August 6, when he returned to London with
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The Intimate Life Story of King George V
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Queen Alexandra in time for the postponed Coronation, which had been fixed for August 9.
I cannot describe adequately all that the Prince of Wales did during the anxious days of his father’s illness. He seemed to be everywhere, always with a cheery word and smile. In those few weeks, London grew to know him better than they had ever done before. The strain on him was almost unbearable at times, for he was consulted on endless matters, but he won through and gained the golden opinion of the whole nation.
The Scene in Westminster Abbey
YAWING to the King’s strength not being fully restored, it was arranged that the Coronation service should be abridged slightly. Dr. Temple, the octogenarian Archbishop of Canterbury, crowned the King, and Dr. Maclagan, the Archbishop of York, crowned the Queen. The Abbey was a blaze of color. In the Royal Box, on the south side of the high altar, Prince Edward and Prince Albert of Wales, attired in white sailor suits, awaited the arrival of their mother. They were both keenly interested in everything and began to talk in rather loud voices, until awed by their surroundings.
The crowning of the King took two hours, and an unfortunate incident occurred during the homage. The aged Archbishop of Canterbury had knelt to kiss the King’s hand when he was overcome with faintness, and could not rise. The Bishops of Winchester and Bath and Wells came to help him, but the Archbishop w'aved them aside. The King saved the situation by giving Dr. Temple his hand, and assisting him up.
A very beautiful part of the Coronation was when the Prince of Wales, taking off his Coronet, knelt down before His Majesty and pronounced those words of homage:
“I, George Prince of Wales, do become your liege man of life and limb and of earthly worship, and faith and truth. I will bear unto you to live and die against all manner of folks. So help me God.”
Then he touched the King’s crown with his right hand and kissed him on the left cheek. This was the formal custom, but after it was over, the King and his “liege man” became father and son. With infinite tenderness, the father drew his only remaining son into his arms, and, in the sight of all his people, kissed him. The incident only lasted for a moment, but was perhaps the most touching episode in the Coronation Service.
After the Coronation the King passed out of sight. A moment before retiring, however, His Majesty looked back over the vast Abbey. The old Archbishop sat, resting his feeble limbs near the screen, and the King did a very kindly thing when, laying down his sceptre, he went to him, and said a few kindly words before leaving.
After the King and Queen had returned to Buckingham Palace, they came out on the balcony. The little Princes were rather tired after the Abbey service, and, during the ride home in the carriage afterward, deciding that there was not enough room for them to be comfortable, they bundled their small brother Harry under the seat. The child began to howl loudly, and at Prince David’s suggestion a cushion was pushed after him to “stille the noise.” On arriving at Marlborough House, the tiny Prince was allowed to come out. His white sailor suit wfas very crumpled and dirty, but otherwise he had quite recovered, and had apparently gone to sleep under there. Prince David’s remark was , characteristic. “The carriages look so
beautiful outside that nobody would think they were dirty under the seat.”
ANEW joy came to gladden the home ■*life of the Prince and Princess of Wales when Prince George was born on December 20, 1902. The news of a baby brother was very exciting and all the children came in to visit their mother on Christmas morning, bringing their gifts, and inspecting the new baby who was thought to be very like “Bertie.” After Christmas, the Prince of Wales told his two elder sons that they were to have a tutor, and that they must do their best at lessons with him. Mr. H. P. Hansell, who has been such a great friend of the Royal Family ever since, was chosen out of a host of applicants. Besides being tutor to the present Prince of Wales and Duke of York, Mr. Hansell has also been tutor to Prince Olaf of Norway and Prince Nicholas of Roumania. He had a real gift in handling boys, and Prince David and Prince Bertie were very fond of him.
The friendship which began thus early between the present Prince of Wales and his tutor still continues today. Mr. Hansell has watched him grow from boyhood to manhood, and, by the look on his face when he speaks to him, it is certain that he is proud of his pupil, although he is never given to any form of overpraise. It was decided that the boys should study French under M. Hua, who had taught their father. A small study was set apart for the boys’ use at York Cottage, where they worked very seriously both morning and afternoon.
There was great excitement, early in 1903, when the Prince of Wales ordered a twenty-two horsepower Daimler car, similar to the car used by King Edward. Cars were then something of a novelty, and when the automobile arrived at York Cottage, driven by Mr. Stamper, who had taken King Edward for his first ride, the children were eager to have a look at it. The boys were full of questions as to the engine, while little Princess Mary, I noticed, softly stroked the leather upholstery, saying: “How nice and comfy.”
Public work was now taking up so much of their Royal Highnesses’ time that they decided reluctantly to move from York Cottage to Marlborough House. There was great sorrow at leaving their “dear little home,” as they called it, and the children were sorry to say good-by to their favorite trees and the places in the woods they most loved to picnic.
Queen Mary’s Memory
TN THE spring of 1903 their Royal
Highnesses went to Austria to visit the old Emperor Francis Joseph. This visit reminds me of Queen Mary’s wonderful memory. Some little time ago I was walking round an exhibition with her, held in London, where the “Emperor” carpet was on view. Queen Mary remembered it at once, and described minutely how she had seen it on her Austrian visit many years ago, even mentioning in which room it had been laid. Considering how many things Queen Mary had seen since, her memory is little short of miraculous.
In November, the King of Portugal came over for a visit, and he and the Prince of Wales went to "Windsor together. The Prince of Wales and the King of Portugal were very good friends; after a day’s shooting they would return to Windsor and sit over a roaring fire, capping each other’s stories. Both of them told stories very humorously. The Prince, when he had one of these light-hearted moods on him, was the most entertaining person in the world.
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King Edward’s reign was certainly marked by his hospitality, and during it more Royal visitors came from abroad to England than at any other period. In March, 1905, King Alfonso visited the country. He was always a most popular visitor, and could make King Edward laugh until the tears poured down his cheeks. King Alfonso always came to England, intending to stay only a few days, but he was generally persuaded into staying longer; and letters would pass between him and his mother as if he were a naughty schoolboy playing truant. His visit made a good excuse for the Prince of Wales not to attend the wedding of the German Crown Prince. There had been a war scare in the Press between Great Britain and Germany, and King Edward “thought it better for the Royal families not to intermingle just at present.”
The one thing that stands in my memory regarding the functions of 1905 is the deplorably bad weather in which most of them were carried out. In June, on a pouring wet day, the Prince of Wales, with his two eldest sons, inaugurated the new Thames Steamboat Service, buying the first circular tickets which had been printed. They entitled them to travel by river and tram. The coins, with which the Prince paid his own and his sons’ fares, were preserved afterward by the London County Council as a memento. I was amused to see the faces of Prince David and Prince Bertie, when they saw the sedate Royal carriage, which had been sent to Greenwich to meet the Royal Party. A good deal of whispering went on, and at last the Prince of Wales decided not to use the carriage, but to make the return journey on the top of a tram. The two boys waved their caps in their delight when the tram started off, and then settled down to take in its full delights.
Royalty Takes Orders
JULY 12, 1905, Prince John was born, and christened John Charles Francis at Sandringham. The Prince and Princess of Wales had planned their Indian tour, but, before they left their family, they managed to have a few weeks at Sandringham and in Scotland. King Edward was at Balmoral, and with him was C. W. Stamper, who was the King’s motor expert. Mr. Stamper was, I remember, absolutely scandalized at the way the gillies addressed the Royal Family. I cannot do better than quote his own words, for the comment throws a true light on the life and character of the Royal Family at this time. “One day,” he said, “we were motoring to a deer drive. The Prince of Wales was with the King in the car, and we were the last of the party to arrive. As we drew up to the side of the road, where the other guns and the gillies were standing, the head gilly came to the car and opened the door. ‘Do you want me to get out here?’ said the King, for it was left to the gilly to determine which position the King should occupy. ‘No, you stop where you are,' he replied; then, turning to the Prince, he said: ‘But you come out of it.’ The Prince meekly left the car ...” The Prince of Wales has always been one of the finest shots in England, and I have often stood behind him at a shoot, and watched him at work. Frequently I have seen four birds come over all together, and watched him bring them down, one at a time, two with one gun and two with another.
“In all that I did for him, the Prince of Wales treated me with great consideration. One of the fairest men I ever encountered, he used everyone well,” said Mr. Stamper. “On an offender he could come heavily down, but his nature was most forgiving. He corrected a fault when he saw it—but that was when it was there, and, with its correction, the matter ended. Always rather reserved, he did not talk very much, but the moment he began to discuss a question it was clear
that he knew his subject thoroughly. He was most observant. He was patently very well read, and thought much. All the same, he enjoyed a joke thoroughly.” The Prince and Princess soon had to bid a long farewell to Balmoral and to their children. India, at this time, loomed largely on the horizon of the Royal Family, and soon the conversation centred almost entirely on the Empire tour that the Prince and Princess were to make. Its itinerary would take them away from England for eight months. Into King Edward’s and Queen Alexandra’s willing hands they committed the care of their children. It was indeed fortunate for them and the Royal children that those hands were so loving and so capable.
The Indian Tour
INDIA, India, with all its teeming millions, how I wish I could help them !”
I can hear the Princess now, sitting in her boudoir, saying these words when the tour to the Far East was being planned. The cry came from her heart, for she has ever desired to be able to help those who are poor and suffering.
Everything regarding the tour was discussed in that little blue-and-white boudoir, with its shaded lights and its books—the Prince sitting on the sofa, with his arm linked in that of his wife. “We must go there, May,” he would say with conviction about some place not on the programme, and “We can’t possibly miss that, George,” from the Princess would interrupt the recital by well-known officials as to what the tour should, or should not, include.
Suddenly, round the door, would come the little face of Prince David, and conversation would stop a minute to allow the little boy to tell his news. It was generally that he had found some halfstarved or wounded little animal, which was now warming in front of the nursery fire. “Would Papa or Mamma come and see?”
Sometimes after their Royal Highnesses’ advisers had gone, we would see them standing together, looking out through the open windows of York Cottage, and obviously in their thoughts was not the gardens and smooth lawns of Sandringham, but India, the land of mystery, that wonderful Empire in the east over which they would rule some day.
Once the Princess had turned to me, and said simply: “I am just a little bit frightened of all the greatness of it!” In this humble mood their Royal Highnesses started on their tour of the East.
The Prince and Princess knew that the tour would be a very different one from their voyage to Australia, Canada, and South Africa. To India the Prince must go as a Prince, almost as a god. I, who knew him, realized that he wanted, as always, to meet his fellow men lace to face, to shake them by the hand, and call them brother. Grovelling multitudes did hot appeal to him or to the Princess, but a clear vision of duty was always before them both, and they followed it unswervingly.
One evening late in 1905, some days before they started, the Prince came into my room, as he sometimes did, for a chat. He spoke of many things, but one thing above all worried him. “I do so hate leaving the kiddies,” he said. “David is just at the age when he needs a little guiding.”
“I don’t think you need worry about him,” I remember saying. “Somehow I think he, too, is going to do a great deal for the Empire one of these days.” In later years, those words came back to my mind as a prophecy that has been fulfilled.
On October 21, 1905, their Royal Highnesses travelled overland and joined the Renown at Genoa. The great white-hulled
ship had had her guns removed, and her cabins had been transformed to provide accommodation for their Royal Highnesses by the time they reached Genoa.
The children had been left again with their grandparents. This time they were older, and the parting was felt acutely, especially by Prince David. “India can’t want you nearly as much as we do,” he said rather pathetically to his father, a little time before the separation. It was on this occasion that the Prince took his son into his study, and told him something of the duties and responsibilities that fall upon Royalty. It was a quiet, thoughtful little boy who came out. The only remark, however, that he made to his little confidante, Princess Mary, was: “I think father’s fine. I hope I shall grow like him. Only I know I shan’t be anywhere near as good.”
TT SEEMED as if the whole of India had ^
crowded to welcome the Royal visitors, j That is what it looked like to some of us | who knew little of the immensity of India’s population. The Prince had spoken to us on the voyage as to procedure. He had said: “I want to behave as simply in India as anywhere else. I want to spend no more time than is necessary in dressing-up and doing the things that don’t matter. I want to try and understand the Indian races as much as I can, and I know you are all going to help me to do it.”
Accordingly, the Heir Apparent of the King-Emperor, in ordinary white uniform, drove with his lovely, smiling wife through the streets of Bombay. I beheld the might that lies in simplicity. I wonder if Indians understood, as I know some were disappointed because there were no jewels and no splendor. In a very short time, they began to grasp something of the dignity of the tall sailor Prince, who would some day rule over them. Before the tour started, the Princess had insisted that she should be given every opportunity of seeing Indian women. “I may not be able to understand their way of living,” she said to me, when we had discussed the subject once in England, “but I am a wife and a mother, as many millions of them are.” At that moment, Prince David’s laugh was heard, and the Princess added wistlully: “I wish I could take him. He would know how to win all hearts.”
Most of the time in India was spent between visits in railway carriages or in camp. The Prince and Princess enjoyed “camping out” immensely, and the Prince managed to get a little shooting and a fair amount of sport.
The names of some of the cities they visited thrilled their Royal Highnesses: Udaipur, “City of Sunrise,” and Jaipur, “City of the Crimson Glow.” In Central India their Royal Highnesses took a keen delight. The heat there is tremendous, and the Prince and Princess felt it greatly, especially at first. Soon, however, it was time to visit Peshawar and the Khyber Pass. Many and long were some of the letters that well-meaning people in England had written, urging that the risk of this visit was too great, from the fear of arousing native passions. Everyone, including myself, knew that there was a risk all through the tour—and the Prince and Princess also realized this clearly—but in India they did a characteristic thing which they had always done, and perhaps always will do: they trusted the people, and the people did not fail them.
Through the Khyber
ONLY those who know Peshawar know how forbidding it can look. The crowd that greeted the Prince was composed of wild men of the hills, with fierce, keen eyes, and with the free step of men who for generations had been fighters. It was cold at Peshawar, too, with a keen
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! wind blowing from the hills. A few days
! before the Prince arrived, an attack had j been made upon a frontier picket and j some Sepoys had been killed. After the ¡ Royal visitors had left, an armed band came down from the hills and made an attack upon a village just outside. These two things may explain something of the I fear which had been felt by the British authorities.
The Prince and Princess were well guarded all the time they tvere on the frontier. At the garden parties at Government House the attendants and servants were armed. Their Royal Highnesses went through the Khyber Pass to Landi Kotal on the edge of Afghanistan, the last outpost of Great Britain. I remember that it was a Monday in December when the Royal Party went through the Khyber. There must be no unnecessary risks, the Chief Commissioner had stated, and the whole of the Pass was lined with sentries, above whom, on the higher rocks, were another row of men; above that row, high in the hills, the men of the Khyber Rifles. Some of the men who thus guarded their Prince belonged to wild Afridi tribes, and offered him sheep and money with their homage. The poetry of the hills was in them. They said: “We are a poor people and we live in a poor land, but the land will blossom like a rose now that it has been touched by the footsteps of the King.” Perhaps the King has never had a more beautiful compliment paid him than that paid by an old blind chief who, when the Prince gave him his hand, said: “Now, indeed, I see, for I have touched my King.” From the north the Prince passed down into the Punjab. Letters now began to arrive from home. King Edward wrote that “the children are very happy, so neither of you are to worry. I know it
isn’t any use my saying this, because you will, but stil1 there isn’t any need.”
Prince David’s letter was characteristic, and the Princess showed it to me laughing, and, I fancy, nearly crying at the same time:
“Darling Both,” it ran, “do come home soon. All the animals are missing you, especially Gyp.” (Gyp was a little terrier of the Prince of Wales.) “I am trying hard with my lessons, but like sailing the boat you gave me in the pond better. Your loving little David.”
Much had been said against their Royal Highnesses going to Calcutta. There had been a good deal of restlessness and agitation there before their arrival and many people thought it would be unwise for them to include it in their itinerary. I knew that they would not think of omitting Calcutta. They did not wish to cause disappointment to the people; and they were right as usual. Calcutta was perhaps the most enthusiastic of any of the Indian cities visited. Its people would indeed have been disappointed had their Royal Highnesses not come. At the wonderful levee given in their honor at Government House, a beautiful necklace of pearls was presented to the Princess by Indian ladies. I noticed that she immediately put it on, and wore it all through the evening. This graceful act of gratitude delighted the donors.
At Mysore, one of the best governed of Indian States, there were many interesting things to do and see. Good shooting is always to be found there, and the Prince of Wales was taken to the great keddahs, where he watched the wild elephants being caught with the assistance of tame ones. The road to Mysore presented a wonderful spectacle of color.
\To be Continued