George V

King George V, second son of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, was born in 1865 and served in the Royal Navy until 1892 when he became heir to the throne following the death of his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor. Prince George was created Duke of York in the same year, and was created Prince of Wales in 1901. Edward VII died on 6th May 1910.

After his coronation the King and Queen travelled to Delhi where they attended a vast outdoor gathering known as the Delhi Durbar. The Imperial Crown of India (now in the Tower of London) was specially made for the occasion. The greatest challenge of George V's reign came with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. The King and Queen worked tirelessly throughout, and when the war had ended the King supported proposals for the burial of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey. On 11th November 1920 George V unveiled the Cenotaph in Whitehall and then processed behind the gun carriage which brought the Unknown Warrior's coffin to the Abbey for its burial.

Later notable events in the King's reign included his appointment of Ramsay Macdonald as Britain's first Labour Prime Minister in 1924, the General Strike of 1926, and the economic depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s. In 1932 George V inaugurated the monarch's annual Christmas broadcast to the peoples of the Empire and Commonwealth. He addressed his first message "to men and women so cut off by the snows, the desert, or the sea, that only voices out of the air can reach them". The King's Silver Jubilee, celebrated at St Paul's Cathedral in May 1935, was marked by an outpouring of popular affection and loyalty.

In 1926 the King and Queen and other members of the Royal family presented to the Abbey a unique copy of Rudolph Ackermann's History of Westminster Abbey, 1812, with a magnificent binding by Charles Hering and water colours by several artists including A. Pugin and G. Shepherd. This was displayed in the nave for many years and is now kept in the Abbey Library.

His widow, Queen Mary, broke a long-standing tradition by attending the coronation of her son George VI in Westminster Abbey in May 1937 and lived to see her elder granddaughter proclaimed as Queen Elizabeth II in February 1952. Queen Mary died in March 1953, a few months before the coronation.


He married Princess Mary of Teck in 1893 in the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace. Their children were Edward VIII, George VI (christened Albert), Henry Duke of Gloucester, George Duke of Kent, Prince John (who died young) and Princess Victoria.


King George and Queen Mary were crowned in Westminster Abbey on 22nd June 1911. They presented new hangings for the High Altar which are still in use. The frontal is made of cream white damask silk with an embroidered Crucifixion scene in the centre flanked by angels holding shields with the Royal arms and coat of arms of St Edward the Confessor. The dorsal, for the back of the altar, shows figures of St Edward and the Pilgrim with kneeling images of the king and queen. This was designed by W.R. Lethaby and based on a 15th century example at Chipping Camden church. This was the first coronation where photography was permitted within the Abbey (the photographer was Sir Benjamin Stone).


He was much mourned at his death, on 20th January 1936. After lying in state in Westminster Hall the King was buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor. Queen Mary is buried with him.

Further reading

King George V by Harold Nicolson, 1952

Hail and Farewell. The passing of King George V - Times Publishing, 1936

Music for George V's Coronation (PDF, 248KB)

Musicians who performed during George V's coronation (PDF, 189KB)

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004


3rd June 1865


20th January 1936


22nd June 1911

Painting of George V in military uniform and imperial cloak, the imperial crown on a table beside him
George V of the United Kingdom by Luke Fildes [public domain]
Invitation to the Coronation of King George V and Queen Mary with an angel and coats of arms
George V coronation invitation

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

White altar hangings used on the High Altar of Westminster for the coronation of George V and Queen Mary
Coronation altar hangings

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster