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George VI

Prince Albert, Duke of York, was the second son of King George V and Queen Mary and was born on 14th December 1895 on the Sandringham estate. On the abdication of his brother Edward VIII in December 1936 he was proclaimed King and took one of his middle names, George, on succeeding to the throne.

Marriage

On 26th April 1923 (as Duke of York) he was married in Westminster Abbey to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later to become The Queen Mother). She was the first royal bride to lay her wedding bouquet on the grave of the Unknown Warrior, in memory of her brother who had died during the Great War. They gave the silver candlesticks which are on the altar in the chapel of St Edward the Confessor, in commemoration of their marriage. Their children were Princess Elizabeth (Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret Rose.

The Order of Service (PDF, 643 KB)

Coronation

The coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth was held on 12th May 1937. This was the day that had originally been chosen for the coronation of Edward VIII before his abdication. Staff on duty started work at 4.00am and guests began arriving at 6.00am, many peers carrying sandwiches in their coronets. At 9.30am the procession of the Regalia started. Since the time of Charles II the crowns and other regalia to be used in the ceremony had been brought to the Jerusalem Chamber at the Abbey the evening before and placed in charge of the Dean of Westminster. The Regalia procession made its way from the Chamber through the cloisters into the Abbey. All the items were then placed ready in position for the service. Eye witnesses recalled that the overall impression inside the Abbey was colour everywhere, with blue and gold hangings and carpets and crimson robes and uniforms. Queen Mary, with Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, attended, watching from the Royal Gallery. Slight mishaps did occur during the service. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, who performed the ceremony thought the Dean had given him St Edward's Crown the wrong way round, a bishop stepped on the King's train and another put his thumb over the words of the oath when the King was about to read it.

Burial

George VI died on 6th February 1952. His coffin lay in Westminster Hall where a short service was held and 305,806 people filed past the coffin. The funeral service, taken from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, was held at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on 15th February and the king was interred in a vault there. On the same day a commemoration service was held at the Abbey.

Sword

In 1955 the Queen and Queen Mother presented to the Abbey George VI's sword. This had been given to him by his father and he always wore it with his naval uniform and to confer knighthoods. This stands in a case in the Lady Chapel. The inscription on the blade reads

Albert Frederick Arthur George Sub-Lieutenant R.N. from his affectionate father George R.I. Sep.15 1915.

Further reading

King George VI, His life and reign by John Wheeler-Bennett, 1959

The story of the coronation 1937 edited by Sir John Hammerton

Crown and Empire. The coronation of George VI, Times Publishing 1937

Music for George VI's Coronation, 1937 (PDF, 75KB)

www.pbs.org.uk for text of Book of Common Prayer

Born

14th December 1895

Died

6th February 1952

Coronation

12th May 1937

Wedding

26th April 1923

George VI
George VI and Queen Elizabeth attend Westminster Abbey's Maundy service, 1946

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2018 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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