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George VI - 1936-1952

Key Facts about George VI

When his brother abdicated, Albert Arthur George Windsor, Duke of York, known as Bertie to his family, was thrust into a situation that he did not relish. He would have preferred to remain as just another member of the royal family, living as a country squire. His duty lay in accepting the role of King, however, and taking the name of George VI to stress the continuity of the crown, he assumed the throne.

He was greatly helped by his wife, the former Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. She gave him the strong moral support and confidence to speak in public, despite his stammer, and to overcome his awareness that he lacked the natural charisma of his brother. Despite his doubts, George made a great success of his reign.

As a young man he had served in the Royal Navy at the Battle of Jutland and later in the Royal Naval air service. On leaving the services he became interested in factory conditions and the social structure of postwar Britain. He set up the Duke of York camps where boys of private and state schools could meet in a holiday atmosphere. He also began a series of royal visits abroad which made Britain, and its monarchy, more familiar throughout the Empire.

When war broke out in 1939, it was suggested that he - or at least his two young daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret - should go to Canada. But he and the Queen refused to leave England, despite the air raids, and concerned themselves with the victims of the bombardments of London. This added to his, and the Queen's popularity, especially when Buckingham Palace was bombed nine times.

In order to recognize the valour of his subjects he created two new decorations, the George Cross and the George Medal, both awarded to men and women for civilian acts of gallantry.

Key Events during the Reign of George VI

1936 - George VI accedes to the throne upon the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII.

1938 - Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signs agreement with Hitler at Munich in an attempt to stop outbreak of war in Europe.

1939 - Outbreak of Second World War.

1940 - Retreating British troops evacuated from beaches of Dunkirk as Germans advance. Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister. Battle of Britain. Heavy aerial bombing raids on British cities.

1941 - USA enters War after Japanese surprise air raid on Pearl Harbor.

1942 - Decisive British victory over Germans at El Alamein.

1944 - D-Day landings in Normandy.

1945 - Defeat of Germany marks end of the War in Europe (8 May). Japan surrenders, after US drops atomic bombs (14 August). United Nations formed. Labour Government in Britain.

1951 - Festival of Britain.

1952 - George VI dies.

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