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The reluctant King - Glad we had him
on 6 February 2008
On this day in 1952 King George VI passed away. I thought it a good idea to read again his biography by Sarah Bradford.
George VI, The Queen's father, is often dismissed as a good but unremarkable man, overshadowed by his wife, the legendary Queen Mother.
Prince Albert, Duke of York, was only the second son of King George V and Queen Mary. From childhood he had been handicapped by low self-esteem and a severe stammer. As for the entire for four royal brothers (Edward VIII, and the Dukes of Gloucester and Kent) they did not have a happy childhood. He never expected to succeed and was set with his little family to lead the life of junior royals supporting the monarch and with age fading out of the limelight. Properly a life he would have loved. But life had more in store for him. When Edward VII dragged his family and country into the abdication crisis, the Duke of York found himself suddenly a very unwilling and scared head of state - 'How I hate to be King' - he often said. Yet in spite of all his disabilities he and his wife were hard-working, diligent and popular monarchs, leading Britain during the WW II. He made the monarchy stronger than ever and left the throne to his beloved daughter in perfect shape.
This exhaustively researched biography his life and character in depth, his role as King during a time of war, and the often bitter relationship with Edward VIII, who became Duke of Windsor after abdication, his relationship with Churchill, his wife and family. Above all she shows how he had to overcome himself. A man who was not easy but determined a man one had to love and admire. Maybe reluctant monarchs are the best as they are not too eager and see the duty and service than merely the privileges their position carry.
Sarah Bradford is one of the most talented biographers of our times and this proves it. She reveals the monarch George VI and private man Albert. She writes with discretion, but does not leave things out like his youthful affair with Phyllis Monkman. Her judgement is well balanced. It is a great book and which his daughter, the Queen, is said to keep on her desk. Well, whatever ... but I am happy to have this book in my library.