Queen Elizabeth’s father George VI passed away on 6 February 1952 whilst she was in Kenya, as she travelled to Australia for a royal tour.

George VI in the uniform of a field marshal, c 1940-1946

King George was said to be one of Britain’s best-loved monarchs died in his sleep at Sandringham, from a coronary thrombosis.

Bertie

Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George was born 14 December 1895 at York Cottage, part of the Sandringham Estate, during the twilight years of his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, and named after her husband, Prince Albert.

Four kings: Edward VII, grandsons Edward VIII and George VI and son George V, 1908

He was called ‘Bertie’ by family and friends.

As King George V and Queen Mary’s second son, Prince Albert was not expected to become King, so he attended naval college as a cadet.

He spent his early career in the Royal Navy where he saw action during World War I, especially the Battle of Jutland in 1916 aboard HMS Collingwood.

Duke of York

In 1920, he was created Duke of York and sought help from Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue to overcome a severe stammer, as told in the award-winning film, The King’s Speech, starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush.

He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923 and produced two daughters, the present Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.

Prince Albert, Duke of York (future George VI) and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon at their wedding on 26 April 1923.

As Duke and Duchess of York, they travelled to Australia to open the old Parliament House in Canberra in 1927 repressing his father, George V.

However, his older brother who became Edward VIII in 1936 caused a constitutional crisis when he abdicated to marry twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson.

King George VI

Prince Albert reluctantly became King and decided to use the regnal name of ‘George V’ to emphasise continuity and restore confidence in the British monarchy.

He did not feel suited to his new role, as he was reserved in nature and held deeply religious beliefs, but he received huge support from his wife Elizabeth.

George VI died whilst his daughter Elizabeth was en-route to Australia.

He was crowned during a solemn coronation service in Westminster Abbey on 12 May 1937, with crowds gathering outside Buckingham Palace to see their new King and Queen.

King George promised to dedicate himself in the service of others, with help from Queen Elizabeth.

When World War II was declared, King George and Queen Elizabeth remained in London, especially during the blitz, when parts of Buckingham Palace were bombed.

The Royal Family were subjected to rations like many of their subjects and the King and the Queen made several morale-boosting tours across the nation, including visits to bombed sites, munitions factories and troops, and became symbols of national resistance.

King George also visited military forces overseas in France (especially Normandy in June 1944), southern Italy, North Africa,, the Low Countries and Malta.

He worked very closely with Prime Minister Winston Churchill with regular meetings to discuss the war and work out strategies to defeat the Nazis.

The King’s brother, Prince Edward Duke of Kent was killed in a plane crash whilst on active service in August 1942 before he was due to move to Australia to become Governor-General.

King George also had to deal with his troublesome older brother, now the Duke of Windsor, who was causing major headaches in Europe, especially with his Nazi sympathies.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were sent to the Bahamas as he took up the post of Governor to keep him out of harm’s way and, hopefully, away from Nazi collaborators.

Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh (later Queen Elizabeth II) and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1950

On VE Day, on 8 May 1945, King George invited Winston Churchill to join him, the Queen and their two daughters on the balcony at Buckingham Palace as large crowds gathered below to celebrate the end of the war.

Post-War Britain

However, the war and post-war, with the dissolution of the British Empire, along with heavy smoking, had taken its toll on King George’s health.

A forthcoming tour of Australia and New Zealand was postponed as King George was now in poor health, with lung cancer and blocked arteries.

He had surgery in 1949 to save his right leg from more blocked arteries whilst his eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth, took on more official duties.

His left lung was removed when doctors found a malignant tumour.

King George, against advice, went to London Airport (Heathrow) to farewell his daughter and her husband, Prince Philip, on 31 January 1952 as they departed for their tour of Australia, travelling via Kenya.

He had died in his sleep from a coronary thrombosis on 6 February 1952 and found dead around 7.30 am at Sandringham.

George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth, as the Duke and Duchess of York, attended the opening of Parliament, Canberra, 1927, Photo: William James Mildenhall, National Library of Australia, nla.obj-141453499

His daughter, now Queen Elizabeth II, and Prince Philip cancelled their tour to return home.

George VI’s body lay in state in Westminster Hall from 11 February where the people could come and pay their respects to the deceased monarch.

Queues were said to be, at times, about three miles long as mourners filed past the King’s coffin.

Nearly 300,000 had passed through in three days.

George VI was buried at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on 15 February in the royal vault, then his remains were moved to the King George VI Memorial Chapel inside St George’s on 26 March 1969.

Accession Anniversary

Queen Elizabeth, who has now been on the throne for 68 years, usually spends the anniversary of her father’s death (and her accession) quietly at Sandringham.

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