George Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was born in Sandringham, Norfolk, on 14th December, 1895. George was the great-grandson of Queen Victoria and his father was George V, who became king of the United Kingdom in 1910. George's elder brother, Edward, was therefore heir to the throne.
George was a sickly child and was often ill. He also developed an acute stammer. In 1909 he was sent to Osborne as a naval cadet but passed out bottom of his class. After attending Dartmouth he joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman, but suffering bouts of acute gastritis, did not see action in the First World War until serving on HMS Collingwood at the Battle of Jutland.
The outbreak of the First World War created problems for the royal family because of its German background. Owing to strong anti-German feeling in Britain, it was decided to change the name of the royal family from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor. To stress his support for the British, George V made several visits to the Western Front.
In 1917 George joined the Royal Naval Air Service and later the recently formed Royal Air Force (1919). However, George did not qualify as a pilot until 1919 and therefore did not take part in the highly dangerous air war.
After the war George attended Trinity College, Cambridge, but only stayed for a year. In 1920 he was created the Duke of York and carried out public duties for his father. Three years later he married Elizabeth Bowles-Lyon. The couple had two children, Elizabeth (1926) and Margaret (1930).
George also became president of the Industrial Welfare Society. In this role he visited so many factories that he became known as the "Industrial Duke". He also made royal tours of East Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
George's marriage had the approval of his father, George V. However, his brother, Edward, the heir to the throne, had developed a relationship with Wallis Simpson, an American woman who was married to Ernest Simpson. This was her second marriage and had divorced her first husband, E. W. Spencer in 1927.
George V died on 20th January, 1936. Edward VIII now became king and his relationship with Wallis Simpson was reported in the foreign press. The government instructed the British press not to refer to the relationship. The prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, urged the king to consider the constitutional problems of marrying a divorced woman.
Although Edward VIII received the political support from Winston Churchill and Lord Beaverbrook, he was aware that his decision to marry Wallis Simpson would be unpopular with the British public. The Archbishop of Canterbury also made it clear he was strongly opposed to the king's relationship.
On 10th December, 1936, the king signed a document that stated he he had renounced "the throne for myself and my descendants." The following day he made a radio broadcast where he told the nation that he had abdicated because he found he could not "discharge the duties of king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love."
George now became king and the coronation took place on 12th May, 1937. Later that month, Neville Chamberlain replaced Stanley Baldwin as prime-minister. The following year Chamberlain travelled to Germany to meet Adolf Hitler in an attempt to avoid war between the two countries. The result of Chamberlain's appeasement policy was the signing of the Munich Agreement. However, after the invasion of Poland, Chamberlain was forced to declare war on Germany.
Considered an uninspiring war leader, members of the Labour Party and Liberal Party refused to serve in his proposed National Government. Chamberlain resigned and was replaced by Winston Churchill. The king had been against Churchill's appointment but the two men eventually became close allies. Later the king wrote in his diary: "I could not have a better prime minister."
The king and queen many several tours of Britain's bombed cities during the Second World War. In September, 1940, Buckingham Palace was badly damaged during a raid. His wife, Queen Elizabeth, remarked: "I'm glad we've been bombed. It makes me feel I can look the East End in the face."
In 1943 the king flew out to North Africa to visit the troops after their victory at El Alamein. He also visited Malta and was present at discussions about the D-Day invasion. Soon after a bridgehead had been created, the king arrived in Normandy to meet the troops.
After the war the king enjoyed a reasonable relationship with his new prime minister, Clement Attlee. He was opposed to socialism and unsuccessfully attempted to persuade him not to nationalize several of Britain's main industries. George VI died at Sandringham, Norfolk, on 6th February, 1952.