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Troubled life of a troubled monarch; THE wartime king's life was an eventful one, but far from happy, according to DAN O'NEILL.

Byline: DAN O'NEILL

THE coffin, with "Crown, Sceptre and Orb laid thereon, " began its silent journey from Westminster Hall to Windsor upon a gun carriage drawn by naval ratings.

At Windsor Castle, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York waited with their acolytes to receive "The late Most High, Most Mighty, and Most Excellent Monarch, George VI, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British dominions beyond the Seas."

And there, too, were the world's princes and potentates, the presidents and politicians, part of the historic pageantry that accompanies the burial of a king.

Well yes, they did bury that Most High, Most Mighty and Most Excellent Monarch, George the Sixth. But we now know they waited 17 years to do it. We also know more, much more about that Most Excellent Monarch than was ever dreamed of 50 years ago when the Echo's front page of February 6, 1952, trumpeted:

THE KING: PEACEFUL END.

There was a sense of shock, an outpouring of grief that seems unimaginable today. Only 50 years ago, but Royals seemed then to be far above mere mortals: divine right, if you like, ruled.

Five days before his death, George VI said farewell to his daughter as she and Phillip flew off for a tour of the Commonwealth. He stood hatless in bitter winds, looking haggard and ill. Foolhardy, for a man who had survived three operations in the past three years, a national day of thanksgiving declared for December 9 after the success of the third, five days before his 56th birthday.

And now, back at Sandringham - their grandchildren Charles and Anne with them - the king and his wife listened to a radio report from Kenya on his daughter's progress. At 10.30 he went to bed, saying to his Queen, "See you in the morning."

He never did. At seven a valet went to wake him. The king was dead, of a coronary thrombosis.

So the King was dead, long live the Queen. Or rather, two queens. From the day of her husband's death, Elizabeth announced herself as the The Queen, The Queen Mother.

She would become, in many ways, a more public figure during the second 50 years of her life than she had been during the first.

But why not? One historian declared that the King's marriage to her "may well have saved the monarchy."

She certainly saved him. From his birth in December, 1895, the odds seemed stacked against him. He was painfully shy, frequently liable to burst into tears, and he suffered from gastritis, knock knees and nervous twitches.

His father, at the time the Duke of York, made him wear splints all day and through the tearful night and forced him, a natural left hander, to do everything with his right.

No wonder he developed the excruciating stammer that made public appearances torture.

When he joined his elder brother David, the Prince of Wales, at the Royal Naval College he found his fellow cadets an earthily irreverent crew. They promptly christened him "Bat Lugs" on account of his outsize ears and pricked him with pins to see if the Royal blood was really blue.

He was also kicked by anyone wishing to boast of having booted the bottom of the grandson of the king. Maybe all this explains his position at the end of his final term - 68th out of a class of. . . 68.

The turning point came in 1923 when he married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, a lady, one biographer remarks, "who was determined to marry into the Royal family." He'd first proposed in 1921 and was refused three times the following year before she finally said Yes. Why the hesitation? Years later when asked why, the Queen Mother had shown such implacable hatred of his wife, Mrs Wallis Simpson, the Duke of Windsor replied, "Jealousy.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 5, 2002
Words:640
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