King George V

George V was born June 3, 1865, the second son of Edward VII and Alexandra. George chose the career of professional naval officer and served competently until his brother Albert died in 1892, upon which George assumed the role of the heir apparent. He married Mary of Teck (affectionately called May) in 1893, who bore him four sons and one daughter. He died the year after his silver jubilee after a series of debilitating attacks of bronchitis, on January 20, 1936.

George ascended the throne in the midst of a constitutional crisis: the budget controversy of 1910. Tories in the House of Lords were at odds with Liberals in the Commons pushing for social reforms. When George agreed to create enough Liberal peerages to pass the measure the Lords capitulated and gave up the power of absolute veto, resolving the problem officially with passage of the Parliament Bill in 1911.

The first World War broke out in 1914, during which George and May made several visits to the front; on one such visit, George's horse rolled on top of him, breaking his pelvis - George remained in pain for the rest of his life from the injury. The worldwide depression of 1929-1931 deeply affected England, prompting the king to persuade the heads of the three political parties (Labour, Conservative and Liberal) to unite into a coalition government. By the end of the 1920's, George and the Windsors were but one of few royal families who retained their status in Europe.

The nature of the monarchy evolved through the influence of George. In contrast to his grandmother and father - Victoria's ambition to exert political influence in the tradition of Elizabeth I and Edward VII's aspirations to manipulate the destiny of nations - George's royal perspective was considerably more humble.

He strove to embody those qualities, which the nation saw as their greatest strengths: diligence, dignity and duty. The monarchy transformed from an institution of constitutional legality to the bulwark of traditional values and customs (particularly those concerning the family). Robert Lacey describes George as such: ". . . as his official biographer felt compelled to admit, King George V was distinguished 'by no exercise of social gifts, by no personal magnetism, by no intellectual powers. He was neither a wit nor a brilliant raconteur, neither well-read nor well-educated, and he made no great contribution to enlightened social converse. He lacked intellectual curiosity and only late in life acquired some measure of artistic taste.' He was, in other words, exactly like most of his subjects. He discovered a new job for modern kings and queens to do - representation."