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Celebrating the silver jubilee of a much-loved monarch

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 24, 2014

  • 1911 coronation

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IN our July 24 edition Mrs E. Cartwright of Stourbridge shared with us her childhood memories of George V's silver jubilee celebrations in 1935.

Mrs Cartwright's father took her to London to see one of the royal processions and as the King and Queen passed by he opened a packet of cigarettes to reveal a portrait of Queen Mary. Mrs Cartwright has kept the card ever since and passed it on to the Bugle 79 years later.

The card came from a set issued by cigarette maker W.D. & H.O. Wills and now Sheila Cole of Darby End, Dudley, has kindly loaned to the Bugle a complete set of 50 in their original album.

The cards had originally belonged to her late husband John, who had been given them as a child (last week we featured John's set of railway cards).

George V's silver jubilee, marking his 25 years on the throne, was an occasion of national rejoicing but it was the first time that such a celebration had been held.

Traditionally, a jubilee marked 50 years, a festival that dated to Old Testament times. George III held a thanksgiving service at the start of his 50th year on the throne but it was Queen Victoria who first publicly celebrated her jubilee in 1887. It was such a popular success that 10 years later it was decided to hold another. Thus the diamond jubilee, taking inspiration from the diamond wedding anniversary, marking 60 years was created.

When George V reached the milestone of 25 years on the throne it was felt that as celebration was merited and so a sort of half-jubilee, a silver jubilee was inaugurated.

Today our image of George V the is rather of a dutiful but dour man, stiff and ultra-formal by modern standards. Yet at the time he was very popular figure, presenting a contrasting image to his predecessors. After his grandmother's decades of funereal seclusion and his father's publicised scandals, George V was a refreshing change, seen as an ordinary family man. His image as a man of the people was enhanced by his service in the First World War, as he led the nation through its greatest crisis. And he made the monarchy more accessible than ever before, touring the country as no king had done before, being photographed and filmed and directly speaking to his people by radio.

At his silver jubilee there was a genuine outpouring of respect and affection for the king. The tone of the celebrations was much more reverential, but sincerely so, than they way we approach the monarchy today. Card 49 in the series carried a portrait of the king with the following note upon its reverse: "Here is a recent portrait of the King who has reigned over a great Empire for twenty-five years. Hallam, the historian, said that the English have been fortunate in their Rulers, and during the past troubled quarter of a century, the nation has ever been sustained by the Royal guidance. These years have seen the most gigantic of wars, the British Dominions grow to independent status, profound constitutional and social upheavals, and the disappearance of ancient Dynasties; yet on the midst of change the British Throne stands firm in the people's affection. More fervently than ever on this happy anniversary, His Majesty's subjects throughout the world unite in the loyal prayer: God Save the King!"

The 50 cards in the album illustrate the kings reign and we have selected a few.

George V was crowned at Westminster Abbey on June 22, 1911 and the picture shows the moment that Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury, placed the Crown of St Edward upon the king's head.

One of George V's first acts as king was to change the Accession Declaration the monarch is required to make on opening their first parliament. The original declaration, dating from 1689, was strongly anti-Catholic and George insisted on a less offensive version.

One card shows the king placing a coronet on the head of his son. The royal family has always been adept at created new traditions and in 1911 George's eldest son was invested Prince of Wales in a service at Caernarfon Castle, the first time the service had been held in Wales in 600 years. Prior to that princes had been invested, if they had bothered with the formalities at all, in front of parliament.

George V led the nation in commemorating those that were killed in the service of King and Empire in the First World War. No occasion had greater profundity that the unveiling of the Cenotaph at Whitehall on November 11, 1920. On the same day the Unknown Warrior was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey. Our card shows the king laying the first tribute at the Cenotaph.

On July 26, 1924, a review of the fleet was held at Spithead, the first since the end of the First World War. 196 warships assembled, many of which had fought at the Battle of Jutland in 1916, and sailed by the King and the Prince of Wales as they viewed the fleet from the royal yacht Victoria and Albert, the ships greeting the king with 21-gun salutes.

Following the Armistice Day services of 1928, George V fell ill. His condition deteriorated and he was operated upon, to ease the congestion of his lungs, on December 11. It was feared the king would die and a Council of State was appointed to take over his official duties. In February 1929 the king was taken to benefit from the fresh sea air of Bognor, with thousands of silent sympathisers lining the route. His condition gradually improved and in March he was able to meet well-wisher on the beach. By the summer he had recovered and a thanks-giving service was held at Westminster Abbey and a Thanks-offering Fund raised £689,597 for King Edward's Hospital Fund for London.

One card depicts the king during his convalescence and he is shown in the bath chair that had once been used by Queen Victoria.

Our own Queen appears on one of the cards, alongside her sister Princess Margaret. The young princesses are shown on the front step of Y Bwthyn Bach, a miniature house that was presented to Princess Elizabeth on her sixth birthday in 1932 as a gift from Wales. The two-fifths scale, fully equipped house was built at the Royal Lodge, Windsor.

The silver jubilee was celebrated in June 1935 and saw a national outpouring of affection for the king. But, just seven months later, the king was dead.

He was succeeded on January 20, 1936, by his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, who became Edward VIII. Of his son, George prophetically remarked, "After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in 12 months."

Edward was quite unlike his father, impatient with court protocol, with a disregard for constitutional convention and a tendency to meddle in politics. Matters came to a head over his desire to marry a divorcee, Wallis Simpson (still married to her second husband at the time). With the British and dominion prime ministers against him, Edward abdicated on December 11, 1936, and the crown passed to his brother, Albert, Duke of York, who reigned as George VI.

In a way, the abdication fulfilled George V's wishes; he had once said, "I pray to God that my eldest son will never marry and have children, and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne."

Share your royal memories and memorabilia with readers, contact dshaw@blackcountry bugle.co.uk or write to the editorial address on page 2.

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