George V of the United Kingdom

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George V of the United Kingdom (3 June 186520 January 1936) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India.


  • The Old Country must wake up if she intends to maintain her old position of pre-eminence in her Colonial trade against foreign competitors.
    • Speech in the Guildhall, London (5 December 1901), quoted in Harold Nicolson, King George V (1952), p. 73
  • Prince Henry of Prussia came to see me on Sunday July 26 [1914] at 9.30 a.m. and asked me if there was any news. I said the news was very bad & it looked like a European war & that he better go back to Germany at once. He said he would go down to Eastbourne to see his sister (Queen of Greece) & he would return to Germany that evening. He then asked what England would do if there was a European war. I said "I don't know what we shall do, we have no quarrel with anyone & I hope we shall remain neutral. But if Germany declared war on Russia, & France joins Russia, then I am afraid we shall be dragged into it. But you can be sure that I & my Government will do all we can to prevent a European war!" He then said—"Well, if our two countries shall be fighting on opposite sides, I trust that it will not affect our own personal friendship". He then shook hands & left the room, having been with me about eight minutes.
    • Note, quoted in Harold Nicolson, King George the Fifth: His Life and Reign (1953), pp. 245-246
  • Tuesday August 4th. I held a Council at 10.45. to declare war with Germany. It is a terrible catastrophe, but it is not our fault. An enormous crowd collected outside the Palace; we went on the balcony both before & after dinner. When they heard that war had been declared, the excitement increased & May & I with David went on to the balcony; the cheering was terrific. Please God it may soon be over & that he will protect dear Bertie's life.
    • Diary entry (4 August 1914), quoted in Harold Nicolson, King George the Fifth: His Life and Reign (1953), p. 247
  • At this grave moment of our national history I send to you, and through you to the officers and men of the Fleets of which you have assumed command, the assurance of my confidence that, under your direction, they will revive and renew the old glories of the Royal Navy and prove once again the sure shield of Britain and of her Empire in the hour of trial.
    • Signal to Sir John Jellicoe (5 August 1914), quoted in Harold Nicolson, King George the Fifth: His Life and Reign (1953), p. 257
  • Yesterday morning, four large German cruisers, it being foggy, appeared off the east coast of Yorkshire about 8.0 o'clock, & shelled Hartlepool & Scarborough for 40 minutes, doing considerable damage, killing about 40 women, children & civilians and maiming & wounding about 400. This is German kultur.
  • I may be uninspiring but I'll be d——d if I'm alien.
    • Said after H. G. Wells referred to "an alien and uninspiring Court" (April 1917), quoted in Harold Nicolson, King George the Fifth: His Life and Reign (1953), p. 308
  • It has always been my dream that the two English-speaking nations should some day be united in a great cause, and to-day my dream is realized. Together we are fighting for the greatest cause for which peoples could fight. The Anglo-Saxon race must save civilization.
  • After a struggle longer and far more terrible than anyone could have foretold, the soil of Britain remains inviolate. Our Navy has everywhere held the seas, and wherever the enemy could be brought to battle it has renewed the glories of Drake and Nelson.
    • Speech in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster (19 November 1918), quoted in The Times (20 November 1918), p. 7
  • These new soldiers, drawn from the civil population, have displayed a valour equal to that of their ancestors, who have carried the flag of Britain to victory in so many lands in bygone times... Not less prompt was the response, not less admirable the devotion to the common cause, of those splendid troops which eagerly hastened to us from the Dominions overseas, men who showed themselves more than ever to be bone of our bone, inheriting all the courage and tenacity that have made Britain great. A hundred battlefields in all parts of the world have witnessed their heroism, have been soaked with their blood, and are for ever hallowed by their graves.
    • Speech in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster (19 November 1918), quoted in The Times (20 November 1918), pp. 7-8
  • I shall ever remember how the Princes of India rallied to the cause, and with what ardour her soldiers sustained in many theatres of war, and under conditions the most diverse and exacting, the martial traditions of their race. Neither can I forget how the men from the Crown Colonies and Protectorates of Great Britain, also fighting amid novel and perilous scenes, exhibited a constancy and devotion second to none.
    • Speech in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster (19 November 1918), quoted in The Times (20 November 1918), p. 8
  • In all these ways, and through all these years, there has been made manifest the unconquered and unconquerable spirit of our race, nourished on the glorious traditions of many centuries of freedom. This spirit, conscious of its strength, bore the trials and disappointments of these years with a fortitude that was never shaken and a confidence that never failed. It knew its motives to be pure, and it held fast to its faith that Divine Providence would not suffer injustice and oppression to prevail.
    • Speech in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster (19 November 1918), quoted in The Times (20 November 1918), p. 8
  • We have to create a better Britain, to bestow more care on the health and well-being of the people, and to ameliorate further the conditions of labour.
    • Speech in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster (19 November 1918), quoted in The Times (20 November 1918), p. 8
  • In these years Britain and her traditions have come to mean more to us than they had ever meant before. It became a privilege to serve her in whatever way we could; and we were all drawn by the sacredness of the cause into a comradeship which fired our zeal and nerved our efforts. This is the spirit we must try to preserve. It is on a sense of brotherhood and mutual good will, on a common devotion to the common interests of the nation as a whole, that its future prosperity and strength must be built up. The sacrifices made, the sufferings endured, the memory of the heroes who have died that Britain may live, ought surely to ennoble our thoughts and attune our hearts to a higher sense of individual and national duty, and to a fuller realisation of what the English-speaking race, dwelling upon the shores of all the oceans, may yet accomplish for mankind.
    • Speech in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster (19 November 1918), quoted in The Times (20 November 1918), p. 8
  • For centuries past Britain has led the world along the path of ordered freedom. Leadership may still be hers among the peoples who are seeking to follow that path. God grant to their efforts such wisdom and perseverance as shall ensure stability for the days to come!
    May good will and concord at home strengthen our influence for concord abroad. May the morning star of peace which is now rising over a war-worn world be here and everywhere the herald of a better day, in which the storms of strife shall have died down and the rays of an enduring peace be shed upon all the nations.
    • Speech in the Royal Gallery of the Palace of Westminster (19 November 1918), quoted in The Times (20 November 1918), p. 8
  • I appeal to all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand of forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and to forget, and to join in making for the land which they love a new era of peace, contentment, and good will... May this historic gathering be the prelude of a day in which the Irish people, North and South, under one Parliament or two, as those Parliaments may themselves decide, shall work together in common love for Ireland upon the sure foundation of mutual justice and respect.
    • Speech to the opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament (22 June 1921), quoted in The Times (23 June 1921), p. 11
  • I said to your predecessor: 'You know what they're all saying, no more coals to Newcastle, no more Hoares to Paris.' The fellow didn't even laugh.
    • Said to Anthony Eden on 23 December 1935 following the furore that erupted over the Hoare-Laval Pact.
    • Quoted in Earl of Avon, Facing the Dictators (1962) pt.2 ch.1
  • After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in twelve months.
  • How's the Empire?
    • On the morning of his death; quoted in Kenneth Rose, King George V (1983), ch.10


  • After you've met one hundred and fifty Lord Mayors, they all begin to look the same.
  • I look upon him as the greatest criminal known for having plunged the world into war.
  • You dress like a cad. You act like a cad. You are a cad.
    • Allegedly said to his son, Prince Edward. Quoted by Christopher Warwick in Abdication (Sidgwick and Jackson, 1986)
  • I may be uninspiring, but I'll be damned if I'm alien.
    • Allegedly said in response to H. G. Wells's criticism of his "alien [i.e. German-descended] and uninspiring court"
  • But, remember, I wish to have the best collection, not just one of the best collections in England.
    • Allegedly said to J.A. Tilleard, Honorary Secretary, Philatelic Society, on appointing him as Philatelist to the King.
  • You can't shake hands with a clenched fist.
  • Always go to the bathroom when you have a chance.
  • Golf always makes me so damned angry.
  • My father was frightened of his mother. I was frightened of my father and I am damned well going to see to it that my children are frightened of me.
    • Attributed in Randolph Churchill's Lord Derby (1959), but said by Kenneth Rose in King George V (1983) to be almost certainly apocryphal.
  • What did you do about peeing?
  • They make me look like a stuffed monkey.
    • Allegedly said about two postage stamps issued in 1911.
  • Bugger Bognor.
    • Alleged last words in 1936, in response to being told that he would soon be well enough to visit the seaside resort Bognor Regis
    • A second theory is that this dates from the King's 1928/9 recuperative visit there. Local dignitaries went to see the King's private secretary Stamfordham petitioning to have the town renamed Bognor Regis. The King told Stamfordham "Bugger Bognor", which he translated as the King would be pleased to grant their request. (Nigel Rees, Sayings of the Century page 6, quoting Kenneth Rose's biography of the King.)
  • Goddamn you!
    • Alleged last words, after his nurse administered a sedative.

Quotes about George V[edit]

  • There can be no question that one outstanding reason for the high level of loyalty and patriotic effort which the people of this country maintained [during the First World War] was the attitude and conduct of King George V.
  • For seventeen years, he did nothing at all but kill animals and stick in stamps.
    • Harold Nicolson, diary entry (17 August 1949), quoted in Harold Nicolson, The Later Years: 1945–1962. Volume Three, Diaries and Letters, ed. Nigel Nicolson (1966), p. 174
  • The King feels so strongly that, no matter the crime committed by anyone on whom the VC has been conferred, the decoration should not be forfeited. Even were a VC to be sentenced to be hanged for murder, he should be allowed to wear his VC on the scaffold.
    • Lord Stamfordham, private secretary to George V, on 26 July 1920. The original Royal Warrant involved an expulsion clause that allowed for a recipient's name to be erased from the official register in certain wholly discreditable circumstances and his pension cancelled. Eight were forfeited between 1861 and 1908. George V strongly opposed the concept of revoking a Victoria Cross, and directed Lord Stamfordham to express this view forcefully in a letter.

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