Monday, February 6, 2012

King George VI died 60 years ago today

It has long been known that the Queen found out about the death of her father King George VI during a visit to Kenya.

But the true story of what happened on 6th of February 1952 has only just come to light, nearly 60 years after it happened.

King George VI seeing of Princess Elizabeth

The story begins with Her Majesty leaving England on 31st January to undertake the visit to the country in place of her sick father.

Princess Elizabeth waving goodbye to her dad, King George VI

The visit was part of an international tour that was also to take in Australia and New Zealand.

Six days later, on February 6, 1952, the then Princess Elizabeth visited the Treetops hotel to stay in one of the famous cabins that sit high up in the trees.

The Princess and her husband had travelled there to relax and enjoy a short respite from their duties, while also intending to take in the variety of wildlife on offer.

The Princess enjoyed herself so much that she asked for tea to be served outside to avoid missing any of the wildlife.

Keen to capture more on her camera, the Queen awoke early the following day and saw two rhino fighting at a nearby waterhole.

She soon had to leave but happily promised 'I will come again' as she left for a fishing lodge known as Sagana, around 20 miles away.

As the Queen departed, several thousand miles away servants at Sandringham were preparing to wake the King for his morning bath.

His Majesty had seemed in good spirits the previous evening when he returned from a shooting party with his friend Lord Fermoy.

He spent time playing with his two grandchildren, Charles and Anne, and had dinner with his younger daughter Margaret, before retiring to bed.

The King's valet James McDonald had prepared the bath, with the running water usually enough to wake him.

However that morning it did not, and McDonald, alongside page Maurice Watts, knew something was seriously wrong.

A doctor was called, and he confirmed that the King had passed away in his sleep.

'Hyde Park Corner' the codeword used in event of King George's death was enacted and Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was informed at once.

However, with the site the Queen and her husband were visiting being almost cut off from the outside world, it would be four hours before the news reached her.

The source of the news from Sandringham came from a journalist called Granville Roberts, who worked on the East African Standard and was covering the royal visit.

He received the news from his office, who said that Reuters had run a flash simply saying: 'The King is dead'.

Roberts immediately asked a receptionist to fetch Lieutenant Colonel Martin Charteris, who was Elizabeth's private secretary, to inform him of the news.

Asked if the message was correct, he simply replied: 'Quite sure.'

Roberts then telephoned Commander Michael Parker, Philip's private secretary to deliver the news, which was later confirmed by radio when Parker tuned to the BBC.

Commander Parker awoke the Duke of Edinburgh from an afternoon nap to tell him of the death. He is said to have reacted like he had been hit by a thunderbolt.

Philip decided to take his wife for a walk in the grounds where he told her of her father's death and that she was now Queen.

Her Majesty is said to have reacted with a sense of duty in discussing the practicalities of returning to England, but also spent an hour alone in her room.

Arrangements were quickly made for the Royal party to return to London, with a plane flying them from Nanyuki, a nearby town, to Entebbe where a plane was waiting.

The party was delayed by several hours after a storm broke in Entebbe but they left at around midnight.

During the flight, another problem arose in that the Queen's mourning outfit had already gone ahead and she only had a floral dress to wear.

The aircraft decided to land in North Africa where a message was sent ahead and a second black outfit was taken to London airport.

Upon the flight's arrival, the dress was taken aboard after it stopped in the remote area of the airport.

The Queen changed quickly before emerging, meeting a line-up including her uncle the Duke of Gloucester and Churchill.

It was the start of a reign that has lasted until this day.

Read more from the Daily Mail here

Princess Elizabeth was proclaimed Queen 60 years ago today

Watch the proclamation

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post. Details I did not know of her immediate ascension to the throne. Diane


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