George VI of the United Kingdom

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George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death. He was also the last Emperor of India (until 22 June 1948), the last King of Ireland (until 18 April 1949), and the first Head of the Commonwealth.

As the second son of King George V, he was not expected to inherit the throne and spent his early life in the shadow of his elder brother, Edward. He served in the Royal Navy during World War I, and after the war took on the usual round of public engagements. He married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923, and they had two daughters, Elizabeth (who succeeded him as Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret.

George's elder brother ascended the throne as Edward VIII on the death of their father in 1936. However, less than a year later Edward revealed his desire to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson. British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin advised Edward that, for political and religious reasons, he would not be able to remain king if he married Simpson, who was twice divorced. So Edward abdicated in order to marry, and George VI ascended the throne as the third monarch of the House of Windsor.

Within 24 hours of his accession the Irish parliament, the Oireachtas, passed the External Relations Act, which essentially removed the power of the monarch in the Irish Free State. Further events greatly altered the position of the monarchy during his reign: three years after his accession, his realms, except the Irish Free State, were at war with Germany. In the next two years, war with Italy and the Empire of Japan followed. Though the UK and its allies were ultimately victorious, the United States and the Soviet Union rose as pre-eminent world powers, and the British Empire declined. With the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, and the foundation of the Republic of Ireland in 1949, George's reign saw the acceleration of the break-up of the Empire and its transition into the Commonwealth of Nations.


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