Prince George joined the navy in 1877 and there befriended Rosslyn Wemyss. In 1884 the prince attended the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and seven years later was promoted commander.
His naval career was abruptly terminated, however, in 1892 when his older brother, Prince Eddy, Duke of Clarence, died of pneumonia, leaving Prince George (now Duke of York) second in succession to the throne. The following year he married Princess Victoria Mary (May) of Teck, a member of the royal house of Württemberg. Upon the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901, George became Duke of Cornwall; in November of that year he was invested as Prince of Wales. On May 6,1910, Edward VII died and George V became king of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British dominions beyond the seas, emperor of India.
The new monarch was beset with a host of nagging domestic problems, most notably the veto power of the House of Lords and Irish home rule. In November 1910, Prime Minister H. H. Asquith managed to extricate from the king assurances that if the Lords continued to veto the budget sent up by the Commons, sufficient new peers would be created to swing the vote for the government. In the end, the Lords in August 1911 accepted the parliamentary bill which curtailed their veto power. The center of attention then shifted to Ireland. In January and again in July 1913, the Lords rejected a home rule bill for that unhappy land, and on July 21,1914, George V called a meeting of leading politicians at Buckingham Palace in an attempt to find a solution to the vexing problem of home rule and the Ulster Unionists. To no avail: four conferences failed to break the deadlock. The king later noted: "For me, the most difficult was the constitutional crisis. In the War we were all united, we should sink or swim together. But then, in my first year, half the nation was one way and half the other."
George V spent much of the war at Buckingham Palace. Early in 1915 he made a gift of £100,000 to the Exchequer and forbade the consumption of alcohol for the duration of the war in his household; in February 1917, rationing was introduced at the palace. The king was deeply saddened by the dismissal of his cousin, Prince Louis of Battenberg, the first sea lord, as a result of scurrilous press attacks on Louis' German ancestry. Moreover, he viewed the loss of the secretary of state for war, Lord H. H. Kitchener, in June 1916, as a national tragedy. The ruler was extremely fond of Asquith, and thus was saddened to see the prime minister depart in December 1916; George V was outwardly correct towards the new head of government, David Lloyd George, but he feared the Welshman and especially disliked the running feud the prime minister maintained with the British field commander in France, Sir Douglas Haig, with whom the monarch maintained a warm correspondence.
On June 20, 1917, George V ordered all princes of his family bearing German names and titles to relinquish them. He took the name Windsor, Battenberg became Mountbatten (marquesses of Milford Haven and Carisbrooke), and Teck became Cambridge (marquesses of Cambridge and earls of Athlone). On a more positive note, George V visited the Grand Fleet five times during the war and paid no less than seven calls to his armies in France. He also made over 300 pilgrimages to hospitals during the war, thereby greatly enhancing morale both at home and at the front. One of his sons (afterwards King Edward VIII) fought with the army in France; another (later King George VI) was with the navy at Jutland.
After the war the vexing problem of Ireland returned. The Home Rule Act was finally passed in December 1920, and in June of the following year George V opened the parliament at Belfast; the Irish Free State was voted into being in December 1921. Three years later the king called upon Ramsay MacDonald to form the first Labour government of Britain an important chapter in George's kingcraft. In
1926 Arthur James Balfour devised the Nicene Creed of the Commonwealth, which five years later led to the Statute of Westminster, according the dominions a greater degree of political autonomy. One of the king's most disputable acts, according to Winston Churchill, was his bringing about the formation of a national government under Ramsay MacDonald and Stanley Baldwin in 1931, at a time when the depression had crippled the British economy.
George V received the tumultuous acclaim of his subjects during the silver jubilee celebrations in 1935. He died in Sandringham on January 30, 1936. His eldest son reigned as Edward VIII for less than one year, but his second son as George VI guided the nation calmly and safely through the Second World War.
As a young man destined to serve in the navy, Prince George served for many years under the command of his uncle, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, who was stationed in Malta. There, he grew close to and fell in love with his uncle's daughter, Princess Marie. His grandmother, father and uncle all approved the match, but the mothers the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Edinburgh both opposed it. The Princess of Wales thought the family was too pro-German, and the Duchess of Edinburgh disliked England. Marie's mother was the only daughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. She resented the fact that, as the wife of a younger son of the British sovereign, she had to yield precedence to George's mother, the Princess of Wales, whose father had been a minor German prince before being called unexpectedly to the throne of Denmark. Guided by her mother, Marie refused George when he proposed to her. She married Ferdinand, the heir to the King of Romania, in 1893.