After being educated at home by the Rev. J. N. Dalton, George became a naval cadet at Dartmouth. By 1889 he was commander of a torpedo boat. However, in January 1892, his naval career came to an end when his older brother, Prince Edward, died of pneumonia. Edward had been engaged to marry his German cousin, Princes Mary of Teck. It was now decided she should marry George instead.
George was now heir to the throne and it was decided that he could no longer risk his life as a naval commander. He was granted the title, the Duke of York and became a member of the House of Lords. George was also given a political education that included an in-depth study of the British Constitution. However, unlike his father, he did not learn to speak any foreign languages.
George, Duke of York, married Princess Mary in 1893. Mary had six children: Edward VIII (1894-1972), George VI (1895-1952), Mary (1897-1965), Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974), George, Duke of Kent (1902-1942) and Prince John (1905-1919).
Edward VII died in 1910 during the Liberal Government's conflict with the Lords. His father had promised to give his support to the reform of the House of Lords if Herbert Asquith and the Liberal Party won a General Election on this issue. Although the 1910 General Election held in December did not produce a clear victory for the Liberals, George V agreed to keep his father's promise.
When the House of Lords attempted to stop the passage of the 1911 Parliament Act, George V made it clear he was willing to create 250 new Liberal peers in order to remove the Conservative majority in the Lords. Faced with the prospect of a House of Lords with a permanent Liberal majority, the Conservatives agreed to let the 1911 Parliament Act become law.
The outbreak of the First World War created problems for the royal family because of its German background and the family name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. To stress his support for the British, the king made several visits to the Western Front. On one visit to France in 1915 he fell off his horse and broke his pelvis.
In 1916 Noel Pemberton Billing founded a journal called The Imperialist that was part-funded by Lord Beaverbrook. Billing claimed in his journal that there was a secret society called the Unseen Hand. As Ernest Sackville Turner, the author of Dear Old Blighty (1980) has pointed out: "One of the great delusions of the war was that there existed an Unseen (or Hidden, or Invisible) Hand, a pro-German influence which perennially strove to paralyse the nation's will and to set its most heroic efforts at naught... As defeat seemed to loom, as French military morale broke and Russia made her separate peace, more and more were ready to believe that the Unseen Hand stood for a confederacy of evil men, taking their orders from Berlin, dedicated to the downfall of Britain by subversion of the military, the Cabinet, the Civil Service and the City; and working not only through spiritualists, whores and homosexuals."
Michael Kettle, the author of Salome's Last Veil : The Libel Case of the Century (1977) has pointed out: "Even Buckingham Palace was now seriously alarmed. The Royal advisers were acutely aware that the Royal Family could hardly be described as, well, entirely British. In fact, the Saxe-Coburgs were pure German, unashamedly came from Hanover, and had much more in common with the Hohenzollerns, the German Royal House, than with any decent old British family. The Prince Consort, it was still remembered (the old Queen's first cousin as well as her husband), had spoken a very funny sort of English indeed; and old King Edward had quite an accent, which could become very funny at times too. The present King was all right and spoke well enough. But it was not until mid-1917 that he had renounced his foreign orders and titles - in fact many of them were German - and had hastily changed the family name."
On 25th April, 1917, The Times printed a short piece, headed: "The House of Windsor", reporting that King George V, while addressing the Mayor and Corporation of Windsor, "said his family had long been associated with Windsor, and he had decided, considering the close connection which the Royal House had had for many centuries with the Royal Borough, to adopt the name of Windsor as their family name".
In 1917 George V took the controversial decision to deny political asylum to the Tsar Nicholas II and his family after the Bolshevik Revolution. People where shocked by George's unwillingness to protect his cousin but his advisers argued that it was important for the king to distance himself from the autocratic Russian royal family. Some people questioned this decision when it became known that the Bolsheviks had executed Tsar Nicholas, his wife and their five children.
In 1924 George V appointed Ramsay MacDonald, Britain's first Labour Prime Minister. Two years later he played an important role in persuading the Conservative Government not to take an unduly aggressive attitude towards the unions during the General Strike. It an attempt to achieve national harmony during the economic crisis of 1931, the king persuaded MacDonald to lead a coalition government. The following year George V introduced the idea of broadcasting a Christmas message to the people.
The king had not enjoyed good health for a long time and during his final years he spent much of his time on his grand passion, philately. Patriotically, he concentrated on collected stamps from the British Empire. George V died of influenza on 20th January, 1936. His eldest son, Edward now became king.