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House of Windsor

King George VI, King of the United Kingdom (1895-1952)

George VI was the second son of King George V and Queen Mary. He was Duke of York from 1920 to 1936, living in London and also (from 1932) at Royal Lodge, Windsor Great Park. In 1923 he married Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon; their elder daughter, later HM Queen Elizabeth II, was born in 1926. George VI succeeded to the throne on the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII, in December 1936.

George VI was King through the Second World War, a period that afforded little opportunity for art commissioning and collecting. The portrait of him by Gerald Kelly (RCIN 403422) was begun before the war, worked on throughout with the artist based at Windsor, and finally exhibited in 1946. George VI instituted the George Cross and George Medal (1940), awarded for acts of bravery by citizens, and organised displays of Orders, Medals and Decorations at Windsor.

George VI revived the annual ceremonial for the Order of the Garter at Windsor, in 1948, its 600th anniversary. The sixteenth century Dethick Garter book was purchased by George VI and is one of the treasures of the Royal Library.

Some notable purchases of paintings were made by George VI just after the war - the Sebastiano Ricci (RCIN 404769) is one Old Master example. He purchased at auction and also privately, and seems to have had an interest in objects with British royal histories or provenances (RCIN 404006 and RCIN 421478). He seems also to have had an interest in depictions of royal palaces such as the watercolour of the Deputy Ranger's House in the Windsor Great Park, by Paul Sandby and the view painting of Hampton Court by Leonard Knyff.

Other works were bequeathed to George, such as two Canalettos (RCIN 409046 and RCIN 409047) and William Powell Frith's Railway Station - a key Victorian painting - was given to him in 1947.

Reigned: 1936–52


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Objects associated with King George VI, King of the United Kingdom (1895-1952)