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King George's shy exterior covered spirit of adventure

LONDON, Feb. 6, 1952 (UP) - King George VI was born during the reign of a queen and his death today gave Britain again the reign of a queen. Queen Victoria was upset by the news. She almost considered it an ill omen because the baby who was to become Britain's king 41 years later was born on the anniversary of the death of her beloved consort, Prince Albert.

He was a sickly child and as he grew older Britain's future king was plagued with ulcers and his poor resistance to colds brought on sieges of influenza, pneumonia and complications which caused his death.

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As the second son of George and Queen Mary, Albert Frederick Arthur George lived in the shadow of his elder brother Edward, the Prince of Wales.

He was shy and lacked the ease, graciousness and charm that made his brother one of the world's most popular personages, but beneath this quiet exterior lay the spirit of an adventurer. He was called Albert in his earlier days.

Once he was penalized for exploding firecrackers in the lavatory of the Naval Training College at Dartmouth, where he had been dispatched by his gruff father to build up his body and learn the lore of the sea.

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In 1916 he was aboard the HMS Collingwood when it was exposed to the heaviest firing in the battle of Jutland. A shell ricocheting from the sea almost struck him as he unconsciously exposed himself to observe the action.

"What the hell's the matter with you?" an officer screamed.

George forgot his royal bearing and took cover, but he was cited later for his "coolness and courage."

King George V foresaw the coming of aviation and made his second son the head of the Royal Flying Corps. But, aware of his son's inner recklessness, the king told him to stay on the ground.

But George insisted that he be more than just a figurehead and persuaded the king to permit him to fly. On a windy day in 1918, Albert soloed.

He became so confident in his ability to handle airplanes that he took the Prince of Wales for a spin. That memorable flight of two heirs to the throne was kept "top secret" by airfield officials.

George's tour of sea duty and aerial accomplishments convinced the king that his second son's personality had broadened sufficiently to permit him to fulfill public duties.

His first major act was to ride with King Albert of Belgium into Brussels 11 days after the World War I armistice. Later his father presented him to the president of France and the shah of Persia.

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The king was delighted with George's composure in the presence of other notables and rewarded his son by bestowing upon him the titles Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Kilarney.

George soon became known to members of the family at Buckingham Palace as "the foreman." They tagged him with that nickname because he had won friends among factory workers and miners on his industrial tours in behalf of the king.

He refused to tread upon a plush red carpet on his visits to factories and insisted on informality.

George once walked from a mine blackened with dust and equally besmeared miners sang: "For he's a jolly good fellow."

He often visited Scotland. On one trip, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, offered to guide him through Glamis Castle.

He accepted, because the idea of being taken on a tour of the castle that inspired William Shakespeare in writing "MacBeth" by such an attractive guide intrigued him.

It did not take George long to fall in love with Elizabeth and he was distressed when she rejected his proposal of marriage. But George heeded his mother's advice to be a persistent suitor and they were married on April 26, 1923, at Westminster Abbey.

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Royalty from all the capitals of Europe came to see the first royal marriage in Westminster Abbey in more than 500 years.

Three years later, their first child, later to become Britain's new Queen Elizabeth, was born in London on Bruton St., in a house that was no more pretentious than those owned by prosperous businessmen.

Throughout these happy years George remained devoted to his elder brother and never thought of an unknown soothsayer's prediction many years before that "his stars will raise him to a higher sphere than that to which he was born."

But the fortuneteller's fiction became fact when his brother, who had become King Edward VIII, abdicated for "the woman I love" -- an American divorcee named Wallis Warfield Simpson.

One of George's first acts was to confer the title of Duke of Windsor upon his brother. On May, 12,1937, George was crowned King GeorgeVI.

Being King was not an easy task because he disliked public functions and he had not overcome completely a speech defect which had made conversations so difficult for him in his youth.

But he practiced breathing exercises he had learned from an Australian specialist in curing shell shock victims and soon was handling the most complicated speeches without faltering noticeably.

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George liked tennis, being the only member of the royal family to play in the Wimbledon Championships, and he was fairly proficient in golf.

An inveterate stamp collector (he inherited this from his father, grave George V), George VI indulged in numerous hobbies in the days when he had time for them. Radio, boxing and detective fiction ranked high on the list.

George compiled one of the largest collections of jazz recordings in England, but he never cared for classical music.

The king and queen visited France in 1938 and one year later visited Canada and the United States. At Hyde Park President Franklin D. Roosevelt ate hot dogs with the royal couple and agreed they were "delightful people."

On June 22 they returned to Britain and on Sept. 3, 1939, the war with Germany began.

Perhaps the king's tirelessness during the war was a major contributing factor to his illness which followed. He and the queen went to the scene of every disaster during the German air blitz and saw every division leave for overseas.

During the war the king left his island three times - to Algiers, where U.S. and British forces had landed on Nov. 8, 1942; to France nine days after D-Day, and to Italy to watch RAF fighter-bombers take off on their missions.

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On Nov. 23, 1948, one year after he had returned from a visit to South Africa, King George began suffering from a condition of the leg arteries that led to a leg operation in March 1949. He recovered, but had to cancel a trip to Australia.

His death was unexpected, because he apparently had recovered from an operation in which one of his lungs, or part of a lung, had been removed last Sept. 23.

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