THE RELUCTANT KING: The Life and Reign of George VI, 1895-1952 by Sarah Bradford

THE RELUCTANT KING: The Life and Reign of George VI, 1895-1952

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From the author of Disraeli (1983) and Princess Grace (1984), a capable, well-researched biography--the first since John Wheeler-Bennett's stuffy King George VI (1958)--of the monarch who presided over wartime and postwar England. On December 11, 1936, George VI ascended to the throne following his brother Edward VIII's scandalous abdication in order to marry Wallis Simpson. Age 41, the new king had not been groomed for a monarch's relentless public duties, and his subjects feared he would not be up to the task because of his various shortcomings--a stammer in early life, shyness, an average intellect. But in Bradford's sympathetic portrait, George VI's quiet strength of character comes to the fore and inspires his nation's wartime resistance--for example, when the king chooses to remain in London with his imperiled subjects during the blitz. Eventually, this humble monarch gained friends and even admirers in such powerful men as Churchill and Roosevelt. Sadly, in the postwar years George VI had to preside over England's loss of empire and economic decline. In 1952, he died exhausted, to be succeeded by his daughter Elizabeth. Bradford's excellent biography--based in part on a host of newly discovered diaries and letters--can be faulted only for devoting nearly a third of its pages to the Duke of Windsor, George VI's charismatic brother. Still, this is a valuable portrait that gives the recognition due an important but unassuming king.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1990
Publisher: St. Martin's