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1952: King George VI dies in his sleep

AUDIO : BBC announces the death of the King

His Majesty, King George VI, has died peacefully in his sleep at Sandringham House.

The official announcement from Sandringham, given at 1045 GMT, said the King retired in his usual health, but passed away in his sleep and was found dead in bed at 0730 GMT by a servant.

He was 56, and was known to have been suffering from a worsening lung condition.

Princess Elizabeth, who is at the Royal hunting lodge in Kenya, immediately becomes Queen at the age of 25.

She has been informed of her father's death, and is preparing to return to London, but a thunderstorm has delayed the departure of her plane.

She is expected back tomorrow afternoon, when she will take the Royal Oath which will seal her accession to the throne.


"We cannot at this moment do more than record the spontaneous expression of grief"

Prime Minister Winston Churchill

The cabinet met this morning as soon as the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was informed of the news, to discuss the constitutional implications.

The House of Commons has also been suspended as a mark of respect.

Before MPs adjourned, Prime Minister Winston Churchill offered their condolences, saying, "We cannot at this moment do more than record the spontaneous expression of grief."

He is due to make a broadcast to the nation at 2100 GMT tomorrow.

As the news of the King's death spread, all cinemas and theatres closed, and BBC programmes were cancelled except for news bulletins. Flags in every town were at half-mast, and sports fixtures were cancelled.

A crowd began to gather outside Buckingham Palace during the afternoon, as diplomats from around the world arrived in official cars to write their condolences in the visitors' book.

By 2100 GMT the police had to press the growing number of mourners back from the gates and on to the pavement. Despite the bitter cold and rain, the silent, weeping crowd stayed until long after it grew dark.

The news was greeted with shock and grief throughout the world. In the United States, President Truman, in a formal statement from the White House, paid tribute to the King.

He said, "He shared to the end of his reign all the hardships and austerities which evil days imposed on the brave British people.

"In return, he received from the people of the whole Commonwealth a love and devotion which went beyond the usual relationship of a King and his subjects."

Both the US Senate and the House of Representatives voted to adjourn out of regard for the dead King.

The body of King George is to lie in state in Westminster Hall from next Monday, 11 February, until the funeral.

In Context
The King had suffered a coronary thrombosis - a fatal blood clot to the heart - soon after falling asleep. He was also revealed to have been suffering from lung cancer.

He had always been a frail, nervous man, and had not expected to become King: but he was catapulted onto the throne by the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII.

Three years later, he was leading the country through the Second World War. His steadfastness won him the hearts of the people, most notably when he and his wife and Queen, Elizabeth (who became the Queen Mother on his death), insisted on sharing the dangers of the Battle of Britain with the people of London.

However, the stressful nature of his accession to the throne, and the particularly traumatic times through which he led the country left him physically exhausted, and are thought to have contributed to his failing health and his early death.


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