How George and Mary saved the royal family

The monarchy's survival into the 21st century owes an enormous debt to the reign of George V and his wife, Mary, argues Denys Blakeway....

King George V and his wife, Queen Mary, pictured during a visit to Dublin in 1911. The royal couple were deeply conservative but common sense taught them they had to adapt to the modern world. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the Christmas 2011 issue of BBC History Magazine

“In a weird way it cheers everyone up,” Boris Johnson remarked about the latest royal wedding. Few could doubt, as Kate Middleton and Prince William made their marriage vows in Westminster Abbey last spring, that their wedding was both a tonic to the nation and a boost to the royal family. Polling at the time confirmed what was clear from the thousands cheering on the wedding route to the street parties across the country – that the monarchy, despite the setbacks of recent years, was as strong as ever. For this the institution owed much to the Queen’s grandfather King George V, a man who gave the appearance of steely inflexibility but in reality was a modernising reformer.

Want to read more?

Become a BBC History Magazine subscriber today to unlock all premium articles in The Library

Unlock now