Albert, Duke of York
Albert, informally known as "Bertie" to his family, was born at York Cottage, on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk on December 14 1895, during the reign of his great-grandmother Queen Victoria. His father was Prince George, Duke of York, the second and eldest-surviving son of the Prince and Princess of Wales (later Edward VII and Queen Alexandra). His mother was the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary), the eldest daughter of Prince Francis, Duke of Teck, and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge.
Albert's birthday (December 14) was the anniversary of the death of his great-grandfather, Prince Albert, the Prince Consort. Uncertain of how the Prince Consort's widow Queen Victoria would take the news of the birth, the Prince of Wales wrote to his son, Prince George, Duke of York, that the Queen had been "rather distressed". Two days later, he wrote again: "I really think it would gratify her if you yourself proposed the name Albert to her". This mollified the baby's great-grandmother, who wrote to the baby's mother, the Duchess of York: "I am all impatience to see the new one, born on such a sad day but rather more dear to me, especially as he will be called by that dear name which is a byword for all that is great and good". He was baptised Albert Frederick Arthur George at St Mary Magdalene's Church near Sandringham three months later. As the second son, Albert was fourth in line for the throne at birth.
As a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, Albert was styled His Highness Prince Albert of York from birth. In 1898, Queen Victoria issued Letters Patent that granted the children of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales the style Royal Highness, and at the age of two, Albert became His Royal Highness Prince Albert of York. He often suffered from ill health and was described as "easily frightened and somewhat prone to tears". Albert developed a stammer that lasted for many years, as well as chronic stomach problems. He suffered from knock knees, and to correct this he was forced to wear splints, which were extremely painful. He was also forced to write with his right hand although he was naturally left-handed.
Queen Victoria died on January 22 1901 and the Prince of Wales succeeded her as King Edward VII. The Duke of York became the new Prince of Wales, Prince Edward the second in line to the throne and Prince Albert the third.
From 1909 Albert attended the Royal Naval College, Osborne, as a naval cadet. He came bottom of the class in the final examination, but despite this he progressed to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in 1911. When Edward VII died on May 6 1910, Albert's father became King George V. Prince Edward was created Prince of Wales on June 2 1910 and Albert became second in line to the throne.
Albert was commissioned as a midshipman on September 15 1913 and one year later began service in the Weltkrieg. His fellow officers gave their royal peer the ordinary nickname "Mr. Johnson". He saw action as a turret officer aboard HMS Collingwood against the German navy at the Battle of Jutland (31 May – 1 June 1916). Albert did not see further action in the war largely because of ill health caused by a duodenal ulcer. In February 1918 Albert was appointed Officer in Charge of Boys at the Royal Naval Air Service's training establishment at Cranwell. With the establishment of the Royal Air Force later that year and the transfer of Cranwell from Navy to Air Force control, Albert was transferred from the Royal Navy to the Royal Air Force. He was later appointed Officer Commanding Number 4 Squadron of the Boys' Wing at Cranwell and he remained there until August 1918. During the remaining years of the war Albert served on the staff of the Independent Air Force at its headquarters in Nancy.
Duke of York
In October 1921 Prince Albert went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied history, economics and civics for a year. On June 3 1922, Prince Albert was created Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killarney. He then began to take on royal duties, representing his father the King, touring coal mines, factories and railyards, acquiring the nickname of the "Industrial Prince". His speech impediment and his embarrassment over it, together with his tendency to shyness, caused him to appear much less impressive than his older brother the Prince of Wales. However, he was physically active and enjoyed playing tennis.
When the 1925 British Revolution broke out the Royal Family had to flee to Canada. As the second son of King George V, Albert is not expected to inherit the throne and spent his early years in Canada in the shadow of his elder brother, Edward. However, Albert proved to possess a powerful sense of duty and has granted Canada's current Prime Minister, the Liberal Mackenzie King, a great deal of mutual respect, if not public endorsement, especially in regards to King’s contention that each British Dominion is a separate state with equal rights within a larger Empire, each with its separate crown for its head of state. This is in clear contrast with the opinion of his father George and especially his elder brother Edward who never hid his despise for King, regarding him as nothing but a mere colonial.
Despite that, King George's relationship with his heir Edward deteriorated in the recent years because of Edward's many affairs with married women and in contrast, he seems fond of his second eldest son Albert and doted on his eldest granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth.
In 1920 Albert met Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the youngest daughter of Claude Bowes-Lyon, 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne and Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck. He became determined to marry her although, according to British law, she was a commoner. She rejected his proposal twice and hesitated for nearly two years, reportedly because she was reluctant to make the sacrifices necessary to become a member of the royal family. In the words of Lady Elizabeth's mother, Albert would be "made or marred" by his choice of wife, and after a protracted courtship Elizabeth agreed to marry him.
They were married on 26 April 1923 in Westminster Abbey. The newly-formed British Broadcasting Company wished to record and broadcast the event on radio, but the Chapter vetoed the idea. Lady Elizabeth was styled Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York after their marriage. Albert's marriage to a British commoner was considered a modernising gesture. The Duke and Duchess of York had two children, Elizabeth (called "Lilibet" by the family), born on April 21 1926, and Margaret, born on August 21 1930.
The Duchess helped Albert overcome his dread (due to stammering) of public speaking. He was introduced by her to Lionel Logue, an Australian-born expert on speech. The Duke and Logue practiced breathing exercises, and the Duchess rehearsed with him patiently. As a result of the training he was able to speak thereafter with only a slight hesitation.