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King George V

The new King poignantly announces the “mournful event” of his father’s death,

   “feeling convinced that You will participate in Our grief and in that of all Our subjects”

George Frederick Ernest Albert, 1865–1936.  King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, 1910–1927; King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and King of Ireland, 1927–1936; Emperor of India, 1910–1936  Manuscript letter signed, George R. I., three pages, 8” x 12”, on black-bordered mourning stationery, the Court of St. James’s [London, England], June 20, 1910.  Countersigned by Sir Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon, KG, PC, DL, FZS (1862–1933), Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1905–1916.

A little over a month after becoming King, George V poignantly announces in this formal diplomatic letter “the decease of Our Most Honoured and Beloved Father,” King Edward VII.  Writing to “Our Good Friend,” the President of the Republic of Cuba, he advises of the death of “His Majesty King Edward Vii of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Emperor of India, of Blessed Memory, whom it pleased God to call from this world on the evening of the sixth ultimo, at a quarter to twelve o’clock, in the Tenth Year of His Reign.”  He communicates “this mournful event,” he says, “feeling convinced that You will participate in Our grief and in that of all Our subjects, for the loss of a Sovereign so justly esteemed and revered.” 

The new King adds his assurances that, with his accession to the throne, “it will be Our most earnest desire to cultivate and to maintain the relations of Friendship and good understanding which so happily subsist between the two Countries, and that it will always afford Us the greatest pleasure to have fresh opportunity of proving the interest which We take in the welfare and prosperity of the Republic of Cuba.” 

George V had an excellent relationship with his father. Observers described Edward VII and George V more as affectionate brothers than as father and son.  When his father died, George V confided to his diary that he had lost his “best friend and the best of  fathers.”  He wrote that he “never had a [cross] word with him in my life.  I am heart-broken and overwhelmed with grief.”

This letter is handwritten in beautiful calligraphy and bears the royal crest at the top.  George V and Viscount Grey have signed black fountain pen turned to gray-brown.  Both signatures are bold.

Overall this letter is in very good to fine condition.  It has one flattened horizontal mailing fold, which does not affect the King’s signature. It has been laminated for preservation with a fine, flexible plastic sheeting popular with libraries and archives in the 1940s and 1950s because it allowed pages to flex, as the pages to this letter do.  There is some soiling on the first page that appears to be beneath the lamination.  In a few small spots, notably along the black border, the laminating material has come off.  The top edges of both sheets have no black border, which may have been removed.  Along the left edges of the first and second sheets, there are remnants of a fine woven material that is likely mull used either to bind the paper into conjugate leaves or to preserve the edges of the sheets.  The sheets are separated, and there is no paper loss, but the separation likely accounts for why a small portion of the paper surface from the top left edge of the second sheet appears to be adhered to the top right edge of the backside of the first sheet.  On the back of  the second sheet, there is a toned image of the envelope and seal consistent with adhesive staining from the envelope itself.  The toning has a three-dimensional appearance, although it is flat, and shows through to the front of the second sheet around the King’s signature. 

We have not found another letter by George V with content this compelling.  We found a few other diplomatic letters of George V in auction records, but all of those were typed and had routine content relating to diplomatic appointments.  We therefore believe that this letter is at least scarce, if not rare, given its form and content.  It belongs in the best of British royalty collections.




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