By all accounts, the young Prince Albert didn’t have the most auspicious of starts. With a dictatorial father in King George V, a difficult time through education culminating in last place in his final exams at the Royal Navy Academy, Prince Albert nonetheless served on the HMS Collingwood in WW1 later becoming a pilot. Winston Churchill gives a good insight into King George’s personality in the speech Churchill made on the King’s death, saying: “We thought of him when calmly, when without ambition or want of self-confidence, he assumed the heavy burden of the crown and succeeded his brother whom he loved and whom he had rendered perfect loyalty.”
This is no leader who had battled and fought their way to power, but one, when pushed into the position accepted with grace and equanimity becoming the byword for duty. That Albert realised the enormity of the task ahead was clear, stating on the 12th May 1937 that it was a “grave and constant responsibility.”
Of course, much of the apprehension of the new King was undoubtedly down to the perceived shortcomings he felt that he had. And this was something that King George was open about acknowledging, even as his leadership progressed.
In a broadcast of the 6th June 1944, George VI said: “Once more the supreme test has to be faced…we are not unmindful of our own shortcomings, past and present.” The battles that King George faced to overcome his difficulties in public speaking are well documented, and famously portrayed by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech.