How the Daily Express reported King George’s death and funeral
Queen’s state funeral: Everything you need to know
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The Daily Express has been documenting the most significant royal events since the early 1900s, from the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 to the Platinum Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II earlier this year. Now, as the country prepares for the funeral of Her Majesty, Express.co.uk looks back at the last death and funeral of a monarch.
King George VI died peacefully in his sleep in February 1952; the monarch was staying at Sandringham, the Royal Family’s Norfolk estate. The 55-year-old King had been battling health issues for a while and had therefore sent his elder daughter Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip on a Commonwealth tour to represent him just a few days prior.
George had defied the guidance of his closest advisors and travelled to London Airport to see his daughter off, marking his final public appearance and the last time the young princess would see her father.
“The Daily Express announces with deep sorrow that the King died early yesterday. The news came from Sandringham at 10.45am in these words: The King, who retired to rest last night in his usual health, passed peacefully away in his sleep early this morning.”
This was printed on the front page of The Daily Express on February 7, 1952, a day after the death of George VI.
Then-Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya when the news broke, staying at the Treetops Hotel, thousands of miles away from Sandringham, where her father had passed.
The Daily Express reads: “The night Princess Elizabeth became Queen without knowing it she was dressed in brown slacks and a bush jacket, and never went to bed or took her clothes off. She spent the whole night in the fabulous Treetops Hotel in a giant fig tree overlooking a waterhole in the Aberdare Forest game reserve.”
The Duke of Edinburgh broke the news to his wife, who was devastated by the news and “wept like a 25-year-old girl who lost her father”.
Tributes to the late King were documented in the following pages of the newspaper. George VI had died a well-loved monarch despite being an inherently anxious man and not wanting to take on the role.
Hector Bolitho, author of ‘A Century of British Monarchy’, quoted Winston Churchill, who was prime minister at the time, as having once said of the King and his wife, Queen Elizabeth I (later the Queen Mother): “They have the rare talent of being able to make a mass of people realise in a flash that they are good.”
George’s funeral was held 10 days after his death on February 15. It came after a national period of mourning.
A service was held at St George’s Chapel, which sits in the shadow of Windsor Castle, and the king was interred in the royal vault.
On February 16, the Daily Express’ front-page report opened with: “They laid the good and devoted King to rest here today with the simple, uplifting service which commits any citizen to the grave.”
It continued: “In the stately chapel of kings and knights, two mourning Queens stand beside the grave of a husband, a father…
“And the Queen steps forward to sprinkle earth into the vault.”
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