George V was the second eldest son of Edward VII and Alexandra. Born in 1865, he first visited Australia with his elder brother Prince Albert as midshipmen aboard the HMS Bacchante in 1880. George seemed destined for a professional career in the Navy, but the heir apparent, Prince Albert, died in 1892 after contracting pneumonia. Prince George therefore became heir apparent (and hence Prince of Wales) and went on to marry his brother's former fiancee, who later became Queen Mary. He and his wife held the titles of Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York.

The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York visited Australia in May 1901 to open the first Commonwealth Parliament. Their tour was one of the most lavish undertaken by the monarchy. An Orient steamship liner was chartered for the voyage as no royal yacht could span the required distances between coaling ports. The Daily Telegraph's London correspondent reported that the 'The tour of the Duke and Duchess of York is likely to cost the British ratepayer a cool quarter of a million.'

Arriving in Victoria on 6 May, the Duke and the Duchess were greeted with enthusiasm by the people of Melbourne. They attended a full programme of receptions, dinners and events. Public holidays allowed people to glimpse the royal couple. Australia's connection to the British Empire was clearly evident.

The Argus reported a typical event at Government House the day after their arrival, when the Duke 'received all citizens who were anxious to evidence their loyalty in that manner. The gathering was the most important ever witnessed in the colony. About 4,000 gentlemen attended, and paid their respects to the Heir Apparent with due decorum, and yet with celerity. The Duke shook hands with each and by pleasant tact and savoire faire placed all at their ease.' (Argus 1901, p. 6). The Duke and Duchess were kept busy with a program ranging from dinner and a University Commencement to the presentation of prizes to public schools. During their 10 day visit to Victoria they made a brief visit to country Victoria and managed to fit in a day's shooting.

The tour also included visits to the other states, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada.

George and Mary had six children: Prince Edward, The Prince of Wales and later King Edward VIII and the Duke of Windsor; Prince Albert Frederick Arthur George, later King George VI; Princess Victoria; Prince Henry the Duke of Gloucester; Prince George the Duke of Kent; and Prince John.

George ascended the throne on his father's death on 9 May 1910. He was crowned in 1911. During his reign, which spanned World War I, the royal house abandoned the title The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (or the house of Hanover or Brunswick) and became known as the house of Windsor.

George died in 1936, and was succeeded briefly by Edward VIII who abdicated in favour of George VI.

Argus. 8 May 1901.


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