George VI - Last Public Appearance

Although people throughout the UK didn't know it, their King had lung cancer. He had surgery on the 23rd of September, 1951, to remove part of his lung after doctors noticed "structural changes."

The much-loved monarch had endeared himself to people throughout the UK when he and his wife, Queen Elizabeth—later known as "The Queen Mother"—refused to leave London, and Buckingham Palace, during WWII ... even during "The Blitz."

Some historians speculate that the King developed lung cancer after so-called experts advised him that smoking could help alleviate his stammer. Others comment that the times in which he lived and worked took a serious toll on him:

It is thought the traumatic times through which he led his country left him physically exhausted and contributed to his failing health and early death at the age of 56.

This historic footage—recorded on January 31, 1952—depicts the last time King George VI was seen in public.  He—together with Queen Elizabeth and their younger daughter, Princess Margaret—had traveled to the airport to send their older daughter, Princess Elizabeth (and her husband, Prince Philip) on a tour the King himself was unable to make. 

Five days later, the King unexpectedly died in his sleep (of a coronary thrombosis).  Elizabeth—now the Queen—returned home to assume her new responsibilities at the age of 24.  The trip, intended to cover about 30,000 miles, would have taken her to Australia and New Zealand (as well as Kenya and other places).

She was able to make the trip two years later, in 1954.

For additional videos of Princess Elizabeth, see the BBC Archives.

Media Credits

Historic footage of King George VI, and members of his family, online courtesy the APTS Archive channel at YouTube.


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"George VI - Last Public Appearance" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Jan 25, 2020.
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