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George VI (1895-1952)

The royal family are not immune from poor health, despite their access to the very best health care. As a child, George VI did not enjoy good health. He had knock knees and was forced to wear painful splints on his legs to correct the problem. He also suffered from chronic stomach problems and a stammer, which made him shy around people. He overcame his tendency to stammer with the assistance of his wife, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, and Lionel Logue, an Australian expert on speech.

However, he contributed to his health problems and probably his early death by following the trend in the early 20th century for smoking heavily - he eventually developed lung cancer and arteriosclerosis, a gradual blocking of the arteries. In September 1951 the king was operated on by Sir Clement Price Thomas when a malignant tumour was found in his lung. The surgeon removed the king’s left lung in a procedure called pneumonectomy. However, the king's health continued to deteriorate and he died in his sleep in February 1952.

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Bibliography

H C G Matthew, ‘George VI (1895–1952)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004)

Glossary:

Splint

A rigid device of plastic, wood or plaster that serves to immobilize or support an injury. Generally strapped alongside an injured limb.

Tumour

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