"Day of Mourning for Late King" was the large headline splashed across the Sydney Morning Herald on January 29th, 1936.
George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert; 3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 6 May 1910 through the First World War (1914–1918) until his death in 1936.
He was extremely empathetic with his loyal subjects, as illustrated by some of the following anecdotes.
At the height of WWI, on July 17th 1917, King George V appeased British nationalist feelings by issuing an Order in Council that changed the name of the British Royal House from the German-sounding House of Saxe-Coburg and Goethe to the House of Windsor.
He specifically adopted Windsor as the surname for all descendants of Queen Victoria then living in the United Kingdom, excluding, of course women who married into other families and decided to take their husband's name – as most women did at that time.
In 1926, George hosted an Imperial Conference in London at which the Balfour Declaration accepted the guided development of the British Dominions into self-governing "autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another".
In 1931, the Statute of Westminster formalised George's position as "the symbol of the free association of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations."
By the sliver jubilee of his reign in 1935, he had become a well-loved king, saying in response to the crowd's adulation, "I cannot understand it, after all I am only a very ordinary sort of fellow".
And of his son Edward (The Prince of Wales), the King foretold that after his own death, "The boy (Edward) will ruin himself within 12 months". His words were prophetic.
When this symbol of stability, King George V, died, the entire British Commonwealth of Nations mourned greatly. Change was on the door step. Nazism in Germany was becoming belligerent. Communism in Russia was a clear threat to all the Royal Houses of Europe. Many saw that the late king's son and heir, Edward, wasn't in his father's mould.
In the end, Edward abdicated to marry a divorcee, and his brother 'Bertie' acceded to the throne and took the name George VI. His death was also mourned, and although it was on my lifetime, I was too young to remember it. History tells us that he, and his wife Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) were also empathetic to their subjects, and were extremely important in maintaining their morale during World War II.
More important to Australians of that time, was that they remember that the young Princess Elizabeth was recalled from a planned tour of Australia in 1952 because of her father's death after a long illness. When she did come to our shores in 1953, it was as Queen Elizabeth II (although the formal coronation was not until 1954).
Her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, lived to be more than 100 years old, and her death and funeral were certainly world-wide events, even if the nation perhaps celebrated her life more than mourning the death of such a revered, old person.
Since Queen Elizabeth II herself is already the longest-reigning monarch of Great Britain, and since she is much loved and respected throughout the Commonwealth, it is only to be imagined what national and international emotions will be leashed on her death. This is particularly so, as many people feel that the British monarchy will never be the same again after Queen Elizabeth's era!
One national expression of mourning that I well remember is the death due to a car accident of Diana, Princess of Wales, (affectionately, if incorrectly, known as Princess Diana or Princess Di). Although at the time she was divorced from Prince Charles, the public retained a love for her and admired her charity work and her empathy with the common person. Her sudden death and subsequent funeral did demonstrate a huge outpouring of grief throughout Britain and the world. Tourists still visit some of her memorial sites, and still actively mourn her passing.
Now we have on our hands a Royal engagement, with Prince William and Kate Middleton. Yes, every little detail will be on television and in the newspapers and magazines. It will be there for all of us to notice.
All this reminiscing of Royalty and my mother's strong feelings for her monarch and their family made me think about the most important Christian death of all, that of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Far from being a death to be mourned by nations, this was in the end a celebration with the resurrection and the assurance of Salvation to everyone who believes.
I have seen a painting depicting all those Royals of Europe 'throughout the ages' who in their respective lifetimes followed the Lord Jesus Christ, and in this painting, they are kneeling at the cross of Christ. There is a sense of mourning yet there is also a sense of jubilation.
Perhaps there is a Christian component (death and resurrection of Jesus) to the saying: "The King is dead, Long live the King".