London, Feb. 6 — In the early hours of this morning George VI died peacefully in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham. As night fell upon this mourning capital of a still great family of nations, his elder daughter was proclaimed Queen of this realm and its dependencies, head of the British Commonwealth and the Defender of the Faith, with the title of Elizabeth II
She is flying home tonight from her tragically interrupted visit to East Africa with her consort, the Duke of Edinburgh, and is expected back tomorrow to assume her royal duties as the wearer of the crown that somewhat mystically binds the British Commonwealth together.London, Feb. 6 — In the early hours of this morning George VI died peacefully in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham. As night fell upon this mourning capital of a still great family of nations, his elder daughter was proclaimed Queen of this realm and its dependencies, head of the British Commonwealth and the Defender of the Faith, with the title of Elizabeth II.
Like the Elizabeth of England’s golden age, she takes the throne at the age of 25.
Operated On 4 Months Ago
The King’s death occurred just a little more than four months after an operation for the removal of a growth in his right lung. This operation resulted in the loss of the lung. His recovery seemed assured and in recent days he had been seen publicly at the theater and at London Airport when he bade good-by to his daughter, now the Queen, as she set out with Prince Philip, her husband, on a journey that was to take her to East Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Only yesterday he was out shooting, his favorite sport.
It was assumed that the king had died as a result of a heart attack, probably caused by coronary thrombosis.
Tributes to the late monarch poured into London from leading world figures and from persons of humbler station.
His death came in his 57th year. It was the beginning of the sixteenth year of an unhappy reign. He never wanted or expected the throne of Britain, but he ascended to it when his brother Edward VII abdicated to marry “the woman I love,” Wallis Simpson.
Six years of his reign were war years when he and Elizabeth, his Queen, who now becomes Queen Mother, endeared themselves to their people by their bravery and devotion to their predestined roles.
When he was crowned King on May 12, 1937, he was King Emperor but the title of Emperor went with the granting of independence to India. His reign marked the end of an era of British power.
Parliament is Suspended
His death also brought to an end this session of Parliament in the midst of a bitter and acrimonious debate on how far this country should go in aligning itself with United States policy in the Far East lest it be dragged into war. That debate, which began yesterday, was left in mid-air as Parliament put aside its controversies to swear allegiance to the new Queen and deferred its partisan arguments on controversial issues until a more seemly time.
At Sandringham when the King died there were his two grandchildren, whom he adored, Prince Charles and Princess Anne; Sir Alan Lascelles, his private secretary; Sir Harold Campbell, his Equerry, and Lady Hyde, Lady-in-Waiting to his Queen. Soon after his death had been discovered by a servant bringing early morning tea, Dr. James Ansell, “Surgeon Apothecary” to the royal household at Sandringham, was called. He said that the King had died in his sleep without pain.
The news of the King’s death went out over the news tickers at 10:45 A. M. At 11:15 it was broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation. By noon flags were flying at half-staff on almost every building in London with a flagstaff.
The exception was Marlborough House, the home of Queen Mary, that stanch old lady nearing 85 whose eldest son, the Duke of Kent, was killed in an airplane crash early in the war; whose husband, George V, died just over sixteen years ago on Jan. 21, 1936, and who now must bury the son who has been Britain’s ruling sovereign for more than fifteen years. Over her home, alone in all London, her standard flew at the top of the staff, a dauntless symbol of the continuity of the British Crown and her own indomitable spirit.
The mood of London today, was one of sorrow for the sovereign who had served his country so well and who was no more.
There is real love and affection for the new Queen Elizabeth which will show itself in the future. But today to the late King and his widow, Elizabeth, with the ready smile and the warm gesture of the uplifted hand. Today it was “The King is dead.” Tomorrow it will be “Long live the Queen.” But as yet tomorrow has not come and the Queen is not here.
Most newspapers presented the news in black bordered columns. The theaters shut down and restaurants and night clubs abandoned music and dancing. The B.B.C. gave up all its entertainment programs and stayed on the air only to give weather reports and gale warnings to ships at sea.
Prime Minister Churchill received the news at Downing Street and called a Cabinet meeting to discuss the constitutional issues involved. Clement R. Attlee left a meeting of the Parliament Labor party of the Opposition to take a telephone call and returned to tell his confreres in a hushed tone that for the moment there could be no thought of controversy over foreign policy or anything else because the sovereign was dead.
In the afternoon at the usual time Parliament met but only long enough to hear the grievous official news. In the House of Lords the Marquess of Salisbury announced. In the House of Commons Mr. Churchill delivered the sad tidings to an already informed but attentive House. He said:
“We cannot at this moment do more than record the spontaneous expression of our grief.”
The Prime Minister then asked the Speaker, W.S. Morrison, for guidance and the Speaker suspended the session of the House until 7 P. M. when, he said, he would resume the chair, after swearing allegiance to the new Queen, to receive the oaths of the other members. Thus ended a Parliament sworn to George VI, and opened was a new one with the same members sworn to serve as liege lords of Her Majesty the Queen.
At 5 o’clock members of the Privy Council met at St. James’ Palace and drafted the proclamation that informed England that she had a second Queen Elizabeth. The proclamation of her sovereignty was signed by 150 Privy Councilors who attended the conclave in their colorful medieval costumes of scarlet and gold.
The proclamation they adopted will be read tomorrow by the Garter King at Arms, Sir George Rothe Bellew, from the rooftop of St. James’ Palace and repeated throughout the realm by criers with drums and trumpets tomorrow or the next day.
The King died in the little hamlet where he was born and where his father George V had died. It is a little village that looked upon him as squire and whose inhabitants turned out each Sunday to see the royal family go to church.
Funeral plans are still somewhat indefinite. It is believed, however, that the King’s body will be brought to London to lie in state in Westminster Hall in the Parliament Buildings for several days and that it will be taken to Windsor for burial at a private ceremony.
Tonight’s Court Circular, issued from Buckingham Palace, was black bordered. It said:
“The King passed peacefully away in his sleep early this morning.”
All day long while crowds gathered outside Buckingham Palace, Marlborough House and St. James’s Palace, members of the diplomatic corps called to express their sympathy and leave their cards.
Walter S. Gifford, United States Ambassador, was one of the earliest arrivals at Buckingham Palace.
(Originally printed in the New York Times)