updated 11/26/2010 AT 8:40 PM ET
•originally published 11/28/2010 AT 9:00 AM ET
He’s played by Colin Firth in the new film The King’s Speech, but what was King George VI – Prince William and Harry’s great-grandfather – really like?
Terrifically shy, for one, thanks in a large part to the crippling speech impairment depicted in the film.
Unlike William, the former Prince Albert had no expectation of being King, becoming so only after his brother Edward VIII abdicated in 1936. He helped guide his country through World War II as a trusted advisor to Winston Churchill and a beloved symbol of Nazi resistance to the British people.
1. He Was Courageous
He saw combat as a naval officer in World War I, and during World War II, George VI refused to leave London, even after the bombing of Buckingham Palace.
2. Hard to Get?
The future queen mother was said to have turned him down three times before finally agreeing to marry him.
3. A Corgi Man
He began the royals’ love affair with the tiny breed in the 1930’s when he bought one for his daughters Elizabeth and Margaret.
4. Hunter to the End
An avid game hunter since early childhood, a very ill King spent the day of February 6, 1952, stalking hare on his Norfolk estate. That night, age 56, he died in his sleep of a coronary thrombosis, making Elizabeth, then 25, the new monarch.
5. Generous to a Fault
After Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry the twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson, George VI saw to it that his brother had a yearly allowance of 10,000 pounds sterling. The payout promptly ended upon the King’s death.