The Secret Euthanasia Of King George V

By Mike Devlin on Saturday, December 14, 2013
King_George_V_1911
“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” —Man in Black, The Princess Bride (1987)

In A Nutshell

The trials and tribulations of the British crown have been as bizarre as any soap opera, but the reign of King George V was remarkably free of scandal. George V led what might be described as a dull lifestyle and was sickly for much of his reign. It was no great shock when he passed away, but 50 years later, a secret diary revealed that he hadn’t died of natural causes, but had been euthanized by his doctor.

The Whole Bushel

The United Kingdom has had its share of intriguing monarchs such as Henry VIII, who had a rather disturbing propensity for decapitating his wives. King George V was not such a captivating personality; his favorite pastime was staying at home and fussing over his stamp collection. His greatest claim to fame was helming the Empire during World War I, a bitter conflict fought against Germany and his first cousin Kaiser Wilhelm II.

George V was not a healthy man. The stresses of the war weighed heavily upon him. In 1915, he was hurt when thrown from his horse. Despite suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pleurisy, the King continued to smoke. He was forced to take respites from his duties and his son Edward frequently filled in. In 1928, he contracted sepsis and likely would have died if not for the heroic actions of his physician, Lord Bertrand Dawson.

George V lingered another eight years. In his last year, he was chronically ill and had serious difficulty breathing, frequently taking oxygen. On January 15, 1936, he took to his bed with a cold. It was the beginning of the end. Lord Dawson presided faithfully over the King for five days. George drifted in and out of consciousness as his body slowly shut down. On January 20, Dawson issued the statement: “The King’s life is moving peacefully towards its close.”

Late that night, George took his last breath to the surprise of absolutely no one. But in 1986, a shocking discovery was found in the diary of Lord Dawson. For a multitude of reasons, including ending the King’s suffering and preserving his dignity, he administered a lethal shot of cocaine and morphine. Bizarrely enough, one of Dawson’s major concerns was that the King’s death be reported in the morning issue of The Times newspaper instead of “less appropriate . . . evening journals.” There has even been some conspiracy theories that The Times paid Dawson off to get the scoop. Of course, Lord Dawson escaped prosecution for his crime; by the time his secret was uncovered, he’d been dead more than four decades.

Show Me The Proof

BBC History: George V
British Medical Journal: A king, a doctor, and a convenient death
NY Times: 1936 Secret Is Out—Doctor Sped George V’s Death