The Great War

The gathering clouds of war finally broke in the reign of Edward’s second son, George V (1910–36). The First World War (1914–18) not only wreaked horrifying carnage across Europe, but it also marked the final wrench away from the Victorian world.

George V visited troops in France and Belgium, as well as the Grand Fleet, showing himself a genuine patriot, and in 1917 at the height of public anti-German feeling he judiciously changed the Royal Family’s name: from the Teutonic-sounding Saxe-Coburg-Gotha inherited from his grandfather Prince Albert, to Windsor – altogether more acceptably British. War eventually ended as US troops joined the battle and the Allies gained the upper hand. But the repercussions continued for years, not least in the changed social climate in Britain where the old order had been dramatically shaken. Women – so vital to the war effort on the Home Front – were given voting rights, and independence was granted to the Irish Republic.