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CNN Special Reports
The Windsors: Inside The Royal Dynasty: The Reluctant King. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired February 23, 2020 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSAMUND PIKE, CNN HOST: Spring 1937. Albert Windsor known as Bertie is woken by the sound of a military band practicing for his coronation. He is about to be crowned King George VI, a role he never wanted. His elder brother chose to give up the throne to marry a twice divorced American.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have found it impossible that this charge might - as King without the help of the woman, I love.
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PIKE: Can King George, the shy man with a stutter mend a broken monarchy. His brother Edward has not gone quietly into exile. And a looming war threatens global kings.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Glory of a British coronation. No one in the world has done anything half so wonderful. It will be one of the dates in English history that in future will learn about.
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PIKE: Immediately before the coronation must be momentous for George.
ROSIE STANCER, QUEEN ELIZABETH'S GREAT NIECE: This was a huge ceremony that had been prepared for his little brother but it was he who is taking this war on.
PIERS BRENDON, HISTORIAN: George's coronation occurred on the same day that it would have occurred for his brother Edward. Nothing was changed except the person doing it. Here is somebody with a complete sense of inadequacy. He'd always been the moon to his brother's son.
SALLY BEDELL SMITH, BIOGRAPHER: Before he was king, George was living a relatively normal, free, under the radar life. Happily married and as a younger member of the royal family, he does a few public duties. And is contented with that life.
PROF. JANE RIDLEY, HISTORIAN: His old name was Bertie in the family. But when he becomes king, his whole life is completely changed. He is intensely aware that he has been sort of tasked with this incredibly difficult job.
So one of the first things he does is change his name to George, stressing the continuity between his reign and that of his father, George V.
ED OWENS, HISTORIAN: The new King George VI is extremely worried about taking over the throne because the abdication looms large.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His brother Edward was the most popular man in the English speaking world. And now George has got to stand up to the plate.
RIDLEY: George is a believer in the principle of monarchy. He feels the British monarchy is really important to Britain's national identity and it holds the nation together.
OWENS: Edward's abdication suggests that kingship isn't quite as stable as it has always appeared that it can be given up easily.
RIDLEY: So George's challenge is to restore the monarchy to something like the stability that he had had before his brother sat on the throne.
WESLEY KERR, ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: So it's absolutely crucial that the coronation is a success and that he is launched successfully as a monarch.
PIKE: But insecurities plagued the new king.
MARK LOGUE, GRANDSON OF KING GEORGE VI SPEECH THERAPIST, LIONEL LOGUE: One of George's biggest worries is he suffers from a stutter. For him, talking in public is torture.
PIKE: In the modern news reel age, the British public expects both to see and hear their monarch.
RIDLEY: Now the British monarchy is under a lot of scrutiny so the monarch has to be comfortable in the role of communicator.
LOGUE: I think he felt the pressure of what was expected of him. His brother was fluent at making speeches which made him feel inadequate.
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KING GEORGE VI: Ladies and gentlemen, I am sure that we are all happy to feel -
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LOGUE: The stutter sometimes prevents him from talking it all.
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KING GEORGE VI: - that the generosity of his majesty - has set an example to all.
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LOGUE: A decade earlier, in 1925, George's wife Elizabeth had sought the help of various specialists to try to cure his stutter. They tried all sorts of methods but none worked. Essentially he was told he had a mental defect.
OWENS: Elizabeth is his greatest supporter and champion and she seeks out help and identifies Lionel Logue as a therapist who can help him overcome that difficult stammer.
LOGUE: My grandfather realizes that confidence is key. They went through speeches together, replacing certain words until he felt confident. And in the run up to the coronation, my grandfather, Lionel Logue makes frequents trims to Buckingham palace to help the king prepare for reciting the oath.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: King George and Queen Elizabeth are beginning their triumphant - in the state -
PROF KATE WILLIAMS, HISTORIAN: This is the most stressful terrifying event of his life. There is no going back now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the historic coronation ceremony is begun.
RIDLEY: The abbey is absolutely full including his two daughters, Princess Elizabeth who is 11, and Princess Margaret, who is 6. George and his family were very close. It was one of the great assets that George had that Edward did not have.
PIKE: The former king, George's brother Edward, is in exile in France, listening to the ceremony over the radio.
CHANDRIKA KAUL, HISTORIAN: Edward who is now called the Duke of Windsor is sitting with Wallis. He is actually knitting her a sweater. Edward absolutely hates pomp and pageantry.
SMITH: If Edward had gone through that same ceremony, inside his head, he would be thinking, this is a bunch of balls. In comparison, George realizes the significance of the coronation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The coronation ceremony is a code of time-honored ritual handed down through the ages.
RIDLEY: For George, the coronation was a massive issue. He wasn't an actual performer unlike his brother and the prospect of the whole world listening to his words, he is really anxious that he will stammer over the oath and this will make the monarchy look ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The coronation oath.
GEORGE VI: I, George VI, do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God declare that I will uphold and maintain the said powers according to law. JULIAN LORD HARDINGE, GRANDSON OF KING GEORGE VI'S PRIVATE SECRETARY:
In practice, the king manages the coronation, the oath and all the ceremonial perfectly well. He did in fact rise to the occasion.
WILLIAMS: The coronation is a public triumph but George has got big fights ahead. And that is to show the world he is the rightful king, not his brother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The newly appointed Duke of Windsor and Ms. Wallis Simpson were married in a simple ceremony in a lavish French chateau.
TED POWELL, BIOGRAPHER: A month after the coronation of King George, Edward and Wallis are finally married and this is a rather sad occasion in many ways.
CHARLIE METCALFE, GRANDSON OF PRINCE EDWARD'S FRIEND Fruity Metcalfe: My grandfather, Fruity Metcalfe was asked to be the best man at the wedding because none of the Duke's brothers were willing to do it.
PIKE: Edward's marriage does not have the king's blessing. No one from the royal family attends.
ARTEMIS COOPER, GRANDDAUGHTER OF PRINCE EDWARD'S FRIEND, DUFF COOPER: Edward never realized just what a distance the abdication would put him from the king, from all his old friends, from his country.
OWENS: Usual films are made but they're not shown in Britain. The usual filmmakers do not release them as it would direct too much attention on Edward. But Queen Elizabeth wants to draw the public attention back toward her and the king.
ANNE SEBBA, BIOGRAPHER: Queen Elizabeth was rather scared that the monarchy was not necessarily secure. That perhaps there might be an element of the British public that saw Wallis and Edward as the charming couple and that they could be rivals in the British public's affections.
PIKE: So the new Queen Elizabeth is determined to put herself and her family center stage.
BRENDON: Queen Elizabeth is the brains of the outfit, really. She's shrewd and she understands the creation of an image.
WILLIAMS: She takes part in this incredible photo shoot in 1939 with Cecil Beaton on camera.
ROYA NIKKHAH, ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Cecil at the time was not your traditional role photographer. He was a very successful fashion photographer.
RIDLEY: Queen Elizabeth was wearing these amazing white dresses and these huge sort of quindling skirts. Her look is completely the opposite of Wallis's look. You know, Wallis is sharp, angular, tailored.
KAUL: Elizabeth dislikes Wallis. She blames Wallis for undermining and almost fatally destroying the British monarchy.
RIDLEY: And so Queen Elizabeth look is modeled on a 19th century portrait of Queen Victoria who at that time was Britain's longest serving monarch. So she is aligning herself with royal tradition and duty. And every photograph is a success.
NIKKHAH: The monarchy was still reeling from a crisis. And the image that it sort of projected was sort of glamorous queen who brought on that glamor into the royal family.
PRUE LADY PENN, FRIEND OF PRINCESS ELIZABETH: She was a strong character. She appeared to be joking and a light-hearted person. But she had this sort of rod of steel in there, actually.
OWENS: Queen Elizabeth projects this public image which is warm, comforting, lovely. George VI was shy. He didn't like public attention. Not like her. But at the same time, she is intent on projecting a public image of the ideal family group as opposed to Edward and Wallis Simpson who are childless.
PIKE: In private, Queen Elizabeth is preparing her eldest daughter, also named Elizabeth, for her future role. Overnight, the abdication made the 10-year-old princess heir to the British throne.
WILLIAMS: Her mother sees the royal job as a practical job. She teaches Elizabeth how to converse with dignitaries and conduct royal duties.
LADY PENN: Princess Elizabeth was a shy child like her father and she followed her mother's example very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: England launches an historic campaign - to solidify friendship in North America.
BRENDON: In 1939, the Second World War is on the horizon and George VI and his wife Elizabeth embark for America to meet President Roosevelt because Britain was going to need all the allies it could get.
RIDLEY: The American alliance had been crucial to Britain's success in the First World War. So the sort of diplomatic purpose of the visit is to make a bond with President Roosevelt and his wife.
CHRIS ROOSEVELT, GRANDSON OF PRESIDENT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: The king's brother had visited the United States some ten years earlier and had become beloved by the people of the United States. George did not have that confidence.
ASSOC PROF LAURA NYM MAYHALL, HISTORIAN: So a lot is riding on this visit. This really is George's moment to prove, not just to America and to Britain but also to himself that he can be every bit as wonderful as Edward. ROOSEVELT: The President and Mrs. Roosevelt found the King and Queen
warm and if anything, regular people, almost immediately.
NYM MAYHALL: Elizabeth is central to the success of this tour. She makes people feel comfortable and everyone falls in love with her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These have been tremendously strenuous days for the king and queen but there's a short rest from their public engagements when they get to stay at Hyde Park, the country home of President Roosevelt's mother.
SMITH: On the king and queen's last day, they have a picnic luncheon with the Roosevelts that features hotdogs. This symbolic food of the common man.
ROOSEVELT: The President's mother said you cannot offer the King and Queen of England, a hotdog. The president said yes, that's exactly what we're going to do. The King asked for a second one. They clearly enjoyed them.
PIKE: The royal visit to America is a resounding success for the king. But there is danger and the danger lies within George's own family.
KAUL: It's 1937 and Edward and Wallis are in France. Edward is a king who has lost his throne and his purpose in life. He is bored.
POWELL: He is constantly ringing up King George with advice and treating him still as the younger brother. He hasn't yet adjusted to the fact that he is not the King.
GEORDIE GREIG, GRANDSON OF KING GEORGE VI'S FRIEND, LOUIS GREIG: Edward is used to having a sense of entitlement. Now George holds all the power.
HUGO VICKERS, BIOGRAPHER: George VI complains and says most people become King when their predecessor has died and my predecessor is alive and well in France and causing trouble.
BRENDON: George expects at any time to be stabbed in the back by his brother.
RIDLEY: And after a bit, George stops answering the phone because these telephone conversations get too difficult.
PIKE: Tension between the brothers deepens when's King George denies Edward, the one thing he desires most for his wife.
NYM MAYHALL: When Edward and Wallis married, George VI wrote to Edward informing him that he will not be giving Wallis the title, her Royal Highness, HRH. SEBBA: Her royal highness, you're treated at a certain level. People
curtsy to you at court. What George and Elizabeth are clearly indicating is that Wallis is not part of the royal family. Edward's whole life is completely changed.
RIDLEY: He can no longer dazzle Wallis with his royal palaces and his status.
PIKE: But there is one man who will exploit Edward's desire for deference and status.
PROF RORY CORMAC, HISTORIAN: Hitler is saying come to Berlin. We'll treat you like royalty. We'll treat Wallis like royalty. And it is too good an opportunity to pass up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Berlin, a huge crowd greeted the Dutch and Duchess of Windsor. Purpose of the visit was to study social institutions and welfare.
KAUL: The Nazi party lay out the red carpet forward and Wallis. They curtsied to her and they treated her royally.
OWENS: By 1937, Hitler has an appalling reputation for physical persecution, the violence of the Nazi party, and anti-Semitism is rife in that country. The fact Edward feels like cavorting with the Nazis, that suggests that he is endorsing Hitler's regime.
POWELL: The visuals are very damaging indeed. And it's a massive propaganda coup for the Nazi regime.
CORMAC: This causes as lot of panic in London. You have got the loose cannon Duke of Windsor meeting with Hitler himself.
NYM MAYHALL: There is a great deal of outrage at Edward's trip to Germany. The New York Times chastens Edward for allowing himself to be used as a pawn.
RIDLEY: Edward didn't really sympathize with the Nazis but he wanted to upstage his brother and be a figure of international importance. So George was really very angry.
PIKE: Less than two years after Edward's visit, Hitler's army invades Poland.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Poland, September 1939, the German -begins its ruthless march of conquest and sets the stage for World War II.
PIKE: Britain and Germany are now at war. The King addresses an apprehensive nation.
GEORGE VI: There may be dark days ahead but with God's help, we shall prevail.
RIDLEY: Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, Winston Churchill becomes George's Prime Minister.
CORMAC: The relationship is quite frosty in the beginning. Churchill turns up to his weekly audience with the king, late. He dominates the conversation and George finds it disrespectful. As the war progressed, they held over 200 meetings, just between the two of them where they could talk freely.
RIDLEY: The role of the monarch was to be consulted, not to make the decisions. But during the Second World War, he is able to back up Churchill and support him and they become mutually very, very close.
SIR NICHOLAS SOAMES, SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL'S GRANDSON: I think they talked about absolutely everything. That came to be built up between the King and my grandfather, the most profound trust.
SMITH: Now, King George VI is facing really the darkest hours as they prepare for the possibility of a German invasion.
PIKE: By September, 1940, London is being subjected to a relentless bombing campaign known as the blitz.
OWENS: During the war, the royal family wanted to present themselves as a unifying force as suffering alongside their people as the symbol that holds the nation together.
CORMAC: As the bombing intensifies, the royal family visits areas hit by the blitz.
WILLIAMS: When they go and visit these bombed out places, they are really resented. People actually don't want them there.
CORMAC: People end up booing and jeering at the royal family. People who have lost everything don't take kindly to the royal family trotting out of their car. They see it as patronizing, as being utterly disconnected from the real world.
RIDLEY: This reaction suggests that the monarchy does not have the support of the British people, and at a time of war when unity is absolutely essential, this is really worrying.
NYM MAYHALL: For the monarchy to survive, it has to be useful. If they don't succeed to be of service, it may reach a conversation about maybe we don't need a King after all.
WILLIAMS: On the 13th of September, 1940, the King and Queen are at home at Buckingham palace in the drawing room.
CORMAC: When all of a sudden, the King and Queen hear the sound that all Londoners have come to dread. The air raid siren.
WILLIAMS: They their whir, whir, whir of German planes and it's coming for them. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bomb fell only a few feet from the palace
building. Close to the King's sitting room.
KERR: A member of staff was killed. It was a very, very severe bombing. They realized that they were being targeted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: - are walking among the debris in the garden just like other families in a hundred homes today.
CORMAC: The air raid on Buckingham palace is absolutely terrifying for the King and for the Queen but it has a great impact on their public image. It bolsters their symbolic appeal as Londoners who are resolute.
RIDLEY: Buckingham palace is bombed several times and the safety of the King and Queen is a real issue. And there's quite a lot of pressure for them to leave London. And they absolutely refuse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Truly this is a war of all the people. We're all in it.
CORMAC: The next time the King and Queen go visit the blitz damage, far from being booed and jeered, this time, they get applauded. They have become the symbol of keep calm and carry on.
RIDLEY: The royal family any political power but Churchill realizes, they can play a really important part in boosting morale.
NYM MAYHALL: So it's not just the King and Queen who were involved in the war effort. Princess Elizabeth is enlisted as well and she makes broadcasts. She speaks on behalf of herself and her sister Margaret Rose.
WILLIAMS: Princess Elizabeth is not a natural speaker. At age 14, she has to address the world, really. So it's a big pressure on her shoulders.
PRINCESS ELIZABETH, DAUGHTER OF KING GEORGE VI: And when peace comes, remember, it will be for us, the children of today who make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place.
BRANDON: It was absolutely sort of a magical moment and everybody was moved to tears by these two children assisting their parents, really, in the war effort.
ELIZABETH: We are going to say good night to you. Come on Margaret. Good night children. Good night and good luck to you all.
ANNE LADY GLENCONNER, FRIEND OF PRINCESS MARGARET: The war was very terrifying. The idea of having Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose there, was really, really comforting.
PIKE: But King George still has problem to contend with. His exiled brother Edward. CORMAC: At this point, Edward is still a liability. And the government
is increasingly concerned about some of the company he's been keeping, including people with pro-Nazi sympathies and all of it was undermining George.
PROF AMANDA VICKERY, HISTORIAN: Churchill exercises his authority as Prime Minister effectively to shuffle him off to the Bahamas as governor, where it is hoped that the Duke of Windsor can do very little harm.
CORMAC: Churchill thought in sending him a long, long way from Western Europe, he can stay out of trouble.
PIKE: With Edward and Wallis over 4,000 miles away, King George and Queen Elizabeth can focus on boosting national confidence and driving the war effort.
SMITH: They traveled something like 50,000 miles in the course of the war around the United Kingdom, visiting troops, visiting hospitals, visiting factories. They are everywhere.
WILLIAMS: She is this effective war time queen. She is sympathetic, she is there meeting the people. It is said that Hitler calls Queen Elizabeth, the most dangerous woman in Europe because he fears her massive effect on public morale.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Advance Britannia. Long live the cause of freedom. God save the King.
PIKE: After six long years of war, Hitler is defeated. When victory in Europe is declared, the royal family and Winston Churchill appear on the palace balcony to celebrate with the crowds.
SOAMES: My grandfather's admiration and respect for the crown doing its duty in a country under great pressure was probably the most important thing in his entire life.
MYRA LADY BUTTER, FRIEND OF THE ROYAL FAMILY: It was just completely mad. It was joyous and everybody was singing and dancing.
LOGUE: George broadcast the victory speech to the nation that evening that my grandfather listened to.
GEORGE VI: At this hour, when the dreadful shadow of war has passed far from our hearts and homes--
LOGUE: My grandfather made some observations in his diary that the King sounded weary and tired. We may at last make one pause for thanksgiving.
KERR: The war cops at a huge personal cost for George VI and to an extent, he's a broken man who is not in the best of health.
PIKE: The shadow of war may have lifted but within George's own family, peace will soon be disrupted by a new man in the life of his eldest daughter. [22:40:00]
PIKE: The Second World War has been over for a year and at Balmoral castle in Scotland, the 20 year old Princess Elizabeth is deep in conversation with Prince Philip of Greece.
GLENCONNER: Well, because he was so good looking. I mean we were all in love with him.
OWENS: Prince Phillip of Greece is a direct descendant of Queen Victoria just as Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain is also a direct descendant of Queen Victoria. And this makes them third cousins.
PHILIP EADE, BIOGRAPHER: Prince Philip was the fifth child of Prince Andrew of Greece. He had four much older sisters. And within a year and a bit of his life starting, the royal family was overthrown in Greece. There was a military coup and the family had to flee.
WILLIAMS: He comes from a broken home. His father has mistress in Monte Carlo. His mother is shut up with mental health problems. He never sees her and so he's very ruthless.
BRENDON: Somebody described Philip as a very large dog without a basket.
PIKE: When in England, Phillip stays with his uncle, the King's cousin Lord Louie Mountbatten.
INDIA HICKS, LORD MOUNTBATTEN'S GRANDDAUGHTER: Prince Philip had a very difficult childhood. Absent parents and so I think my grandfather Mountbatten really took on that role. I think he became more than even an uncle.
EADE: He's sort of impressed by what he sees in the young Prince Philip and he starts to have the ambitions for him.
PIKE: Princess Elizabeth first noticed Philip, seven years earlier at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth.
GYLES BRANDRETH, BIOGRAPHER OF PRINCE PHILIP: In 1939, when Princess Elizabeth was a little girl of 13, and Prince Philip was 18 and a naval cadet. The King and the Queen with their two daughters came to the college. They played croquet. Prince Philip concentrating on his shot and there is little Princess Elizabeth gazing up at him.
LADY BUTTER: She was smitten, I'm sure very, very quickly because it did start there and didn't look back frankly. It was a big love story.
EADE: The feeling was that it had been Mountbatten who had engineered this.
RIDLEY: Elizabeth and Philip wrote letters to each other throughout the war and Elizabeth had a photograph of Philip by her bed. When the war was over, they began to see each other very really rather frequently.
WILLIAMS: And when he asked her to marry him in 1946, Elizabeth says yes to Philip. But of course, she has to ask her father's permission.
BRENDON: Philip's proposal came as a nasty shock to the King and the Queen.
EADE: Prince Philip would not have been their first choice. I mean, he was a sort of foreign prince and he had a lot of German connections.
OWENS: After the war, there is a great deal of anti-German sentiment in the royal household. The problem for Philip is that three of his sisters were married to Nazis and therefore, there's a great deal of suspicion around Philip.
BRENDON: The King's private secretary thought that Philip was a rough, crude, crude, coarse sailor who would probably be unfaithful and he didn't trust him an inch.
WILLIAMS: The King Does consent to the marriage but on condition that they postpone the announcement of the engagement until after the - with South Africa. The King hopes that a little bit of separation between Elizabeth and Philip will mean that perhaps their love will cool a little.
OWENS: The goal of this tour in 1947 was to thank the South African people for their support given to Britain during the Second World War. Princess Elizabeth has never been out of the country before so this is the first opportunity for her to unfurl her wings and she gets a great deal of enjoyment out of the experience.
POWELL: While they're on this trip in South Africa, on her 21st birthday, Princess Elizabeth gives a radio broadcast and this is a key moment in her life.
PRINCESS ELIZABETH: I declare before you all with my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.
PIKE: Princess Elizabeth, unlike her uncle Edward, vows to devote herself to a lifetime of public duty when she is crowned queen.
POWELL: Now that is a deliberately anti-abdication speech. This is for life. I will not abdicate.
LADY PENN: When she made that vow, felt it deeply and meant it, every word of it. And has stuck to it throughout her life.
WILLIAMS: After Elizabeth returns from South Africa, she is still adamant. She wants to marry Prince Philip.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Londoners who have been waiting outside the palace for hours, made their feelings perfectly clear when the Princess and her fiance came out to the balcony. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Philip is going to marry into the royal family. You
can't really do that without a handle to your name. Without a title. And he becomes Duke of Edinburgh.
LADY BUTTER: She just looked so radiant, always calm and also it was so glamorous. You know, everybody suddenly after the war looked rather wonderful.
OWENS: The royal wedding is a national success. A day of celebration that brightens hard times. And yet the King's health is failing. That ill health is going to have dramatic consequences for the young Elizabeth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has just been announced from Buckingham palace that her Royal Highness, the Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh was safely delivered of a prince at 9:14 p.m.
EADE: Buckingham palace in November 1948. Prince Charles is born. Almost exactly after the birth, Prince Philip takes up a post of second in command of destroyer checkers based of Malta and the Princess comes out to join him.
LADY PENN: I think that when they were in Malta together, it was the only time really in their married life when they've lived like normal people.
WILLIAMS: She could go to dances, chat with the other wives. Go swimming, go to hair dressers. She felt such freedom. She loved it.
LADY BUTTER: I think that must have been the best two years of their lives. And then of course, she had to come back to total reality, back to England.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sympathetic cards were at the palace waiting for news. The announcement of the King who is going on an immediate major operation came to a shock to everyone.
RIDLEY: He needed to have an operation to have removal of one of his lungs. The King had lung cancer. The operation itself seems to be successful and the King convinces himself that he's getting better.
SMITH: Even though George feels he's on the mend, there is a trip that he has been planning to do but he's not up to it and he asks Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip to go in his stead.
PIKE: But five days after his daughter arrives in Kenya, at home in Sandringham at the age of just 56, the King dies.
KERR: Princess Elizabeth is already the Queen the moment her father dies thousands of miles away at Sandringham. So they have to get the message to her before the news is announced on the radio and communications of course in 1952 are very, very difficult.
WILLIAMS: The palace sends out a coded message to the communicate to Elizabeth but there is a problem.
HICKS: The code had to be deciphered and nobody had the code book.
WILLIAMS: But the palace thinks Elizabeth will be told and so the palace tells the world but Elizabeth doesn't know.
EADE: Elizabeth's private secretary Martin Charteris is in the local town when he hears that the King has died but at this point it's unconfirmed.
HICKS: Princess Elizabeth was in a room writing to her father at the time and there was the radio. Philip's secretary went in and took the radio out of the room.
WILLIAMS: The private secretary hears that the King is actually dead. And so Prince Philip is told.
EADE: Then Prince Philip has to go to Princess Elizabeth and say we better go for a walk outside. And in the garden he breaks the news that her father has died.
WILLIAMS: Elizabeth is only 25. She's lost the father she adored. He was her mentor. He was her guide. And she was utterly devoted to him.
SMITH: He demonstrated to her, the meaning of duty. She never expected, she would lose him so soon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One reign has ended, a reign begins with members of her Majesty's government, all await the Queen's arrival.
SOAMES: My grandfather Winston Churchill was worried that he didn't know her at all. There was a generational difference. He would have thought, oh my goodness, what am I going to talk to her about?
LADY BUTTER: And there she was, this very vulnerable young woman, having to take on what she's going to have to do. I think we were sort of dumbfounded, really. One wasn't expecting that to happen.
LADY PENN: She took on this huge job immediately on top of being very, very sad that she lost her father.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The opportunity was given for the people to pay tribute. Soon, they were passing into the hall at 4,000 every hour. And so for measure of public sorrow and sympathy.
RIDLEY: There is an incredibly striking image of George's funeral of the three Queens with these incredibly sort of dramatic black veils. It's an image of complete desolation, really. Total grief.
LADY GLENCONNER: I remember there was black veils over our faces and it was so sad and poor Queen Elizabeth. Then the Queen, very young indeed.
LADY BUTTER: Goodness knows what was going through her mind. One just thought how devastated she must be.
WILLIAMS: The Queen is now the head of the royal family. It is her responsibility. She has the biggest job in the world and everyone is watching to see whether she can succeed.
PIKE: Next on "The Windsors."
SMITH: Philip and Elizabeth were a golden couple but behind the scene he's restless.
OWENS: There are rumors there might be cracks in the Queen's marriage and her sister is involved with a divorced man.