Sunday, 18 September 2022


 Talking of the death of George V, I had forgotten that John Betjeman, then a young man, wrote his own valedictory poem on the occasion...


“New King arrives in his capital by air” – Daily Newspaper

  Spirit of well-shot woodcock, partridge, snipe
Flutter and bear him up the Norfolk sky:
In that red house in a red mahogany book-case
The stamp collection waits with mounts long dry.

  The big blue eyes are shut which saw wrong clothing
And favourite fields and coverts from a horse;
Old men in country houses hear clocks ticking
Over thick carpets with a deadened force;

  Old men who never cheated, never doubted,
Communicated monthly, sit and stare
At the new suburb stretched beyond the runway
Where a young man lands hatless from the air.

The Norfolk sky and the red house refer to Sandringham, where the King – who loved tending his stamp collection almost as much as shooting game birds – died. With his death ended the Sandringham tradition of setting the clocks half an hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time to allow more daylight for hunting and shooting. And with his death came a new world of airports and suburbs and men without hats.

There was also a popular piece of doggerel (not by Betjeman) about the King's physician: 

                                                     Lord Dawson of Penn
                                                     Has killed many men,
                                                     And that's why we sing, 
                                                     'God save the king'. 

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