The Death of King George V

Thinking of the death of King George V (and who isn’t at this time of year?), it was, of course commemorated in verse by John Betjeman, like so –


“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.


I always used to think that “communicated monthly” meant that the old men in country houses only spoke once a month, or perhaps wrote letters to each other monthly.  In fact, I believe, it means that they took communion once a month as opposed to taking it more frequently, which they would have seen as a Romish practice.

Now that the Christmas turkey has all gone, “well-shot woodcock, partridge, snipe” do sound very tempting …

A woodcock

and its natural enemy, in his youth (dreaming of game) …

King George V

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