The king’s health had been declining and by early 1936 it was clear the end was near – on 20 January his chief physician, Lord Dawson, announced that death was imminent. The king died shortly before midnight.
But decades later, when Dawson’s personal notes were revealed by his biographer Francis Watson, it emerged that this end was engineered: Dawson admitted to giving the king a lethal mix of morphine and cocaine to hasten his death.
“Hours of waiting just for the mechanical end when all that is really life has departed only exhausts the onlookers and keeps them so strained that they cannot avail themselves of the solace of thought, communion or prayer. I therefore decided to determine the end,” he wrote.
However, he also added that his actions meant news of the king’s death could be broken in the morning edition of the Times.