king george vi

King George VI was appalled when instructed by the SA government

King George VI‘s reign saw the acceleration of the dissolution of the British Empire. The Statute of Westminster 1931, had already acknowledged the evolution of the Dominions into separate sovereign states. The process of transformation from an empire to a voluntary association of independent states, known as the Commonwealth, gathered pace after World War II, especially during the ministry of Clement Attlee. British India became the two independent dominions of India and Pakistan in 1947. George relinquished the title of Emperor of India, and became King of India and King of Pakistan instead. In 1950 he ceased to be King of India when it became a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations, but he remained King of Pakistan until his death and India recognised his new title of Head of the Commonwealth. Other countries left the Commonwealth, such as Burma in January 1948, Palestine (divided between Israel and the Arab states) in May 1948 and the Republic of Ireland in 1949.

In 1947, the King and his family toured Southern Africa. The Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, Jan Smuts, was facing an election and hoped to make political capital out of the visit. George was appalled, however, when instructed by the South African government to shake hands only with whites, and referred to his South African bodyguards as “the Gestapo”. Despite the tour, Smuts lost the election the following year, and the new government instituted a strict policy of racial segregation.

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