"I pray to God my eldest son will never marry and have children, and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lillibet and the throne."
George V was the grandson of Queen Victoria and the grandfather of our current monarch (those of us who are British subjects). He ascended the throne in 1910 and ruled during the First World War, although it cannot be said that an English monarch actually "rules", given that he or she has no executive powers. Nevertheless the symbolic importance of the monarchy was, and is, critical.
Thus when the King's health suddenly deteriorated, it was a matter of international interest and importance. A heavy smoker, he suffered from chronic lung problems including emphysema and pleurisy. He took to bed with a cold on January 15, and within a few days was clearly dying. "The King's life is moving peacefully toward its close," wrote his physician, Lord Dawson of Penn, in a note to the Queen and her children on January 20.
In fact Dawson, recognizing that the King had reached an irreversible state, decided to hasten his end. In a private set of notes not published until 1986, he noted,
"At about 11pm, it was evident that the last stage might endure for many hours, unknown to the patient but little comporting with the dignity and serenity which he most richly merited and which demanded a brief final scene. I therefore decided to determine the end."
This decision was supported, he continued, by the family. (Euthanasia was and is illegal in England, but it was commonplace, although not openly discussed, in cases where the patient was beyond hope.)
The official story is that the King's last words were, "How is the Empire?" Another tale (never substantiated) is that, when the King was told he might soon be well enough to visit the seaside resort of Bognor Regis, he said, "Bugger Bognor!" In fact Dawson's notes reveal a different ending. As the nurse was giving the King a sedative that night, he mumbled, "God damn you!" He never woke up. Later, Dawson administered a lethal injection of cocaine and morphine. George V died at 11:55pm, in time for news of his death to make the morning edition of The Times.
Evidently God was listening to the King when he prayed that "nothing come between Bertie and Lillibet and the throne". The "eldest son" was of course the future Edward VIII, a handsome, popular man who flirted both with older married women and with facism. Within a year of ascending the throne, Edward VIII forced a constitutional crisis by proposing to marry an American divorcée, Wallis Simpson. When it became clear that the government would never accept the marriage, he chose to abdicate. His brother, "Bertie", became King George VI, who ruled until his death in 1952, when "Lillibet" ascended the throne as Queen Elizabeth II.
Sources: Wikipedia; Forbes, Malcolm, They Went That-A-Way, Simon and Shuster, New York, 1988.