A Good and Gracious King

Newsreels After The Death Of George VI

On 6 February 1952, King George VI’s (1895-1952) died after a prolonged illness and, within a day, the news broke in Australia through newspaper stands and cinemas. In the dim light of the silver screen, filmgoers would learn about the passing of the throne through newsreels, like those compiled here, and then spread the news further by word-of-mouth.

Dr H.V. Evatt, the Leader of the Opposition at the time, captured the mood surrounding the King’s passing: ‘The simple truth is that [George VI] proved a great leader during the crisis of war and inspired still further a heroic people when they were so fiercely beset.’ As such, the first clip shows the late King in military attire, Union Jacks, wreaths of mourning, and an illustration of a broken column to symbolise a life cut short.

The compilation ends with an image made by photographer Dorothy Wilding two months after Queen Elizabeth II’s (1926-2022) accession to the throne. It intentionally depicts her as reassuringly calm and dignified – a reputation which would persist throughout her reign.

In the following seventy years, the silver screen was usurped by television and social media while cultural reverence for the monarchy waned. So when the time came in 2022 – rather than newsreels in darkened cinemas – Elizabeth’s death was announced on the official Royal Family Twitter account. In an instant, the entire world had heard the news.