The True Story of King George V's Pet Parrot


"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through the links below."

The story of King George V and his parrot goes as follows: When the future King was serving in the Royal Navy in his youth, he traveled the world. At age 17, he was a midshipman on HMS Bucchante, which docked in Port Said, Egypt. While ashore, the then Prince purchased an African Grey parrot named Charlotte. Other accounts say the parrot was a gift from his sister Princess Victoria when he was 11 years old.

No matter her origin, Charlotte was a close companion to the royal throughout his life, and she reportedly used to look at state and confidential documents over George's shoulder. One of King George V's granddaughters, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth), used to feed Charlotte sugar lumps. A 1928 photograph of the 2-year-old future Queen taken by her father, the future King George VI, shows Charlotte with the royal family.

She was also quite a nuisance. In The King Maker: The Man Who Saved George VI, which tells the story of Louis Greig—a friend to King George VI—Greig's letters recount Charlotte's presence, calling her "the most privileged member of [the] household." He wrote, "That damned parrot is still weird & makes straight for me every morning, at breakfast even when I come in quite quietly & never speak to it at all.'"

King George V's eldest grandson, George Lascelles, the Earl of Harewood, recalled in his memoirs The Tongs and the Bones, "We used at Windsor to come down at nine o'clock for breakfast, not to eat—we'd done that–but to play, visibly of course but if possibly inaudibly. The King had an African Grey parrot called Charlotte of which he was very fond, it sat at a table by his side eating seeds or the apple core he gave it, sometimes perching on people's hands, including my mother's. Like all parrots, it clung on hard and we were scared of those pinching claws and that awesome beak so that my grandfather shouted: 'The parrot will see that child's nervous—make him keep still...'"

The King's affection for Charlotte was well known. "The King was not an especially caring, reserving his limited expressions for Charlotte, his pet parrot," Kenneth Weisbrode writes in Churchill and the King: The Wartime Alliance of Winston Churchill and George VI. She was also reportedly trained to say, "God save the king!"

During his illness, Charlotte took to squacking, "Where's the Captain?" And after his death, his funeral procession included the parrot.

You Might Also Like