Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Britain is a country where some old men can remember, when they were boys, 'The King's Speech' made by Albert Windsor

I've been to the cinema to see 'The King's Speech'. It was 'Senior's Day', so the tickets were cheaper for old people and there were many of them there for this first showing of the film. They came armed with small torches to guide them safely up the darkened steps, some brought their own food and I told my wife that I thought I had spotted a thermos flask. Three of the six 'wheelchair bays' were occupied.

I'd read about the film beforehand and seen the trailer :

So I knew that :

* the film opened with Prince Albert, Duke of York, son of King George V, speaking with a stammer at the 1925 'Empire Exhibition' at Wembley Stadium.

* he sought to overcome his speech impediment with the help of speech therapists and to no avail.

* his wife, Elizabeth, met Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist and persuaded 'Bertie', her husband to attempt Logue's radical treatments.

* in their first session, Logue insisted on calling the Duke, 'Bertie', insisted that he did not smoke in his presence and wagered the Duke one shilling that he could make him read without a stammer.

* Logue convinced the Prince to read Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy, while listening to the overture from Mozart's 'The Marriage of Figaro' on headphones and the recording later reveals he speaks without a stammer.

* the film runs its course and Albert becomes 'King George VI' on the abdication of his brother from the throne in 1936.

* the climax of the film is reached with 'The Declaration of War with Germany' in 1939, when the King was given a three-page speech to read to the Nation and the Empire over the radio.

* the King summoned Logue and with only forty minutes to rehearse, Logue ran the King through all of the techniques he had learned and the speech was a success.

Here is the original :

It occured to me that, since King George had made his 'speech' in 1939, there were quite a few in the audience with me who were alive at the time, who however, if they had heard it on the radio, were unlikely to remember it, since the speech was made 72 years ago.

There was, however, one person who was depicted in the film who, no doubt can remember the speech : the young Princess Elizabeth, our present Queen. She is 85 years old and was 13 when her father made the speech. Of those depicted in the film, her father died at the age of 57 in 1952, Logue at 73 in 1953, her sister, Margaret at 72 in 2002 and her mother at 102 in the same year.

I was reminded of her part in all this by an article in 'The Guardian' today by Jonathan Freedland who made the following points, that :

* 'George VI is not the royal in The King's Speech who matters most because that honour goes to a character who barely says a word: the young Princess Elizabeth.

* the Queen has met weekly with 12 prime ministers, the first of these was Churchill, a figure as giant and remote from most younger Britons as Nelson or Wellington.

* she is a living connection to the event that has become our founding story and is the last public figure anywhere in the world with a genuine tie to the Second World War.

Jonathan Freedland's article in 'The Guardian' :

P.S. Mark Logue, the Grandson, talking about 'The 'Real' King's Speech' :

P.P.S. Bertie and Elizabeth in photos :

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