This book, The King’s Speech, is not the book that the movie was based on. Mark Logue explains in the introduction that because he is Lionel Logue’s grandson he was contacted and informed that a movie was going to be coming out about his grandfather’s relationship with King George VI. Mark took it upon himself to go through his grandfather’s papers and journals so that he could help give a more accurate and in-depth account of what happened leading up to the king giving his famous speech and what happened afterwards.
The book gives a complete background of Lionel Logue explaining how he became a speech therapist in London. The generosity and compassionate nature of Logue is established well before he crosses paths with the man who would one day be king. From books written by the royal biographer, this book also tells us more about Prince Albert, later known as King George VI, and how his upbringing affected his stammer and his relationship with his family.
At first, I was a little bored by all of the details and the history. But, as I listened more and more, I was drawn into the story and was impressed with how Logue was able to assist the future king with his speech impediment. One interesting fact that came out in the book was that although it was clear that the king and his family very much appreciated what Logue had done for them and did present him with various titles, Lionel Logue was never knighted. Also, as the audiobook was narrated by Simon Vance, who has quickly become one of my favorites, I very much enjoyed listening to the book.
Whether you are a history buff or not, the story of how King George VI overcame his stammer is undoubtedly a compelling one. The true story, however, is not so compelling that it didn’t need to be modified so that it would appeal to a cinematic audience. When asked if the story could be released, the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II’s mother and the husband of King George VI, gave her blessing but asked that it wait and be released after her death. With a story about kings and important events coming from the not-so-distant past, it is not entirely surprising that many historians were critical of the liberties that were taken with the movie. The movie made it seem that there were some serious tensions between Prince Albert and his father, the king, and his brother, the king who would abdicate. In reality, this does not seem to entirely be the case. Many historians seem to be upset with the fact that the movie portrayed Winston Churchill as inaccurately being unopposed to the abdication of King Edward VIII. Mark Logue, himself, points out that Lionel Logue would have never been so formal with the future king that he would call him Bertie or swear in front of him. All of these dramatic liberties and more were added to the movie for the sake of the movie watching experience. Historians do agree that the actors in the movie portrayed King George VI and his wife, played by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter respectively, with a “quiet and unassuming heroism” that is appreciated as it honors the memory of the royal couple.
After watching the movie for a second time, I can see why it won so many Academy Awards. I agree that the acting, particularly their timing, is done excellently and the chemistry between Firth and Geoffrey Rush is outstanding. Although pointed out to be inaccurate, there is a very funny scene where Logue and the king are swearing in order to illustrate that when one swears they are less likely to stammer. Whereas, normally, we are made to feel that the royals live distant lives from us, this movie makes us feel like they are just like us with their insecurities and imperfections. Also, the movie helped me to see how a constitutional monarch still has an important role to play in the lives of his or her people.
For all you history buffs out there, this is a fun read and an even better listen. Simon Vance really is the best out there, especially when a British accent is needed. If you don’t have the time or desire to read the book then you can watch the movie, The King’s Speech, which is currently available on Netflix instant streaming is an Amazon Prime movie.