“Be not afraid of greatness: some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare
I had the pleasure of seeing “The King’s Speech” in theatre on Tuesday. I can say that it truly was a pleasure. The buzz surrounding this movie has exploded over the last week and it’s very well deserved. With an amazingly talented, highly respected British cast, wonderful cinematography and such a touching story of perseverance, I would highly recommend you see it over the holidays.
Alongside Colin Firth, Helena Bonham and Geoffrey Rush, many wonderful British actors grace this movie with their talents. Some of which Harry Potter fans would recognize as their favourite J.K. Rowling characters – Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) plays King George V and Timothy Spall (Wormtail) plays Winston Churchill excellently. Lionel Logue’s wife, Myrtle, was Jennifer Ehle, who played Elizabeth Bennett in BBC’s Pride and the Prejudice series.
The movie is set primarily in the late 1930’s and tells the story of King George VI, who was unexpectedly required to take the throne when his brother, Edward VIII abdicated the position. “The King’s Speech” follows George VI through speech therapy sessions with an Australian therapist named Lionel Logue, whose practices were a bit unusual at the time. He took a much more personal and casual approach than one normally would when interacting with someone of royal blood, and so the approach lends itself to some amusing scenes. The sessions lead up to a speech made by the King that would be broadcast nationally over the radio as World War II is about to break out across Europe.
George had grown up not expecting, nor desiring, to be King. He was not trained or prepared for the role which was thrust upon him. As a child, George VI grew up in the shadow of his more popular and outgoing older brother. He had a very neglected and painful childhood. Although he was left handed, he was forced to write with the other hand. He was made to wear painful metal splints to correct a leg problem and there were times when his nanny, who greatly preferred his older brother, forgot to feed him! At about 8 years old he developed a speech impediment – he began to stammer and it became a lifelong battle in which to overcome.
When his brother abdicated the throne, George VI, had the courage, despite his disadvantages and personal fears, to take his brother’s place as the King of England. He and his wife Elizabeth were thrust into the royal spotlight and the position that George VI dreaded. It’s unbelievable to think how much courage it must have taken to step into his father’s shoes and put right the disgrace his brother had created with his follies. I was even more impressed to read that during the bombings and blitz in WWII, George VI and Elizabeth refused to leave London, as many royals would have done, and instead suffered alongside with their people.
Whenever I imagine what it would be like to be royalty, (and yes, I have had the occasional daydream about it….) I always think about how lucky they are to live a life of privilege, with huge castles to live in, galas and balls to attend, and an endless supply of money. To see the struggles that this man went through and the responsibility (not privilege) that was thrown upon his doorstep which he never desired and truly feared, made me realize that my assumptions about what it’s like to live a royal life were absurd.
This movie put it all into perspective. A courageous man, a wonderful story.