- Released 2002
- Director: Tom Hooper
- Screenplay: David Seidler
- Length: 1 hr 59 min
- Genre: Drama/History
- Rating: R primarily for a few scenes of strong language (including one “f”-word-filled outburst) See below* for extensive rating comment
- Stars: Colin Firth (George VII), Geoffrey Rush (Lionel Logue), Helena Bonham Carter (Elizabeth)
- Awards: Nominated for 12 Oscars; won 4 Oscars including Best Picture.
Travel Tips: London
Cher’s Armchair Travel: England & Runaway Royals
The British royal family has always intrigued Americans
Is it because of our English roots? Or that we speak the same language–almost! Maybe we are just infatuated with royalty in general, especially where it involves a beautiful princess and a handsome prince! Whatever; we are captivated!
Royal Runaways: Today’s Royal Family
Oprah’s Winfrey’s recent interview with today’s “royal runaways,” Meghan and Prince Harry, has sparked our interest anew in the British Royal Family–and its ongoing drama! CBS aired the 2-hour special twice, March 7 and 13, 2021, with Top Ratings.
This renewed interest reminded me of this movie and is the impetus behind this particular film discussion.
Parallels: Then & Now
There are several interesting parallels in the modern scenario and that in the film, nearly a century ago!
Family history: The film sheds some interesting, historical perspective on the modern British Royal Family. It provides background into the childhood of Queen Elizabeth II herself and sheds valuable insight into her reactions (or perceived lack thereof) to current events.
Royal Runaways: We are currently enthralled with today’s “royal runaways, “Meghan and Prince Harry, but this is nothing new. In “The King’s Speech” we are introduced to royal runaways (1930s style) with Edward VIII who abdicates the throne to marry a commoner, an attractive American divorcee (sound familiar?).
Spousal support: On the bright side, we are witness to two royal couples, a century apart, passionately supporting one another in challenging personal times, despite outstanding obstacles, largely created by the institution of the royal family.
- In the film, Elizabeth, wife of King George VI, supports her husband, bucks the royal institution, and takes strong measures to work together to help him face and conquer his issues. (Side note: this endearing relationship is witnessed by their young daughter, Elizabeth, today’s Queen, and Prince Harry’s grandmother.)
- Today, Prince Harry is also bucking the royal institution and taking strong measures to actively support his wife, Meghan, as they work together to face the challenges they are experiencing.
- These relationships are in stark contrast to the lack of spousal support that Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, received from her husband, Harry’s father Prince Charles, during her darkest hours, a subject alluded to often.
“The King’s Speech” – Movie Themes
The primary theme the King’s speech reveals to the modern viewer the importance of the king’s treatment for his speech impediment.
Strength of character: Throughout the film, we are witness to the character strengths of communication, humility, integrity and perseverance.
Role of British Royalty is highlighted in what is expected (demanded?) of the royal family on many levels, both within the family structure and in the public eye. Often, these roles are in conflict–as discussed by Prince Harry and Meghan in their interview.
Anxiety in Britain in the 1930’s is captured in the real sense and is historically accurate.
The film: The King’s Speech
Royal Runaways in the Film
The scene is set. The world is on the brink of World War II. King George V (Michael Gambon) of England has died (1936) and his oldest son, King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), becomes king. A royal family scandal develops when, less than a year into his reign, Edward abdicates the throne in order to marry an American socialite divorcee, Wallis Simpson (Eve Best).
A New King
The throne goes to the next in line, his younger brother Albert “Bertie”, who never planned or prepared to be king and reluctantly becomes King George VI (Colin Firth). He, along with his determined, compassionate wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), help guide England through World War II providing hope, determination and solidarity in a time of need.
Articulate public speaking is critical to the king’s role in communicating to the nation (and world) in these dire times. The invention of radio makes the role of king even more complex than just just making royal appearances and looking good. The film revolves around the issues that King George VI must overcome in order to lead the nation. He has a lifelong, debilitating speech impediment; he stutters.
Elizabeth enlists an eccentric speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Not only are his ways rather unorthodox, though effective, he is also a commoner with no official pedigree; he is not on the list of professional sources “approved” by the Royal “Powers.” But his methods work.
The two men forge an unlikely lifelong friendship that will ultimately empower the monarch to not only find his voice, but also inspire his people, and rally the world.
Side Note: I found it interesting that push-back for seeking help for royal personages outside of the “approved” list is still common today. Meghan shared that she sought professional help and was told it was unavailable to her. Fortunately both of their spouses took matters into their own hands and sought unorthodox, seemingly drastic measures to deal with the challenges facing them individually and as a couple.
Two Queen Elizabeths
In the film we meet the two young daughters of George VI and Elizabeth, Elizabeth and Margaret, who became the darling real-life princesses of all little girls in the English world during World War II.
Side Note: For any American Girl book fans who recall the two English princesses during World War II in “Happy Birthday, Molly”–here they are!
The Princess becomes Queen
This young girl, Elizabeth, is the same young woman who, upon her father’s death, became Queen of England at age 25. She is the current Queen Elizabeth II, longest reigning English monarch.
The Queen Mother
In modern times, the world has come to know the film’s Queen Elizabeth (queen by marriage, not rank), affectionately as the Queen Mum (Queen Mother; to differentiate her from her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II). She died in 2002 at age of nearly 102 years and was dearly loved and revered by all Brits. It is this strong, lovable woman we meet and come to greatly admire in the film.
The Queen Mother had asked that the story behind “The King’s Speech” not be told during her lifetime because of the depths of the emotions involved, that the memory of these events remained too painful; that request was honored.
Real Royal Family of King George VII
Did the Queen like the film?
I wondered how Queen Elizabeth II viewed the movie about her parents, showcasing her father and his struggles with his speech impediment.
Did she even watch it?
She did, in a private viewing, and reports were that she responded favorably to it. She acknowledged the love, admiration and respect for Her Majesty’s father that was evident in the writing and filming of the story.
This photo is of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth along with the young Elizabeth and Margaret. (Google Images)
For the Traveler to London: Travel Tips
For the traveler to London, Westminster Abbey is a must-see–for many reasons: architecture, stained glass windows, memorial plots of important people–and packed with lots of nuggets of the lover of history, literature, and everything British!
The film’s scenes of the coronation of King George VI, shot inside Westminster Abbey, add perspective and depth into this iconic structure. The Abbey and its historical context and significance to the nation are broadly captured in these coronation scenes. (Don’t miss the info and significance of the Coronation Chair, displayed at the Abbey when not used in ceremony.)
Having visited the Abbey on several occasions, this film provided me with a new appreciation for its ceremonial use vs. just a tourist destination.
Typically seen only from its exterior, I also enjoyed the scenes of the rooms within Buckingham Palace, rooms that the tourist to London would never get to view. Whether they are sets or actual rooms in the palace, they are as authentic a view as I will ever see!
- Side note: In deciding if it is appropriate for family viewing, Common Sense Media review is excellent: “The King’s Speech is an engrossing, fact-based drama that’s rated R primarily for a few scenes of strong language (including one “f”-word-filled outburst). It has inspiring and empowering messages about triumphing over your fears. An indie about a king who stutters might not seem like typical adolescent fare, but don’t judge a movie by the brief synopsis: Teens will enjoy it as much as the grown-ups will if they give it a chance. In addition to the swearing, there’s some social drinking, but that all fades in comparison to the movie’s surprisingly moving themes of hope and perseverance. Note: An edited version of the movie that removes/lessens some of the strongest language has been rated PG-13 and released separately.” https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/the-kings-speech/