Mention that a film or book is about British royalty, and it's a good chance that I'm going to watch or read it eventually. Two members of the Windsor family that has always interested me are the parents of the current Queen of England, Elizabeth II. Both of them had never expected to become the monarchs of the far flung British Empire, being that there was an elder brother in line for the throne, and everyone expected him to marry and beget an heir or two, leaving the Duke and Duchess of York to have a cozy home life with their young daughters and be well out of the spotlight.
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Unfortunately for all of them, history had other plans.
David, the eldest son, became Edward VIII on the death of his father, George V, in 1936. At the time, he was extravagantly handsome and had been involved in a long series of affairs with married women. And there was one in particular, Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American who loved the high life, fine things and especially little trinkets of jewelry from her royal lover. Never mind that Great Britain and most of the world were going through a terrible economic depression, David lavished everything he could on his love, and soon there were rumours that he would marry the American woman, something that struck the royal family, politicians, and a good number of people as something unsuitable, and quite possibly the ruin of the monarchy.
But there was David's younger brother, Bertie, the Duke of York. In contrast, he was quiet, and quite happily married to his duchess, an aristocratic Scottish beauty named Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. He had served in World War One in the Royal Navy, and in the fledgling Royal Air Force, and had done his dynastic duty by siring two pretty girls. The Yorks were popular and well-liked, giving an image of stability. But there was a problem, and a serious one, and this is where this book comes into play.
Bertie stammered, and quite badly. Public speaking was sheer torture for him, undermining his confidence and self-esteem. When called upon to make a very public speech, he made a hash of it. On hearing about this problem, a speech therapist named Lionel Logue stepped in.
To say that Lionel Logue was a character was to put it mildly. He didn't have any medical training, nor did he study the more traditional methods of elocution and speech. But what he did have was ambition, drive and a great deal of intuition, all of which would go a long way in helping Bertie. For decades, the story of the friendship between Logue and the man who would become George VI was something quietly tucked away in a few history books and more or less forgotten.
That is, until 2010 and the release of the film The King's Speech. For it seemed that the Logue family had a series of scrapbooks in their possession, and very interesting ones at that. Lionel Logue had kept newspaper clippings, letters, therapy notes, photographs and what they revealed was a friendship between two men that was very personal, very open, and built on something that most royals never get to experience -- trust.
This biography was compiled out of those notes and clippings by Mark Logue, the grandson of Lionel Logue, and who had worked closely in the making of the film. I found the story fascinating, along with a good history about how speech therapy works, the tremendous amount of quackery in the profession and the personal battles that Logue fought in getting what was then considered to be radical theories accepted. For he looked at the patient as a whole, and applied a treatment that not just looked at physical problems but also the psychological problems that are there for those who suffer from speech impediments.
I felt a very personal connection with this book for as a young child I had problems speaking, and had several years with a good therapist in the art of elocution, something that I feel is dying in our civilization these days. Interestingly enough, once I had learnt how to speak properly, my stuttering vanished, and it has not been a problem since. Too, its quite true that you're judged on how well you speak and use words, even though no one will ever honestly admit it, and it can be an impressive skill to have to be able to speak clearly and well.
Most of all, this book gives hope to anyone who has to cope with speech impediments by showing that it can happen to anyone, and that with effort and the right therapy, it can be overcome. Anyone who has to deal with a disability has to cope with shame, and fear that they are the only ones who suffer with the problem -- and it can wreck their lives, leeching away their self-confidence.
I was very impressed by this book, and it was a quick, interesting read. To be honest, I haven't seen the film yet (but will soon), so I cannot relate how well the story transfers to the screen, but on its own, this book does quite well. I found Logue and his family to be people who I would never mind knowing, and their lives starting in Australia, and immigration to England, and their times in the first and second World Wars to be very inspiring.
Along with the narrative, there are inserts of several black and white photographs, extensive notes and an index. I have to say that the photograph of Lionel Logue's wife, Myrtle, in her formal dress is very impressive.
For those who want to know more about King George VI and his Queen, Elizabeth, I recommend two books: The Reluctant King by Sarah Bradford, and The Queen Mother: The Official Biography by William Shawcross.
Five stars overall, and muchly recommended.
Many thanks to Books CL Dramastef for adding this to the database for me!
The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy
Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
2010; Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.