The King's Speech

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Lionel: Why should I waste my time listening to you?
Bertie: Because I HAVE A VOICE!
Lionel: ...Yes, you do.


The King's Speech is a 2010 period film, directed by Tom Hooper and starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter. The film depicts the early years of Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) and his struggle with a severe speech impediment that kept him from carrying out public speaking engagements. His wife Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, enlists the services of failed Australian actor-turned-speech therapist Lionel Logue to help her husband. Logue's unconventional methods do indeed begin to make some progress. Meanwhile, however, Prince Albert's older brother Edward VIII makes a royal botch of his own marriage plans, thrusting him even further into the spotlight, even as another famous public speaker is stirring up trouble on the continent.

The film earned strong positive reviews, particularly for lead actor Colin Firth. It was nominated for twelve Academy Awards (the most nominations for any film that year) and won four of them: Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Director, and -- most importantly -- Best Picture.

Tropes used in The King's Speech include:
  • Adorkable:
    • Albert, Albert, Albert.
    • Logue performing hilariously hammy Shakespeare for his children. His sons can't help but be amused/embarrassed/both.
  • Angrish: Inverted, as Albert actually stutters less when he's pissed off. It becomes part of the speech therapy.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "SHIT! AND FUCK! AND tits..."
    • Possibly justified. Perhaps the standards of the time meant that 'tits' was just as bad as the other words?
  • As You Know:

George V: Your brother, the future king...

    • It's likely George V did this to torment Albert; as the rest of his characterization shows, he raised his children through fear, and constantly pointing out to Albert that his brother was to be the next king, even though Albert didn't want the position, was likely intended to demean and belittle him.
      • Possibly a rather odd form of Why Are You Not My Son? (as Bertie IS George V's son, just not the right birth order), as George V was actually known to have thought Bertie would make a better King than David, and to openly say he hoped David would never marry, so that "there is no one between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne."
        • Given the context of George V's rant, Why Are You Not My (Firstborn) Son is probably correct. He listed "your brother, the future king" as doing a number of disgraceful things, engaging in irresponsible and unkingly behavior that was going to wreck the country. He was saying this while getting Bertie to try speaking at the microphone -- because he could almost foresee that Bertie would end up as king whether he wanted it or not.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Averted. Though George VI rehearses his coronation, it happens off-screen, leaving his speech as the film's climax. He later watches the edited newsreel version with his wife, girls and the Archbishop, and even then, we only catch a glimpse of it.
    • Although it's not shown, Lionel Logue was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, an order of chivalry for direct services to the monarch.
  • Bad Bad Acting: Lionel barely gets past 'NOW IS THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT' before the director shouts next.
    • That was hardly done badly; Shakespeare practically requires one to be a Large Ham, particularly that role.
  • Bling of War: George's uniform at his coronation.
  • Bowdlerization: In order to maximize the film's profits, the film - an Oscar-winning feature - was re-released in the United States with some content cut out to avoid an R rating. The re-cut film, released in theaters around and after the Oscars, had the PG-13 rating attached to it (see Cluster F-Bomb, below, for most of what got cut).
    • Critics and film buffs alike were not happy with these cuts - or even the initial R rating. Both situations were chiefly the result of the MPAA's refusal to give the original cut a PG-13 rating, despite other countries/regions giving the film their equivalent of the PG or PG-13 rating.
    • When the film was shown uncut at the LA Film School, that scene was wildly applauded.
  • Brick Joke: The shilling.
  • Brits With Battleships: Bertie served in the Royal Navy, and it's noted that he was happier as Bertie Johnson, Naval Officer, compared to Prince Albert, the Duke of York.

"I'm not a King! I'm a naval officer..."

  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Lionel Logue. Hell, it turns out he's not even accredited or trained - he just happened to be excellent at treating people with speech disorders when people kept asking him to treat shell-shocked World War I veterans. As he points out, there weren't any schools then - just thousands of wounded veterans who needed his help. No wonder his treatment was so effective.
    • This is mainly In-Universe. To his contemporaries, Logue's methods would have seemed bizarre or foolish, but to a modern audience they seem fairly straightforward. At the time, it seems, no-one except Logue would admit that psychology was involved in a speech disorder and by modern standards, the only other speech therapist that we see looks like a total quack.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Derek Jacobi's presence has got to be a Shout-Out to I, Claudius, which is about another stuttering monarch, and it might also allude to him being Brother Cadfael.
    • Geoffrey Rush's wife is played by Jennifer Ehle, who was Firth's love interest in the series that made him a heartthrob. Although this movie only gives her and Firth a single scene together, they make a big deal out of it.
    • And then there's David Bamber's blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance as the amateur dramatics director who rejects Logue. David Bamber is probably best known for playing Cicero on Rome, yet another statesman with a speech impediment. He also appeared as creepy parson Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice with Firth and Ehle.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Very much indeed.

George VI (sobbing after learning he's to be king) I'm just a naval officer! It's all I know how to be...

  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Bertie tries to have a cigarette after a particularly bad session with a speech therapist. His hands are shaking too much, though, and his wife lights it for him.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: A single scene featured this, thus earning a film that would otherwise be rated PG (and did in Canada, albeit with the advisory, "Language may offend") an R rating in the USA - all due to the MPAA's rules concerning the usage of profanity.
    • "Fuck. FUCK! Fuck, fuck, fuck AND FUCK! Fuck, fuck AND BUGGER! Bugger, bugger, BUGGERTY BUGGERTY BUGGERTY, fuck, fuck, ARSE! Balls, balls, FUCKITY, shit, shit, FUCK AND WILLY. WILLY, SHIT AND FUCK AND... tits."
    • As pointed out above, this was cut out in order to release a re-cut version of the film that gathered a PG-13 rating.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Invoked in the Cluster F-Bomb scene.
  • Daddy's Girl: The King has two adorable little girls, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, and he makes it very clear how much he loves them. A charming case of Truth in Television.
  • Dead Air: Most notably in the first speech shown where he stood there for over two minutes trying to talk into the microphone without being able to get anything out. Even after that, he's still stammering and pausing as everyone looks on in shame and embarrassment.
  • Dead Little Brother: Prince John. Bertie is near tears talking about his life and death.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Lionel Logue

Lionel Logue: [as George "Berty" is lighting up a cigarette] Please don't do that.
King George VI: I'm sorry?
Lionel Logue: I believe sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.
King George VI: My physicians say it relaxes the throat.
Lionel Logue: They're idiots.
King George VI: They've all been knighted.
Lionel Logue: Makes it official then.

    • Bertie is pretty good at this himself.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: When Lionel Logue forbids Prince Albert from smoking in his office, he calls the knighted doctors who recommended the prince to smoke for the good of his larynx "idiots". However, in the 1920s setting, that makes Logue an eccentric while modern audiences would know that a doctor giving that advice is practically grounds for medical malpractice.
    • If you think about it, Logue telling Bertie, "I believe inhaling smoke will kill you" makes perfect sense once you remember that Logue served in the trenches in World War I and had seen the effects of gassing on young men. And, indeed, that's exactly how Bertie died.
    • Also, the idea of Parliament making a big enough deal objecting to King Edward's wanting to marry his twice divorced girlfriend to resign en masse over it seems an over-reaction to a modern audience, but the fact that she was believed to be a German spy kind of evens it out.
    • Not to mention several characters making vaguely xenophobic jibes against Logue's Australian background.
  • Don't Call Me Doctor: Lionel Logue is insistent with future King George VI to call him "Lionel" and not "Doctor" justified: Lionel is not a Doctor, and if you check carefully, he has never once claimed that he was.
  • Doting Parent: One of Albert's most admirable traits. After his coronation, it broke his heart that his beloved little girls did not run to hug him as a father, but coldly and formally bowed to him as a King.
  • Double Meaning Title: Referring to the publicly-important speech George VI delivers at the end, or to his personally-important speech, his way of speaking?
  • The Dutiful Son: Comparatively rare instance where the dutiful son is the main character.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: The story Bertie tells his daughters near the beginning. Presumably it's a joke on the black-and-white suits of the day.
    • The story is actually based on one that Colin Firth would tell his children.
  • Exact Words: Throughout the film, Bertie attempts to keep things formal by calling Lionel "Doctor Logue", while Lionel insists on a first-name basis. Later, the king is told that Lionel actually has no certificates or qualifications at all. He's mortified and furious, until Lionel gently points out that Bertie was the one who insisted on calling him "Doctor" and that Lionel has never advertised himself as such.
  • Friendship Moment: Bertie tells the Archbishop to seat Lionel in the King's box for the coronation. The Archbishop protests that the royal family is to be seated there. Bertie's response? "That is why it is suitable."
  • Genteel Interbellum Setting: Pretty much all of the movie takes place in this, though you don't see a lot of the tropes commonly associated with it.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: Lionel comes to apologize to Albert after an argument and is told that the Duke is "too busy" to see him. He is shown the door and exits into the pouring rain.
    • Somewhat lesser example: the aforementioned argument takes place in a light drizzle and a hazy fog with some sunlight.
  • Happily Married: George VI and Queen Elizabeth; Lionel and Myrtle Logue. Also, though we don't see much of it, George V and Mary fit the trope in real life.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Deliberately invoked with Edward's casual comment about the troubles in Europe, "Hitler will sort it out." While it could be considered merely naive, to modern audiences, that statement feels positively horrific and despicable to see the King of England want Nazi Germany to begin its rampage of mass death and destruction.
    • Edward VIII was widely (and not without some basis) believed to be a Nazi sympathizer. It was actually quite a popular position at the time.
    • Logue's comment to Bertie about how smoking will kill you. It did.
  • Head-in-The-Sand Management: The former Trope Namer, albeit only glimpsed. Stanley Baldwin and the Duke of Windsor also count.

David: Don't worry, Herr Hitler will sort it out.
Albert: [impatiently] Yes, and who'll "sort out" Herr Hitler?!

  • Historical Beauty Update: Colin Firth and Guy Pearce as the brothers George VI and Edward VIII, for starters (the originals were certainly not ugly; Edward VIII, in particular, was quite the ladies' man).
    • Colin Firth, incidentally, looks nothing like real George VI, who actually looked quite like Guy Pearce.
      • Matter of fact, Firth looks more like real Lionel Logue.
  • Historical Domain Character: Everyone, obviously.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Well, "Villain" is a little harsh, but the traditional image of Edward VIII as the romantic man who gave up the crown for love is brutally dissected. This Edward is little more than a dizzy, uncaring socialite who really had no interest in - or business - being a constitutional monarch.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: Averted. George VI is impressed by Hitler's public speaking ability.

Princess Elizabeth: What's he saying?
King George VI: I don't know, but he seems to be saying it rather well.

    • There's a very slight example of Did Not Do the Research here. George VI could more than likely understand the speech Hitler was making in this scene. Queen Victoria was fluent in German, George V could understand it, his wife Queen Mary was born in Germany, and George VI learned it as a child, as did the princesses. The joke works quite well, though.
  • Hollywood History: The producers did take a few liberties with historical fact.
    • They eliminated the fact that King George VI wasn't very fond of Winston Churchill. They wouldn't even become friends until long after the events of the film.
    • A lot of the later speech difficulty is likely trumped up. He was known to be at least a decent orator, with Logue's help, as early as 1927, when he opened Australia's parliament on behalf of his father, King George V. The stress of coronation though did set his speech progress back.
    • The radio speech to the nation after the outbreak of war had the stress level ratcheted up as high as it could go.
    • All of the events are compressed from a period of fifteen years into just a couple. George VI first started meeting with Logue the year before his daughter Elizabeth was born, while in the film they keep the same child actress for the entire story.
    • George was a strong supporter of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy (though the film doesn't really say otherwise, since it more or less skips over the 1937-1939 period), going so far as to breach protocol and endorse Chamberlain's policy prior to the sitting of the House of Commons. However, this was the consensus attitude for the period, something most people tend to overlook in favor of just blaming Chamberlain (this attitude makes a great deal more sense when you remember that Britain had only just started to recover from the devastation of WWI). The film also has Stanley Baldwin resigning over misjudging Hitler, which wasn't the case; he was simply ready to retire after fifteen years as leader of the Conservative Party.
    • The film also gets Churchill's position on the abdication crisis exactly backward; historically, Churchill was one of the few who was supportive of Edward.
    • Although he wasn't initially fond of Churchill's appointment to Prime Minister, he did develop a close friendship with him, and they confided in each other about war and governance of Britain, with the input of both being very important in later stages of WWII, and the dissemination of the British Empire into the commonwealth.
    • Although King George and Logue were on very friendly terms, Logue observed proper decorum and never went as far as to call him "Bertie".
    • Couple of minor details: George VI did not really have to bounce on "peoples" in the speech listen here. He did bounce a bit on "a-depth" of feeling a few seconds later. And Lionel was not really seated in the royal box, but in the box just above it, where he and Myrtle had a splendid view.
  • Hypocritical Humour: Logue remarks that the King's doctors being knighted makes their being idiots "official"; he later asks for a knighthood for himself near the end of the film.
  • I'll Take That as a Compliment: Logue takes "peculiar" as a compliment.
  • Insult Backfire: "Peculiar" is meant as an insult, but Logue seems to be genuinely proud of his nontraditional approach.
  • Jerkass: King Edward VIII, from what we see of him, is very rude towards Albert and more concerned with living the high life than with being a guiding voice for England. Also, he and Wallis were a pair of Nazi sympathizers, though the film only hints at this.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: King Edward is a borderline example, as he truly does love Wallis, and his speech for his abdication is touching. Abdicating to his brother was probably the best thing he ever did.
  • Kick the Dog: The entire party at Balmoral Castle is an extended Kick the Dog on Edward's part. He starts it by showing how lightly he takes to his duties as king, follows it by showing apathy toward Hitler's march through Europe, and concludes it by mocking Albert for his speech impediment to such an extent that Albert is unable to speak.
  • Large Ham:
  • Love Ruins the Realm: Edward VIII's marriage plans cause his subjects no end of trouble. Most historians, however, think that George VI was a much better choice for the throne (his father agreed), given what was coming - though it wasn't so great for George himself, greatly exacerbating his health problems.
  • Meaningful Rename: Albert gets one of these when he becomes King George VI. David also changes his name when he becomes king although its not as meaningful and happens off screen.
    • For David/Edward, it's more of a case of Overly Long Name. David (full name Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Windsor), chose his first name as his regal name, but went by David among his family.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The film's trailer, to convey the premise as concisely as possible, refers to Colin Firth's character as the King throughout (when in fact he spends a large part of the film as merely the Duke of York), even going so far as to re-dub the moment when Logue is informed who his new client really is.
  • Noble Bigot: George VI himself. He's a nice guy, but he's still a man of his time.

Lionel Logue: Would I lie to a prince of the realm to win twelve pennies?
King George VI: I have no idea what an Australian might do for that sort of money.

  • Odd Friendship: Pretty much the whole point of the movie.
  • Oscar Bait: Fits the stereotype, though, as many commentators have noted, it's actually uncommon for this sort of film to win Best Picture since the 2000s (whereas it was very popular in the 1990s). It won for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay.
  • The Power of Friendship: The friendship between Albert and Lionel was strong enough to help Albert gain self-confidence and break the normal social barriers to keep Lionel as his friend, even though Lionel was a commoner.
  • Reluctant Ruler: Prince Albert/King George VI. He never wanted the throne, but seeing his wastrel brother screw up and abdicate for a twice divorced and Nazi sympathizer girlfriend, he has no choice in the matter, likewise Edward who is more of the Rebel Prince variety completely breaks down when he is told that he will be king.
  • Royally Screwed-Up: George VI and Edward VIII both have a dose of this, thanks to their abusive father and distant mother. The former's speech impediment and nervousness is the result of his unhappy childhood, and it's heavily implied that the latter's weak-will and hedonism is likewise a result of that upbringing.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: George VI complains that he has no power as a King, except as being an inspiration for the people such as in giving public addresses, which he has no confidence doing so with his stammer. However, with Lionel Logue's help, he does that role marvelously. This is in contrast with his brother, David, who seems more interested in carrying on with his mistress than being a competent king.
    • Furthermore, Bertie earned the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy, and even saw combat during World War I. The uniform he wears during the final speech is just that, the uniform he wore in the last war.
  • Sherlock Scan: Of sorts. Logue's children are able to tell what Shakespeare character he's playing with a single line of dialogue.
    • Logue is also able to tell Albert was born left handed, but trained to write with his right.
  • Shout-Out: Just a bit of one, in John Boorman's Hope And Glory. The family is listening to George VI give a speech on the radio and the father says "He's sounding better, isn't he."
  • Shown Their Work: Albert's line about purposely stammering a couple times in the climactic speech "so they'd know it was me" was taken directly out of his diaries.
    • The movie was changed only nine weeks before production to work details from Lionel Logue's then-recently discovered diary in.
  • Shrinking Violet: Albert, whose stammer has made him deathly afraid of having to deal with crowds or public speeches.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Albert and David have several contrasting aspects to their personality.
    • David has a lover (who has been twice divorced and a Nazi sympathizer), despite his family's disapproval. Albert is Happily Married.
    • After his father's death and was told he would be king, David's breakdown in front of his family and the doctors was taken seriously as royalty was expected to have a Stiff Upper Lip. Albert only broke down once in front of his wife in private while otherwise remaining The Stoic in front of his subjects.
    • During his rule, David was very carefree and more focused in pleasing Wallis Simpson, even telling Albert that "Hitler will sort [the troubles in Europe] out". After he became king, Albert would become the guiding figure for his people during World War II.
    • David was a bit of a Jerkass, mocking his brother's stuttering and thinking Albert wanted to take over his place, while Albert was only trying to genuinely help his brother get his act together because he didn't want to be king.
  • Socialite: Wallis Simpson's exact job title before becoming the Duchess of Windsor. It is that sort of behavior that puts her at odds with Elizabeth (which is only hinted at in the film).
  • Spartan Family Member: When Bertie was younger, his father encouraged his brother to make fun of his stammer because he was convinced this would make it go away.
  • Speech Impediment: Obviously.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: This is expected of royalty in particular, so much so that Edward's breakdown at being told he will be king after the death of his father is treated pretty seriously as a sign that he isn't fit to rule, and gets him a What the Hell, Hero? from his brother. Absolutely truth in television, too - at that time, among the royal family, his breakdown was completely unseemly. Note that when Bertie has his later on, the only person there to witness it is his wife.
  • Take That Me: Thankfully, Bertie isn't too depressed about his problems to make fun of them.

Lionel: Do you know any jokes?
Bertie: T-... timing is n-not... my strong suit.

  • That Came Out Wrong: When Lionel's wife comes home unexpectedly while he's meeting with the King, and he panics about her reaction. "I haven't told her about us."
  • There Are No Therapists: Or rather, there were none. Lionel cut his therapeutic teeth treating the speech disorders of shell-shocked World War I veterans, and quickly figured out that what they needed most desperately was a friendly ear. And as it turns out, Bertie had never had anyone to tell about the miserable childhood that fostered his stutter, including the fact that it took his parents three years to notice that the nanny was starving him. [1]
    • By some accounts, it was George himself who developed anorexia, apparently on his own. The nanny who blew the whistle on, then took over from the cruel one, was very warm and motherly to all the kids, and is also remembered for (off-duty) swearing like a sailor.
      • Lalla Bill. You can see her in The Lost Prince. She became Johnnie's full-time companion when he was "hidden from view". She was with him when he died.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs:
    • Queen Elizabeth lets Mrs. Logue know how to pronounce "Ma'am" when addressing her.
    • Invoked by Prince Albert to Lionel to call him "His Royal Highness". Subverted by Lionel, who calls him "Bertie" instead.
  • Title Drop: Right before the last scene, in reference to the first wartime speech by Bertie (now George VI).
  • Training Montage: Numerous reviews have compared the film to a sports movie like Rocky, except the sport is public speaking. Oddly enough, there's only two such montages in here.
  • Trickster Mentor: Logue.
  • The Unfavorite: Albert was this as a child, as both his father and his nanny preferred his brother (at first, anyway). His stuttering didn't help very much.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: George V was a bit of a Jerkass to his kids when they were young, leaving them feeling a bit alienated from him. Unlike most instances of this, by the time the story takes place, George V actually does approve of the adult Albert/George VI (though still frustrated by his speech problems), certainly compared to his older brother, but past experiences mean that Albert doesn't think he's sincere. In real life he expressed preference for Albert and his daughter Elizabeth (who was 9 years old at the time) over Edward for the throne toward the end of his life.
    • George V's last words were acknowledgments of Bertie as superior to his brothers; which he never actually told Bertie.
  • Wham! Line: "What if my husband were the Duke of York?" Cue Oh Crap look when Lionel Logue finally recognizes that he's talking to the Duchess of York.
  • Where Are They Now? Epilogue: A very short one that notes Bertie and Lionel remained friends for the rest of their lives.
  • The Wise Prince: George VI.
  • Young Future Famous People: George VI's daughter Elizabeth definitely counts.
  1. The incident with the nurse was dramatized for the film; in real life, she didn't starve them, and it was David, not Bertie, whom she would pinch before taking him to see his parents.