Sunday, 28 April 2013

The King's Speech

The King's Speech: Based on the Recently Discovered Diaries of Lionel Logue
Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
London, Quercus, 2011, 229p

This biography is a fascinating account of the relationship between King George VI and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Written by his grandson, it recounts Logue's methods and the King's determined hard work, as together they overcame the King's lack of confidence, allowing him to lead Great Britain through the Second World War.

Logue and Conradi present a thoroughly researched account. Mark Logue admits he knew little of his grandfather until he found his memoirs, stashed by his father, Lionel's son. In The King's Speech, they recount the life of Lionel, who emigrated from Australia to England with his young family, and was fortunate enough to be given a chance to practice his skill on royalty. The book also details the historical context of the 1930s and 40s, as building tension across Europe made the role of the King ever more essential to the Empire. 

For me, it was particularly interesting to understand the increased importance of radio, and I would like to have known more about the rise of this media in relation to national events. The reign of King George VI would have been one of the first opportunities for the people to hear their monarch address them directly, and hence began the tradition of the Christmas speech. Inevitably, the King's lack of confidence needed to be addressed, so the people could remain sure of the leadership of their country during times of war and poverty.

This is a beautifully written account of the life of Lionel Logue. Often, with the repeated names of royalty and the complexities of this last century's history, such texts can become convoluted; but Logue and Conradi kept focus, provided ample contextualisation, and maintained my interested. The King his humanised by Logue - made to be someone we can all relate to, especially with his lack of confidence in public speaking. But George VI's hard work shines through, with Logue crediting much of their success to his commitment to overcoming his stammer. 

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