What Isn’t Said in “The King’s Speech”

(Australian actor Geoffrey Rush’s deft portrayal of Lionel Logue, teacher/tutor/friend to King George VI, debunks the theory that excellent teaching relies on a person’s academic preparation.)

C’mon now…You know the feeling, even if it happened decades ago. So many of us have “been there,” times when we (as students) tried to address the class and muffed it due to stage-fright; work situations where we presented badly before less-than-enthusiastic peers; “deer-in-the-headlights” moments when we wondered: “Is food stuck in my teeth?” “Is my skirt hiked up in the back (from a too-quick bathroom visit)?” Or (If you‘re a guy) “Is my fly open?”

Or worse yet–“Am I just boring?” (the most painful realization).

The movie “The King’s Speech” brings it all back, and I suggest: THAT’S why it resonates with so many.

I know I felt King George VI’s frustration when he stood before the microphone, fumbling for words, tho’ his notes were right before him. I writhed in my seat as he tried to will the words to obey. Instead, he stammered badly and long moments of silence ensued.

The audience shuffled nervously; some averted their eyes. Everyone felt his pain.

The movie alludes to how King George VI (originally named Prince Albert, he’d change his name to George VI upon coronation) may have developed his problem. We learn he had no problems with speech before the age of 5 but he admits to childhood trauma: Experts of the day tied his left (preferred) hand back to force him to use his right. They weren’t abusive…this was the thinking of the day.

It’s suggested, too, that he grew up in an emotional vacuum, devoid of familial nurturing, with a father who ridiculed him for his shyness. To counter it, he thrust his younger son into the public spotlight, wrongly believing that would embolden him. When Albert developed his stammer, his brother, Edward VIII, heir to the throne, taunted him further with “What’s the problem, B..B..B..B…B…B…B…Bertie (the family nickname for him)?”

According to the story, his wife (in desperation) sought help for her husband, appealing to Lionel Logue, known for achievement in the relatively new field of speech therapy. His fame grew out of actual success with World War I soldiers who’d returned from the war, suffering speech disorders due to shell shock and trauma.

In a stunning turn of fate, George VI ascends the throne when older brother, Edward VIII, abdicates, in order to marry American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. His choice rocked the kingdom, for Edward defied history and the royal penchant to “put duty first.” That event had momentous impact on George VI who now worked even harder to conquer his fear, since his position as king mandated he address his nation, often.

Logue was instrumental in George VI’s accomplishment of that goal.

“The King’s Speech” suggests spectacular teachers are born less from lofty academic credentials than they are from unique teaching talent, humor, and style that defy the usual metrics. How so? Logue almost lost his position as the King‘s speech therapist when jealous advisors sought to unmask him as a fraud, stating he lacked their documented certification.

In his own defense, Logue argued the true testament of his teaching (and the methods he employed) rested with his students–those who’d conquered their problem and gone on to successful lives, overcoming their speech impediments, sort of a “proof is in the pudding“ scenario.

Finally, too, this story demonstrates the importance of trust between teacher and student to repair the maiming effects of family dysfunction. George VIII only began to escape his family’s negative characterization under Lionel Logue‘s positive guidance and affirmation. The latter became his teacher, mentor, and lifelong friend.

It was only then he led in the manner of true king.


***Biddy suffered paralyzing stage-fright (as a young woman) and feared it would derail her own career plan. She eventually overcame her phobia and went on to teach successfully for 30 years. Documenting her difficulty in one of her earliest posts, “Greatest Fear #1,” she hopes to give encouragement to all who flounder in this regard (Click on the link to access, if you missed it earlier).


Now, please share your thoughts on this movie or even your own experience in public speaking…Specifically, how do you cope? Just hit “Comment” or “Leave a Comment”, add name, e-mail (it’s never given out). Promise.

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A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog, kevinMD.com, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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