The bones of the story are well known; the feckless Prince of Wales succeeds the phlegmatic George V and manages within a year to alienate virtually everyone in the Establishment with his dodgy right wing sympathies for Adolf Hitler (papers found post War showed that the Nazis planned to restore David (Edward VIII) to the throne if they successfully conquered the UK), and dalliances with a number of unsuitable women culminating in his domination by US divorcee Wallis Simpson.
Very much in the background, and happy to be there, was Bertie, Duke of York, who was content to live quietly fulfilling his duties and bringing up his two daughters one of whom is our own Queen.
The Duke lacked a good deal of confidence having been in the shadow of the ebullient David, and suffering the tragic loss of his younger brother John aged just 13 had a dramatic effect on the sensitive Bertie.
Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist is brought in by Bertie’s wife (the future Queen Mother) to help the Duke overcome a stammer and it is Logue’s sheer brass (he had no formal qualifications) that rubs off on the Duke and enables him to make the best of his limited ability as a public speaker.
Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin’s bold move to effectively kick Edward VIII off the throne ups the ante, and Bertie is thrust into the limelight as George VI. Whether or not the thing is totally historically accurate is neither here nor there as the writers have produced a wonderful story of how a diffident and nervous man grew into one of the best Kings we have had, and produced the wonderful legacy that sees our current Queen’s serene and cohesive reign which has by and large run smoothly across two generations of technological revolution, allied to periods of vast social upheaval.
I fear the uniting role of the Monarchy, and it’s typifying of the British sense of pragmatism will only be appreciated with Queen Elizabeth’s passing and the prospect of an interfering Monarch with an inflated sense of his own abilities come to pass.