Tuesday 15 February 2011

The King's Speech

"The Kensington Gardens are in London, where the King lives."

This illustration by Arthur Rackham is in a battered first edition of 'Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens' that belonged to my father. It is a portrait of King George 5th, whose death brought about a very rocky period for the British monarchy. 

At the weekend I watched the Bafta ceremony on television and was pleased to see 'The King's Speech' carry off a good number of awards. Helena Bonham-Carter gave a long but enjoyably quirky thank-you speech on receiving an award for her role.
I took myself off to see the film last month on a cold, dull day. I can't remember when I had last been to the pictures in the daytime. I recall that some years ago I emerged from seeing 'Shadowlands' into a bright summer's evening with reddened eyes and tear-streaked face plain for all to see. 
To watch a film at ten-thirty in the morning seemed positively decadent.

I spent a lot of the time holding my breath in suspense, although the film was neither a horror movie nor a violent American production. Some moments of the film I did find horrid, but 'The King's Speech' is a true story of recent history. I have problems with both books and films that purport to tell the facts and then fail to do so. My only quibble with this film was fairly minor; in it Churchill was portrayed as being a staunch supporter of 'Bertie' from the start, although this was not the case as in real life he initially supported Edward, the elder brother. It could most accurately be described as 'faction', the story of the battle of King George 6th to conquer his stammer.

I had a speech impediment as a child,  and, like 'Bertie', had lessons to try and sort the problem. I was unable to pronounce the letter 'r', rather unfortunate when your parents have christened you 'Rosemary'.  To call yourself, 'Losemaly' at age three is cute, but by the age of eight it feels like a disaster. I recall listening each year, with the rest of the family, to the King's Christmas broadcast. His speech, and especially the silences between, made me apprehensive and it was a relief when the broadcasts were over. Watching the film I was just as anxious.

By the time that I was old enough to be aware, the king had become an accepted and well-loved monarch, due in large part to his refusal to leave London during the Blitz and his desire to identify himself with his fellow Londoners.
I was educated at a small Moravian school in the company of a number of missionaries' daughters from all over the world. When the king's death was announced in assembly, sun-tanned and beautiful Yvonne, one of the missionary girls, fainted dramatically, no doubt fearing that chaos would follow in the wake of his death. I was as impressed by Yvonne's faint as much as by the announcement of the king's passing.

Along with the rest of the audience, this film profoundly moved me. Many of those watching had lived through the years that were being portrayed, there were sighs of recognition and tuts of disapproval. Wally Simpson was never going to be accepted into the hearts of the British public no matter how well she dressed and even though she did rid us of a weak, immoral king!
At the close of the film there was a spontaneous burst of applause.

Coronation mug for Bertie's father King George 5th.
Crickey, those days are long gone!

Garden update.

A week ago today we cut some lower limbs from the walnut tree. Several days later I was perturbed to see the sap still running freely from the untreated wounds. By the weekend the loss was reduced to a steady drip. I'm hoping that the cuts are now drying and healing, but it is raining so hard that it's impossible to know.
The greenhouse staging is full! I'm repotting the auriculas, cutting off dead foliage and checking the roots for vine weevil grubs. It's been a hard winter for all my plants, especially those in pots. My auriculas are not looking good!


  1. I so want to see this movie and I thank you for your, very enlightened and reflective review. Your memory of your classmate fainting and the impression it left on you made me smile, I probably would have felt the same way. Aside from the wonderful treasure of the first edition, is the mug your dads also?

  2. Dear Connie Lou, Yes, the coronation mug belonged to my father. You might like to take a peek at mylifeinonehundredobjects where I am trying to list objects that are meaningful to me from childhood up to the present day - a very mixed bag of items!

    I've just been to see the film 'Never Let me Go', some of it filmed in this region. If you see it, there is a pier scene filmed in Clevedon. The pier is Victorian and it's reconstruction was funded by public donation, little brass plaques were put on the replacement wooden planking and seats. There is a plank with our family names on it, but you have to search all along the pier to find it!

  3. That film is on my 'must see' list.

    Garden here still rather dormant. The purple sprouting broc' is just starting. The rhubarb is under forcing pots, and pushing up. Buds are forming on the peach trees. And the last of my sprouts are still proving delicious.

  4. Cro, you sound a contented man!
    "Buds are forming on the peach trees." You are making me drool!