Saturday, February 12, 2011


Even as I watched the The King’s Speech I was deeply moved and fought my emotions fearing to embarrass myself among Friends. God, the humanity of it all and perhaps the ultimate symbiotic relationship – a King and Nation (and yes, the world) in dire need and someone in search of a purpose and cause. They both found each other thanks to the genius, tenacity and love of Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York aka Elizabeth who we all know now as the beloved Queen Mother (Aye, a descendant of King Robert the Bruce of Scotland).

Since most of you have probably seen this inspiring movie, you know the storyline and that the reluctant and unlikely WWII King George VI of the United Kingdom and the unorthodox and charismatic Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue collaborated to mostly control his stuttering disorder and give the King his Voice when it was most needed. They both prevailed in this once-in-a-lifetime, do or die opportunity and our very existence this day is proof positive of that victory.

Though we all knew and many among us experienced George’s stuttering speeches (Remember the Movietone newsreels with Lowell Thomas?) we would have to wait for the passing of The Queen Mother for, “the rest of the story” (her request). The King’s Speech is an astounding character study which first and foremost imparts an important message to those with or without this debilitating speech disorder. There is hope and with a greater sensitivity about this condition perhaps modern medical technology might prompt a heretofore unknown cure.

The movie obviously meant a great deal to a lot of people as it has garnered twelve Oscar nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor Geoffrey Rush (astounding as Lionel Logue) and Actor for Colin Firth's amazing performance as King George VI who overcame stammering to the degree that he was able to successfully lead his country through its greatest crisis.

Though some folks have questioned the accuracy of The King’s Speech (the time line was certainly condensed), great and conscientious attempts were obviously made to preserve the overall historic record which especially includes the relationship between Prince Albert/George VI and speech therapist Lionel Logue who comes across as one of the unsung heroes of this whole episode of world history. King's Speech screenwriter David Seidler and director Tom Hooper were able to collaborate with Logue’s grandson and actually used notes from Lionel’s diary some of which formed the basis for some of the movie’s more memorable lines.

We know that Lionel’s steadfast, persistent requirement was that the Duke be required to come to his office (Prince/King to the Commoner though as equals) and receive assistance on that basis. In retrospect it was, indeed, critical that Prince Albert be removed from the comfort zone of a pompous, enabling Royal Family and brought forthrightly into Lionel’s area of influence where he could receive meaningful therapy. Elizabeth understood that. In what evolved as a partnership of peers Logue delved into Albert’s past to ferret out the possible psychological reasons for his impediment. While Albert was able to ultimately control his stuttering in critical situations, he never really mastered his stammer.

We do believe that Logue was able to compartmentalize and separate his relationship with George VI – one of a professional though familiar mentor on one hand and on the other a very deferential and admiring subject of The King and The Monarchy. Logue referred to Albert as “King” or “His Majesty” in his diary and we suspect that was done deliberately knowing that someday the words in his diary might bear close scrutiny. In his treatment sessions and probably in other private and confidential situations the King and Logue were far less formal (Bertie?). We note that they died within a year of each other…

Our glimpse into this chapter of world history inevitably takes us to the Gentleman from Glasgow, Scotland, Louis Leisler Greig, the now ignored and forgotten mentor and close Friend to Prince Albert. He no doubt had more influence on Albert than any other individual or group, including Logue. Best-selling author, Royal biographer and historian Christopher Wilson of London reflects, “It would have been a much more interesting film if they had focused on Greig rather than leaving him out altogether. He was the surrogate father who helped turn the prince from this terribly gauche, ill-prepared young man into the wartime monarch he became.”

It would appear that Duchess of York aka Elizabeth is probably the only one (besides Greig) who knew the entire story and now both are gone. Ironically it was Grieg who apparently facilitated the Duke of York's courtship of and marriage to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon who for whatever reason gradually displaced him as an intimate of the Duke.

Greig had the pedigree and the savoir faire to meet all the requirements of his station and, indeed, to be a close Friend and advisor to Prince Albert. Grieg’s relationship was formalized with his appointment as Equerry and Gentleman Usher to the Duke of York. No one really knows what happened though some speculate that the shellacking that Grieg and then Prince Albert suffered in the first round of the 1926 Gentlemen’s Doubles at the All England tennis tournament at Wimbledon in the presence of King George V and Queen Mary may have prompted some less than courteous remarks by then Wing Commander Grieg about Albert’s play. We do know that Grieg was a tenacious competitor and accomplished athlete. Since the Prince was there at Grieg’s invite (the only Royal to ever compete at Wimbledon) if any untoward words were spoken we doubt any ill intent.

So, where are we going with this? Given their close and intimate friendship and certainly touching on sensitive issues we think that Grieg properly prepared Albert for his ultimate meeting with Logue. Grieg was King George VI’s confidant for more than 40 years and we feel was as much a part of this story as Logue. That he was overlooked (not even mentioned) we hope was a matter of perspective and his deliberate omission rather an economy of effort and story line. You couldn’t just mention Grieg and then walk away from the character… such was his overall influence on Albert’s life.

In 1917 Grieg, then a naval staff surgeon, advised King George V that the seemingly always ill Prince Albert should undergo an operation to remove the ulcer that had caused him great discomfort for many years. Surgery back then was a much bigger deal than today so this advice was not offered lightly. The King and Prince agreed and Grieg was part of the surgical team that successfully operated on the prince. Albert later told his closest Friends that Louis Grieg was literally responsible for “saving his life”. Geordie Greig, the editor of the London Evening Standard and author of a book about his grandfather Greig, said: “Greig was known by senior courtiers as the man who made the king.”

Now, does this omission in any way diminish the significance of The King’s Speech? The Might of Right answers with a resounding, “Absolutely not!.” We all need to embrace this work as a wonderfully crafted memorial to one of the more significant figures in world history. We need celebrate that this story could finally be told and draw the appropriate inspiration from George VI’s and Lionel Logue’s heroics. It is our fervent wish when in need all will find their Lionel Logue and Louis Greig. Our future may depend on it…


Ned Buxton

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