Follow TV Tropes


Film / The King's Speech

Go To
Lionel: Why should I waste my time listening to you?
Bertie: Because I have a right to be heard! Because I HAVE A VOICE!
Lionel: ...Yes, you do.

The King's Speech is a 2010 period film, directed by Tom Hooper and starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter and Eve Best.

The film depicts the early years of Prince Albert, Duke of York (Firth) — the man who would be King George VI of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland — and his struggle with a severe speech impediment that kept him from carrying out public speaking engagements. His wife Elizabeth, Duchess of York (Bonham-Carter), enlists the services of failed Australian actor-turned-speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush) to help her husband. Logue's unconventional methods do indeed begin to make some progress. Meanwhile, however, Prince Albert's older brother Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) makes a royal botch of his own marriage plans, thrusting him even further into the spotlight, even as another famous public speaker is stirring up trouble on the continent.

This film includes examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Sir Michael Gambon plays George V. He had previously played that king's father and predecessor Edward VII in The Lost Prince.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Bertie's response to his wife telling him that Wallis called her "the Fat Scottish Cook" is to remind his wife she is not fat. When his wife claims she is getting fat, he says "Well, you seldom cook." It takes a moment, but she chuckles in the end.
  • Affectionate Nickname: "Bertie" for Albert. He first chafes at Lionel insisting on calling him that since it's reserved for his family, but once the two become friends as they work together, he no longer minds.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Bertie's daughters. They have a whole "stable" of stuffed horses. Truth in Television, as the future Queen Elizabeth II was an enthusiastic equestrienne.
  • Always Second Best: Bertie to his father and brother. Neither has a speech impediment, to start.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • The film opens with Bertie giving the closing address at the 1925 Empire Exhibition. The BBC announcer introduces the program as "National Programme and Empire Services," two separate BBC radio services which would not be launched for at least five years.
    • Following his 1934 Christmas speech, George V tells Bertie that they face grave threats with "Herr Hitler intimidating half of Europe, and Marshal Stalin the other half." In reality, Hitler consolidated power in 1934 and did not make territorial demands until a few years later, and while the Soviet Union had supported a number of revolutionary movements, by the 30s these had been abandoned, largely due to the rise of fascism, and they were focused on internal matters which culminated in the Great Purge. Moreover, Stalin did not award himself the title of "Marshal" until World War II. At the time, he would have been addressed as "Comrade Stalin," or even "Secretary Stalin," as he was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
  • Angrish: Inverted, as Albert actually stutters less when he's pissed off. It becomes part of the speech therapy.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • "SHIT! AND FUCK! AND tits..."
    • Wallis Simpson is not just an American divorcee, she's also sharing her favours with a used car salesman and getting roses from the German ambassador. Of course, said ambassador is Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Britain's future relations with Germany are not looking good.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The film's timeline is heavily compressed compared to real life, turning a period of fifteen years into just a couple. For starters, the real George VI first started meeting with Logue the year before his daughter Elizabeth was born, many years before the abdication crisis, while in the film they keep the same child actress for the entire story.
    • For that matter, Bertie's stutter is exaggerated for dramatic reasons. He was known to be at least a decent orator, with Logue's help, as early as 1927, when he opened Australia's parliament on behalf of his father, King George V. Though the stress of coronation did set his speech progress back.
    • About the previous, a couple of minor details: George VI did not really have to bounce on "peoples" in the speech listen here. He did bounce a bit on "a-depth" of feeling a few seconds later. And Lionel was not really seated in the royal box, but in the box just above it, where he and Myrtle had a splendid view.
    • Logue's Bunny-Ears Lawyer traits are significantly amped up in this film. The real Logue does seem to have been an unorthodox therapist that relied a lot on humor, but there's no record that he ever swore in front of the king, called him "Bertie", sat on his throne, or subjected him to so many other shenanigans.
    • The movie doesn't mention it, but Logue and Bertie were both Freemasons; one of the tenets of Freemasonry is that while worldly distinctions of rank, class, caste, religion, etc. may exist among Brothers, all Masons "meet upon the Level." This was the basis of his ability to leave his princehood outside the studio.
    • George V is shown to be rather curt and impatient with Bertie, implying a basic lack of respect. The real George V, however, generally preferred Bertie to his eldest son, and during the First World War, the two had become very close when the latter (who was serving in the Navy at the time) had to spend a long time out of action because of various gastric conditions, including appendicitis and a stomach ulcer. They exchanged very fond letters to each other, and it was at this period that the king came to think so highly of Bertie.
    • Edward and Bertie had three younger siblings (Mary, Henry, George, and John — the latter died a decade before the events of the movie). Mary never appears in the movie and isn't mentioned at all, while Henry and George only make a "blink and you'll miss it" appearance in the background of abdication scene. In real life, George was a personal aide-de-camp to Edward and Bertie during their respective reigns, while Bertie and Henry were very fond of each others. The original screenplay involved a conversation between Churchill and the Archbishop regarding the suitability of Henry and George as alternate kings, with them being dismissed as a Depraved Bisexual and a dimwit respectively (though in real life, Henry was the one seen as not very bright, while it was George who was rumored to be bisexual).
    • George was a strong supporter of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy, going so far as to breach protocol and endorse Chamberlain's policy prior to the sitting of the House of Commons (though the film doesn't really say otherwise, it only more or less skips over the 1937-1939 period). This was actually the consensus attitude for the period (which makes a great deal more sense when you remember that Britain had only just started to recover from the devastation of WWI), something most people tend to overlook in favour of just blaming Chamberlain. The film also has Stanley Baldwin resigning over misjudging Hitler, which wasn't the case; he was simply ready to retire after fifteen years as leader of the Conservative Party.
    • The film also gets Churchill's position on the abdication crisis exactly backward; historically, Churchill was one of the few who was supportive of Edward, as Churchill's own mother was an American socialite, and he felt the government was overstepping its bounds by telling Edward who he could or couldn't marry — albeit Churchill's concerns in the film about Edward's Nazi sympathies were very much shared by his real-life counterpart. This was likely a case of Reality Is Unrealistic at work, as Churchill is such an iconic figure that chances are a lot of British audience members simply wouldn't have believed that he could have been on the "wrong" side of history on such an important matter, and would have accused the film-makers of giving him a Historical Villain Upgrade.
    • Similarly, Churchill and King George VI are depicted as having a friendly relationship, but actually, at the period depicted in the film, George disliked and distrusted Churchill, because Churchill had been one of the most loyal defenders of Edward VIII, and had even suggested polling the people to see if they thought Edward ought to be allowed to continue as King while marrying Wallis. This didn't change until Churchill became PM, which happened after the period shown in the film: once Churchill was reporting to George on a regular basis, they became much more friendly and George came to think that he couldn't have had a better wartime prime minister.
    • In real life, there was no reason why Churchill and other high ranking officials would be there during the king's speech. The writers admitted to do it on purpose due to their relevance.
  • Artistic License – Politics: Stanley Baldwin is shown informing George VI that he is resigning, and that he will be succeeded by Neville Chamberlain. Technically that decision isn't Baldwin's to make, but rather George's; the most that Baldwin could do was advise George who should succeed him, and by tradition the monarch always accepts that advice, but Baldwin telling the monarch who the next PM was going to be would be seen as a serious breach of protocol. In fact, Baldwin of all people should remember this part of the process, seeing how George V selected him as Prime Minister over Lord Curzon when Bonar Law was bedridden and close to death, and thus unable to offer any advice on who should succeed him.
  • As You Know: George V reminds Bertie that Edward will be king, delivered with sardonic disgust.
    George V: Your darling brother, the future king...
  • Autopilot Artistry: Lionel proves to George that his stutter is psychological in origin by asking George to recite a passage of text while loud music is playing through headphones. George's stutter disappears entirely when he can't hear his own voice.
  • Badass Boast:
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Mrs. Simpson.
    • Bertie thinks David is joking when the latter grouses that their father George is deliberately dying at the moment most calculated to make his son's life more difficult. Then David adds, entirely seriously, "Wallis explained. She's very clever about these sorts of things."
    • After George V's death, on their way to meet David and his paramour at Balmoral Castle, Elizabeth is upset to see that the staff are, on Mrs. Simpson's orders, cutting down hundred-year-old trees just to improve the view. "Who does she think she is?" Bertie reminds her that they all have to try to be nice.
    • Elizabeth immediately calls out Wallis' faux-pas on her greeting Bertie and Elizabeth at Balmoral and showing them to where David is. No matter what stage of the relationship, Wallis still technically isn't royalty and David should have been the one introducing them to Wallis in accordance with Bertie and Elizabeth's position.
  • Berserk Button: An Invoked Trope by Lionel on several occasions (most notably when he sits in the Coronation Chair at Westminster Abbey) as Bertie doesn't stammer when he's angry.
  • Blah, Blah, Blah: While rehearsing the Coronation speech with the future king, Lionel condenses the Archbishop's words down to "rubbish, rubbish, rubbish..."
  • Blatant Lies: George V seems less appalled by his son David's affair with a married woman than the fact that David can look his father straight in the eye and swear up and down that they've never had "immoral relations".
  • Bling of War:
    • George's uniform — full regalia — at his accession council.
    • Later he's seen in his actual naval uniform from World War I, which is quite understated by comparison, but still sharp.
  • Bowdlerization: In order to maximize the film's profits, the film - an Oscar-winning feature - was re-released in the United States with some content cut out to avoid an R rating. The recut film, released in theaters around and after the Oscars, had the PG-13 rating attached to it. (See Cluster F Bomb, below, for most of what got cut.) note 
  • Brick Joke: The shilling. The first therapy session has Lionel bet a shilling, and much later, when the Bertie and Lionel make amends after their falling-out, Bertie returns the shilling.
  • British Stuffiness: Bertie is an uptight and proper man, to put it mildly. Arguably, the movie presents British Stuffiness itself as one of the causes of his speech disorder.
  • Buffy Speak: Edward refers to his general gadding about as "king-ing."
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Lionel Logue. His methods are noted to be unorthodox and controversial. Hell, it turns out he's not even accredited or trained — he just happened to be excellent at treating people with speech disorders when people kept asking him to treat Shell-Shocked Veterans from the Great War. As he points out, there weren't any schools then, just thousands of wounded veterans who needed his help. No wonder his treatment was so effective. note 
  • Casting Gag:
    • Derek Jacobi's (Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury) presence is a Shout-Out to I, Claudius, which is about another stuttering monarch who succeeded to the throne unexpectedly, and it might also allude to him being Brother Cadfael. The former is explicitly pointed out in behind-the-scenes features.
    • Myrtle Logue is played by Jennifer Ehle, who was Firth's love interest in the series that made him a heartthrob. Although this movie only gives her and Firth a single scene together, they make a big deal out of it.
    • And then there's David Bamber's blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance as the amateur dramatics director who rejects Logue. David Bamber is probably best known for playing Cicero on Rome, yet another statesman with a speech impediment. He also appeared as creepy parson Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice (1995) with Firth and Ehle. And he additionally played Hitler in Valkyrie.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Very much indeed.
    • When Logue and Elizabeth meet for the first time:
      Logue: Maybe he should change jobs.
      Elizabeth (incognito): He can't.
      Logue: Indentured servitude?
      Elizabeth (Incognito): Something of that nature.
    • Soon after he learns he's to be king:
      Albert: I'm just a naval officer! It's all I know how to be...
    • At his Accession Council, Bertie is struggling with his speech to the Privy Councillor, and he looks above their heads to a large portrait of Queen Victoria. Then around at all the other monarchs' portraits looking down at him, finishing with his own father.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Albert breaks out nearly every trick Lionel teaches him during the last rehearsal scene (swearing, singing, etc).
  • Chekhov's Gag: When Lionel tries get Albert to bring up a topic to talk about, the latter responds: "Waiting for me to... commence a conversation, one can wait rather a long wait." Later, when Albert returns to apologize to Lionel, he tells him: "Waiting for a king to apologize, one can wait a long wait."
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Bertie tries to have a cigarette after a particularly bad session with a speech therapist. His hands are shaking too much, though, and his wife lights it for him. He lights up again (despite Lionel trying to discourage him from the habit) after his argument with Lionel in the park.
  • Clock Discrepancy: When Bertie comes to tell David that he is late for dinner, David reminds him that their father ordered all the clocks set fast and winds the hands back on a mantle clock by half an hour. According to royal biographers, this is Truth in Television.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: A single scene features Albert swearing at length.
    "Fuck. FUCK! Fuck, fuck, fuck AND FUCK! Fuck, fuck AND BUGGER! Bugger, bugger, BUGGERTY BUGGERTY BUGGERTY, shit, shit, ARSE! Balls, balls, FUCKITY, shit, shit, FUCK AND WILLY. WILLY, SHIT AND FUCK AND tits."
  • Commonality Connection: Before the climactic speech, Bertie is surprised to learn that the famously erudite and powerful orator Winston Churchill both hates talking on the radio and suffered a childhood speech impediment himself.
  • Daddy's Girl: The King has two adorable little girls, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, and he makes it very clear how much he loves them. A charming case of Truth in Television.
  • Dark Horse Sibling: Nobody expects much of Prince Albert because of his shy personality and severe stutter, but when his older brother Edward abdicates the throne, he becomes King George VI of England.
  • Genteel Interbellum Setting: Pretty much all of the movie takes place in this, though you don't see a lot of the tropes commonly associated with it.
  • Dead Air: Most notably in the first speech shown where he stood there for over two minutes trying to talk into the microphone without being able to get anything out. Even after that, he's still stammering and pausing as everyone looks on in shame and embarrassment.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Good ol' Lionel.
      Lionel: [as George "Bertie" is lighting up a cigarette] Please don't do that.
      Albert: I'm sorry?
      Lionel Logue: I believe sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.
      Albert: My physicians say it relaxes the throat.
      Lionel Logue: They're idiots.
      Albert: They've all been knighted.
      Lionel Logue: Makes it official then.
    • Bertie is pretty good at this himself.
      Lionel Logue: Surely a prince's brain knows what its mouth is doing?
      Albert: You're not well acquainted with princes, are you?
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • When Lionel forbids Prince Albert from smoking in his office, he calls the knighted doctors who recommended the prince to smoke for the good of his larynx "idiots". However, back in The Roaring '20s, that makes Logue an eccentric while modern audiences would know that a doctor giving such an advice is practically grounds for medical malpractice. This also makes sense once we remember that Logue had worked with plenty of WWI veterans and had seen the effects of gassing on young men. Bertie in turn was a turret captain on one of the Royal Navy battleships at the same war, and cordite smoke actually does even worse things to a human lungs than tobacco, but even this taught him nothing. He still smoked like a chimney to the very end.
    • The disregard many characters have toward Logue's psychoanalysis seems ludicrous today. However, psychiatric treatment was still in its infancy, and speech problems were not thought to be solvable through psychological treatment.
    • Also, the idea of Parliament making a big enough deal objecting to King Edward's wanting to marry his twice-divorced girlfriend to resign en masse over it seems an overreaction to a modern audience, but the fact that she was believed to be a German spy kind of justifies their threat. Not to mention, the King of England is also the formal head of the Church of England, a church that at the time did not recognize this kind of divorce as legitimate, and so his intention to marry a twice-divorced woman was in direct contradiction to the church's doctrine. It seems silly from a modern perspective to make such a fuss over a divorce, but the king is not merely a head of state. For a modern comparison, consider what would happen if a newly elected pope came out of the closet. Also, part of the problem was that the Church of England only approved of remarriage after divorce if the other person had died in the meantime, making it the same as if a widow/er was remarrying. Wallis was still married/going through the divorce process with her very much alive second husband, thereby not fulfilling the 'widow' part of it.
    • Edward VIII was widely (and not without some basis) believed to be a Nazi sympathizer. It was actually quite a popular position at the time. Additionally, his Heroic BSoD upon the death of George V is treated by the other characters as an unseemly outburst which proves he doesn't have the temperament to be king, rather than an understandable reaction to the death of a parent.
    • Not to mention several characters making vaguely xenophobic jibes against Logue's Australian background. At the time, settlers of British colonies were seen by metropolitan Englishmen as a lesser class of people.
  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Bertie has several such moments in the film, when he is stunned to realize that Logue's methods have helped him overcome his stammer.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Invoked by Logue. Logue's more even temper contrasts with Bertie/King George's explosive one during any of their arguments or disagreements. Usually, all it takes for Bertie to calm down is Logue saying, calmly, the right thing to help Bertie see his position.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": Lionel Logue is insistent with future King George VI to call him "Lionel" and not "Doctor" and it turns out to be justified: Lionel is not a doctor, by any means, and if you check carefully, he has never once claimed that he was. He became a therapist by dint of helping PTSD-inflicted veterans of World War I in Australia. Albert is furious at first, but grows to accept it.
  • Doting Parent: One of Albert's most admirable traits. After his accession to the throne, it broke his heart that his beloved little girls did not run to hug him as a father, but coldly and formally curtsied to him as a King.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Referring to the publicly-important speech George VI delivers at the end, or to his personally-important speech, his way of speaking?
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Albert criticizes his brother Edward, who is heir to the throne, of acting unbecoming of the King of England. Edward thus accuses his brother of trying to take his place as king when what he was really trying to do was telling him to get his act together specifically because Albert didn't want to be king.
  • Dropping the Bombshell: "And what if my husband were the Duke of York?" Cue Oh, Crap! look when Lionel Logue finally recognises that he's talking to the Duchess of York.
  • The Dutiful Son: Comparatively rare instance where the dutiful son is the main character.
  • Elmer Fudd Syndrome: In addition to his stutter, Bertie can't pronounce the letter "r". This was Truth in Television.
    King George VI: In this gwave hour, perhaps the most fatefuw, in ower histowy...
  • Empathic Environment: The weather is mostly dull, overcast, or muted colors throughout the film, except for the last scene when Bertie/King George VI steps out to see the crowds gathered outside applauding his wartime speech. It's the only time the sun is shining without clouds, and the most triumphant moment of the film.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Bertie accedes to his daughters’ request to tell them a bedtime story. Someone as terrified of public speaking as he is might try to pass the duty to his wife, but the thought never crosses his mind. It's not that his stammer disappears when he's speaking in private - it's still there, albeit much better - it's that he loves his family so much that, unlike public addresses, he doesn't let his stammer stop him from showing them affection.
  • Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: When Bertie first meets his daughters after he became King, they formally curtsy to him, which depresses Bertie, who would much rather they had run and hugged him like they always do.
  • Exact Words: Throughout the film, Bertie attempts to keep things formal by calling Lionel "Doctor Logue," while Lionel insists on a first-name basis. Later, the king is told that Lionel actually has no certificates or qualifications at all. He's mortified and furious, until Lionel gently points out that Bertie was the one who insisted on calling him "Doctor" and that Lionel has never advertised himself as such.
  • Externally Validated Prophecy:
    • Edward's casual comment about the troubles in Europe, "Hitler will sort it out."note  While it could be considered merely naive, to modern audiences, that statement feels positively horrific and despicable to see the King of England want Nazi Germany to begin its rampage of mass death and destruction. Sadly enough, this is actually a favorable portrayal - in real life, Edward was a vocal supporter of Nazi Germany, guesting with Hitler multiple times, to the point that he had to be Kicked Upstairs to Governor of the Bahamas because the British government was that worried their once-king would try and sabotage the war effort.
    • Logue's comment to Bertie about how smoking will kill you. George VI continued smoking and died from lung cancer in 1952.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Bertie mentions that he always wanted to build models as a child, but his father collected stamps as a hobby, so they had to collect stamps.
  • Foil: While he only appears in some Stock Footage late in the film, Adolf Hitler is this to George VI. They're both heads of European states, but George is a poor public speaker whose role is largely ceremonial, but nonetheless cares deeply for the common man, even if he's not always the best at showing it. By contrast, Hitler was the absolute ruler of his country, and a famously magnetic speaker who was able to create a cult of personality around himself, but when it came down to it, merely saw the people he claimed to love and serve as nothing more than tools to serve his own ends, evidenced to brutal effect during the eventual fall of Nazi regime.
  • Foreshadowing: At Lionel's audition for Richard III (paraphrased): "That does not sound like a deformed creature yearning to be king. [...] We're looking for someone younger... and more regal." The words he speaks are also meaningful, mentioning the "son of York". Bertie is, after all, the Duke of York.
  • Friendly Address Privileges: Zigzagged. From the very beginning, Lionel insists on going by first-name basis, which the Duke refuses. Later on, though, as they bond, he seems not to mind "Bertie" any more, though he keeps calling Lionel "Logue" or "Doctor". At the end, in a Friendship Moment, the King finally addresses Lionel as "Lionel", while Lionel calls him "Your Majesty".
  • Friendship Moment: Bertie tells the Archbishop to seat Lionel in the King's box for the coronation. The Archbishop protests that the royal family is to be seated there. Bertie's response? "That is why it is suitable."
  • Gray Rain of Depression: Lionel comes to apologize to Albert after an argument and is told that the Duke is "too busy" to see him. He is shown the door and exits into the pouring rain. The aforementioned argument takes place in a light drizzle and a hazy fog with some sunlight.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Bertie is a downplayed example. He's generally controlled and rather stiff, but it doesn't take much to make him explode. This was Truth in Television: unlike his father and elder brother, but like his grandfather Edward VII, he was prone to outbursts of rage.
  • Happily Married: George VI and Queen Elizabeth; Lionel and Myrtle Logue. Also, though we don't see much of it, George V and Mary fit the trope in real life. For that matter, despite everyone calling David out for marrying her in the first place, David's marriage to Wallis Simpson was a long and happy one, too.
  • Hard-Work Montage: The speech therapy exercises. Over a few years, Bertie and Lionel engage in exercises to help with his speech impediment while Elizabeth observes, intercut with a of Bertie trying to address a public audience. Downplayed because Bertie is insistent his impediment is a physical problem while Logue has already sorted out it's more psychological, thus a Hope Spot moment in the middle of the montage where it seems like it's working only for it to fail because Logue's assumption is more to the actual problem.
  • Head-in-the-Sand Management: David, a.k.a. King Edward VIII:
    David: Don't worry, Herr Hitler will sort it out.
    Albert: [impatiently] Yes, and who'll "sort out" Herr Hitler?!
  • Historical Beauty Update: Colin Firth and Guy Pearce as the brothers George VI and Edward VIII, for starters (the originals were certainly not ugly; Edward VIII, in particular, was quite the ladies' man).
  • Historical Domain Character: Everyone, obviously.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Zigzagged with the characterization of Edward VIII. On the one hand, his image of a romantic man who gave up the crown for love is dissected, turning him into little more than a ditzy, uncaring socialite who really had no interest in - or business - being a constitutional monarch. On the other hand, Edward's vocal support for Nazi Germany is almost completely ignored, reduced to a single throwaway line (though in-keeping with the aforementioned "ditzy socialite" characterisation).
  • Hollywood History: The producers did take a few liberties with historical fact.
  • Hope Spot: The "training montage" where Logue is teaching Bertie through mechanics exercises is contrasted with a speech for the opening of an industrial plant. The first couple of cuts to the speech show Bertie implementing the techniques Logue teaches him and he starts out well, but the further into the montage, the worse Bertie's speech gets until he's reduced to the same state as the beginning of the film.
  • Hypocritical Humour:
    • Logue encourages Bertie to face his fears, only to hide in the corner when his wife unexpectedly walks in on the Queen, because he never told her he was treating a member of the royal family. Bertie tells him to stop being a coward and calmly steps out and greets Myrtle.
    • Logue disparages the knighted experts that Bertie has already consulted as officially-acknowledged idiots, but later asks for a knighthood himself.
  • I'll Take That as a Compliment: "Peculiar" is meant as an insult, but Logue seems to be genuinely proud of his nontraditional approach.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Bertie has 'something stronger' than tea after his father dies.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Edward VIII seems to operate on this. First, he thinks his father is deliberately feigning sick (i.e. dying) to make trouble for him and his mistress Wallis Simpson. He later thinks that Bertie's attempts to get him to actually do his duty are an attempt to take the crown from him.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: When Lionel won't go into the kitchen when his wife unexpectedly walks in on Queen Elizabeth, since she doesn't know he's treating a member of the royal family (see Hypocritical Humor above), Bertie says, "You're being a coward, Logue", to which Lionel replies, "Yes."
  • It's All About Me: David/King Edward VIII. His introduction has him voicing the opinion that his father is purposefully dying to make things difficult for him. He doesn't improve as the film goes on.
  • Jerkass: King Edward VIII, from what we see of him, is very rude towards Albert and more concerned with living the high life than with being a guiding voice for England. Also, he and Wallis were a pair of Nazi sympathizers, though the film only hints at this.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • King Edward is a borderline example, as he truly does love Wallis, and his speech for his abdication is touching. Abdicating to his brother was probably the best thing he ever did.
    • King George V: Bertie's speech problems are at least partly result of his abusive, controlling behavior, but he is genuinely concerned for the future of his nation and recognizes Bertie's character and bravery on his deathbed (though he never tells him so.)
  • Kick the Dog: The entire party at Balmoral Castle is an extended Kick the Dog on Edward's part, with a dose of Big Brother Bully to make things worse. He starts it by showing how lightly he takes to his duties as king, follows it by showing apathy toward Hitler's rising influence, and tops it all off by mocking Albert for his speech impediment just for daring to suggest he take leadership duties more seriously, to such an extent that Albert is unable to speak.
  • King Incognito: Elizabeth makes her first visit to Logue under an assumed name, and only reveals her and her husband's identity to get Logue to understand the gravity of the situation. Logue is quite naturally taken aback.
  • Kingmaker Scenario: Invoked; when Bertie reveals the Wallis Simpson scandal, Lionel pushes him to facing the fact that he might have to step up and become King. Bertie is furious, accuses him of treason and overstepping his bounds, and refuses to meet with Lionel until after his brother's abdication.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Colin Firth has a rather nice one, and it was even worked into the minimalist version of the film's poster.
  • Large Ham:
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Just before the Cluster F-Bomb drops:
    Logue: Do you know the F-word?
    Bertie: F... f... fornication?
    Logue: Oh, Bertie.
  • Lonely at the Top: Bertie, until Lionel offers himself as confidant and friend.
    Lionel: What are friends for?
    Bertie: I wouldn't know.
  • Love Ruins the Realm: Edward VIII's marriage plans cause his subjects no end of trouble. Most historians, however, think that this had the silver lining of allowing George VI to ascend, a much better choice for the throne in their opinion (his father agreed), given what was coming - though it wasn't so great for George himself, greatly exacerbating his health problems.
  • Meaningful Echo: "I'm sure you'll be splendid." Uttered first by the Archbishop, and then Myrtle Logue, and then finally at the end by the Late Queen Mother. Then Princess Margaret tells her father that he was "just splendid."
  • Meaningful Rename:
    • Albert gets one of these when he becomes King George VI. David also changes his name when he becomes king although it's not as meaningful and happens off screen.
    • For David/Edward, it's more of a case of Overly Long Name. David (full name Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Windsor), chose his first name as his regnal name, but went by David among his family.
  • Might Makes Right: Bertie, in his first wartime speech, describing Nazism as "stripped of all disguise, is surely the mere primitive doctrine that might is right."
  • Mouthing the Profanity: In the climax, Lionel encourages Bertie to swear in order to get him to overcome his stutter for the speech. Since doing so live on air would be disastrous, they both mouth the words instead.
  • Mr. Smith: The Duchess of York first goes to meet Lionel under the alias of Mrs Johnson, causing him to commit a number of unconscious faux pas before she reveals she's a member of the royal family. Johnson was the cover name used by the Duke of York when he was a serving naval officer during World War I.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The film's trailer, to convey the premise as concisely as possible, refers to Colin Firth's character as the King throughout (when in fact he spends a large part of the film as merely the Duke of York), even going so far as to redub the moment when Logue is informed who his new client really is.
  • No Antagonist: The closest thing to a true antagonist is David, and even then he's mostly a Jerkass at worst and the movie still has some 30 minutes left by the time he's out of the picture with the abdication crisis. Boiled down to basics, it's about Bertie trying to overcome a speech impediment to at least passably do his public service speeches - a problem even before David was introduced to the story - and Logue's attempts to help him out despite their disagreements.
    • For extra context in how minor David actually is, it's also notable in that his speech is very much a Graceful Loser variety and, despite his earlier putting-down, concedes his abdication with nothing but well-wishes for George VI.
  • Noble Bigot:
    • George VI himself. He's a nice guy, but he's still a man of his time — and the 1920s was a time when white Australians are still looked down upon as descendants of prisoners (even though by this time they are now far outnumbered by immigrants, and Lionel himself descended from an Irish brewer who moved in 1850).
      Lionel: Would I lie to a prince of the realm to win twelve pennies?
      Albert: I have no idea what an Australian might do for that sort of money.
    • Prime Minister Baldwin, reporting on Wallis Simpson's activities to the King: "it's not that she's an American, that's the least of it..." It may be the least of it, but it really shouldn't be anything at all.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Lionel violates the 'don't touch royals' rule, when he first meets 'Mrs Johnson', causing her to take a step backwards, and when he lays a hand on Bertie's shoulder in the park scene, causing Bertie to lose his temper. However Bertie lays his hand on Lionel's shoulder in a Friendship Moment at the end of the movie.
  • Odd Friendship: Pretty much the whole point of the movie. Promotional materials even played up the unique friendship of the Duke of York and an Australian-born commoner.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: The Duchess of York in her initial meeting with Lionel.
    Lionel: Am I considered the enemy?
    Elizabeth: You will be, if you remain unobliging.
  • Oscar Bait: Fits the stereotype, though, as many commentators have noted, it's actually uncommon for this sort of film to win Best Picture since the 2000s (whereas it was very popular in the 1990s). It won for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay.
  • Overt Rendezvous: Rather than discuss the matter in Lionel's office, Bertie takes him out for a walk in the park (despite it being a cold and foggy day) to reveal the impending scandal about Wallis Simpson.
  • Performance Anxiety: Poor Albert has a crippling fear of public speaking, entirely justified both because he's naturally shy and because his stammer makes it nearly impossible for him to do at all. Extremely unfortunately, making important speeches happens to be one of his most essential job duties, and there's no way out of it.
  • Porky Pig Pronunciation: King George VI has a stutter, true to his real life counterpart.
  • The Power of Friendship: The friendship between Albert and Lionel was strong enough to help Albert gain self-confidence and break the normal social barriers to keep Lionel as his friend, even though Lionel was a commoner.
  • Really Gets Around: Wallis Simpson, David's mistress. According to the Prime Minister, Scotland Yard has investigated and confirmed that she is "sharing her favors" between David and a used-car salesman. More troubling is the fact that the German ambassador, Ribbentrop, sends her flowers every day - either he is also partaking of her favors, or he believes that flattering her is the best way to get David, and England, on Germany’s side. Or both.
  • Reluctant Ruler: Prince Albert/King George VI. He never wanted the throne, but seeing his wastrel brother screw up and abdicate for a twice-divorced, Nazi-sympathizer girlfriend, he has no choice in the matter. Likewise, Edward (who is more of the Rebel Prince variety) completely breaks down when he is told that he will be king.
  • Royally Screwed Up: George VI and Edward VIII both have a dose of this, thanks to their abusive father and distant mother. The former's speech impediment and nervousness is the result of his unhappy childhood, and it's heavily implied that the latter's weak-will and hedonism is likewise a result of that upbringing.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: George VI complains that he has no power as a King, except as being an inspiration for the people such as in giving public addresses, which he has no confidence in doing because of his stammer. However, with Lionel Logue's help, he does that role marvelously. This is in contrast with his brother, David, who seems more interested in carrying on with his mistress than being a competent king. Furthermore, Bertie earned the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy, and even saw combat during World War I. The uniform he wears during the final speech is just that, the uniform he wore in the last war.
  • Self-Deprecation: Thankfully, Bertie isn't too depressed about his problems to not make fun of them.
    Lionel: Do you know any jokes?
    Bertie: T-..timing is strong suit.
  • Serious Business: The BBC newscaster at the very beginning approaches his duties with an almost comical degree of seriousness. Apparently he prepares for each broadcast by performing vocal exercises and gargling...something...from a cut-glass decanter which is presented to him on a platter by a servant.
  • Sherlock Scan: Of sorts. Logue's children are able to tell what Shakespeare character he's playing with a single line of dialogue.
  • To Shakespeare: Shakespearean quotations often relate to events in the film.
    • Lionel auditioning for Richard III. Cut to Bertie (see Foreshadowing).
    • Lionel gets Bertie to read from Hamlet, "Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer. The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing, end them?" Bertie facing his fears and condition is a theme of the film. Likewise Lionel gives the "be not afraid" speech from The Tempest.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Albert's line about purposely stammering a couple times in the climactic speech "so they'd know it was me" was taken directly out of his diaries.
    • The movie was changed only nine weeks before production to work details from Lionel Logue's then-recently discovered diary in.
    • The crew went out of their way to show a grey, dingy London and "lived in" housing, contrary to period pieces usually looking somewhat soft
  • Shrinking Violet: Albert, whose stammer has made him deathly afraid of having to deal with crowds or public speeches.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Albert and David have several contrasting aspects to their personality.
    • David has a lover (who has been twice divorced and a Nazi sympathizer), despite his family's disapproval. Albert is Happily Married.
    • After his father's death and was told he would be king, David's breakdown in front of his family and the doctors was taken seriously as royalty was expected to have a Stiff Upper Lip. Albert only broke down once in front of his wife in private while otherwise remaining The Stoic in front of his subjects.
    • During his rule, David was very carefree and more focused in pleasing Wallis Simpson, even telling Albert that "Hitler will sort [the troubles in Europe] out". After he became king, Albert would become the guiding figure for his people during World War II.
    • David was a bit of a Jerkass, mocking his brother's stuttering and thinking Albert wanted to take over his place, while Albert was only trying to genuinely help his brother get his act together because he didn't want to be king.
    • Albert was a naval officer, while David is at least an amateur pilot.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: In-Universe, David and Wallis. The rest of the royal family is visibly disgusted.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Albert himself, used as a form of stress relief that allows him to speak more fluidly.
  • Socialite: Wallis Simpson's exact job title before becoming the Duchess of Windsor.
  • Somebody Else's Problem: Edward VIII's attitude toward rising tensions in Europe. The "somebody" in question? Adolf Hitler.
  • So Proud of You: The look on the former Queen's face when Albert gives the final speech.
  • Spare to the Throne: Albert never seriously expects to become King himself... until he does.
  • Spartan Sibling: When Bertie was younger, his father encouraged his brother to make fun of his stammer because he was convinced this would make it go away.
  • Speech-Centric Work: Well, it is a film all about speech therapy.
  • Speech Impediment: Albert has one, and overcoming it is the film's main premise.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: This is expected of royalty in particular, so much so that when Edward breaks down at the death of his father, rather than comfort him everyone looks shocked and a little embarrassed, with Albert saying, "What on earth was that?" Absolutely truth in television, too - at that time, among the royal family, his breakdown was completely unseemly. Note that when Bertie has his later on, the only person there to witness it is his wife. Also when Queen Mary is listening to King George VI, there is a glimpse of a smile, and then returns to a stiff upper lip. Upon accession to the throne Bertie did have a breakdown in real life, it was in front of the Queen Dowager (Queen Mary, his mother), not his wife.
  • Stutter Stop: Logue discovers that Bertie's speech impediment is reduced when he is singing, or swearing, or just very angry.
  • Take That!: When King George V tells Bertie that the royalty has become the basest of all creatures: actors.
  • Taught by Experience: Lionel became a speech therapist by treating shell-shocked World War I veterans and learning on the job; no courses existed then and he had to make it up as he went along.
  • That Came Out Wrong: When Lionel's wife comes home unexpectedly while he's meeting with the King, and he panics about her reaction. "I haven't told her about us."
  • There Are No Therapists: Or rather, there were none. Lionel cut his therapeutic teeth treating the speech disorders of shell-shocked World War I veterans, and quickly figured out that what they needed most desperately was a friendly ear. And as it turns out, Bertie had never had anyone to tell about the miserable childhood that fostered his stutter, including the fact that it took his parents three years to notice that the nanny was starving him. note 
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!:
    • Queen Elizabeth lets Mrs. Logue know how to address her and points out it's "Ma'am" as in "ham", not "Malm" as in "palm" when addressing her.
    • Invoked by Prince Albert to Lionel to call him "His Royal Highness". Defied by Lionel, who calls him "Bertie" instead.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: During the opening scene, shots can be seen of various dignitaries and people in the crowd realising exactly what they're in for during Bertie's agonising attempt at delivering the closing address.
  • This Is My Chair: Lionel riles George up by having the audacity to sit in St Edward's Chair, which is meant only for monarchs when they are being crowned. And not just sitting on it, but lying on it sideways like it was a lounge chair.
  • Throw It In: In-Universe. After George's speech at the end, Lionel says that he still stammered on the W. George replies that he had to throw in a few so that the people knew it was still him.
  • Title Drop: Right before the last scene, in reference to the first wartime speech by Bertie (now George VI).
  • Training Montage: Numerous reviews have compared the film to a sports movie like Rocky, except the sport is public speaking. Oddly enough, there's only two such montages in here. Director Tom Hooper had to be pushed to insert them by Geoffrey Rush, as he doesn't like the montage as a film device in the least. The first such sequence may be an Anti-training montage; Albert goes through a ton of humiliating exercises, juxtaposed with his latest speech in which he still sounds horrid. Of course, that's exactly what Lionel wants, since his point is that mechanics alone won't fix Albert.
  • Trickster Mentor: Logue. At some points, he flouts social mores and deliberately riles Bertie up to make a point. The pivotal scene where Bertie expresses himself without trouble started with Lionel lounging in St Edward's chair.
  • Uncertified Expert: Bertie always refers to Logue as "Doctor" (despite Logue trying to get him to call him "Lionel") until he learns that Logue isn't actually a doctor. He's furious at the deception, although Logue points out he never referred to himself as a doctor, he's just used to helping people with speech problems.
  • The Unfavorite: Albert was this as a child, as both his father and his nanny preferred his brother (at first, anyway.) His stuttering didn't help very much.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: George V was a bit of a Jerkass to his kids when they were young, leaving them feeling a bit alienated from him. Unlike most instances of this, by the time the story takes place, George V actually does approve of the adult Albert/George VI (though still frustrated by his speech problems), certainly compared to his older brother, but past experiences mean that Albert doesn't think he's sincere. In real life he expressed preference for Albert and his daughter Elizabeth (who was 9 years old at the time) over Edward for the throne toward the end of his life. His exact words were, "I pray to God that my eldest son will never marry and have children, and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne." George V's last words were acknowledgments of Bertie as superior to his brother, which he never actually told Bertie.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: During the film we see several speeches of Albert where he just can't get the words out. Then it cuts to the next scene. What happened? Did he give the speech? Did he just leave? Did he just stand there for 20 minutes?
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A very short one that notes Bertie and Lionel remained friends for the rest of their lives.
  • The Wicked Stage: King George V remarks on this when discussing the importance of radio with Bertie after giving his 1934 Christmas address. The king tells Bertie to try reading the speech himself, and when Bertie refuses, he replies:
    "This devilish device will change everything if you don't. In the past, all a king had to do was look respectable in uniform and not fall off his horse. Now we must invade people's homes and ingratiate ourselves with them. This family's been reduced to those lowest, basest of all creatures. We've become actors."
  • Young Future Famous People: George VI's daughter Elizabeth definitely counts. While she's mostly a background character during the film, her eventual ascendance is highlighted when Lionel tells Albert that if he takes the throne Elizabeth will become Queen. Albert, who is in firm "I don't want to be king" mode right now, tells him to put such silly thoughts out of his head.

Lionel: Forget everything else, and just say it to me.


Video Example(s):


The King's Speech

Bertie discovers that profanity stops his stammer.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / ClusterFBomb

Media sources: