The co-author of the book, Peter Conradi, is a well-known professional writer and editor. From a piece I found online, it seems clear to me that Logue did the research and wrote the first draft – the book makes it clear that he was obsessed with the story, which quotes endless details from Lionel Logue’s archives – letters, diary entries, and much other minutiae, plus royal proclamations, and revisions that his grandfather made to documents. Conradi did the polishing. In the online interview I mentioned, he talked about spending three months or so on this work, which is based upon endless detail about Logue’s grandfather and the king.
I found this book absolutely riveting, and had trouble putting it down. The gist of the story is that Lionel Logue – an almost unknown, and self-taught, speech therapist – saved the British Royal Family in the first decades of the 20th century. He wasn’t an aristocrat or even an Englishman: he was a commoner, and an Australian to boot. Nevertheless, it was the outgoing, amiable Logue who single-handedly turned the nervous, tongue-tied Duke of York into one of Britain’s greatest kings after his brother, Edward VII, abdicated in 1936 over his love of twice-divorced Mrs. Simpson.
(An aside: My father was a British mariner during the Great Depression and WWII, and captain of a ship that brought supplies to the UK from America. He once told me that Edward had given up being the Lord Admiral of the Royal Navy to become third mate on an American tramp. It seemed funny, at the time.)
This book focuses on the remarkable relationship between Logue and the future King George VI. Researched and drafted by Logue’s grandson and drawing extensively from his grandfather Lionel’s diaries and archives, it brilliantly throws light on the intimacy of the two men, and the vital role the King’s wife – Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother – played in bringing them together to save her husband’s reputation and reign.
The book provides astonishing insights into a private world. Logue’s diaries also reveal, for the first time, the torment the future King suffered at the hands of his father George V because of his stammer – and mentions, in passing, that he was born left-handed. As was common in Britain’s upper crust in those days, this was seen as a defect, so his parents and servants insisted that he behave as if he were right-handed. This, the book suggests, likely contributed to his now-famous stutter.
The King’s Speech provides a wonderful portrait of the British monarchy from Great Depression through WWII and the defeat of Naziism to the deaths of these two men only months apart. The late Queen Elizabeth II also plays cameo roles, from the time she was a child.
Finally, there is the matter of the film we all adore, The King's Speech. Set in the 1930s, this 2010 British historical drama appeared the same year the book came out. That said, it only covers a small portion of the story. I recommend you watch the film after reading the book, or vice versa – or, as I did, both.
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