What, may you ask, has the King’s Speech to do with Tea?
The gift of Tea, and its quite splendid ceremony, is that it can transcend all barriers and provide universal connections across social status & generations. When the stuttering Duke of York initially visits his prospective speech therapist, Logue offers him a cup of Tea & insists on calling him Bertie. In another charming scene when the then King & Queen visit his home, Logue has laid the table all ready with gorgeous china tea pot and cups.
The King’s speech is an utterly British film about King George VI during the time of the abdication of his elder brother, King Edward VIII. It captures an iconic moment in time, when the world was turning on its axis and just about to be plunged into an almost unthinkable scenario to many, a second World War. Colin Firth, already tipped for an Oscar, is utterly brilliant as the stammering Bertie. Having seen the film, and read a few interesting reviews including the Guardian, BBC, & Mail, where Logue’s Grandson shares some fascinating undiscovered papers left to him by his father, what I adored was that iconic, and quintessionally British stalwart, tea, was at its very heart.
I adored the scene when Lionel Logue first meet’s the then Duke of York. The kettle in on & an offer of Tea is made!
Despite the social status of his patient, and unbeknown to any of them definitively at that point in time, soon to be the next king of England, the eccentric Lionel Logue recognises that his talent can provide the healing to lead a nation. This did not prevent the offer of and making a cup of tea while conducting his interview, completely at odds with how the Duke was used to being treated. Indeed, when a visit was made to Lionel Logue’s home, the table was laid splendidly with the best china all ready for tea time, with the then Queen happily helping herself.
The scene I loved the most though was when the then Duchess of York is being driven through the foggy streets of London to seek out Lionel Logue initially.
Having exhausted conventional treatments to cure her husbands stammering, she was prepared to take great risk. It often takes a desperate situation to act, love to follow it through, courage to persuade others to take that first step, and then finally bravery to conquer your innermost & deep-seated worst fears.The Duchess provided a pseudonym, and in one of the most touching and amusing conversations in the film, Lionel asks quite innocently if her husband can avoid public speaking by doing another job. Confessing her position then, Lionel becomes aware of the huge influence and help he can offer for such a prominent individual in serious need of speech therapy.
What if you had always lived in the shadow of your elder brother, with no expectation of the throne. At a time of great peril, on the verge of another world war, what if your main role was to do the thing you most struggled with?
Colin Firth is perfect as the Duke of York, then the people’s King, George VI. His portrayal of the unprecedented situation of his brother’s abdication that was unfolding around him, and his rising panic but huge integrity to do the right thing was incredibly touching. The film felt intimate, and although surrounded by wealth & privilege, you felt the Duke’s despair at the huge weight of responsibility, the dread & fear of his own short comings. It was clear there was not the slightest wish to be thrust into the lime light. The Queen knew the only way out was to conquer his stutter. In Logue’s Diary, and in letters between them, there is a very touching description of the relationship that had developed:
April 19, 1937 – Went to Windsor.
King in grey clothes, blue stripe. Came forward with a smile: ‘Hello Logue, so glad to see you. You can be of great help to me.’ Went through Coronation Broadcast speech and altered it considerably. King in excellent health, a bit stiff about jaw, most anxious to do best.
April 30, 1937
Went through Coronation speech with King. When I told him he took two reputations into the box with him, he said he knew he did, that’s why he was laughing. He is a good fellow and only wants careful handling.
The King’s Coronation – Wednesday May 12, 1937
A car took me to the Palace at 7 o’clock. Went upstairs and found His Majesty, looking very fit after his very emotional day. We went through the speech once, at the mike, and then back to his room, where the Queen joined us, looking tired but very happy. We discussed the Coronation, particularly the solidness of the Archbishop and I told the King how we all noticed he took over the doing up of his belt. He told me that in some Coronations, the King was naked to the waist.
Kept him talking right up to the loud speakers playing the National Anthem. The Queen said ‘Good Luck Bertie’ and he walked right up to the mike and began (the perspiration was running down my back). He went on beautifully, a splendid voice, flexible, slight trouble with one word… he had me so worked up, that I could not talk at the end.
In a few seconds, he walked out into his passage and gave me a warm pressure of the hand as he said ‘Good night Logue, I thank you very much’ and the Queen did the same, her beautiful, indescribably blue eyes shining.
I said ‘The greatest thing in my life your Majesty is being able to serve you’. She said ‘Good Night. Thank you’ and, softly, ‘God Bless You’. This bought the tears to my eyes and sent me feeling like a fool. I had a whisky and soda, a silly thing to do on an empty stomach, and the whole world began to go around.
Letters between the Queen Mother and Mr Logue
Feb 20 1952
The Queen Mother
There arrives a most wonderful letter from His Majesty on December 16th telling me all about his health and what he had gone through – unfortunately I had to go into hospital before I could reply.
The King’s letter is in front of me as I write, and I cannot realise that it is the last one I shall ever receive.
Since 1926 he honoured me, by allowing me to help him with his speech, and no man ever worked as hard as he did and achieved such a grand result.
During all those years you were a tower of strength to him, and he has often told me how much he owes to you.
I have never forgotten your gracious help, to me, when my own beloved girl passed on.
I have the honour to be your Majesty’s humble servant.
Feb 28 1952
Dear Mr Logue
I am so grateful for your kind letter, and very much touched by what you write – I am indeed sorry to hear that you have been so ill, so it was most kind of you to make the effort to write to me.
I think that I know perhaps better than anyone just how much you helped the King, not only with his speech, but through that his whole life, and outlook on life. I shall always be deeply grateful to you for all you did for him. He was such a splendid person, and I don’t believe that he even thought of himself at all – I did so hope that he might have been allowed a few years of comparative peace after the many anguished years he has had to battle through so bravely. But it was not to be.
I do hope that you will soon be better, and with again my heartfelt thanks, I am, yours very sincerely.
What do you do if the King & Queen are planning to drop by for a visit?
Dust off your best china, lay a lovely table cloth, and offer them a cup of tea of course! The gift of Tea, and its quite splendid ceremony, is that it can transcend all barriers and provide universal connections across social status & generations. Are you equipped for that all important visitor popping in for tea? Tea with Mary Kates does hope so.