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The King's Speech tells the true story of King George VI. When his brother abdicates rule, George ‘Bertie’ VI (Colin Firth) must reluctantly assume the throne. Tormented by a nervous stammer and largely considered inadequate to rule, Bertie hires speech-therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to overcome his affliction.
The office of Lionel Logue, where a majority of the speech therapy takes place, was a gay porn set before filming of the King's Speech began.
Prince Albert and his wife Elizabeth at Wembley Stadium
The film opens on Albert Frederick Arthur George, the Duke of York (Colin Firth), son of King George V, making a speech at Wembley Stadium — one of the first speeches to be broadcast on radio. Since a young age, he has suffered from a speech impediment, and this becomes painfully clear as he begins to stammer his way unsuccessfully through his speech.
Though he is not the immediate heir apparent to the throne — this title is held by his older brother, Edward (Guy Pearce) — he is still expected to perform public functions, and is thus under constant pressure from his father (Michael Gambon), who seems unable to understand why his son cannot speak properly. After many failed attempts with an assortment of doctors, Albert's wife Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (played by Helena Bonham Carter), desperate, seeks out the help of a speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) who is known for a somewhat unorthodox approach. Initially reluctant, Albert agrees to meet with him after suffering further indignation.
Logue insists on creating a friendly, personable atmosphere, something that Albert (whom Logue insist on called Bertie, a name normally reserved for family members) finds highly uncomfortable. He also insists on drilling into the Duke's younger and personal life, trying discreetly to figure out what it was that caused the stammer. Eventually, the tension comes to a head as Logue, who insists on being referred to as Lionel, bets Bertie that he can speak normally within moments. Handing him a copy of Hamlet and giving him a pair of headphones which are playing rather loud classical music, Lionel records Bertie reciting Shakespeare. However, unable to hear himself, Bertie quickly loses his temper, believing that he is stammering just as terribly as ever, and storms out, albeit accepting the unlistened-to recording as a keepsake.
Speech therapist Lionel Logue at his office
Later, upon finally hearing the recording that was made, Bertie his amazed wife return to Lionel and agree to enlist his services, providing he stay out of the personal details and simply repair the mechanics of Bertie's speech. He agrees, and the two begin daily lessons in which they practice various vocal exercises. They seem to work, as Bertie's speech improves slightly—enough that he can just barely speak publicly without complete embarrassment. Meanwhile, all is not well with the royal family as George V falls terribly ill, and eventually passes away. Distraught, Bertie appears at Lionel's office and finally begins to talk about his childhood; one that is full of abuse and neglect.
Edward becomes King Edward VIII in place of George, but having always been somewhat of a roguish womanizer, he seems far more obsessed with marrying his current lover, a twice-married American woman, than with the affairs of the state. This would be a terrible blow to the authority of the crown, as the Church of England (of which the king is the head) does not recognize divorce. The controversy rises to national attention, and Bertie attempts to dissuade his elder brother from his notions and tend to his duties as king. In return, Edward accuses his brother of eyeing the throne, and taunts him to the point that Bertie cannot get a word out through his stammering. He brings this up with Lionel, who, again interested in Bertie's childhood and what the cause of his fear might be, suggests that there is no reason Bertie could not be a fantastic king. He refuses to recant his statement despite Bertie's warnings that he is approaching treason, leading the two to part angrily with no intention of ever reconvening.
Unfortunately, Lionel's words would prove to be prophetic, as Edward eventually chooses his love over his duties and abdicates the throne. Facing the prospect of once again speaking publicly—this time with more pressure than ever before—Bertie returns to a repentent Lionel, and the two agree to resume their previous relationship.
The two go to Westminster Abbey to rehearse the coronation ceremony, where they happen upon the Archbishop Cosmo Lang (Derek Jacobi). The archbishop is first stunned at Bertie's request that Lionel sits in the king's box with his family ("that is why it is appropriate," he remarks), then at Lionel's demanding complete use of and privacy in the Abbey to rehearse the phrases the king must say in his coronation. Bertie makes it clear that he stands by the speech therapist, and the three agree that the rehearsal could occur later that evening.
King George VI, stammering once again under the pressure
By the time Lionel returns to the Abbey that evening, however, Bertie has heard back from his inquiries into his new friend's background, and confronts him with his complete lack of training or accreditation. Lionel, unapologetic, states that his entire base of knowledge comes from personal experience, particularly with treating Australian soldiers coming home from the first Great War unable to speak. He found great success in simply being there to listen to their stories and their fears, and in being a friend. Eventually, the two get to arguing loudly, with Lionel sitting casually in the chair reserved for the king, until eventually Lionel goads Bertie into shouting "I have a voice!" The two contemplate for a moment what Bertie has just said, while the archbishop rushes in, demanding to know what sort of nonsense is occurring. He asserts that he has found a "proper" therapist, but by now Bertie has realized his error and once again affirms his confidence in Lionel. The two rehearse jovially, and the coronation is by all measures a success.
The joy is short-lived, however, as Adolf Hitler's gathering storm is brewing rapidly to the east. Britain is dragged into war, and the people are depressed and downtrodden. The king is to make a speech reassuring the people and reminding them of their moral responsibility, again on the radio. Logue is called in and the two comb over the speech looking for ways to get through the more difficult sections. Before they can be fully prepared, however, Bertie is forced to leave and go live.
In the room with the microphone, which Lionel has redecorated to be less intimidating, Bertie stands alone with his therapist as the countdown to the speech winds down. Lionel reassures Bertie and tells him to speak as if to the two of them only. The speech is, with a few exceptions ("I had to throw a few in there so they would know it was me"), a resounding success, and after thanking each other, a much more confident King George VI steps out onto the balcony to overlook the royal grounds upon which thousands of people are cheering him on.