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A previously unknown letter from King George VI to his speech therapist is being auctioned on April 29

By Phil Boucher
March 12, 2020 03:12 PM
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The King's Speech, King George VI
Credit: Weinstein Co/Uk Film Council/See Saw/Kobal/Shutterstock; Hulton Archive/Getty

A long-forgotten letter from King George VI to his speech therapist has revealed more about the true story behind Colin Firth’s Oscar-winning role in The King’s Speech.

Written at Windsor Castle on May 17, 1937 — just five days after the English monarch’s coronation — the letter details King George’s immense gratitude towards Lionel Logue for helping him to control his debilitating stammer.

“The Queen and I have just viewed the film of our Coronation, & I could not wait to send you a few lines to thank you again for your hard work in helping me prepare for the great day,” Queen Elizabeth‘s father says in the letter, which is scheduled to be auctioned on April 29.

“The success was due to your expert supervision and unfailing patience with me over recent months, & I truly don’t know how I could have done it without you,” the letter continued.

king george VI
King George VI’s letter
| Credit: Woolley & Wallis/ BNPS

Australian Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush in the hit 2010 movie) first helped the King to control his stammer in 1926 when he was the Duke of York.

As detailed in the movie — which also features The Crown star Helena Bonham Carter — Logue’s use of a number of revolutionary methods ultimately helped George to conquer both his stammer and his fear of speaking in public.

Thanks to this and George’s determination, the King was able to expertly read out his 1937 coronation speech on BBC radio, with the entire British Empire tuning in to listen.

“I want you to know how grateful I am, not only for your invaluable help with my speech, but for your devoted friendship & encouragement,” adds George in the letter.

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Lionel Logue
| Credit: Woolley & Wallis/ BNPS

“You know how anxious I was to get my responses right in the Abbey, the poor rehearsal adding greatly to my anxiety,” he added. “My mind was finally set at ease tonight. Not a moment’s hesitation or mistake!”

Yet this doesn’t mean the coronation went off entirely hitch-free either: the King’s letter goes on to reveal just how nervous he was on the eve of the coronation, and how he almost suffered just as many problems with the pen he used to sign his oath.

“The ink got all over my fingers,” says the King. “Fortunately, one can hardly make it out.”

king george VI
King George VI’s letter
| Credit: Woolley & Wallis/ BNPS

Alongside the letter, King George also sent Logue a silver-gilt cigarette case to thank him for his help. Bearing George’s royal cipher, this is also part of the auction lot, which will take place at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury, England. The starting price is $5,000.

“We believe this letter is the only example written to Logue by George VI, which has not been retained by the Logue family,” explains Rupert Slingsby from Woolley & Wallis.

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“Whilst our vendor realized the historical significance of the items, I don’t think he appreciated quite how valuable they could be to British collectors,” he adds.

“Before The King’s Speech, most people were unaware of the difficulties that George VI encountered with his stammer, but the enduring and endearing friendship between the King and Lionel Logue that emerged from that is especially evident in this new letter.”