56 pages 1 hour read

Mark Logue , Peter Conradi

The King's Speech

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 2010

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Summary and Study Guide


The King’s Speech is a 2010 non-fiction book about King George VI and how he was treated for a speech impediment by the Australian Lionel Logue. Their unlikely friendship is credited for saving the British monarchy during a difficult time in world history. The King’s Speech was co-authored by Mark Logue (grandson of Lionel Logue) and Peter Conradi (an accomplished author of historical nonfiction) as an accompaniment to the Oscar-winning 2010 film of the same name. 

Plot Summary

The book begins in May 1937. King George VI wakes up on the morning of his coronation, already nervous. The British monarchy is facing “one of the greatest crises” (16) in its history following the abdication of Edward VIII. Also in London, an Australian speech therapist named Lionel Logue wakes up and begins to travel to the coronation with his wife Myrtle. The King is expected to deliver a speech, and the stammer he has suffered from since childhood has made this a difficult prospect. The streets are packed as the crowds gather to watch the ceremony. The coronation goes well. That evening, Logue travels to Buckingham Palace to help the King prepare for a radio broadcast. The next day, the King’s speech is hailed as a success.

Logue was born in Adelaide in 1880. He develops an interest in elocution and begins to perform speeches onstage for rapt audiences. He meets and marries a woman named Myrtle, and the two have a son together. They travel the world in 1908, leaving their son Laurie at home. They plan to move to Britain but do not do so until 1924. Logue becomes famous in Australia for his skills as a speech therapist. 

By the time the Logue family moves to Great Britain, they have three sons. The country is still recovering from World War I and an economic recession. Logue sets up a speech therapy practice. He develops a number of key techniques to treat speech impediments. 

The future King George VI is born in December 1895. His grandmother is Queen Victoria. With his brother, he is raised mostly by nurses and governesses, leading to a distant relationship with his parents. Whereas his brother is charming and fun, he has developed a terrible stammer. Bertie (as he is known) attends naval college and does not excel. His father is eventually proclaimed King. Bertie struggles to give speeches and frequently falls ill. In adulthood, Bertie slowly becomes his father’s favorite while his brother argues with the King and has developed a reputation for socializing. Bertie meets Elizabeth, and they marry, which pleases Bertie’s father, though his stammer remains an issue. Public speaking makes him incredibly nervous. One speech ends in humiliation for Bertie. Logue hears him speak and believes he can help. Bertie has sought medical advice, but it has always failed him. At Elizabeth’s request, Bertie agrees to meet with Logue.

Logue and Bertie meet at Logue’s office. Logue declares that he can cure the stammer but demands that his patient apply a tremendous amount of effort. They meet often, and two well-delivered speeches are seen as evidence of improvement. A royal trip to Australia goes very well, and Bertie is commended for his speech. The lessons continue.

Logue takes Myrtle to the Palace, where they are presented at court. Bertie’s improvement is noted in the press, though Logue declines to answer questions on the matter. The story is eventually published, and Logue is credited for his work, becoming famous. Bertie continues to toil and the beginnings of a real friendship between him and Logue emerge.

The narrative moves into the 1930s. Bertie is becoming more involved in the monarchy while his daughters are becoming world famous. He visits Logue less frequently but remains in touch. The Great Depression affects both men’s families. King George V dies in 1936, precipitating change for both men.

Edward takes the throne as a popular King, but his romantic relationship with twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson is scandalous. When he announces that he wants to marry Wallis, he is told it is not possible. Edward abdicates the throne. Bertie takes the throne as his brother leaves the country. Bertie becomes King George VI. His speech impediment is now an even bigger issue, even if his treatment has been going well.

Logue helps the new King prepare for his coronation. There will be a speech to the crowd and a radio broadcast for the Empire. Rehearsals do not go well, though the Queen is a calming influence. A back-up recording is made from practice speeches in the event that something should go wrong.

Both speeches are a triumph. Logue continues to help the King prepare his speeches. The monarch’s new workload is notably draining. The King delivers a Christmas day speech in the mold of his father, which Logue helps prepare. They spend Christmas day together, and the King gives Logue a present as a means of thanking him. Myrtle returns to Australia, where she is treated like a celebrity. Everyone wants to know about her husband’s work with the King.

As Europe moves closer to the Second World War, the King travels to Europe. He delivers speeches and meets with President Roosevelt. Logue grows closer to the royal family, and when the King returns from America, they chat informally about the trip while preparing for a speech.

The Second World War begins. The Logues’ Bavarian cook returns to Germany. Air raid sirens encourage everyone to move to shelters. The King and Logue prepare a special radio broadcast to reassure people. Rationing is introduced. The Christmas speech becomes a yearly tradition.

The war continues. The King’s hair is beginning to grey as he and Logue prepare a speech for Empire Day. Logue listens to the speech, marveling at the progress the King has made. The King is proud. The Nazis are winning in the war. Logue’s eldest son is conscripted. London is bombed. Logue assists with another Christmas speech. As he listens, he stops following along because he realizes that there is no need.

By 1943, the war has turned in the Allies’ favor. The King visits North Africa. All three Logue boys are now serving in the military. Logue’s business suffers due to the war and the King donates £500 as a means of thanking Logue. They prepare a speech for the eve of D-Day, which is a great success. The war continues, as does the bombing of London. The King delivers the Christmas speech without Logue, and it is a great success.

The Allies win the war. The entire country celebrates. Later, while Logue is undergoing surgery, Myrtle suffers a heart attack. Logue is devastated. Logue continues to work, though he sells the large (and now empty) family house. He is lonely and develops an interest in psychics. The King’s daughter marries, and the King’s health worsens.

The King delivers his final Christmas speech in 1951 and dies in his sleep a short time later. He and Logue corresponded up until his death. Logue recovers from his own illness to write to the Queen, mourning the loss of her husband. Princess Elizabeth is crowned Queen Elizabeth II. Logue dies in 1953 as a result of kidney failure. He does not survive to see Elizabeth’s coronation, though he is invited.