March 1

The book of that magnificent film about a beloved King

You can now buy the book of the film at a special price of $15.55 including postage. Unusually, it is the exciting sequel to the film – just click here

In the meantime, Christopher Hitchens has continued his bitter attack on the film The King's Speech, (Slate  21/2; The Australian 28/2))

Pausing in his campaign against God, he complains about a ”cult of hereditary monarchy and of seeking to bask in its tawdry glare”.

He says the film “part white washes and part airbrushes the consistent support of Buckingham Palace roe Prime Ministers Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain and their unceasing attempt to make an agreement with Hitler that would allow him a free hand in Europe while preserving the British Empire.”

…simplification of British foreign policy

This is an extraordinary simplification of British foreign policy in the thirties.

He says that Chamberlain’s deal at Munich handed over the people of Czechoslovakia. Not so; the agreement was on 28 September 1938 to hand over the mainly German populated Sudetenland.

it was not until 15 March 1939 that Hitler moved on what was left of Czechoslovakia having engineered the “secession’ of Slovakia and Carpathia-Ruthenia. sube  

This was not part of the Munich agreement – it was in breach of it.


Chamberlain had mistakenly believed he was dealing with a man who would honour the agreement, just as General Percival thought he was dealing with an army which would behave honourably and in accordance with international law after the surrender at Singapore.

Chamberlain was as wrong as Percival was. Churchill was right. In Australia most of our leaders agreed with Chamberlain. They had run down our defences in the thirties putting all their faith in the Singapore fortress and the Royal Navy.

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…peace in our time…

It is true that receiving Chamberlain after Munich and standing with him on the Buckingham Palace balcony was unwise.

[Continued below ]

It is true that receiving Chamberlain after Munich and standing with him on the Buckingham Palace balcony was unwise.

But it was not a serious constitutional breach; the country was delirious with the belief that the Munich agreement had achieved “peace in our time”.

 Britain, Europe and Australia were understandably haunted by their terrible losses in the First World War – there was an overwhelming desire not to repeat this.

…no more territorial ambitions…

Hitchens attacks Lord Halifax with all the benefits of hindsight.  Halifax was not the evil man he implies.  Like many other people at the timehe assumed that Hitler's word could be relied on, that he had no further territorial ambitions.

When the War Cabinet had to decide whether Britain should seek terms after Dunkirk, Halifax and Chamberlain argued in favour of this.

But when the majority ruled against them they supported Churchill without reservation in the House of Commons. In other words they behaved impeccably.

…alone with our King…

In 1939 Britain and the Commonwealth bravely stood almost alone…with their King and their Queen.

Of course the makers of the King's speech have taken liberties. So do many filmmakers and playwrights.

And there are errors. As I mentioned here Stanley Baldwin would never have informed The King that as a result of his resignation, Neville Chamberlain was now Prime Minister. The choice of the Prime Minister was for The King.

 

But the essence of the film is true. It is the story of a brave but reluctant monarch who had seen active service but laboured under a personal disability. He was to emerge as the beloved leader not only of United Kingdom but of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and of the Commonwealth and Empire.

The film confirms what Australians knew: King George VI was a brave and honourable man, who gave the Commonwealth leadership we needed when we were almost alone in the world against the forces of darkness.

The effect of his measured voice coming across the short wave was an inspiration to the armed forces and to the civilian population, not only in the Commonwealth but also in countries under occupation and in the neutral countries yet to join us.

It may be difficult for those not alive then to appreciate the loss which Australians felt on his untimely death, with the sure  knowledge we had that this was hastened by his constant attention to duty and his determination never to flee and never to surrender.

…the book…

 

My advice to those who see the film is to read, before or afterwards, not the book of the film, but the book which complements the film.  

This is The King’s Speech by  Mark Logue and Peter Conradi. Published by Quercus Publishing Plc, it also draws on important information not available until after the story had been filed.  Months after the film was completed, a considerable cache of Lionel Logue’s letters to and from The King, manuscripts and press cuttings were found.

This book can purchased at a special price – at the time of writing A$15.55. This price is free of taxes and postage and comes at a substantial discount. Just click here

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