Learning from Lionel

Tom Hooper’s film The King’s Speech is a great film and a perfect resource for coaches and those interested in personal development. The portrayal of the relationship between Lionel Logue and the Duke of York (later George VI) is a masterclass in the coaching process.

Colin Firth sees the relationship as that between two men “who are, relatively speaking, obscure, even though one is a member of the royal family. But he’s the second son and the one in the shadows and not only because of a speech impediment but because of his shyness and his unwillingness to put himself forward.”

Caroline Bowen (2002) provides a great deal of information about Lionel Logue including his work in World War 1 with soldiers returning home from war. Suzanne Edgar has written about Lionel Logue in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

A link from Caroline Bowen sent me off to find Margaret Drabble’s Public Speech and Public Silence lecture (2001). In her lecture Margaret Drabble notes that:

George the Sixth was not born to the crown, he had the crown and the burden of public broadcasting unexpectedly thrust upon him. Bertie, as George the Sixth was known, is recorded to have stammered from the age of six, and his biographer Robert Lacey relates that ‘His brothers and sister were allowed to make fun of his stammer, ragging him without mercy after the style set by his father’s quarter-deck chaff, and he withdrew still more tightly into himself.’ … As a child Bertie was prone to bouts of self-pity and fits of explosive rage: he was also bottom of the class. And he was naturally left handed- what is known as ‘a misplaced sinister’- was this, some speculated, according to a current theory, the cause of his problem? Unlike a writer, he was not allowed to choose public silence. He had to speak. He struggled bravely, but, despite the help of an Australian-born speech therapist called Lionel Logue, he never overcame his dislike of public speaking, and especially of broadcasting. He rehearsed everything with Logue and dreaded last minute alterations to his text: the Sovereign’s Speech afforded him an added difficulty as it had to be delivered sitting, not standing. Occasionally, he was able to be pleased with his efforts: in 1940, his diary records that his he was very pleased with the way he delivered his speech on Empire Day- ‘it was easily my best effort. How I hate broadcasting.’

Caroline Bowen points out that no one really knows what Lionel’s methods were.  A post in the Sydney Morning Herald quotes Mark Logue, Lionel’s grandson ”Whatever it was that he did with the king, or indeed with his other patients, he didn’t pass it on, because he had no students and didn’t leave any records. In fact, he may not even have been administering speech therapy in the accepted sense but instead a combination of psychotherapy and dialogue coaching.” (Postscript: see Richard Oerton’s account of his treatment by Lionel Logue and interviews with Lionel Logue’s patients in The Real King’s Speech.)

Geoffrey Rush in his role as Lionel Logue demonstrates remarkable, inspirational pedagogical skills. Colin Firth exemplifies the patience required in learning and the resilience that makes change possible. Lionel’s and George VI’s wives underscore the critical role partners play in supporting and prompting learning. All four model how learning is possible in a most delightful way. This is a link to the recording of George VI’s speech in 1939 on the outbreak of the Second World War.

Mark Logue is the custodian of the Logue archive and has written about Lionel’s work in The King’s Speech: How one man saved the British monarchy. (Book review.)

Photo Credits

Both pictures in this post are taken from the Sydney Morning Herald post of 10 November 2010. The first picture is of Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue and the second picture is Lionel Logue himself.

Postscript

From Caroline Bowen I have learned that The ASHA Leader has published the following articles:

·  Bowen, C. (2011, February 15). Lionel Logue: A Pioneer in Speech-Language Pathology

·  Kuster, J. M. (2011, February 15). At Long Last, A Positive Portrayal of Stuttering

·  Payne, K. T.  & Pearlman, R. (2011, February 15). SLP as Action Hero? Film Review of The King’s Speech

4 thoughts on “Learning from Lionel”

Leave a Reply