Whether you’re relocating to London or simply interested in visiting, it goes without saying that this year’s Oscar Award-winning film The King’s Speech has sparked great interest in England and its history. My husband and I finally watched it on-demand this week and, like everyone else it seems, loved it. What a testament to good acting, cinematography, and story that an audience can remain so engaged without the rapid editing and bang! boom! pow! of the average modern movie.
Now that I’m off my soapbox about that ;), I thought I’d devote a couple blog posts this week and next to the miscellaneous questions our viewing raised…the Huh? moments, if you will, that such a quality flick can inspire and may inform you more on London.
These will be in no particular order, but I do recall my first “Huh?” regarded the King’s name…King George VI is referred to as “Bertie.” This is because before he was King, he was Prince Albert (his full name was Albert Frederick Arthur George), thus “Bertie” was short for Albert. Upon his coronation, he then assumed the official name of George that would denote his royal lineage, as is tradition in promoting the continuity of the throne.
Not many of the younger generation know much about the British monarchy prior to the current Queen Elizabeth (if, in fact, they know much more beyond the teenybopper magazines Prince William used to grace and the recent media frenzy surrounding his royal wedding to Kate Middleton). It’s certainly not because the previous generations were any less interesting, that’s for sure! So though I’d happened to already know this tidbit, one of my husband’s first Huh moments came about with Bertie’s brother’s abdication of the throne as King Edward VIII. Edward, the Prince of Wales (whereas Albert was the Duke of York—note that the Prince of Wales is traditionally first in line to succeed to the throne; today, this is Prince Charles) had only served as King for a few months after his father King George V’s passing when he’d proposed marriage to an American socialite en route to being divorced for her second time. This was perceived as utterly scandalous by royalty and government alike, so Edward had to make his choice. Well, considering Prince Albert stepped in to become King George VI soon thereafter, we all know what Edward chose…that fool for love.
Which had brought me to my next couple Huh? moments: to start, in the film the Prime Minister states to Bertie that the Church does not condone divorce and, as King at the time, Edward was head of the Church. This would be the Church of England, which King Henry VIII established in order to get around the Catholic church’s rulings against divorce so he could leave Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyne. Can you see why I was scratching my head on this, then?? Oh, but silly me…I really wasn’t thinking it through at the time. You see, while the Church of England has the structure in place to render divorce legal, it still has a strong stance against it. The Church supports marriage for life, and, unless a former spouse is dead, divorcees may not necessarily get to remarry in the Church. (For more information on this topic, see the BBC’s “Divorce in the Church of England” and The Church of England website).
Secondly, we recognized that the Prime Minister stating this was not Winston Churchill, though we’d thought the latter was PM at the time and he was present in the film. Thank you, Google… As of 1936 when King George V passed away and both Edward VIII and George VI were coronated, Winston Churchill was “in the wilderness” politically. He had served as Secretary of State for war and air from 1919-1921 and Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1924-1929, but in the 1930s his controversial views (against India’s self-rule, for Edward’s abdication, and for British rearmament against the future threat of Hitler) had all made Churchill unpopular. Nonetheless, when war did break out in 1939 (and King George VI made his famous speech), Churchill was made First Lord of the Admiralty and became England’s Prime Minister in 1940 when Neville Chamberlain resigned. Churchill’s courage against Nazi Germany gave the nation heart, and, well, the rest is history…
Join me Monday when I continue with my King’s Speech things that made me go hmm…(that’s right, I just made a shout-out to C+C Music Factory, yo!)…and that will perhaps make you go ah ha! as you prepare for your London move.