The King’s Speech opens with Albert, the Duke of York (Colin Firth) delivering a speech to a large crowd. It is 1930 and London is gray and dreary. He stutters and speaks haltingly, and his family and the crowd are clearly uncomfortable. His wife Elizabeth, the Duchess of York (Helena Bonham-Carter) is shown taking him to many different speech therapists in London. One has him put marbles in his mouth and attempt to read, yet he can barely make a sound. He gets pissed off and it’s revealed he has a great temper, and he doesn’t stutter when he cusses. His wife is always gracious and supporting, and his doctors advise him to smoke cigarettes to relax his throat muscles.
Meanwhile his older brother Prince Edward of Wales (Guy Pearce) is cavorting with a married woman who is once divorced. Wallis Simpson is an American Socialite considered vulgar by the monarchy. King George V (Michael Gambon) is worried his son is not prepared to take the throne, and is constantly yelling at Albert to work on his ability to deliver speeches.
The Duchess of York goes to a sketchy part of town and meets Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist who insists that regardless of who her husband is, he must come to Lionel’s office to practice. During their first session they debate on what to call each other. Lionel prefers not to be called Doctor, and Albert prefers his full name which is Albert Frederick Arthur George. Lionel says they are equals in this room, and he will call him Bertie which is what his family calls him. He has Bertie put on headphones and listen to very loud classical music while reading Shakespeare’s “To be or Not to be” speech. After a few minutes Bertie loses his temper and says “what’s the use”. Before he storms out Lionel gives him the recording of him reading the speech. A week passes before Bertie listens to the record. He puts it on as his wife walks in the room and both are dumbfounded he read the speech without stuttering once. They decide to go back to Lionel as he’s clearly effective. This is kept private, and Lionel doesn’t even tell his wife or children.
Meanwhile, Hilter is gathering strength in Germany, and there is a lot of talk regarding his motives. Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall) is shown meeting with the King and his advisors. The King is clearly not in the best health, and everyone is worried about who the future king will be.
Per the Duchess of York’s instructions, Lionel is only to address the mechanical aspect of Bertie’s stutter, not anything personal. They do a lot of exercises to work on his speech: saying the same word over and over (he has trouble with some letters), running one word into another so he can say difficult sounds, performing tongue twisters, bouncing on the balls of his feet while speaking, breathing techniques (the scene in the trailer where his wife is sitting on his chest), and loosening up his body. Lionel also has him sing his words, as he doesn’t stutter when he sings. The two of them are clearly becoming friends, and Bertie makes it clear he’s never had any friends.
While Bertie speaks more easily with his wife, he has his stutter all of the time, including when he reads his daughters Elizabeth and Margaret bedtime stories. Lionel gets Bertie to talk about his past and when he first developed his stutter. He recalls it was at 4 or 5 years of age. His father said he was afraid of his father, and by God his children would be afraid of him. Both of his parents are shown as severe and not very affectionate. He also had to wear leg braces to straighten his legs when he was a child, and his older brother always made fun of him. Lionel provides a safe place for Bertie to speak his mind, and at one session he repeatedly yells curse words to vent his anger.
The King of England dies, and Prince Edward of Wales is now King Edward the VIII. He is very upset as he knows he will not be allowed to marry Wallis Simpson. He is now head of the Church, and marrying a soon to be twice divorced woman with two living husbands is not allowed. He is king for six months before he abdicates the thrown to marry Wallis, as she has just obtained her second divorce. He gives a radio broadcast to the nation where he lets them know he cannot be a good king without the support of the woman he loves. (Side note: When giving a radio broadcast, the king doesn’t speak in his own voice but adds a nasal quality to it so he sounds higher pitched not sure why.)
When Bertie finds out he will be King he breaks down and cries. He doesn’t feel he has what it takes to be a king, as he’s only a Royal Naval Officer. His wife comforts him and tells him why she refused his marriage proposal the first two times. It was because she didn’t want a life of royal duties and responsibilities. She finally agreed to marry him as she realized his “beautiful stutter” would keep him off the throne. During this time Bertie and Lionel have been estranged, as Lionel dared to tell Bertie that he thought he would make a fine king. Bertie is now King George VI in honor of his father, as they get to choose their royal name. He visits Lionel and asks for his forgiveness. They are practicing at Lionel’s house one day when Lionel’s wife unexpectedly comes home. She sees the now Queen of England sitting in her living room and is speechless. The Queen informs her that the first time they meet it is customary to call her “Your Royal Highness” and “Madam” after that.
The King is preparing for his coronation and brings Lionel to the Church (Westminster Abbey?) where the ceremony will take place. He introduces him to the Archbishop (Derek Jacobi) who is surprised that the King didn’t consult him in his search for a speech therapist. The King informs him that Lionel will be sitting with his family, which is clearly a big deal. The next time they meet at the Church the King goes off on Lionel for being a fraud. They checked his references and he’s not a doctor. Lionel calmly recounts his past in Australia. Men came back from the war (WWI?) and some couldn’t even speak they were so shell shocked. Lionel was asked to work with them and he helped these men return to living normal lives. When Lionel is finished, it’s clear the King believes him. They rehearse the ceremony, just the two of them and it’s evident that Lionel has helped King George VI find his voice.
It is 1939 and Hitler’s true intentions have become clear. The Prime Minister of England resigns and tells the King he is afraid for the future. The King has to give his first war time speech announcing that England has joined the war. He calls for Lionel who is rushed to the palace to aid him in preparing for a 9 minute speech. They practice, and while the King still stutters, Lionel helps him get through the speech word by word. When we see the actual speech later, it has red marks all over. The entire country has tuned in for the King’s Speech as he delivers it over the radio. At first he speaks haltingly, but then he delivers the speech as if Lionel is the only person he is speaking to - which he is, as it’s’ just the two of them in the room. His speech is strong and poignant, and it’s clearly a success. As he walks back through the palace everyone is applauding him. He reaches his family, and before they go out to the balcony (Buckingham Palace) to greet their people, he turns and gives Lionel a smile.
Before the credits roll, we’re told that King George VI and Lionel remained friends for the rest of their lives, and Lionel was present for every speech the king made. The king gave his brother Edward the title the Duke of Windsor. The King’s daughter Elizabeth II is now the current Queen of England.
NOTE: Here is the actual King's Speech:
You can send in your spoiler to other movies by going here.