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White Man Speakes With Forked Tongue
The King’s Speech might work well as feel-good fodder, but its portrait of George VI is fraudulent. On the other hand, Pat Robertson’s gone pro-pot...
Eamonn McCann, 16 Feb 2011
I hear that half the cinema seats of Ireland are still soppy with tears from people blubbing at the yarn of a stammering king triumphing over disability and inspiring his people to win a war against Hitler.
Movies about history don’t have to be factual. But they shouldn’t deliberately lie, either. The King’s Speech, which I have belatedly just seen, is an exercise in calculated political distortion from opening credits to closing crescendo.
Maybe the torment that George VI suffered as he strove to learn to articulate words is faithfully rendered. But the broad thrust of the narrative, which supplies the story its wider resonance - that he possessed an innate decency that came to epitomise and sustain the spirit of the British people as they faced the threat of invasion - is entirely fraudulent. Since the facts are well-known to every historian of the period, this must have been intentional.
George’s older brother, the might-have-been Edward VIII, is portrayed as a Nazi sympathiser, which he was. A blessing for the world then, we are invited to believe, that he preferred a harridan Yank to the throne of England, and handed the office of monarch to George.
In fact the brother and the harridan weren’t sympathisers but outright Nazis. George was the sympathiser. Or at least an appeaser. Far from providing a focus for anti-fascist patriotism, he lamented the failure of Premier Neville Chamberlain and the Daily Mail crowd to appease Hitler by giving him free rein to rampage across Europe to within sight of the cliffs of Kent. His wife, Elizabeth, the late Queen Mum, was a racist bigot with a disdain for democracy to the day she belatedly died.
The notion of this pair of parasites as folks of fine quality and patriotic courage during World War Two is the founding myth of the modern British monarchy. Previous kings and queens were decidedly unpopular. But George was the “good king” promoted as a man deserving of the love of the people at their time of trial. To admit the truth would be to acknowledge that the current Elizabeth and her sprawling brood emerged from a spawn-bed of hypocrisy and sleaze. And we can’t have that, can we? Not now that Mary McAleese is airing the beds at Aras an Uachtarain for them to rest their royal heads on, once they have made it past the multitudes thronging the quays waving their caps and loudly chorusing Hurrah! Hurrah!