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The King's Speech, the British and their monarchs

Is the success of The King's Speech only down to the fact that it is a very good film or are deeper themes at work?
Last modified: 27 Jan 2011 20:16
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The King's Speech is a well directed, well acted, and thoroughly enjoyable film.

It tells the story of Britain's constitutional crisis in the 1930's, when a reluctant George VI came to the throne following the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII.

The new King struggled to overcome a speech disability, as the Nazi shadow loomed ever larger over Europe.

Pundits predict it will win a slew of Oscars (it's been nominated for 12).

It's a box-office hit in America, Australia, and, above all, Britain.

At my local cinema in London, it's being shown concurrently on several screens, to meet public demand.

But is the success of The King's Speech only down to the fact that it is a very good film?

That question is asked in a couple of interesting articles I've come across recently.

This one, from the Economist, argues that the extreme public enthusiasm "is a form of narcissism", in response to a film that is "deeply flattering" to the British.

Hence its popularity.

Another writer, in the Guardian, believes that the enthusiastic reception for The King's Speech shows just how entrenched affection is for the royal family in the UK.

So, bad news for Britain's republicans, or, as the Guardian calls them, "those who would hope one day, after the Queen has gone, to replace the monarchy with something fair and democratic".

In fact, it's probably not going to be an easy year for British republicans.

We are, of course, now less than 100 days from a royal wedding.

Expect an orgy of media coverage in the run-up to the event at Westminster Abbey, on April 29th, when William and Kate say their vows. 

Even Al Jazeera English, perhaps not the channel of choice for dedicated royal watchers, may find it difficult to resist.

However, a Republican organisation  ("campaigning for a democratic alternative to the monarchy") says that the royal wedding may prove a blessing in disguise.

It claims to have attracted hundreds of new members since William and Kate announced their engagement.

And it challenges the BBC, Britain's national broadcaster, to represent the views of "at least 10 million Republicans" in its wedding coverage.

The organisation's spokesman, Graham Smith, was in bullish mood when I put it to him that The King's Speech had captured the mood of an instinctively pro-monarchist Britain.

"There's no evidence to support that premise", he said, "most people can't remember George VI, so it's like a fairytale, but a film about Prince Charles would evoke a very different reaction".

Mr Smith will be organising an alternative, non-royal public event in London on April 29th ... details to appear on his website soon.