The Kings Confidence

How would you feel about taking on a job that you were totally ill equipped to perform, where your self confidence was absolutely rock bottom?

A job that entailed making public appearances , being the centre of attention,  when you were shy and reserved.  A job that involved making speeches in front of thousands, and live broadcasts to millions, when you were inflicted by a terrible stutter.

The Kings Weaknesses

I‘m sure many of you have seen the Academy Award winning film, “The King’s Speech“. This depicts the story of how the future King George VI (who wasn’t “scheduled” to be King until his brother abdicated) received help so he could fulfil his royal duties. Even before he became King his role representing the Crown necessitated public appearances and speeches.

self confidence george vi

The future King 1919

He was plagued from childhood by a series of medical ailments.   His early career in the Navy was somewhat hampered by seasickness (again it was a job that he didn’t have much choice about) and constant stomach problems (later diagnosed as an ulcer). In his 8 years of naval service he spent most of the time in hospital or recuperating.

As well as seeing the film I recently read the book of the same name, based on the diaries of Lionel Logue. He  effectively became the Royal Speech Therapist. What the book makes clearer than the film is the depth of how physically frail and nervous a person the future George VI was.

Colin Firth, who portrayed him in the film, won an Oscar for his stammering and overall performance as this tortured sole. But couldn’t disguise the fact he is 6″ taller and physically very well built.

Confidence in Public Speaking

Many people fear public speaking, and take whatever steps they can to avoid having to face this fear. One of my first posts on this blog was about a young man giving a speech at his fathers wedding!

The reason I wanted to highlight the Kings  Speech was it gives a wonderful example of a person gaining in confidence so he could perform well as a public speaker.  This, despite the fact he had major impediments in his way. To do this he:-

1) Worked VERY HARD, to a degree that would put an Olympic athlete to shame. The future King and Logue initially worked together for 7 months, meeting daily when the royal duties permitted. Even when away on tour, George religiously carried out the exercises set by Logue.

2) The second factor in building his confidence, particularly when George became King and had to broadcast live to millions of people, was the meticulous preparation they went through. Logues role was as much to check the speech and mark spaces to pause for breath – and to change any difficult works that may trip the King.

3)  He had support – not just from Logue but from his wife.  Having strong people around you  for encouragement and to share the pain and triumphs, to motivate when you feel in despair, is incredibly important. And their confidence is infectious.

confident king?

King George VI

4) What choice did he have? He started from a position of total humiliation (his first major speech in London in 1925) and from having effectively proven unfit for purpose in the Navy.  He had no idea when he started working with Logue that he would one day be King, but needed to be sufficiently confident to perform his then job as the Duke of York.  Had he not been up to the task when he succeeded his brother, in all likelihood the monarchy would have collapsed.

 What if…

I‘m not trying to ignore the fact this was a man born into a position of great wealth and privilege, who of course could afford to pay for the intensive services of Logue. But it was only because of this accident of birth that he was compelled to try and overcome these barriers to his public speaking.

I think this story illustrates you can gain confidence – and become confident enough to perform well – even though you remain fearful and are attempting something that ultimately you are not best suited. Whilst George gained in confidence, he never lost his hatred of the dreaded microphone. As is apparent in the video clip, his stutter never totally went away.

But its also fascinating to  speculate what would have happened if Logue hadn’t emigrated to England (from Australia) or if Georges wife hadn’t persuaded him to “have a last try” after many previous failures at overcoming his speech impediment. And particularly if Logue hadn’t been so accomplished at what was then an unrecognised profession.

Imagine Great Britain with a President instead of a Queen and Royal Family!!!


photos (in public domain) via wikipedia

Bruce July 15, 2011 at 11:15 am

Preparation, hard work, and a support team – sounds like what anyone needs to accomplish great things. So often, especially Americans, we see only the accomplishment of the person and not what was done in preparation and that it wasn’t done alone.
You don’t do most tough things without a plan and without a team of some sort. If you want great confidence in what you do, it seems you need to accept some sort of help. Great post. I enjoyed the movie but would have liked it more if I had read this first.

David July 16, 2011 at 9:38 am

Thanks for your comment and kind words. I don’t think its just Americans who fail to see the hard work behind an achievement! And, IMO, coaches who work with individuals don’t get the credit they deserve

Corinne Edwards July 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Dear David –

I had never seen the original speech before. Thank you for offering it here.

It was painful to watch.

You said in you post –

“The reason I wanted to highlight the Kings Speech was it gives a wonderful example of a person gaining in confidence so he could perform well as a public speaker. This, despite the fact he had major impediments in his way.”

It made me sad that many do not have these resources and stuttering is such a difficult impediment to cure.

David July 16, 2011 at 9:45 am

Thank you for your comment. I know speech therapy here is well established as a profession, but don’t know how accessible services are to anyone with a stutter.
The sad thing about this impediment is the assumption that a sufferer is inadequate in other ways. What I don’t really go into is that the perception of the King as a leader was greatly affected by his ability to give good (clear) speeches.

Joel July 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Interesting perspective. I enjoyed the movie, and knew nothing really about it (before my time!), but it was a great film.

Bruce’s point is very true, most successful people don’t do it alone, whether it’s a team of people or support from friends and family.

David July 16, 2011 at 9:48 am

I think for most of us who cannot afford, or are reluctant, to hire coaches we under estimate the power of getting family and friends onside. If you want to lose weight, or whatever, you need others around you to support that goal or you will struggle. Thanks for your comment.

Andrew @ Blogging Guide July 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm


I saw the film when it first came out and loved it.

Knowing you have a weakness and getting support to overcome a strength.

So may people think they have failed if they have to ask for help/support.


David July 18, 2011 at 10:37 pm

That’s quite an important point – not seeing asking for help as a weakness. Everyone at the top is surrounded by assistants and advisers. Thanks for the comment.

Debbie @ Happy Maker July 19, 2011 at 12:04 am

Wonderful David. You just showed us that anything is possible. When we have that lack of confidence (fear) if we just hit it head on and go for it we can gain our confidence along the way. We only fail when we don’t try.

No I can’t “Imagine Great Britain with a President instead of a Queen and Royal Family!!!” that would be different. The movie I really like by the way.
Thank you for sharing this and the video,
Blessing to you,

Tyrone July 22, 2011 at 11:46 am

Hey David,

Thanks for sharing this. Like Bruce said it takes preparation to cure this since public speaking isn’t really for everyone but it can always be learned. Though on top of this overcoming the public speaking fear is yet a bonus and improving on it gets natural as I said if anyone practices more.


MichelleVandepas August 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I can’t wait to see the movie….. Its interesting how he rose to the challenge instead of turning away. a great life lesson!

Wildebeatz August 23, 2011 at 6:19 am

@David Not very accessible. I have a stutter and while there are many speech therapists, almost none of them are helpful. I have finally risen to the challenge and I am going to overcome my handicap on my own. The greatest cure for a stutter is courage.

selma April 16, 2012 at 7:01 am

I love this video.I think for self confidence the better thing is speak clear and direct with all people , looking their eyes, lossing our shame

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