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Edward Reeves, Lionel Logue and King George VI

The recently released film The King’s Speech is based on the relationship between King George VI (Colin Firth) and his speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Logue, who was from Adelaide and who had treated WWI servicemen suffering from shell shock, began seeing the future King George VI (then Prince Albert, the Duke of York) in the mid-1920s. The Duke’s debilitating stammer, a curse for someone expected to speak regularly in public, was ameliorated by Logue’s unorthodox therapies to the point where the Duke was able to carry out the official duties required of him to open the new Australian Parliament House in 1927.

(A number of photographs from the University Archives of the Duke of York’s visit to the University of Adelaide during the same tour of Australia can be seen here:  http://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/handle/2440/45136 )

Much of the movie is set in the 1930s and is related to the events surrounding the Duke of York’s reluctant ascension to the throne after his brother Edward’s abdication in 1936.  Logue is portrayed as instrumental in giving the new King George VI the speaking skills and confidence to restore faith in the monarchy after the Abdication and, importantly, to provide a resolute and reassuring voice to the British public after the outbreak of war with Germany in 1939. The authors of the film’s companion piece, a book of the same name by Peter Conradi and Lionel’s grandson Mark Logue,  go so far as to suggest that Logue was responsible for saving the British monarchy.

The University of Adelaide connection to this story is that Lionel Logue attended the Elder Conservatorium of Music in 1902.  He had previously been educated at Prince Alfred College where he studied elocution under Edward Reeves. In 1898 Reeves – whose letterhead advertised instruction in the areas of ‘Voice Culture, Dramatic Expression, and Platform Deportment’ – was hired by the Elder Conservatorium’s Director and Professor of Music Joshua Ives to teach elocution to music students. Reeves must have seen potential in Logue as he employed him soon afterwards as his secretary and assistant teacher in a practice he ran from the Y.M.C.A. Rooms in Gawler Place.

No reference to Logue can be found in the University Archives other than his name in the 1903 calendar as a student at the Elder Conservatorium. However, his mentor Edward Reeves’ 1898 application to Professor Ives has been preserved, along with an 1897 article from the journal Music he included in support of his application:

 

 

Reeves' 1998 letter of application for position of elocution instructor

 

1897 feature on Reeves from the journal 'Music'

In her Australian Dictionary of Biography entry on Lionel Logue, Suzanne Edgar says that whilst at Prince Alfred College in the 1890s it was Reeves ‘who purged his voice of much of its Australian accent’. This is an interesting reflection on an era when Australian identity and accent were still in their formative stages. Englishness, in manner and speech, was for many something to be aspired to and attachment to the Monarchy as the social pinnacle of the British Empire would remain strong well into the next century. There may too be something peculiarly South Australian in this, as this state has always had a strong anglophile tradition among its elites and aspirational classes . Indeed, a ‘cultivated’ Adelaide accent still retains traces of the English public school accent suggesting that the influence of Edward Reeves and his successors continues to be felt in subtle ways.

Sources

“Logue, Lionel George (1880-1953)” by Suzanne Edgar, available from:

http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A150145b.htm

“Lionel Logue”, Wikipedia article, available from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_Logue

“The King’s Speech”, Internet Movie Database, available from:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1504320/

“King’s voice coach calmed a nation” by Steve Meacham, available from:

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/kings-voice-coach-calmed-a-nation-20101109-17m2x.html


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4 Responses

  1. Jocelyn Mitchell says:

    I was delighted to find this acknowledgment of Edward Reeves and to see a photograph of him. He was the grandson of Wheatley Kirk who patented the first iron upright piano of all things (Leeds 1836) and did many other things after moving to Manchester in 1846 – so to find the excerpt from Music about his grandson is quite something. Thank you for posting it

  2. Andrew Cook says:

    Thanks, Jocelyn. That’s interesting about his grandfather – how did you come upon this? Are they distant relatives?

    • Jocelyn Mitchell says:

      Dear Andrew

      I found the information through genealogical research and connecting with a Reeves’ connection of Edward’s. Edward Reeves’ mother was Jane Kirk and she was the sister of my great grandmother, Annie Kirk – they were daughters of Wheatley Kirk. Most of that family was born in Leeds in the 1830s, but later moved to Manchester area in the 1840s, and some later to Adelaide and elsewhere in Aus. I think that the Reeves seem to be quite interesting people too – one of them wrote about the “South Seas” in the 1860s – not sure of the title of the book, but I am sure it’s available by ‘googling’. Regards, Jocelyn