Historic letter that inspired Queen’s speeches

THE QUEEN’S poise – and reassuring words – during her Christmas speech stems, in part, from a treasured letter, and wise words of comfort, written 80 years ago.

This was a young Princess Elizabeth (right) delivering her first speech in October 1940. By her side is her younger sister Princess Margaret.

It was sent by Lionel Logue, the Australian-born speech therapist who was so integral to her father, King George VI, overcoming his stammer and gaining the confidence to speak in public after the abdication crisis.

The hero of The King’s Speech, the blockbuster film which charted this unique bond, Logue was also a close confidante of the Royal Family during the Second World War’s darkest days.

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He would help King George VI change certain words so they would be easier for him to deliver without stuttering. And he was an interested observer when a young Princess Elizabeth, then aged 14, made a radio address on October 13, 1940.

The Queen has delivered a sociallly distanced Christmas broadcast from Windsor Castle.

The landmark broadcast to ‘the children of the Empire’ formed part of Children’s Hour, and ended with her sister, Princess Margaret, joining her to wish listeners a good night.

According to the book, The King’s War, written by Logue’s grandson, Mark Logue, and Peter Conradi, the speech therapist then wrote to the future Queen to offer “sincere and humble congratulations”. He was impressed by how she approached the task, modified the text to add phrases of her own – and then practised her breathing.

Even then, she was acutely aware that public speaking was an ordeal for her beloved father – but that she would be expected to rise to the challenge as Queen. “I am sure your Royal parents will not mind my writing you (sic), to say how splendidly your broadcast came through today,” wrote Logue.

“It is always an ordeal to do anything public for the first time, but you spoke it so efficiently and your voice was under such excellent control, that I am sure you will never be worried in the future when you have to approach the microphone, and that is a very comforting thought for you in your life you will have to do it many, many times. I am afraid I was far more nervous than you were over it, for there was not a tremor in your voice and the inflection was perfect.”

The Queen during her VE Day speech - one of three major addresses delivered by Her Majesty from Windsor Castle.

According to the book, Logue received a reply from a Royal aide to say that the Princess had greatly appreciated the letter. Yet Logue’s remarks about the frequency of such speeches, and future expectations, takes on even more prescience eight decades later at the end of a year dominated by the Covid pandemic.

The Queen, 94, has now made three addresses to the nation this year – and all from Windsor Castle from where she first spoke in 1940. The first came on April 5 when she evoked the spirit of the wartime generation, and the stirring We’ll Meet Again song immortalised by Forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn.

There was also a nod to history when she spoke about self-isolation. “It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister. We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety,” said Her Majesty.

“Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know, deep down, that it is the right thing to do.”

Onlookers in London watch the Queen's lockdown speech in early April.

In her second speech to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day on June 7, she told how the message at the end of the war in Europe was “never give up, never despair” – words also intended to strengthen the nation’s resolve over Covid.

Yesterday’s speech was a carefully choreographed TV production, with full respect to social distancing, far removed from 1932 when George V delivered the first festive address by radio, or the Queen’s initial televised Christmas broadcast in 1957.

It also chimed with her father’s words, delivered faultlessly, on Christmas Day in 1940, in the wake of the Battle of Britain.

“If war brings its separations, it brings new unity also, the unity which comes from common perils and common sufferings willingly shared,” the then-King told Britain and the Empire.

Appropriate in the fight for freedom, they are also relevant this Christmas in the struggle against Covid as Lionel Logue’s influence continues to shine through past and present Royal speeches.

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