Rumors of George VI's tortured upbringing weren't exaggerated: In addition to the stutter he developed as a child, though left-handed, the poor moppet was forced to write right-handed, and suffered the indignity of corrective leg splints12) to cure his knock knees13). His fondness for smoking was accurately portrayed, too; he developed lung cancer in later life. It's also fair to say that Bertie was an extremely reluctant king. If anything, the movie may have downplayed that fact: Bertie was said to have gone to his mother, Queen Mary, the day before his brother's abdication, and later wrote in his diary that he “sobbed like a child” in her arms after telling her that he was to assume the throne.
His parents were fairly portrayed as distant, as was customary with upper-crust14) families of the time, with Bertie's father, King George V, once saying of his sons, “My father was scared of his father, I was scared of my father and I'm damned well15) going to see that they're scared of me.” Bertie was known for his short fuse16), as demonstrated by his many arguments and impatient outbursts with Logue in the film, though the filmmakers widely steered clear of rumors that he sometimes struck his wife in his temper; true or not, to publicize the king's less savory characteristics would have undermined the central message of the film, which was framed as a tale of overcoming adversity, not a biopic of Bertie's character.
The most prominent and widely criticized fiction within the film concerns Bertie's political affiliation. While The King's Speech is at pains to portray the king as having a close and amicable relationship with Winston Churchill17) from the outset, in actuality Bertie and his wife were staunch18) supporters of the previous Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain19), and advocated his policy of appeasement20) in regards to Hitler.
Churchill, on the other hand, was firm friends with Bertie's brother, Edward VIII, and advised him against his decision to abdicate in order to marry Wallis Simpson. When Chamberlain resigned as PM, Bertie trumpeted another politician who favored appeasement, Lord Halifax, over Churchill but was overruled. Still, the two did become close friends during the war, taking weekly meetings together and building what was purported to be “the closest personal relationship in modern British history between a monarch and a Prime Minister”.
Another favored gripe from critics points out that physically, Firth bears little resemblance to the monarch he portrayed. George VI was seen as weak and weedy21) because of his various ailments, and was often described as a nitwit22). We spoke to historian and biographer Mary S. Lovell regarding Firth's performance: “Physically, he has no resemblance whatever to King George VI,” she said. “The fact that Firth is so believable in The King's Speech indicates a truly great acting ability.”
The Stutter 口吃
We know it's not technically a character, but considering what an integral part of the tale Bertie's impediment is, we'd be remiss if we didn't tackle the facts and fiction behind it.