A previously undiscovered letter, written by the newly-crowned King George VI to his speech doctor, reveals the monarch’s anxiety regarding his coronation, and his subsequent relief at having successfully navigated its pitfalls.
“You know how anxious I was to get my responses right in the abbey,” writes the King to Lionel Logue, “but my mind was finally set at ease tonight. Not a moment’s hesitation or mistake!”
The letter was written from Windsor Castle on 17th May 1937, just five days after the coronation ceremony, for which Logue had spent many months in assisting the King with his speech. Australian Logue (immortalised by Geoffrey Rush in the Oscar-winning 2010 film, ‘The King’s Speech’) had begun to help the then Duke of York with his stammer in 1926, just two years after moving to England with his young family. Thanking Logue, “not only for your invaluable help with my speech, but for your devoted friendship and encouragement”, the King enclosed with the letter a silver-gilt cigarette case bearing his Royal cipher with the hope that, “you will accept this small gift as a token of my appreciation.”
The cigarette case and accompanying letter are now being sold at auction in Salisbury, UK, 83 years after the gift was made, where they are expected to make upwards of £4,000.
The letter follows on from the discovery, just over a decade ago, of an archive of correspondence between Lionel Logue and his famous patient – an archive which lent much to the hugely successful film and turned Logue into a household name.
“We believe this letter is the only example written to Logue by George VI which has not been retained by the Logue family,” explains Rupert Slingsby, Silver specialist at Woolley and Wallis saleroom where the cigarette case and letter are to be sold at the end of April. “When Lionel Logue died in April 1953 both the case and the letter were given to his younger brother, Herbert. In August of the same year Herbert gave both to an Australian jeweller in lieu of a payment of £27 (about £1,300 today), which was owed for a graduated pearl necklace with a sapphire and diamond clasp.”
That jeweller was Charles McGowan, of Eton Arcade in Sutherland, Sydney, who treasured both the case and the letter and passed them carefully down his family. It was one of his descendants who approached Woolley and Wallis last year with regard to a possible, albeit reluctant, sale.
“Whilst our vendor realised the historical significance of the items, I don’t think he appreciated quite how valuable they could be to British collectors,” explains Slingsby. “Before ‘The King’s Speech’, most people were unaware of the difficulties that George VI encountered with his stammer, but the enduring and endearing friendship between the King and Lionel Logue that emerged from that is especially evident in this new letter.”
Despite having thanked Logue in person on the day of the coronation itself, after watching back the ceremony with the then Queen Elizabeth the King was moved to formalise his gratitude. “The success was due to your expert supervision and unfailing patience with me,” he writes. “I truly don’t know how I could have done it without you.”
The case and letter are being sold together as part of the Silver and Objects of Vertu sale at Woolley and Wallis on Wednesday 29th April with a starting price of £4,000.
My dear Logue,
The Queen and I have just viewed the film of our Coronation, & I could not wait to send you a few lines to thank you again for your hard work in helping me prepare for the great day.
You know how anxious I was to get my responses right in the Abbey, the poor rehearsal adding greatly to me anxiety, but my mind was finally set at ease tonight. Not a moment’s hesitation or mistake! The same cannot be said of the Bishops, of course, nor the pe I used to sign the Oath; the ink got all over my fingers, but fortunately one can hardly make it out.
The success was due to your expert supervision and unfailing patience with me over recent months, & I truly don’t know how I could have done it without you.
I want you to know how grateful I am, not only for your invaluable help with my speech, but for your devoted friendship & encouragement, & I hope you will accept this small gift as a token of my appreciation.
Yours very sincerely