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The King's Speech

            “The King’s Speech” is about King George VI of England who stuttered but, with the help of a speech therapist, overcame his speech impediment well enough to deliver speeches over the radio during World War II.

            The way that the King of England “fought” World War II was much different from the way some of his ancestors fought wars.  One of the most important duties of a medieval king was leading is army in battle.  Medieval kings did not sit at home and send their armies away to do battle for them.  They physically led their troops.

            This was dangerous, of course, and that is probably why this practice was abandoned.  The “last medieval battle in Britain” was the Battle of Flodden, fought between the Scotch and the English in 1513.  Wikipedia tells about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Flodden.  The relevant point for this movie review is that King James IV of Scotland fought like a medieval monarch, leading his army forward, with his noblemen around him.  The English, however, fought like a modern army.  King Henry VIII was not present.  The English noblemen who led the army commanded from behind the lines.  As the battle got underway, King James and many of his nobles were killed, after which the Scottish army disintegrated.  The English were able to win a great victory because the Scottish made the mistake of exposing their leaders to danger.  Such had been the way things were done in the medieval period, but in the modern period that changed.

            Perhaps the last vestiges of kings actually leading their armies were in World War I.  Kaiser Wilhelm II interfered with his generals as they tried to win the war for him.  In every case of which I know, the Kaiser’s influence harmed his army, which was commanded by the best officers in the world at that time.  On the other side of the conflict, Tsar Nicholas II, who happened to be a first cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm II, assumed personal command of the Russian armies and tried to manage the war himself.  That turned out badly; Russia was utterly defeated, millions of her soldiers were killed, much of her territory was conquered, the Tsar and his family were murdered, and the country was split by a civil war from which it did not recover until about seventy years later.

            So it seems that the modern way is better than the medieval.  It seems that kings should stay where it is safe and allow their generals to command the armies.  I wonder, though, if it would not be good for some kings to fight as they used to.  European monarchies today, like that of England, are hallow ornaments.  They represent their nations, but they have almost no real power, and even as ornaments they do not seem to do their jobs well.  Does Prince Charles make England look good?  Can the English people be proud of him?  Does he give a good example for others to follow?  He served England as a naval pilot in the 1970’s, and has been given honorary commands in the British Empire, but he has not led armies in battle.  Most of the male members of the British royal family serve in the military during their youth, but not since the Middle Ages has any commanded an army while reigning.