The King & The Prince

Alireza Pahlavi and "The King’s Speech"


The King & The Prince
by Ari Siletz

The tragic death of Alireza Pahlavi happened barely two weeks after the release of The King’s Speech, a popular film about the psychologically tormented younger brother of Britain’s heir to the throne. Watching the film so soon after Alireza’s suicide, I suspect he missed this inspiring work of art that had appeared in time to speak to him. The vivid portrayal of Prince Albert--who later became King George VI through an improbable twist of fate—would have lifted his spirit and occupied his mind with positive thoughts of his burden.

Albert did not suffer from depression like Alireza; his symptom was a stutter that made it painful for him to speak in public. The countless ceremonies, openings, and welcomes in which a prince of the royal court must wax eloquent were embarrassments both for him and his audience. The most celebrated experts in the land tried their remedies on him, but there was only so much futile humiliation a prince could endure. After all Albert (played by Collin Firth) was not a flower girl off the streets who could put up with Professor Higgins packing marbles in her mouth. As a desperate gamble, Albert’s wife, Elizabeth (played by Helena Bonham Carter) appealed to an obscure speech therapist, Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush). Logue insightfully recognized that Albert’s stutter had roots in his childhood. But how do you convince a prince to open up to a commoner about such intimate matters? This is a humiliation beyond having marbles stuffed in your mouth.

So far the plot tension is in Albert’s personal battle with his condition, and the metaphors have to do with the path to a cure being blocked by the class barrier between the wealthy nobility and the commoner with the power of knowledge, a confirmation of our intuitive reverence for social equality. The film would have stood brilliantly on this elm behtar ast yaa servat argument, yet this turns out to be just the starting point for a vastly more engaging story when events twist so that victory or defeat is no longer about Albert. His brother, Edward, abdicates the throne to marry a divorced woman, and Albert becomes king of England just as Hitler is on the rise in Germany, threatening World War II. Could matters get any worse? Yes, they can: these events unfold at a time when radio is taking over as the primary means by which leaders communicate with the people. Hitler sweeps the German nation off her senses with his hypnotic oratory while the king of England stutters!

Now Albert has no choice but to break the class barrier with Logue. The fate of the nation depends on the king submitting to his subject and baring his soul to him—and through the story, to us. We discover how Albert has internalized the political need not to outshine his older brother. As King George VI, Albert verbalizes it this way: “If I am King, where is my power? Can I declare war? Form a government? Levy a tax? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority because they think that when I speak, I speak for them.” As the younger brother to the heir to the throne Albert had been daily confronted since childhood with the reality that the seat of all authority, beyond all power, is his brother’s singular authority to speak. Sensing the importance of this from all directions, young Albert’s subconscious had made sure he would remain loyal to this principle. In self-sacrificing irony, his brain impaired its own ability to speak. This way, no matter how much talent, magnetism or wit he possessed, he could never interfere with his brother’s responsibility as the seat of all authority.

As fate would have it, England did need Albert to speak for her at a time of high crisis. A good part of Logue’s psychotherapy had to do with encouraging Albert to come out of his psychological self-exile. His first attempt caused Albert to furiosly accuse Logue of high treason and shut him out. This reminds us that self-empowerment therapy for patients in Alireza’s position has an unusual pitfall that therapists aren’t normally trained to deal with. Had Logue been unfortunate enough to have a clinically depressed close-to-the-throne client instead of a stutterer, he may have lost his royal patient to suicide.

A plot can only reveal so much, however; the nuances are in the acting and directing. Geoffrey Rush, as Logue, amazes in one scene where his character auditions disastrously for a play part—I have never seen bad acting acted so well. Colin Firth wisely refuses transformation from insecure prince to confident king. The two aspects always exist side by side even in moments of triumph. And under the direction of Tom Hooper, Helena Bonham Carter loses her edginess without losing her sharp edge in the slightest. My only disappointment is that Alireza isn’t around to tell us his take on a movie that’s a little bit about him.


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more from Ari Siletz

The movie was a miss for me

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on

The therapist was outstanding, best of the best but the rest were not as good with their roles.

It is shocking how so many iranian public critics of pahlavi's have no issue with other monarchs who never did 1/1000 th for their people what the pahlavis did for iran, this is the problem with politics actually.  While the critics narratives of history fit well with the stories maufactured by the cia, mi6 and kgb, in order to fulfill their countries foreign policies, they are based on lies and nothing more.

Congratulation on thwarting iran at the hands of Iranians, lets now see how long the west can sustain and expand their inhumanity in the region. 


Blood drenched British Monarchy living in filthy luxury


Saw this film. it is propaganda film for British Monarchy designed to have people pity it... The film is evidence of the luxury and security of British monarchy as they prance about 500 room buckingham palace amidst accumulated opulence of 500 years behind its golden gates! Did you see the golden gates?  Buckingham Palace and its loot is worth over $50 billion. the British Queen herself has a net assets worth $500 Billion. Why arent Iranian pseudoscholars like Mr. Dabashi and Mr. Milani calling for overthrow of blood-drenched British Monarchy? 

Despite this overt and ostentatious wealth, the British papers hide the wealth of their British Monarchs - but they constantly lie about the wealth of our Pahlavi Kings and encourage people to persecute our Pahlavi Kings by publishing lies about our Pahlavi Kings.

Also, notice Edward married a divorce and was forced to abdicate. Prince Charles has also married a divorced woman, Camillia. So, he will never be king? or will he? 

Down with the Blood drenched British Monarchy and Qajar Dynasty, another British propped up Dynasty whose members are the biggest traitors to iran.

Long Live Iran and its Pahlavi Monarchy.

Multiple Personality Disorder

Excellent movie, but more like Masterpiece Theater

by Multiple Personality Disorder on


They should give the Oscar for the best male actor to Colin Firth right now and get it over with.


Must see it

by divaneh on

Thanks for your interesting review and drawing the parallel to the Alireza's death. I now must see the film.


very much I enjoyed your piece!

by Saraamin on

Dear Ari,


I did enjoy your very well structured article on King's speech movie. your offered comparison btw Prince Alireca and Prince Albert , which was also very interesting. I'm on the same page with you. Would prince alireze if he was given the chance, speak for himself?  he died bc he was overshadowed by his bro! well not even history can exactly retell their story, but in the new world, I mean there is no place for monarchy, prince and princesses. they belong to fairy tales and for the new world they need to re-adjust themselves with reality. Prince Alireza if so died bc of depression originated from his childhood, he would have been raisen up with false information. I know england still enjoys monarchy as a touristic attraction, however, as I just said, Alireza could not have possibly think of regaining monarchy of his beloved nation. therefore also they are all possibilities, he may simply suffered depression bc of million of other reasons. anyhow peace be upon him.  

Ari Siletz

Brilliant Darius!

by Ari Siletz on

You are absolutely right. Slapping myself on the head for missing that joke.

Ari Siletz

Dramatic efficiency

by Ari Siletz on

Saideh, good writing packs multiple levels of meaning in key statements, a fair society of ideas where high and low concepts cohabit. What you took away from that movie line (once corrected for what you missed) exists side by side with deeper meanings. Yes, the movie needed to explain the concept of a constitutional monarchy to the audience so that they would stay properly oriented to the mechancis of the plot. The line serves that purpose well. However it is crafted to highlight the word"speak." This instructs the viewer to look deeper into the statement for metaphors, connections and references. Viewing interpretations as ideological "twists" dilutes the appreciation and  enjoyment of art.


As for what you missed: Albert was already king when he delivered that line. So he could not have been whining about how much less power he had than his brother because Edward was no longer king; Albert was!

Darius Kadivar

Derek Jacobi was a Stammerer in "I Claudius"

by Darius Kadivar on

The Choice of Derek Jacobi was indeed a subtle private joke by Tom Hooper in the form of a cinematic tribute to the BBC classic series I, Claudius (TV series):


IClaudius - Livia and Claudius


I, Claudius - Half Wit Beats Senate 


Saideh Pakravan

The King's Speech

by Saideh Pakravan on

Actually, when he says “If I am King, where is my power? Can I declare war? Form a government?
Levy a tax? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority because they
think that when I speak, I speak for them,” he's not whining about the fact that his older brother has all the authority and he has none, he is describing the limited powers of s British monarch. We can't twist facts to suit whatever point we are trying to make (Read my review of this superb film on )

Ari Siletz

double post

by Ari Siletz on


Ari Siletz

Looking forward to your review Darius

by Ari Siletz on

...both the movie and the book. Checked out your video link about the Logue archives. What a find, and just in time!


Monda: Yes, Geoffrey Rush's Logue was admirable. You're insightul to point out the bishop. We can understand Logue being nice to wife, kids, king etc. but so humanely confronting that pedar sookhteh bishop really took strength of character. By the way Derek Jacobi as the bishop is almost as brilliant an actor as Geoffrey Rush, so he was cast very well.


Darius Kadivar

Interesting outlook and Review Ari Jaan ( also Logue's Diaries)

by Darius Kadivar on

Saw the film during the weekend. Hope to write a review soon too. 

A TV series is a great idea which indeed would allow a more in depth study of this extraordinary story.

I highly recommend the following book released with the film which is based on the diaries of Lionel Logue which inspired the film's script ( co authored by Mark Logue the grandson of Lionel Logue):

 The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy by Mark Logue (Author), and co author Peter Conradi


I am currently reading it and it contains some amazing insights into Logue's life as well never seen photos of Logue and the Royal family.

Notice the Real Life Lionel Logue was actually much more handsome than the genial Geoffrey Rush.  

Watch BBC Breakfast News interview with Mark Logue:

BBC News - Film and book about the King and his speech therapist


And another one Where Mark Logue shows his archives on his grandfather's belongings and diaries:

BBC News - Finding the real King's Speech 




Logue's bad acting

by Monda on

Ari, I thought that was a brilliant way to show Logue's human side (vs his therapist side). That he was also dealing with public anxiety, hence could identify with his client's issue on another profound level.

Acting (Drama therapy) is a great therapeutic modality on its own. It helps a humanistic therapist like Logue with expressing his own insecurities, by being in touch with his own fears. At the end of the day, a therapist is a human first. The quality of their personal life matters (to me anyway). Did you notice the consistency of Logue's personal virtues in all realms? His relationship with his spouse and children, his encounters with Albert's wife, and the bishop, etc. He was firm on his values but gently attentive in action, always very present. That's also another "unconventional" piece about a therapist's style back in that era. Whether Logue was portrayed That genuinely humanistic for the sake of this movie's audience to better relate to his role, who knows (and who cares?)... I'd love to have him as my shrink, any day. (Not to imply that my own therapist isn't cutting it for me.)

Ari jan, I think it's a great idea to have mega (not mini) series on the dysfunctions within royal families. It would be wonderful to learn about trans-generational impacts of family dynamics, on each person's functioning. Of course researching for such movies would be more arduous than producing it, granted. But throwing the idea out there would not hurt right? Oh wait, you already did that on this thread. :o)


Ari Siletz

Many thanks Monda

by Ari Siletz on

It's good to get a professional therapist's point of view about Logue. I'm relieved to know that you took him seriously--the way I did-- as more than a speech therapist but a visionary of sorts considering the state of the science at the time.


Regarding a therapist's professional neutrality, why was Logue such a bad actor when auditioning for Richard III in front of the play director but blew you away when performing for his kids?

The question is an argument to suggest that Logue's state of mind is affected in the presence of authority. Even though he is a therapist, he sometimes cannot see through himself. His brief failure at neutrality in the presence of royalty makes him a less competent therapist, but a more human character.  

As an aside, and just in case, for the reader:  Richard III was jealous of his brother Edward who was king. To stay honest, the film had to bring up the subject of jealousy, though it does so indirectly. Richard didn't stutter or suffer from depression; his parallel disability (according to Shakespeare) was a congenital deformity. 


Very Nice review Ari

by Monda on

I can only draw a parallel as far as the two Royals' needs for therapeutic help. Even though psychotherapy was a very new science, let alone Logue's brilliant but unconventional model, Albert took the risk of working with him. And of course his wife and children were great resources to his process of committing to therapy. (I hardly know anything about Alireza's relational resources. Nor do we know if he ever committed himself to any form of psychotherapy.)

Another point which I'd like to share with you is the neutrality of an effective therapist to the status of the client. It just comes with the non-judgmental aspect of effective therapeutic work. A client's titles, looks, education and other attributes, are used as mere descriptives in A) proper diagnosis and B) find what helps that person, the best one knows how. So, whether the client was a prince or a commoner would not have much impact on Logue's quality of work. That's my take on the excellent way Rush and the writers portrayed Albert's therapist. Logue was a wise, decent and passionate human being. We observed those qualities in his parenting his sons, as well. I saw this movie for the second time to pick on more on Logue's personal styles. Lovely man, fabulous therapist, acted superbly bu Rush..

By the way, the disappointment that Logue faced in the early phase of his relationship with Albert, is part of the journey, with many clients. As in any significant relationship, bonding of the therapist-client is a very delicate process and it's sensitive to the trust issues in the client as well as to time invested in the process. 

Now, the "clean" visuals that you and JJ mentioned... ! What did you expect in two hours and a few bucks? The entire gory detail of Albert's life? As Ari suggested, it takes a series rather than one film to depict only his (or any Prince's) first four years of life. (Or, I can imagine a film noir about sweet Berti's relationship with his dark, stoic, cruel father George. And were the heck were his mum and nannies in this child's life?!)

Anyway, I had very nice time seeing The King's Speech, twice. And Thank you Ari, for the interesting points which you opened in your blog.



Excellent observations

by pas-e-pardeh on

and well written too.  JJ has a good point though.  You'd want to see more pain and loathing in situations like that.  No doubt seeing this movie could have been inspiring to our late Prince, but perhaps because we don't experience in the movie, the same pains that our own prince was surely feeling before his end, comparison may fall short of target.

Niki Tehranchi

Great synopsis

by Niki Tehranchi on

I loved the film and your review but the connection to Alireza Pahlavi was a bit far-fetched.


Not an exact parallel, though!

by Ghahremani on

Indeed a good film, but I failed to make such connection, not even after enjoying your article. To me the differences between the two men were too many: The King had power, the late prince did not. The king enjoyed the love and support of his wife - it is documented that the queen was instrumental in all his practices and that without her, he would not have succeeded. He also had a teacher who cared deeply and believed in him and he had children. We may never know what the melancholic prince had. Most importantly, one man was under constant spotlight while the other hid behind windows that were boarded shut. Still, I enjoyed your article as it gave me food for thought.


A clever parallel

by Mehrban on

What a clever and tragic parallel you have drawn Ari.    

Ari Siletz

Thanks Anahid

by Ari Siletz on

Better hurry though, already the screenings have shifted to small theaters and it may be a wait before the video comes out--unless you've got premium channels.

Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

My feeling of "too clean" came from the film having to tidy up the history so that the controversies surrounding the real story wouldn't interfere with the dramatic intent. One example is the whitewashing of pro-German sentiments among the British aristocracy. Edward's abdication may not have been simply a matter of the incovenient marriage. Yet, there are only so many cans of worms you can open in a two hour movie. I would really like to see this screenplay expanded into a BBC mini-series where there's enough space to work  the drama in richer detail.


2. I see your point about wanting to see Albert's stutter reflect visually in the film. Brilliant suggestion!


3. Also, point well taken regarding Iranians'  phobia of therapy. Particularly among our men.  So many marriage problems, parent-child issues, and personal anguish troubles would be addressed if we lowered this barrier. My guess as to why the barrier exists is that therapy upsets pecking orders in our culture. 

Anahid Hojjati

Thanks Ari, what a great review

by Anahid Hojjati on

As if DK's great praise of this movie was not enough, now we have your excellent review too. Add to that all awards and nominations and any movie lover has to see this movie. I also like the part of your review which talks about Albert internalizing the need to not outshine his brother. Ari jan, I really liked your review and at first good opportunity, I will see this movie. Thanks for sharing.

Jahanshah Javid

Too clean?

by Jahanshah Javid on

Thanks Ari. I liked the film too and enjoyed it.

One thing that bothered me a bit though was that the film felt too clean. I don't know how else to describe it. So much attention went into making the film visually perfect that it got in the way of "feeling" the verbal imperfection of the prince/king.

You made an interesting connection with Alireza, depression and therapy. One thing we need to discuss is why Iranians generally don't like the idea of therapy. Opening up and expressing buried feelings is scary and unsettling. It's not for Iranians :)

Nader Vanaki

Ari Siletz: Great Piece

by Nader Vanaki on

And touchingly great connection to our story of Iran.