2011 Academy Awards Winners -
'The King's Speech' is Best Picture"After watching Colin Firth's Oscar-winning performance in 'The King's Speech,' you might find yourself wondering what King George VI actually looked like when giving a speech. Well, good news, because you can now watch him on YouTube speaking at what appears to be the opening of the 1938 British Empire Exhibition in Glasgow. The footage includes all of his painfully long pauses and stutters intact on YouTube. It is still quite awkward to watch -- the king refers to his notes every few words; he rocks back and forth on his heels, closes his eyes repeatedly and frequently drops his Rs."
The King's (Real) Speech:
The Spiritual Reality Behind The King's Speech
The movie The King's Speech highlights the very personal struggle of Britain's King George VI to overcome a speech impediment. Behind the film is the historical reality of the man's deep religious faith, a conviction that enabled him to lead the British Empire during its time of greatest trial.
The Reluctant King, by Sarah Bradford (1989), tells the fascinating story of this remarkable monarch, a man who was decidedly not born to be king and who very reluctantly ascended the throne in December 1936 following the abdication of his elder brother.
George VI was born in 1895, when his great-grandmother Queen Victoria was still very much alive. He lived through the reigns of his grandfather Edward VII (1901-1910), his father George V (1910-1936) and his brother Edward VIII (1936).
He lived during a very interesting time, when Great Britain was the world's preeminent power. Since the king presided over the British Empire, with a quarter of the world's people as his subjects, his office was then the most important in the world. The abdication of his brother on Dec. 11, 1936, was a major constitutional crisis affecting governments around the world, as all the dominions of the British Empire had to agree on the change.
Although traumatic at the time, in hindsight we should all be thankful that Edward VIII abdicated in favor of his brother. Edward had gotten himself involved with a twice-divorced woman from Baltimore who was still married to her second husband.
In 1936 this was totally unacceptable, and not just to the British people. The Australian prime minister, a devout Catholic, made it absolutely clear that the king's mistress would never be acceptable to the Australian people. Similar protests came from Canada and South Africa.
Religion played a major role in the EmpireIn reading The Reluctant King, I was struck by how much more religious Britain was at the time than it is now. When, as the young Prince Albert, he was sent for naval training at Osborne on the Isle of Wight, he found that "discipline was strict, but not, according to former cadets, unkindly [so], although the life was Spartan, beginning at 6 a.m. in summer and 6.30 in winter, when the boys, woken by a bugler playing reveille, were expected to leap out of bed at the first stroke of the cadet captain's gong, kneel down and say their prayers".
Everything was done in a hurry, "at the double ... although extra time was allowed for prayers". For "talking before grace," the future king was later punished. Religion was clearly taken seriously in the Royal Navy at that time.
Another interesting passage appears on page 53: "War was very much in the air when Prince Albert ... accompanied his father on the royal yacht, the Victoria & Albert, for the great review of the Fleet off Weymouth from 7 to 11 May 1912 ... Prince Albert could not have failed to be impressed by the appearance of what was then the largest and most modern war fleet in the world, equipped with the latest huge dreadnoughts and battle-cruisers and even a submarine ..."
Naval supremacy had enabled Britain to be the dominant power in the world for well over a century when this review of the fleet took place. It was to serve the British well in World War I, which began two years later.
Is it possible there was a connection between Britain's naval supremacy, its superpower status and its many victories over ambitious European powers and its devotedness to prayer—the outward form of its strict Christian beliefs?
In contrast to a century ago, today religious belief is far rarer among members of the British military. I asked my nephew, who serves with the Royal Air Force, how many men in his unit hold any religious beliefs. His reply? "Absolutely no one"!
This is a huge shift from England's historical experience.
On the eve of the Battle of Trafalgar against Napoleon's naval forces in 1805, Britain's Admiral Nelson led the sailors in prayer, asking God for victory against the combined fleets of France and Spain. Nelson then led the Royal Navy to a great victory, ensuring Britain's naval supremacy for more than a hundred years.
A man of faith leading a religious nationThe British people became truly thankful for their new King George VI when he led them through the dark and threatening days of World War II.
Whereas his elder brother, who had abdicated, was seemingly sympathetic to Hitler and even met the dictator on one occasion, King George would not allow himself to be intimidated by Nazi threats. In spite of the danger, he and his wife and two daughters remained in London throughout the war when most other European leaders had fled their own countries. One reason for this was the king's faith.
As The Reluctant King explains: "The Coronation is the single most significant ceremony of a sovereign's life, transforming him or her from an ordinary mortal to a powerful symbol, half-man, half-priest, in a solemn ritual whose history goes back over a thousand years and whose significance is far older.
"No man or woman could fail to be affected by it; for George VI, whose interest in ritual and sense of history was very strong, it was to have an extraordinarily strengthening, confidence-giving effect. For both him and the Queen the religious significance of the ceremony, in which they were to dedicate themselves before God to the service of their people, was very strong.
"Cosmo Lang [Archbishop of Canterbury], an intrusive presence throughout, who saw this as an occasion for asserting the cause of Religion over the Worldliness represented by the late King [Edward VIII], held a private meeting with them at Buckingham Palace on the evening of the Sunday before Coronation Day, at which they all knelt in prayer.
"[Lang wrote:] 'I prayed for them and for their realm and Empire, and I gave them my personal blessing. I was much moved and so were they. Indeed there were tears in their eyes when we rose from our knees. From that moment I knew what would be in their minds and hearts when they came to their anointing and crowning.'
"During the ceremony itself, a kind of religious exaltation came upon the King, he later privately told Lang, as the Archbishop noted in an unpublished passage, 'that he felt throughout that Some One Else was with him'"
Harold Nicolson, a then-well-known diplomat and politician, wrote at the time of the king's coronation in May 1937, "There is no doubt that the King and Queen have entered on this task with a real religious sense".
Bound by "the cause of Christian civilization"Early in World War II, in a speech to the peoples of the British Empire, the king issued a rallying cry ... which was to be the most famous he ever made ... [that] "true peace is in the hearts of men, and it is the tragedy of this time that there are powerful countries whose whole direction and policy are based on aggression and the suppression of all that we hold dear from mankind ...
"'I believe from my heart that the cause which binds together my peoples and our gallant and faithful Allies is the cause of Christian civilization'".
In another memorable speech he proclaimed, "Let us then put our trust, as I do, in God and in the unconquerable spirit of the British people".
U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt wrote to King George VI after meeting Prime Minister Winston Churchill on board a British naval vessel, expressing that "he wished ... that the King could have been present at Divine Service on 'your latest battleship'—the Prince of Wales—attended by hundreds of British and American sailors together".
During a time of numerous military setbacks for the Allies in 1942, the king called for a national day of prayer. The following year, as the Allies started to see the war turning in their favor, the actor Leslie Howard, who starred in the enormously popular film Gone With the Wind, stood on the steps of London's St. Paul's Cathedral and repeated Nelson's prayer on the eve of the Battle of Trafalgar. Prayer was very much a part of life in the Royal Navy during the time of Britain's naval supremacy.
National enthusiasm for the BibleNone of this was a surprise for the British people at the time, for the country had been a praying nation for four centuries, ever since the religious fervor that followed the break of Henry VIII from the Catholic Church and the consequent freedom to publish and read the Bible. Henry lifted the ban in 1537, just a few months after the courageous English Bible translator William Tyndale was sentenced to death by an ecclesiastical court for smuggling Bibles into England.
Historian Benson Bobrick explains how Britain played a major role in spreading the Bible to much of the world: "Only in England was the Bible in any sense a 'national possession' ... Englishmen carried their Bibles with them—as the rock and foundation of their lives—overseas ... Beyond the shores of Albion [Britain], it fortified the spirit of the pioneers of New England, helped to shape the American psyche, and through its impact on thought and culture eventually spread the world over" (Wide as the Waters, 2001, p. 12).
How long did this enthusiasm for the Bible last? "It did not cease for 350 years. 1900 was the first year in which religious works [at least in England] did not outnumber all other publications" (Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence, 2000, p. 10).
This year, 2011, marks the 400th anniversary of the translation and publication of the most influential book of all time, the King James Version of the Bible (known in England as the Authorized Version). Few are aware that the King James Bible was the culmination of a struggle that had gone on for three centuries!
In the 14th century John Wycliffe translated the Bible at a time when there was no printing press or religious freedom. After his death the Catholic authorities declared him a heretic, exhumed his remains and burned them.
His crime? Like Tyndale after him, translating the Bible into the common English language, a grave threat to the established religious order. Wycliffe's favorite scripture was Philippians 2:12: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." This concept—that one was responsible for his own salvation without having to go through the church establishment as an intermediary—was to revolutionize England and its future colonies, both religiously and politically.
It wasn't until the Protestant Reformation, 150 years after Wycliffe, that people were free to read their Bibles. Various translations soon appeared, with differences resulting in religious conflicts. So King James I of England authorized an official translation, the King James Version, which was published exactly four centuries ago. The British people then took that translation out into the world with great fervor.
From devotion to disobedienceKing George VI, the reluctant king, reigned at the end of England's enthusiasm for the Bible. It was soon to change after his death.
Although his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, kissed the Bible at her coronation service in 1953 and promised to uphold its laws, successive British governments have progressively rejected the laws of God and replaced them increasingly with the laws of man—with the resultant breakdown of the family and consequent social and economic problems. It's not surprising that national decline has coincided with this rejection of godly values.
The title of Jacques Barzun's book sums it all up: From Dawn to Decadence. Here, the Protestant Reformation marks the dawn of modern Western civilization, when people enthusiastically embraced the Bible and sought their own salvation through adherence to their religious faith and obedience to many of the laws of God. Decadence is the final, modern period, with the rejection of all those values and the embrace of antiChristian ideas.
George VI would not have been surprised to hear this concept. He, his father, his grandfather and his great-grandmother Queen Victoria all believed that the British Empire was the fulfillment of ancient biblical prophecies foretelling that Joseph's son Ephraim and his descendants were to become a promised "multitude of nations" (Genesis 48:19). Ephraim's brother Manasseh was to "also ... become a people, and he also shall be great"—a prophecy fulfilled by his descendants in the United States.
In the April 6, 1996, issue of The Independent there appeared a facsimile of a letter written by George VI in 1922, before he assumed the throne. In the letter, George VI wrote: "I am sure the British Israelite business is true. I have read a lot about it lately and everything no matter how large or small points to our being 'the chosen race'"—those chosen to play a major prophetic role in human history.
In Genesis 48:16, the patriarch Jacob, otherwise known as Israel, blessed Joseph's two sons and said, "Bless the lads; let my name be named upon them"—meaning that biblical prophecies about "Israel" in the end time relate to the British and American peoples. (The Jews in Bible prophecy are identified as Judah, one of the 12 tribes descended from Israel, and not to be confused with the other 11 tribes.)
In Deuteronomy 7, we read of manifest blessings to be given to the modern Israelites, promises fulfilled right up until the time of George VI. We also read in chapter 28, beginning in verse 15, of the negative consequences for disobedience, for turning away from God—prophecies increasingly being fulfilled today. In fact, they read very much like today's headlines that document the troubles plaguing the major English-speaking nations.
With increasing setbacks besetting the English-speaking peoples—economic, military, social and even climatic—the time has come for national repentance, for another day of prayer like the one called for by King George VI in the dark days of 1942.
His and his people's focus on drawing close to God was a major factor in the Allied victory over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and the resulting freedoms we have since enjoyed. But our progressively distant relationship with the God who established and made the major English-speaking nations great is the most important factor in those countries' current decline and the seemingly insurmountable problems that threaten to overwhelm them.
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After putting another coat of paint on the clothes dryer, Ray sanded, primed and painted around the new window that replaced the "dreaded" problem window.