The King’s Speech: A Rhetorical Analysis (2024)

Anyone that has seen the 2010 film The King’s Speech knows of the numerous circ*mstances preceding King George VI’s delivery of his first wartime broadcast. Above all, they know of his personal anxiety surrounding his usurping of the throne and speech impediment; however, this sample of historical rhetoric goes beyond a simple Colin Firth film. On September 3, 1939, King George VI of the United Kingdom gave an address to the nation, explaining that they were once more at war and why they stood in such a state. In making use of argumentation, addressing his audience appropriately, and handling his speech defect efficiently in delivery, King George VI calls on the ethos, pathos, and logos of his subjects, effectively presenting his arguments for going to war with Germany.

In calling on logos, pathos, and ethos, King George VI effectively presents a strong argumentation in favor of going to war. In presenting these arguments, he embraces the theme of calling on his subjects’ sense of duty—whether it have a basis in political, religious, or civic motivation. In the national address, King George VI reminds the people that more diplomatic actions have been attempted, but have failed against their new enemies. To present this argument in favor of direct action, he pronounces, “over and over again we have tried to find a peaceful way out of the differences between ourselves and those who are now our enemies. But it has been in vain. We have been forced into a conflict.” By pointing out these past engagements in a factual manner, King George VI appeals to the people’s logos. If his subjects can see the reasoning behind his actions, they will feel more inclined to support the war effort and put him in their favor. It is important to note that many people doubted King George VI in the start of his reign, so he needed this speech to succeed to win them over. He did so by exemplifying the compassionate leader during a somber time in trying to connect with his audience. A second argument King George makes exists in his statement of the crimes their enemies have committed which prompted the action he has taken. “It is the principle which permits a state, in the selfish pursuit of power, to disregard its treaties and its solemn pledges; which sanctions the use of force, or threat of force, against the sovereignty and independence of other states,” he says clearly to express his point. In one sentence, King George VI references Germany’s massive rise to power and negligence towards the Treaty of Versailles—the document that ended the First World War. The British king appeals to the people’s logos by explaining these numerous wrongdoings committed by Germany, affirming that action must be taken swiftly. This too appeals to ethos in that, as moral citizens of the global community, the British must feel compelled to help their fellow man. Due to the fact that he could appeal to ethos, pathos, and logos in his many arguments for the war effort, King George VI greatly succeeds in increasing support for the cause and himself.

From the very start of his address, King George VI identifies his audience and his relationship with them, building a sense of trust and mutual duty. To call on their ethos and pathos, King George also tries to establish a personal connection for the effort of unity for the upcoming war effort to the entirety of his subjects. He calls for all citizens to act with their personal, physical, and emotional strength, showing his faith in the abilities of the British. The address calls them to remember the last World War that they fought valiantly in by stating “or the second time in the lives of most of us we are at war.” This also reiterates in the people’s minds that King George VI fought in the first world war himself; this appeals to their ethos in that it offers the king credibility in making important wartime decisions. King George VI goes on to appeal to their pathos, or emotional mindset, by affirming the British citizens’ religious consciousness. He also appeals to from a place of pathos-appeal because, as king, he acts as the head of the Church of England. At the close of his speech, King George VI declares, “But we can only do the right as we see the right, and reverently commit our cause to God. If one and all we keep resolutely faithful to it, ready for whatever service or sacrifice it may demand, then, with God’s help, we shall prevail.” In mentioning their religious nature, he petitions the people’s faith and sense of civic and moral duty to their fellow man. By characterizing his subjects, King George VI effectively appeals to their various natures of emotion, trust, and logic.

A major problem facing King George VI during his reign rests in his public image largely which became tarnished by his poor public speaking skills; therefore, when he gave this address to the public, many were in shock and won over by his eloquence. A major point rests in the fact that he did not completely shed himself of his stammer; he merely learned to work around it. This speech had the purpose of reassurance and motivation. Its delivery required a slow, somber tone that fits directly into King George’s way of speaking without a restricting stutter. This purposeful and deliberate presentation causes the matter at hand to seem all the more serious. So indirectly, King George’s need to speak slowly further emphasizes his points in his very first wartime address. This delivery calls upon their pathos in that it made them feel the tension and solemnity of the era that they were entering. Due to the perceived severity, the British people were compelled to listen closer and respond even more strongly for the entire five minutes and forty-five seconds. Furthermore, prior to this speech, the British public viewed King George VI as less than satisfactory in comparison to his predecessors—his brother, King Edward VIII, and his father, King George V. Both of his relatives had been noted for their strong speaking skills and use of the radio, a relatively new commodity for the average person. The fact that this address to the United Kingdom exists as one of the first wartime broadcasts in history appealed to the ethos of many because it contradicted the popular perception at the time. On the grounds that that he had a heavy stammer and had never used the newer technologies, many believed he would prove an incompetent ruler. King George VI managed to win over the nation with the help of necessary slow speaking and the use of the radio.

King George VI fought his entire life to overcome a debilitating speech impediment, something he never quite achieved, but managed to control to the point of winning over the majority of the nation in one speech. Not only did he make his stammer work for his benefit with the need for a slow delivery, but he also backed himself up with strong argumentation and with an assured knowledge of his audience. In this concise address to his people, King George appealed to ethos, pathos, and logos multiple times and gained support for the war effort from the beginning. This four hundred and seven word speech inspired a nation to take action. It even inspired a blockbuster film.

Works Cited

King George VI. “King George VI Addresses the Nation.” Speech. Buckingham Palace,

London, England. 3 Sept. 1939. The King’s Speech: Royal Broadcasts in the BBC

Archives. BBC News, 17 Dec. 2010. Web. 5 Oct. 2013.


King George VI. “The Real King’s Speech.” YouTube. YouTube, 05 Feb. 2011. Web. 05

Oct. 2013. <>.

The King’s Speech. Dir. Tom Hooper. Perf. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Paramount,

2010. Film.

The King’s Speech: A Rhetorical Analysis (2024)
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