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Prince Albert, Duke of York (Colin Firth), the second son of King George V, stammers through his speech closing the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium. The Duke has given up hope of a cure, but his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) persuades him to see Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist in London. During their first session, Logue breaches royal etiquette and insists on calling his patient "Bertie," a name used only within the Duke's family. When Albert decides Logue's methods and manner are unsuitable, the Australian bets a shilling that the Duke can recite Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy without trouble while listening to loud music on headphones. Logue records his performance on a gramophone record; convinced he has stammered throughout, Albert leaves in a huff, declaring his condition "hopeless" and dismissing Logue. Logue offers him the recording as a keepsake.
1934 photograph of George V delivering the Royal Christmas Message; an image recreated in the filmAfter King George V (Michael Gambon) makes his 1934 Christmas radio address, he explains to Albert the importance of broadcasting to a modern monarchy. He declares that "David" (Edward, Prince of Wales, played by Guy Pearce), Albert's older brother, will bring ruin to himself, the family, and the country when he accedes to the throne. King George demands that Albert train himself, starting with a reading of his father's speech. He makes an agonising attempt to do so.
Later, Albert plays Logue's recording and hears himself unhesitatingly reciting Shakespeare. He returns to Logue, but he and his wife insist that Logue stop delving into his private life and merely work on the physical aspects. Logue teaches his patient muscle relaxation and breath control techniques, but continues to gently probe at the psychological roots of the stutter. The Duke eventually reveals some of the pressures of his childhood: his strict father, the repression of his natural left-handedness, painful childhood metal splints to correct his knock-knees, his first nanny, who secretly mistreated him, and the early death of his epileptic younger brother, John. The two men become friends.
In January 1936, George V dies, and David ascends the throne as King Edward VIII, but causes a monumental crisis with his determination to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), an American socialite and twice a divorcée. At Christmas in Balmoral Castle, Albert points out that Edward, as head of the Church of England, cannot marry a divorced woman; Edward accuses his brother of wanting to usurp his place, calling his elocution lessons preparation, and resurrects his childhood taunt of "B-B-B-Bertie".
Firth and Bonham Carter as the Duke and Duchess of YorkAt his next session, Albert expresses his frustration that his speech has improved while talking to most people—except his own brother. Albert reveals the extent of Edward VIII's folly with Mrs Simpson. When Logue insists that Albert could be a good king, the latter calls it treason, mocks Logue's failed acting aspirations and humble origins, and dismisses him. When King Edward VIII abdicates to marry Mrs Simpson, Albert becomes King George VI. The new King and Queen visit Logue at his home to apologise, startling Logue's wife (who had been kept in the dark about the patient's identity).
During preparations for his coronation in Westminster Abbey, George VI learns that Logue has no formal qualifications. Logue explains that, as an elocution teacher, he was asked to help shell-shocked Australian soldiers returning from the First World War, and thereby found his calling. When George VI remains convinced of his unfitness to be king, Logue sits in King Edward's Chair and dismisses the underlying Stone of Scone as a trifle. Goaded by Logue's seeming disrespect, the King surprises himself with his own sudden outraged eloquence.
Upon the declaration of war with Nazi Germany in September 1939, George VI summons Logue to Buckingham Palace to prepare for his upcoming radio address to millions of listeners in Britain and the Empire. The King is left alone with Logue in the room with the microphone. He delivers his speech competently, as if to Logue alone, who guides him silently throughout. Afterwards, the King and his family step onto the balcony of the palace to be viewed and applauded by the thousands who have gathered.
A title card explains that Logue was always present at King George VI's speeches during the war, and that they remained friends for the rest of their lives.