Like millions of other people in the UK, I saw The King’s Speech in the cinema earlier this year.
Unlike most of those millions, I didn’t come away raving. I thought it was a good film, and I certainly think Colin Firth gave an Oscar-worthy performance, but it didn’t seem worth all the fuss it generated. It’s just a fairly standard – albeit well-made – bio-pic.
At a conference I went to on Saturday, though, one of the speakers, David, said something which opened my eyes to perhaps the perspective that was so revelatory to everyone else all along.
What he said was this: “Don’t reject your crown.”
We are told in Revelation that God has made us Kings and Priests and that we will reign over the earth – in fact, all the way back in Genesis 1 we were commissioned to have dominion – to rule – over the creatures of the earth.
Sounds pretty cool, huh?
So why the need to exhort us not to reject our crowns? Well, The King’s Speech holds some possible answers:
Firstly, being King is hard work. The reason ‘Bertie’ (later to be known as George VI) had to do so much public speaking was because his older brother, David (later Edward VIII), the heir to the throne was not taking his duties seriously.
A common perception of the Royal family is that they sit around drinking tea, occasionally giving out medals, but generally living insanely wealthy lives and doing no work. Both David and Bertie knew this was not the case: being King meant working hard, it meant doing your duty and facing things that you might prefer to avoid. In this particular instance, it meant being head of the country when war with Germany was looking ever more likely.
The role was going to be challenging and demanding. Being King is not all about sitting around and commanding people to do things for you, it is a highly responsible job.
Secondly, being King demands self-sacrifice. David abdicated his role because, ultimately, he wasn’t prepared to give up that which he most wanted in order to do what was required of him. He was born to be King, but he chose to marry someone who, at that time, would not have been allowed to be Queen. (To his credit, assuming the film is accurate, he had people advising him to marry someone ‘suitable’ and keep Mrs Simpson as a long-term mistress, but he wisely rejected this course of action.)
Third, being King requires courage. Both David and Bertie had a choice. David chose his pleasure over his duty, Bertie chose duty over his fear. The men had other brothers; Bertie was not the only option for King. He could have refused the role and David, on abdication, could, perfectly legally, have appointed one of the others. Afraid, uncertain and utterly daunted though he was, however, Bertie seems to have sensed the calling and the opportunity being offered to him.
Where David wanted to serve himself, Bertie genuinely wanted to serve his people, whatever the cost.
Lastly, and perhaps surprisingly, being King requires humility. When Bertie sought help with his speech impediment, Lionel Logue told him in no uncertain terms ‘You do it my way or not at all.’ Bertie may have been the next King of England, he may have been used to people to fitting their routines and methods around him, but if he wanted success, he had to be willing to take instruction from one who knew the field better.
We – humans – are called to rule over our area of responsibility. It is a great honour and a great privilege. It comes with rich rewards. But it also requires hard work, self-sacrifice, courage and humility. It’s a tall order, but a high calling. Will you accept your crown, or will you abdicate it to someone else?