Speech-Language Pathology/Stuttering/Famous People Who Stutter/British Royals and Commoners

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Several British royals stuttered. Charles I (1600-1649) was king from 1625 until 1649, during the English Civil War. His inability to speak to Parliament "had an unfavorable influence on his affairs." Charles lost the war and was executed. It didn't help that he proclaimed that he was above the law: "a king and a subject are two plain different things." His father, James I (1566-1625), was described as "having a tongue too big for his mouth"—possibly an articulation disorder.[1]

George VI (1895-1952) was king from 1937 until 1952. He was father of Queen Elizabeth II. His annual live Christmas broadcasts were "always an ordeal."[2] Robert Graves' 1934 novel I, Claudius is ostensibly about the Roman emperor Claudius, who stuttered. But the personality and life of Graves' Claudius were taken from the shy George VI. George survived the scandals of his brother Edward's abdication, was thrust into a role to which he was thought unsuited, and surprised everyone by becoming one of the most capable and loved modern kings.

More recently, Bruce Oldfield outgrew childhood stuttering and designed gowns for Princess Diana.[3]

Winston Churchill and Aneurin Bevan, Statesmen[edit | edit source]

Sixty years ago the best orators of the British Parliament were both stutterers. Aneurin Bevan (1897-1960), leader of the Labour Party and architect of the National Health Service, forced himself to make speeches as often as possible. He spoke fluently when his passions were aroused, so he spoke passionately for British workers in the 1930s. Bevan developed an extraordinary vocabulary by substituting words to avoid stuttering.[4]

Winston Churchill (1874-1965), leader of the Conservative Party, could speak fluently only by preparing his remarks in advance. He studied issues weeks in advance, and wrote out responses to any possible objection. This extra effort made Churchill more knowledgeable than other leaders.[5]

As a young man, Churchill worried that his stuttering would impact his ambition to go into politics. But he didn't believe in submitting to failure so he practiced and persevered. He both practiced his speeches and practiced nonsense phrases as he walked, such as "The Spanish ships I cannot see since they are not in sight." When he was 23, he wrote, "Sometimes a slight and not unpleasing stammer or impediment has been of some assistance in securing the attention of the audience…"[6]

More British Stutterers[edit | edit source]

The British are fond of eccentrics and stutterers.[7]

Robert Boyle (1627-92) was a chemist known for his experiments on the properties of gases.

Isaac Newton (1643-1727) was a physicist, mathematician, and astronomer.

Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) was a physician and naturalist and was invited to be the personal physician for King George III of England.[8] His grandson, naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882), also stuttered.

Charles Lamb (1775-1834) wasn't allowed to pursue a scholarly education because of his stuttering. He worked as an accountant and wrote essays on the side. Lamb advocated smoking heavily to loosen your tongue.

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) was a political writer, and founded the liberal Examiner newspaper.

Charles Canon Kingsley (1819-1875) was a Cambridge history professor, orator, and chaplain to Queen Victoria. His novels include the popular pirate adventure Westward Ho! and the popular children's book The Water Babies. He recommended treating stuttering with a "manly" diet of beef and beer.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898) was an Oxford mathematician, minister, and photographer. On July 4, 1862, while boating on the Thames, he told a friend's children, including a daughter named Alice, a story of a girl named Alice. Dodgson later published Alice's Adventures in Wonderland under the pen name Lewis Carroll.

Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) was a novelist (The Old Wives' Tale) and playwright.

Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was the highest-paid writer of the 1930s. His novels include The Razor's Edge and The Moon and Sixpence. In his autobiographical novel Of Human Bondage he substituted a clubfoot for his stuttering, because stuttering was too difficult to transcribe in writing.

Nevil Shute (1899-1960) was an aeronautical engineer and novelist (A Town Like Alice).

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) was from Ireland. Her novels include The House in Paris and The Death of the Heart.

Lord David Cecil (1902-1986) was Professor of English literature at Oxford in the 1950s. "Lord David's stutter was thought of as a mark of high-bred diffidence…As an Oxford undergraduate in the fifties, I expected my tutors to stutter; it was their way of not insisting, I thought, and very Oxford." John Bailey, husband of novelist Iris Murdoch and another student of Lord David Cecil, also stutters.[9]

Kim Philby (1912-1988) was a spy. Stuttering once saved his life, by confounding a fast-paced interrogator.

Patrick Campbell (1913-1980) was a British humorist and 3rd Baron Glenavy. He wrote, "From my earliest days I have enjoyed an attractive impediment in my speech. I have never permitted the use of the word 'stammer.' I can't say it myself."[10]

Margaret Drabble (1939- ) is the editor of The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Her novels include The Seven Sisters and The Red Queen.

  1. ^ Fraser, Antonia. King James VI of Scotland, I of England. (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson; 1974) p. 163.
  2. ^ Bobrick, Benson. Knotted Tongues. New York: Simon&Schuster, 1995
  3. ^ Johnson, B. "Bruce Oldfield Makes Clothes Fit For A (Future) Queen." People Weekly, April 13, 1987, p.137.
  4. ^ Bobrick, Benson. Knotted Tongues. New York: Simon&Schuster, 1995
  5. ^ Bobrick, Benson. Knotted Tongues. New York: Simon&Schuster, 1995
  6. ^ Montalbo, Thomas. "Churchill: A Study in Oratory," Finest Hour, 69, and The Churchill Centre (http://www.winstonchurchill.org/).
  7. ^ Bobrick, Benson. Knotted Tongues. New York: Simon&Schuster, 1995
  8. ^ Bobrick, Benson. Knotted Tongues. New York: Simon&Schuster, 1995
  9. ^ Ian Hamilton, "An Oxford Union," The New Yorker, February 19, 1996.
  10. ^ http://www.logophilia.com/waw/Campbell-Patrick.asp