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Bertie and Elizabeth: The Reluctant Royals - The Story of King George VI & Queen Elizabeth

4.2 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

James Wilby (Gosford Park) and Juliet Aubrey (Middlemarch) portray the reluctant royals who became king and queen of England when Edward VIII gave up the throne for the woman he loved, on Bertie & Elizabeth. Albert, Duke of York, called Bertie, married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923 after a storybook courtship. Expecting a life of genteel obscurity, they were thrust into the limelight in 1936 when Bertie's older brother, Edward VIII, abdicated to marry the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. Shy, modest, and a habitual stutterer, Bertie was crowned King George VI just as his country faced the onslaught of World War II. With the help of his devoted Elizabeth, he rose magnificently to the challenge. Bertie & Elizabeth also stars Alan Bates (Love in a Cold Climate) as Bertie's father, King George V; Eileen Atkins (currently starring with Bates and Wilby in Gosford Park) as his mother, Queen Mary; Charles Edwards as Edward VIII; Amber Rose Sealey as Wallis Simpson; David Ryall as Winston Churchill; Robert Hardy (Lucky Jim) as President Franklin Roosevelt; and Corin Redgrave (Persuasion) as General Bernard Montgomery.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: James Wilby, Juliet Aubrey, Alan Bates, Eileen Atkins, Charles Edwards (VI)
  • Directors: Giles Foster
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: January 4, 2005
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0006Q93H4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,287 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Bertie and Elizabeth: The Reluctant Royals - The Story of King George VI & Queen Elizabeth" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Bertie and Elizabeth is the story of the courtship and marriage of Prince Albert, Duke of York and second son of King George V, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. This has historical significance in that Bertie and Elizabeth became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in December 1936 upon the abdication of Bertie's older brother King Edward VIII, who became Duke of Windsor. George VI and his Queen led the British monarchy through World War II and the beginning of the dissolution of the British Empire before the King died in his sleep in 1952.

The first segments of this story are well done but a bit thin in historical detail. I would like to have seen more of the difficult relations between Bertie and his parents, and I feel personally that the character of Edward VIII was drawn to be crueler than he deserved. (While there is no doubt that the Duke of Windsor was self-absorbed, he was kinder to his siblings, particularly Bertie and his stuttering problems, than this film depicts.) I also think Elizabeth's character comes off as superficial too much of the time, and that Wallis Simpson is made out to be far nastier than she deserves (I don't have much use for the Duchess of Windsor, but most of her missteps were out of ignorance rather than malevolence.) I enjoyed the scenes showing Elizabeth's working to help her husband overcome his stammer, though I rather doubt they really spent much time on the floor of the doctor's office.

The Abdication scenes and the early years of George VI's reign are well done, particularly the Royal Visit to President Roosevelt in 1939, but things get skimpy again in the World War II years. I don't understand why Elizabeth's famous comment that she could at last look the East End in the face after Buckingham Palace was bombed was left out.
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Format: DVD
There was never supposed to be a Queen Elizabeth II sitting on the throne of England, anymore than there is ever supposed to be a second Queen Victoria. When the Duke of York, the second son of King George V, married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the first commoner to marry into English royalty since Anne Boelyn, it was not of any concern because his older brother David would inherit the throne as Edward VIII. When the couple had their first daughter, they named her Elizabeth and I always thought it was because he wanted to honor his wife. So when Edward VIII gave up his throne for the woman he loved, the American divorce Wallis Simpson, the Duke of York became King George VI, his wife became Queen consort, and their daughter would one day be Queen Elizabeth II.

"Bertie and Elizabeth: The Reluctant Royals - The Story of King George VI & Queen Elizabeth" begins the story right before they meet in 1920 and ends it after his death in 1952. Of course, Elizabeth then became the "Queen Mum" and the most beloved woman in England and there is some indication of why in this Masterpiece Theater movie. During the Nazi Blitz during World War II when it was suggested that the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret be taken to Canada for safety, it was the Queen consort who insisted that the family stay in London just like all of the other citizens who had no place to go. There is some indication of the affection their subjects had for the King and Queen, but mostly the scenes are set in the castles out of the public's sight. Of course, that is the attraction of such biopics.
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I enjoyed this movie because I love history and always wonder what life was like behind the scenes. Even though I often enjoy watching the big ceremonial scenes with the crowns, robes, and history, there is always curiosity about 'the rest' of it. This movie was about the family discussions behind the scenes, not the big ceremonial events, and while we don't know how close it comes to what really happened, I found it believable. While the story told by this movie is very much about the decision of the king to leave when the country will not accept his flawed would-be queen, we don't go through what was obviously many months of emotional and political negotiations prior to the final decision. That was only briefly treated in this presentation, and I'm glad. The more interesting part was Bertie & Elizabeth and their story apart from the battle we've all heard before.

The movie starts as Bertie and Elizabeth meet, Bertie being fully devoted to his brother, the future king. Bertie seemed humble, particularly since he had a severe problem with stuttering. We get to watch as he struggles to overcome his speech difficulties, finally with success, exceptions being when he was overcome with anger or emotion. At one such time he was lashing out at his brother the king, who had given up his throne and subsequently shown no signs of having any good character at all. Bertie finally had enough, his speech problems briefly recurring as he responded to that moment.

We see a few 'party' scenes where Bertie's brother meets the woman he would give up the throne for, and believe me, they don't come off too well. This movie is not sympathetic to Edward and Mrs. Simpson, showing them to be petty, lazy, uncaring, and ignorant.
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