Blame my Grandmother for The King's Speech
By Joanna C on November 28, 2010
Blame my Grandmother for The King's Speech?
No, my Nana wasn't a nanny who tortured young Prince Albert into stammering. She rarely even visited the UK, so far as I know. Yet her footnote to history hints at a very different possible outcome, an irony recalled as my family chats about the film. As a speech therapist, of course, I've had a compound interest in it. But family is the principal.
My grandmother Courtney Letts was born in 1900, a senator's daughter who grew up in Washington DC. My grandfather John Borden was her second husband. They married in 1924 and spent a few years in Chicago high society; my mother was born there in 1925. (Further footnotes: the milk-products Borden was a distant cousin, as was the infamous Lizzie. John's daughter Ellen, my mother's older half sister, married Adlai Stevenson.)
My grandparents divorced in the aftermath of the 1929 stock market crash, and my grandmother returned to the east coast, either losing custody of her children or abandoning them, depending on whom one believes. Around this time she became romantically involved with Felipe Espil, an Argentine diplomat who had previously been linked to Wallis Spencer (the soon-to-be Mrs. Simpson)**.
Nana and "Uncle Felipe" married, and lived in Argentina for the next 30 years. Although she would marry a fourth time, late in life after Espil died, she considered him "the love of her life."
By all accounts Nana was a vain woman, and thus may have exaggerated the dynamic; but in her view, she "got the man that Wallis wanted." Wallis then "settled" for the Prince of Wales!
So: had Nana been less desirable, might Wallis have become Madame Espil and stayed in the western hemisphere? Might Edward the VIII have stayed on the throne, and brother Albert in the shadows, unaided by the speech therapy at the center of the new film?
Given Edward's pro-Hitler interests, World War II history might have been changed. Heck, even the Princess Di drama might have turned differently, if Albert/George VI's daughter Elizabeth had not become queen. Ah well; my SciFi-loving husband says that if such alternate realities exist, they are in realms we cannot enter.
I've found my grandmother mentioned in biographies of the Duchess of Windsor, so there are at least glitters of truth in the tale. Because of her life in Argentina, I only met her a few times. She died in Washington DC in 1996.
Sometimes I think I inherited Nana's vanity, if little of her wealth or old-fashioned glamour. (My other grandmother was a Russian-Jewish immigrant who spent her life at a sewing machine in the Bronx!) But in addition to some 1920s silver, I did inherit a good story.
"The task is ... not so much to see what no one has
yet seen; but to think what nobody has thought,
about that which everybody sees." —Schrodinger
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