Prince Charles: 'Grandfather George VI's speech problems cut him off from family'

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The Independent Online

The Prince of Wales spoke today about how his grandfather's speech problems "cut him off" from his family as he joined Michael Palin and Schools Secretary Ed Balls in praising the work of the UK's only national stammering centre.

Charles hosted a reception at his London home to celebrate staff and supporters of the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children.

Before the event Mr Balls pledged £500,000 to a national appeal for a new institution in the north of England to assess and treat youngsters with the speech problem.

His department has already made half a million pounds available to the Palin Centre in Islington, north London.

Speaking about George VI the prince told his guests who included the centre's staff and supporters: "His stammer cut him off I think in so many ways from his parents and his brothers and sisters and drove him into himself as I suspect so many stammerers will understand.

"I think above all he experienced that awful fear of feeling different from others."

He joked with the audience about how the Monarch's speech problem would be dealt with in a forthcoming film about his grandfather called The King's Speech, with Colin Firth in the title role and Helena Bonham Carter as his wife.

Charles added: "My grandfather was fortunate enough to receive speech therapist services which enabled him to overcome the condition."

The royal is patron of the appeal launched by the Association for Research into Stammering in Childhood (ARSC), which jointly established the Palin Centre in Islington, north London.

The ARSC is hoping to raise £2 million, in addition to the £1 million from the Schools Secretary, from public donations to improve services for youngsters suffering from speech problems.

Mr Balls, who attended the reception along with Palin, suffered from a stammer when younger and has worked to overcome it. While the Monty Python star's father had the same condition.

The politician said: "I've had a stammer all my life, I had a stammer when I was a child - it never goes away.

"When I was young I never really got any help - it didn't exist back then - but I've been pretty persistent and I've done some things the hard way."

The cabinet minister said he has been able to achieve high office and give speeches despite the problem and others could too.

Mr Balls, who described the Palin centre as brilliant, said: "But only to have one in London for the whole country means people making really long journeys from North Wales and Newcastle and sometimes needing to make that journey two or three times a week.

"And I think if we have a second hub in Leeds-Bradford serving the northern part of the country that will make it much, much easier for families - there is definitely a demand for it."

The Palin Centre was founded in 1993 and the comic actor and travel presenter agreed to the institution being named after him following his role as a stammering character called Ken in the hit movie A Fish Called Wanda.