The king’s man takes viewers back to the tumultuous start of the 20and century in this prequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service and its follow-up The golden circle. The plot focuses on the events contributing to the outbreak of World War I and its ensuing aftermath, orchestrated by the sinister secret faction Shephard’s Flock.
Real historical figures were used and re-written to tell the story of the First World War according to Kingsman canon, from world leaders and politicians to spies and assassins. Some characters were accurate representations of the people they portrayed, while others were used as plot devices or exaggerated for entertainment purposes.
ten Erik Jan Hanussen
The king’s manErik Jan Hanussen’s version is less complicated than the real clairvoyant. Daniel Brühl’s Hanussen is an adviser to the Kaiser and a core member of Shephard’s Flock. Indeed, he was a key figure in Weimar Germany with government connections, though his political influence is exaggerated by the film while his reputation as an occultist is ignored.
His apparent “psychic powers” – an alleged result of information drip via the government – are overlooked in the film. Although he is known to have used the information for political gain, it was largely a ticket-selling tactic for personal gain. In this case, the character is clearly rewritten to serve as a plot pivot rather than an accurate representation of the figure he represents.
9 President Woodrow Wilson
In this depiction of Woodrow Wilson, there are vague echoes of the truth that have been exaggerated and recontextualized for plot purposes. For example, his seduction and blackmail by Mata Hari is one of many fictional events in the film, although the real president was no stranger to scandal. In the film, footage captured by Hari allegedly undermined the integrity of Wilson’s presidency; in real life, he faced a similar situation due to his affair with divorcee Mary Hulbert.
The most accurate aspect of the President’s character is the nod to his “favorite peanut butter cookies.” Before the United States entered the war, peanut butter recipes were offered as an alternative to meat. In 1913, a newspaper published an article with his first wife’s favorite peanut cookie recipes. Perhaps the cookies refer to his grief after his death in 1914.
8 Mata Hari
Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari worked as a spy during the war. In the film, the interpreter is presented as a temptress who uses her powers of seduction to obtain information from key political figures, as evidenced by her advances towards Woodrow Wilson. The real Hari never went to the United States, but being the subject of a neutral nation, he was able to travel freely across national borders.
Although her seduction of the president is a fiction, she allegedly tried to seduce Crown Prince Wilhelm – son of Kaiser Wilhelm – for military secrets on behalf of France. Even so, the watering down of his complex character and the alterations to his tragic backstory make his portrayal of an arguably inaccurate and morally ambiguous evil spy movie villain.
7 Horatio Herbert Kitchener
The film’s depiction of the senior British Army officer was criticized by The National for “making a hero out of a British war criminal”. Indeed, Herbert Kitchener popularized the use of concentration camps in warfare during the Second Boer War, the morality of which is questioned in passing when, in the opening sequence, Ralph Fiennes’ Duke of Oxford comments that the camps could require “much more care”.
However, Charles Dance’s character is somewhat redeemed when he demonstrates remorse for his actions by saying, “Five million dead. May God forgive me’ seconds before he perished at sea. While there’s no way for historians to know Kitchener’s thoughts in those final moments, the film’s somewhat forgiving depiction blurs fact with fiction. more so than some of the more obviously rewritten or exaggerated characters.
6 Tsar Nicholas II
The inexperience and inability of the last Russian tsar to rule alone is described in The king’s man by the ubiquitous Grigori Rasputin and his political advisers. Although the spell the priest holds the Tsar under “both spiritually and through opium” is exaggerated in the film, it is true that it had a powerful influence on the Romanovs due to its apparent ability to heal their son Alexi, who suffered from hemophilia. .
However, the film overlooks other crucial elements of his character that contributed to the downfall of the Romanov dynasty and the Tsarist government, such as Nicholas’ weak decision-making skills, his overconfidence and his suspicions of the change.
5 Kaiser Wilhelm II
Historians describe the last Emperor of Prussia as quick-witted but quick-tempered, with an impulsive and nervous personality. According to Additional story of the BBC, his own grandmother, Queen Victoria, reportedly told one of her ministers that Wilhelm was a “hotheaded, conceited and misguided young man”.
Tom Hollander comically portrays the famously explosive nature that has led historians to consider him the individual most responsible for starting the war, although The king’s man ignore his intelligence. Although Erik Jan Hanussen’s manipulations are fictional, the character plays on his real insecurities to provoke a reaction, including his physical disability and his resentment towards his English family.
4 Grigori Rasputin
Rhys Ifan’s colorful portrayal of the Russian mystic is entertaining, if not entirely historically accurate. Described as one of the strongest fighters in The king’s man, the plot of Grigori Rasputin is a fictional narration of well-known myths associated with the so-called “Mad Monk”. The storyline alludes to some of the most famous, including his daily consumption of poison, his magical healing powers, his sex-crazed nature, and his apparent abilities to avoid death.
In reality, Rasputin’s reputation rests solely on rumors embellished – or at least exaggerated – by his enemies to discredit the Tsarist government. Although there is some apparent truth to his sexual exploits, Rasputin is said to have been softer in political situations than the film suggests. That being said, this is certainly an accurate depiction of the cartoon that has been passed down through history.
3 Archduke Franz Ferdinand
The events unfolding in Sarajevo on the eve of the war involving the Archduke are most accurately portrayed in the film. A bomb was thrown at the Archduke’s car, but not by Princip. He also bounced off the car and under another, injuring two army officers and a few bystanders, but without help from Conrad and his umbrella.
The Archduke sheds light on his assassination attempt when he says: ‘I come here on a goodwill visit to be greeted by bombs. The line itself is factually accurate, although the real Archduke interrupted the mayor’s speech with the outburst while displaying understandable signs of stress. While the events are accurately depicted down to the actual words spoken by the Archduke, the subtle rewriting of his character lessens the accuracy here slightly.
2 King George V
Personality-wise, King George V is described as having been more prudish and reserved than his champagne toast portrayal in The king’s man might suggest. Despite this, the empathy that Tom Hollander’s character shows when he says to Oxford Orlando, “You know how many boys’ lives you’ve saved. […] at least let me save one,” reflects the king’s true duty of care to the troops fighting for his earldom. A duty that saw him visit the front line six times during the war in an attempt to boost morale.
His duty-bound and emotionally disciplined nature is perhaps best portrayed in the scene where he presents Oxford with a Victoria Cross for his deceased son. It’s an ironic move, given Oxford’s anti-war attitude, which demonstrates the monarch’s values.
1 Gavrilo Principal
The scene in which the Bosnian Serb assassinates the Archduke and starts war is perhaps the film’s most faithful account of a historical event. Although there were more assassins involved and more mayhem than the scene suggests, the key fact that Gavrilo Princip managed to assassinate the Archduke by pure chance is effectively captured.
Although Princip’s affiliation with Shepard is of course fictitious, he was actively involved in the type of spy organization depicted in The Kingsmans series, including the Young Bosnia guerrilla group against Austrian rule and later the Black Hand – the Serbian secret society that would lead him to Sarajevo in 1914. Such factual details make the character’s portrayal and involvement in The king’s manis the most believable historical account.
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