The Kingsman franchise is one that’s gained a surprising amount of popularity. The Kingsman movies are definitely unique when it comes to the world of spy movies. With a top-notch cast, a set of intriguing stories which are connected to one another, incredible action sequences, and humor to ensure viewers have a great time, these movies never fail to entertain. The most recent movie of the franchise, The King’s Man, sets the foundation for the secret service and the remainder of the movies. This particular movie travels back in time and gives the viewer an in-depth idea as to the franchise’s creative origin story and how the secret society was formed.
Director Matthew Vaughn has taken an interesting turn in The King’s Man, as the story is not purely fictional. Taking an innovative approach, Vaughn has combined real historical stories with his fictional world. Thus, we are introduced to a set of historical characters who interact with the fictional world that would lead to the Kingsman films. Given that there is an amalgamation of reality and fiction in the film, a question arises as to what extent these historical figures are accurate. As an attempt to tackle this question, here is a brief look into The King’s Man‘s portrayal of certain historical figures.
King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Tsar Nicholas II
King George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia are all portrayed by Tom Hollander, and are said to be cousins in the movie. This is, in fact, accurate. The three monarchs were actually related; as the Brookings Institute writes,
“Wilhelm’s mother was the sister of George’s father; George’s mother and Nicholas’ mother were sisters from the Danish royal family. All three men were also fifth cousins, being equal descendants of King George II of England. “
When it comes to the character portrayals, George V is not as friendly or sociable as the film portrays him to be. Rather, he is like any other royal, much reserved and rule-abiding. However, Kaiser Wilhelm II’s hot-tempered nature and Tsar Nicholas II’s incompetent nature are quite on par with the history records. Whilst they are exaggerated for dramatic purposes, it can be said that the film does make a statement by ensuring there is apt focus on these characters’ personalities, since it really did lay the foundation for the first World War.
The team of villains orchestrating the whole war whilst puppeteering the leaders might not have existed, but the characters that make up the team are well known antagonists of world history. Grigori Rasputin’s portrayal is very similar to the historical accounts. However, there are still debates as to how much of Rasputin’s records are accurate. Either way, when looking at the history, this is a character known for his “supernatural” persona. As per the film, Rasputin’s healing powers are what made him quite popular in historical Russia; also, the Tsar’s wife is one of the biggest believers of Rasputin. This is yet another take from the history that has been recorded.
In addition to Rasputin, the group of villains (or rather “the Flock”) consists of other historical figures. Erik Jan Hanussen, portrayed by Daniel Brühl, is a character that is brought out as rather manipulative and someone who coordinates the world powers. At the end of the film we see Hanussen introducing Vladmir Lenin to Adolf Hitler as the “young man” that will come to rival his position in the world.
Even though historical writings do not suggest that the two villains have met as portrayed in the movie, they have shared similar “qualities of absolute, wanton evil, while possessing qualities of charm that enamored their nations”, as stated by Carrie Stingl for Wink. Thus, the film has definitely taken the historical facts and added its own innovative thinking to suggest that these two tyrants of history were probably introduced to the world by Hanussen, who in reality did support the Nazis.
The remaining characters of the Flock include Mata Hari, played by Valerie Pachner, who was in reality an exotic dancer alleged to be a spy for Germany. However, there are debates as to whether Hari was really a realistic spy for Germany or not. Either way, her character was incorporated to drive the plot by connecting the United States to the story. The story also uses Gavrilo Princip, played by Joel Basman, to show how he ignited the war by assassinating Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie. This is a well known historical fact.
However, the striking fictional part is the connection of these villains and their team-up under a leader called Captain Maximilian “Max” Morton in the eyes of the British, and as The Shepherd in the eyes of the villains, played by Matthew Goode. This was introduced to connect the spy film to the historical stories. Thus, it can be seen as a brilliant amalgamation of history and fiction.
The Well-Known Leaders
The King’s Man uses several other well-known historical figures to flesh out its origin story. However, they are shown as good characters. One such character is Lord Kitchener, played by Charles Dance. The issue with this particular character is that the film portrays him to be a hero while, in reality, he was a “British Empire was criminal. “In the opening scene of the film we see Kitchener being introduced amidst a concentration camp.
Even though it is just a passing shot, we see the Duke of Oxford (the protagonist of the film, played by Ralph Fiennes), stating that Kitchener’s camps could use a “little more care.” However, the shot that focuses on the campers say otherwise. Thus, this particular character being portrayed as a hero by Vaughn or rather a good character might be insensitive as he is fabricating a ruthless historical figure.
In addition to Kitchener, there are certain other world leaders like President Woodrow Wilson who are incorporated into the movie. Even if their screen time is limited, Vaughn has definitely connected different parts of world history into his franchise’s origin story. The King’s Man is definitely a brilliantly executed film that has taken a unique approach by mixing and twisting history with imagination. Despite the movie’s historical inaccuracies might be certain flaws like Kitchener’s portrayal. Yet, the film is an interesting watch.
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