CINEMA: by Len Phillips (reviewer)News Weekly
Forgotten story of Victoria's early life - The Young Victoria (rated PG)
, October 17, 2009
Against all the odds of moviedom, The Young Victoria turns out to be an interesting film and not handicapped by staying more or less true to the historical facts.
|Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt)|
and Prince Albert (Rupert Friend)
in The Young Victoria.
My most basic premise in films of this kind is that a movie merely based
on a true story will often end up being largely and in important ways untrue. But with The Young Victoria
, to what extent that holds I am too uninformed and unread in the actual history to know.
However, I did some research. I looked up Queen Victoria in the Cambridge Dictionary of Biography (CDB)
and discovered to my astonishment that the film has, to all intents and purposes, been faithful to the CDB
. More or less all the biographical incidents recorded in the CDB
about Victoria's early life feature in the film.
The film just told the story, romanticised of course; but what you read in the CDB
was what you saw.
It is not, I might note, necessarily a recommendation for an historical film that it sticks to the history! First and foremost, it is a film and therefore, first and foremost, it must entertain. And that it did. The actual conflicts of the time were blended into the facts as shown.
This is from the Wikipedia
entry, and this is what half the film was about:
"Victoria's mother [the Duchess of Kent] was extremely protective of the princess, who was raised in near isolation under the so-called 'Kensington System', an elaborate set of rules and protocols devised by The Duchess and her supposed lover, Sir John Conroy, to prevent the princess from ever meeting people they deemed undesirable and to render her weak and utterly dependent upon them.
"She was not allowed to interact with other children. Her main companion was her King Charles spaniel, Dash, and she was required to share a bedroom with her mother every night until she became queen.
"As a teenager, Victoria resisted their threats and rejected their attempts to make Conroy her personal secretary. Once queen, she immediately banned Conroy from her quarters (though she could not remove him from her mother's household) and consigned her mother to a distant corner of the palace, often refusing to see her."
Who could have guessed? Queen Victoria to most of us is the dowager queen of England, an old woman in her widow's weeds, utterly respectable and the very epitome of rectitude. That she was young, unmarried and rebellious is not how we tend to think of her.
For Australians there is, of course, something more. Her first Prime Minister was none other than Lord Melbourne, a Whig and laissez-faire conservative, who, aside from anything else, gave his name to our second city.
Yet, for all that, does anyone but a handful in Melbourne, indeed in the whole of Australia, know anything about the man who just happened to be the Prime Minister on the day that Melbourne received its name? Would even one in a thousand recognise his portrait on a wall? See the movie and he comes to life.
The first scandal of the Queen's reign comes when she refuses to dismiss the ladies-in-waiting that had been chosen for her by Melbourne after Melbourne is replaced as Prime Minister by Sir Robert Peel, a Tory. "This can't be serious!", I thought as the story unfolded, but this too is historical truth.
But the running theme is her meeting with and courtship by (and, because she was Queen, her courtship of) Prince Albert. For him to marry Victoria was a great career move. For his family, it was a major step towards a valuable alliance in the midst of the dynastic politics of Europe. But underneath it all there really does seem to have been a love match.
Surprisingly not even hinted at in the film was an issue raised in the CDB
and that was Albert's faithfulness to his wife. The Victorian age began at the end of a highly decadent period spanning the Regency period to the reign of George IV the rogue king of England. Albert, however, though the ladies of the court continued to gain his attention, remained the loyal husband and confidant of his wife.The Young Victoria
was surprisingly enjoyable and very different from most of the films we have seen of late. Even Victoria's trendy leftism (her eaerly preference for the Whigs over the Tories), a leaning encouraged by Albert, was only mentioned in passing.
Instead we found a story of how a young girl became the woman who gave her name to the age in which she lived. This was an enjoyable film from first frame to last, and made all the more pleasurable by the fidelity of the storyline to the facts of Victoria's and Albert's lives, as well as the fidelity of this royal couple to each other.