Sunday, December 13, 2009

Royal Review: The Young Victoria

I'll admit. Were it not for Sarah Ferguson's, (Duchess of York) involvement in this film I would have more than likely dismissed it as just another straight to DVD royal movie. Nice to eventually loan from the library but not something I would rush out to see otherwise.

However, with Sarah Ferguson's involvement I was somewhat intrigued by the idea. When I think of Queen Victoria I think of her later in life: the mournful, unsmiling, imposing, matriarch of a large extended inter-married royal family. I don't think of her as young, passionate and inexperienced. I also don't think of her as beautiful when portraits of her were said to be far more flattering than what she actually looked like in person.

Covering the period of her early teens and touching on the death of Prince Albert (sorry if I've given away the ending) The Young Victoria shows a princess under the thumb of her mother and advisor Sir John Conroy who want Victoria to sign a regency on her sickbed to put her mother in charge and Conroy the power behind the throne. However, Victoria is no docile princess. She is spirited and defiant and once she becomes Queen, Conroy and her mother are immediately jettisoned from her court.

But they're not the only ones with an agenda as politicians dismiss Victoria as too young and inexperienced, and Lord Melborne portraying himself as her protector and confidant. Then there's the King of the Belgians desire to infiltrate the court via his nephew, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Yet while Prince Albert initially does what's required of him, no one predicted that the new Queen and Prince Albert would actually develop feelings for each other. This makes those with agendas jealous, especially when the couple's loyalty to one another excludes them.

Although they are passionate, they are not without their disagreements. As Prince Albert struggles to find a meaningful role, Victoria becomes threatened by any interference to her power. After this fight, the couple go for a carriage ride and an assassination attempt is made on Victoria. Albert shields her with his body and is shot, suffering grievous injuries. He survives and Victoria realizes how important Albert is to her and gives him a more important role, illustrated by moving his desk next to hers and jettisoning her longtime servant and confidant, Baroness Lehzen.

Emily Blunt, (The Devil Wears Prada) portrays Queen Victoria in the bloom of her youth, as human and passionate - two qualities you wouldn't normally associate with her. Prince Albert is portrayed by the handsome Rupert Friend. Like Victoria, his looks may not be historically accurate, but using such photogenic actors makes their passion much more convincing. Mark Strong plays the glowering Sir John Conroy, Jim Broadbent is wonderful, hamming it up as Victoria's uncle, King William IV, Paul Bettany plays the charming, paternal and influential Lord Melborne and Victoria's great-great-great-great granddaughter Princess Beatrice has a minor cameo during the coronation scene.

Ultimately this film offers no great revelations but it's enjoyable and a good movie to watch if you'd like to see a side of Queen Victoria that most of us may be unfamiliar with.

© Marilyn Braun 2009

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