Monday, January 18, 2010
The Young Victoria
TD and I toddled up to 23rd Street to see The Young Victoria, the new movie starring Emily Blunt about the early life of Queen Victoria of England. I have to say, it was a good story which I will try to explain in "American." Victoria was born in 1819 and her grandfather was King George III. Her father, the Duke of Kent died in 1820. As such she became heiress presumptive after the death in 1830 of her uncle King George IV. Then her uncle King William IV came to reign. A Regent was appointed should the King die and Victoria ascend to the throne before she turned 18. The Regent was her mother, who was controlled by a secretary, Sir John Conroy. The pair raised Victoria in near isolation in order to dominate her and make her completely dependent upon them.
So then, how would the young Victoria break free and find her own independence?
We all know that Victoria did just fine. The Queen went on to hold the longest reign in English history, for 63 years, from 1837 at age eighteen until her death in 1901. The period became known as the Victorian era, a time of great industrial, political and scientific progress within the United Kingdom. Her reign was marked by the incredible expansion of the British Empire, and England was the most powerful nation in the world.
Queen Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great of Russia, Queen Victoria: stories of powerful female monarchs are fascinating. These girls grew up dominated in a man's world but overcame it through inner genius.
In Victoria's case, she had help and support from her spouse, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coberg and Gotha. They had a happy and healthy marriage, and nine children to prove it. This movie really is a love story. Emily Blunt, who stole the show as a mean fashion girl in The Devil Wears Prada, does a wonderful job here playing Victoria. A quiver of her lips or wide eyes reveals what she is feeling inside. Prince Albert is played by Rupert Friend. You may remember him as the devious Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice:
That movie, which starred Keira Knightley, is one of my favorite pictures of all time. Rupert Friend and Keira Knightley met on that movie, and are now a couple:
Also in The Young Victoria is the handsome British actor Paul Bettany playing Lord Melbourne, who also tried to control Queen Victoria but proved to be her friend in the end.
You know Paul Bettany – he is married to the gorgeous actress Jennifer Connelly. They bought a limestone mansion in Brooklyn for their family but recently moved to a loft in Tribeca. The couple will soon star together in the upcoming movie Darwin. Paul Bettany also played Russell Crowe's sidekick in Master and Commander, a good movie if you haven't seen it.
These Brits are so good looking – and I mean the men and the women. I think it's the English accent which makes them more beautiful.
Victoria and Albert went on to rule for many years. Besides bearing the future royals of England, their off-spring included Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia. Sadly, Prince Albert died in 1861 of typhoid fever. Victoria lived for forty more years without him. After the movie, TD reminded me that we had seen Mrs. Brown, the movie starring Dame Judy Dench as an older Queen Victoria, about an alleged secret romance or even secret marriage to John Brown, her Scottish manservant.
But, by all accounts Victoria did mourn the loss of Albert for years. When the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted a costume exhibition on fashion in the age of Victoria, I wrote a small piece about it for Vanity Fair. I visited the show's curator Caroline Goldthorpe who told me that after Albert died, Victoria wore only black for forty years. "But, then," she said, "Victoria had fabulous black."