The Young Victoria

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Princess Victoria of Kent is the heiress presumptive to the throne during the last years of the reign of her uncle King William IV. She is brought up under a strict set of rules devised by her mother (her father having died when Victoria was a baby), the Duchess of Kent and comptroller of the Duchess’s household, Sir John Conroy, who calls it the “Kensington System.” Conroy hopes that William IV will die while Victoria is still a minor, thus the Duchess would be appointed Regent, and he would be the power behind the throne through his considerable control of the Duchess. Victoria grows rebellious and resentful of her mother and Conroy’s oppressive control of her every move. During an illness, her mother and Conroy attempt to force Victoria to sign papers that would make Conroy her personal secretary upon her majority. Although weak and ill, Victoria is strong enough to vehemently refuse this ploy, throwing the papers on the floor.

Her uncle King Leopold I of Belgium wishes to use his influence through family ties to secure an alliance between Britain and Belgium. He realizes his sister, the Duchess, exerts little influence over Victoria and decides to have his nephew Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha seduce Victoria. Albert is trained by Baron Stockmar to learn Victoria’s interests, including her favorite novels, music and opera. The Duchess invites the Coburg brothers, Albert and Prince Ernest of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to visit the household. Victoria and Albert develop an early fondness for each other, despite Victoria knowing that Albert was sent by her uncle to win her favours. They begin writing to one another after Albert has returned home.

To maintain control over Victoria, Conroy and the Duchess keep her away from the King’s court, and are unhappy when she insists on attending the King’s birthday reception. At the reception in Windsor Castle, the King, stating his wish to be closer to Victoria, insults her mother in public twice. The King increases Victoria’s income but this is rejected by Conroy, who physically subdues her in front of her mother, heightening the animosity between them. The King is outraged and sends the Whig Prime Minister Lord Melbourne to advise her. Victoria agrees to appoint Lord Melbourne as her private secretary, and he appoints her ladies-in-waiting, including the Duchess of Sutherland.

King William dies after Victoria’s 18th birthday, avoiding a regency. After accession, Victoria immediately begins to exert her independence, including moving into her own room and banishing Conroy from her household and coronation. During her first meeting with the Privy Council, she announces, “I am young, but I am willing to learn. And I mean to devote my life in service of my country and my people. I look for your help in this.” Victoria moves into the recently completed Buckingham Palace. The Queen Dowager, Queen Adelaide advises Victoria against accepting all of Lord Melbourne’s proposed ladies-in-waiting, but he persists. Lord Melbourne and Albert begin a battle for influence over Victoria. Albert goes to England to spend more time with Victoria. They bond further, dancing during her coronation and Albert hints at going further with their relationship but Victoria resists.

Lord Melbourne loses a vote in Parliament, leading Victoria to invite Sir Robert Peel of the Tories to form a new government. Victoria refuses to allow Peel to replace her ladies-in-waiting, who are allies of Lord Melbourne. Peel in turn refuses the queen’s invitation, allowing Melbourne to continue as prime minister. The subsequent crisis damages Victoria’s popularity, leading to demonstrations outside the palace and insults hurled at her in public. The loneliness during the turbulence draws Victoria closer to Albert through their letters. She invites Albert to England and proposes marriage.

Victoria and Albert have a loving marriage, but Albert is frustrated at his initial powerlessness in the household. Queen Adelaide advises Victoria to allow Albert to take on more duties, which he does. He reorganises the running of the royal household and dismisses Conroy for mishandling funds. He also becomes Victoria’s primary adviser, rejecting the influences of Lord Melbourne and King Leopold. He overreaches when he goes over Victoria’s head in a matter with parliamentary politics, leading to a fierce argument between the two. One morning, while riding in a carriage together, Victoria is fired upon by a would-be assassin. Albert shields her, and his bravery leads to their reconciliation.

The final title card explains that Victoria and Albert had nine children. Their descendants are the royal families of Britain, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Yugoslavia, Russia, Greece, Romania and Germany. They reigned together for 20 years. Albert died from typhoid fever at age 42. In memory of him, Victoria had his clothes laid out every day until her death at the age of 81. Victoria and Albert championed reforms in education, welfare and industry. They also supported arts and sciences that were celebrated in the Great Exhibition of 1851. Victoria remains the longet reigning British monarch to date.

REVIEW:

Certain people in this house love lavish costumes, not to mention all things British, so The Young Victoria was sure to be a crowd pleaser, at least in some ways. I was hopeful that the film itself would be worth watching, like other similar pieces such as The Duchess and The Queen, but I’m not s sure this one lived up to my expectations.

What is this about?

Eighteen-year-old British royal Victoria ascends to the throne and is romanced by future husband Prince Albert in this lush period film that chronicles the early years of the British monarch’s larger-than-life reign.

What did I like?

Blunt. It must be the fantasy of British actresses to get dressed up and play royalty, because they all seem to bend over backwards to do it. I wasn’t so sure what I would think of Blunt as a “serious” actress, but she actually did a pretty good job as the headstrong titular character of Victoria. I’m a little biased against this role for her, though, as I think this is what she turned down Black Widow in Iron Man 2 for, but don’t quote me.

Costumes. Period pieces are almost always going to be noticed for their lavish outfits, and this is no exception. I don’t know how authentic they were, but I was impressed. There is just something eye-catching about the dresses from back then, and I’m not talking (just) about the cleavage.

What didn’t I like?

What just happened? As I sat here watching this picture, I noticed that it was already nearly over and I really wasn’t sure what just happened over the last hour and a half. Some movies you can lose yourself in and they’re over before you know it, but this one just dragged on, I suppose just wanted to keep going with its drama, exposition, and I believe there was a love story in there, too.

No boys allowed. It really seems like this film veered more toward the female audience. Everything about this picture screams female empowerment, and that is fine. Seeing as how I’m a guy, though, this isn’t really the film for me, and the lack of anything interesting happening throughout the films made it even nearly unbearable.

Bland. Maybe it is just me, but I expected something more from the relationship between Victoria and Albert. There was no real passion that I could see between them. They weren’t devoid of emotion, just not convincing until the film’s final scenes when they have an argument.

Each week, when I’m contemplating what to move up in my Netflix queue, The Young Victoria comes up. I should be asking myself, was it worth the wait, but the truth is that is wasn’t. For me, this was a rather dull, drawn out drama. There is an audience for this kind of thing, but I’m not part of it. So, if you want to give it a shot, go ahead, just be ready to fall asleep after the first 5-10 minutes or so.

3 out of 5 stars

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