It’s an understatement to say I am not fond of the Royals. I’m not bothered by any of them personally, it’s what they stand for that I find so monstrous. With the only thing in their favour being a happy accident of birth (or not so happy, if you take a look at Fergie’s kids), the continued existence of a “Royal Family” makes mockery of the idea that anyone can achieve greatness in Britain. The House of Windsor? Take that for a glass ceiling, plebs.
In fact I find the concept of monarchy so viscerally offensive, I tend to find it hard to watch any movie about them without wanting to either scoff or vomit. It’s only the history-geek part of my persona that prevents from completely burning down the house. And thus was the case with The Young Victoria, one of those worthy Brit costume dramas featuring just about everyone plummy.
These days we remember Victoria as a humungous bad-tempered old manatee, perpetually in mourning weeds, presiding over an era of such outrageous moral hypocrisy and arrogance that we are only just beginning to emerge from the shadows of the horror now. Yet in spite of the fact that the remembered Victoria has all the appeal of a combine harvester, The Young Victoria shows us that the poor child was virtually factory farmed to be the queen – or rather to protect the interests and status of those around her (which is the whole point of a monarchy, I fear.) Fortunately she gets her hands on a minor German princelet and they fall in love, sort of. The movie makes it all seem a bit calculated. It also all seems a bit revisionary, granting the Young Victoria with a magnanimous and energetic concern for the poor that I can’t for the life of me remember from the history books.
On the plus side, The Young Victoria looks great. The Coronation scene is a particularly astounding cinematic rendition of pomp and pagentry – it filmed in Lincoln Cathedral. Other scenes were shot at Blenheim Palace, Arundel Castle (standing in for Windsor) and Belvoir Castle. Producer Graham King admits that for a while he was under budgetary pressure to do some location shooting abroad, but he was adamant that the film would be shot in Britain. “You can’t shoot a film about a great queen of England in bloody Budapest or Bucharest – or at least I can’t. Audiences aren’t stupid. They travel, so they know an Eastern European landscape when they see one.”