Sunday Patriot-News Harrisburg (PA)
Sunday, October 21, 2001
A royal success "Victoria & Albert"
It's not your average love story,
but viewers should
The production is a visual delight.
The costumes are
But under John Erman's meticulous
direction, it's the
The Sunday Patriot-News Harrisburg (PA)
Sunday, October 21, 2001
Love story gets royal treatment ;
Costumes, characters carry epic
Sharon Johnson of The Patriot-News
Details: "Victoria & Albert,"
with Victoria Hamilton
It's not your average love story.
No "boy meets girl,
"Victoria & Albert," the intimate
epic debuting on A&E
But viewers should quickly warm to
this story of a
Another Victoria, stage and television
The ailing William IV (Peter Ustinov)
wants to see his
Victoria's mother, the Duchess of
Kent, is determined to
But when the king dies shortly after
Victoria's 18th birthday,
Rejoicing in her independence, she
vows to remain unmarried.
On the young queen's part, that is.
Albert (Jonathan Firth) is
There are troubled moments in their first years together as Albert tries to find a role for himself in his new home. Victoria resists any interference with her role as sovereign.
But with the arrival of their children,
the two learn to work out
John Goldsmith's elegant, eloquent
screenplay succeeds in
The production is a visual delight.
The costumes are glorious
But under John Erman's meticulous direction, it's the performances that never fail to charm. From the quickly sketched characters (Alec McCowen, Richard Briers, Jonathan Pryce) to the longer supporting roles (particularly Penelope Wilton's icy Duchess of Kent), this cast could not have been better chosen.
Hamilton and Firth in the title roles
are unforgettable as the
The story of "Victoria & Albert"
could not be in better hands.
Sunday, October 21, 2001
PRIME TIME Television Review
HER MAJESTY'S SERVICE ; A&E'S
Hal Boedeker, Sentinel Television Critic
Queen Victoria is often remembered
as a plump,
The well-acted production lays out
British politics and court
But she also sat on the British throne
a record 63 years. She
Despite the lavish trappings, and
Victoria's swoon at seeing
Bolstered by two impressive young
leads, Victoria & Albert
The miniseries crackles in dramatizing
Jonathan Firth is dashing as Albert,
who brooded at
Victoria & Albert loses some
dramatic punch as it starts
Yet the miniseries offers the abundant
pleasure of seeing so
David Suchet, television's Poirot,
gives a typically shrewd
With great tenderness, Nigel Hawthorne
plays Lord Melbourne,
Joyce Redman puts in a poignant appearance
as the aged
Victoria might lack the allure of
the Duke of Windsor or
The Commercial Appeal Memphis, TN
Saturday, October 20, 2001
HARD TO BELIEVE: VICTORIA WASN'T
But Queen Victoria in love and laughing?
Victoria & Albert is the love
story between the woman
Victoria (Victoria Hamilton) was
smitten. Albert (Jonathan
He also was frustrated in the beginning.
One scene, of him
But he persisted, and eventually
Victoria began to rely
Albert's great moment came in 1851,
with the Great Exhibition
You won't see that empire-building
here. Nor will you see
Politics here is in service to the
personal. Victoria relied
Famous actors pop up in small roles
- Peter Ustinov plays
All these famous people are lagniappe.
This is an intensely focused miniseries
Hamilton is marvelous, though partly,
It helps her performance, and the
After he died in 1861, at the age
of 42, Victoria reigned
Now that's keeping a memory alive.
-- What: Victoria & Albert
Saturday, October 20, 2001
Sumptuous A&E drama explores lives of 'Victoria & Albert'
ANN HODGES, Houston Chronicle TV Critic
Neither Charles and Diana nor Andrew and Fergie, it's fair to say, did much to shine up the reputation of royal marriages in Britain.
But long before those star-crossed lovers messed around and messed up, Victoria and Albert were royals who got it right.
Victoria & Albert is A&E's lavish four-hour love story, cloaked in the pomp and ceremonies of their time and place in history. It premieres tonight and concludes Tuesday.
Palaces and princely elegance are lush backdrops for a beautifully cast young royal couple, supported by an impressive company of elder English actors. Kudos for that to John Erman, the American director of this A&E/BBC co-production. His TV credits go way back to Roots.
Victoria Hamilton (King Lear and
Mansfield Park) is a luminous young queen, full of fire one minute, and
soft and yielding the next. Jonathan Firth (An Ideal Husband and Middlemarch)
is effectively stalwart as the loyal German prince whose patience is sorely
Queen Victoria is near the end of her almost 65-year reign, as her memories flash back to the first meeting with her German cousin Albert. It is three years before she will become queen at 18, and she is not impressed. "Stuffy and solemn, and he lectures," she sniffs.
Even then, though, powers behind what someday will be her throne are pushing that royal marriage to the altar. They think it a proper match, and, as you'll see here, they're right.
Diana Rigg - under such thick aging
makeup that virtually only her voice is recognizable - is Baroness Lehzen,
Victoria's governess, who has tried to prepare her for her future role.
In every crisis, the baroness's advice is, "Just remember who you are."
Peter Ustinov, as the ailing King William IV, would like to know his young successor better, but not if her mother's around. Penelope Wilton is Victoria's mummy, a domineering shrew, and Patrick Malahide is her smarmy, self-serving protector, Sir John Conroy.
Nigel Hawthorne (The Madness of King George) is a marvelous Lord Melbourne, Victoria's prime minister and new best friend, when she needs one most. There's a memorable scene when this slip of a girl who's now the queen meets her all-male advisers for the first time. "She's got something I've never seen in the royal family before," says one grizzled counselor. "She's got dignity. I think she'll do."
With Belgium's King Leopold (Jonathan Pryce) as go-between, Albert pays another visit, and this time, Cupid's arrow heads straight for the queen's heart. The old boy is a little off-target, though, when he takes aim at Albert. (cont.)
is very fond of her, but he's not madly in love, and he doesn't relish
being "the Queen of England's pet dog."
"Is the price worth paying?" he asks Baron Stockmar. "Oh, yes," the baron assures.
And, 22 years and nine children later, so it is.
Victoria is shattered by the death of her husband at age 42. As the epilogue reminds, she reigned alone for 40 more years, until her death in 1901.
This is, pure and simply, the love story of Victoria and Albert, chastely told in matters of the royal boudoir. But don't expect to see matters of state or governing except when such directly affect their relationship.
"There are 28,000 more stories you could tell about Victoria and Albert," says scriptwriter John Goldsmith. "What I tried to do was keep the politics fairly low key and try and show a marriage."
This elegant, and eloquent, production of Victoria & Albert certainly fills that bill.
Victoria & Albert, 8 p.m. Sunday
and Tuesday on A&E. Grade: A-
The Globe and Mail
Saturday, October 20, 2001
John Doyle's Short List
A&E, 9 p.m. It's an almost all-British
The Hollywood Reporter Friday, October 19, 2001
By BARRY GARRON
'Victoria & Albert'
Considering the wealth of drama and
intrigue it provides,
Victoria Hamilton plays the queen,
who reigned for more
John Goldsmith's smart, respectful
Part of Albert's problem was that
his German nobility aroused,
A superb cast includes David Suchet
as Albert's mentor and
Production design is top-notch, including
the authentic, detailed costume design of Maria Price and the rich, colorful
sets of Alistair Key. Director John Erman brings a contemporary sensibility
to the drama with varied and creative shot selection and lively pacing.
Chicago Daily Herald
Friday, October 19, 2001
'Victoria's' secrets Historical A&E miniseries gracefully mixes the public with the private
Ted Cox Daily Herald TV/Radio Columnist
As the woman who gave her name to the Victorian era, Britain's Queen Victoria has an established reputation as one of history's great prudes.
Yet, when he began work on a script
to mark the centenary of
"In fact, the real story's infinitely
more interesting than the
This refreshing attitude on the part of a made-for-TV movie - to dig down to the facts, rather than rest on the legend - is what makes "Victoria & Albert" such a surprise. It's slow to gain steam, as it assumes a certain amount of historical background on the part of a viewer. Yet anyone who responds to the challenge will soon find that this two-part, four-hour miniseries starts to roll along.
Debuting at 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday on cable A&E, "Victoria & Albert" melds the public with the private and examines the shifting sands of power both in a political system and in a marriage. It's not exactly riveting television, and it's not going to pull any action fans away from "Alias," much less away from "Monday Night Football," but it's a very fine production, confident of its own abilities. Along the way, it just might teach a viewer something about 19th-century history - as well as some things about interpersonal relationships that will always remain timeless.
The key is that Goldsmith's script
always treats these larger-than-life historical figures as real people
A top-level cast takes these conflicts
and brings them to life. Victoria Hamilton's queen is a fully fleshed-out
creation - meek
Ustinov turns King William IV, Victoria's
uncle and immediate predecessor, into a vivid individual. He clashes openly
with Victoria's mother and refuses to even consider softening his
In that way, this sometimes starchy production keeps finding creases of humor. Yet it never resorts to cheap yuks; it finds comedy in character. And it remains true to those characters to the end.
The heart of the story, of course,
involves the title characters, Victoria and her German cousin Albert. (The
European royals of
Their courtship is real enough, although
the swirling camera
The struggle for power in a marriage
is the major conflict in Victoria & Albert." And in showing how these
two reach a state of equilibrium, the miniseries demonstrates not just
There are some pointed remarks on royalty that seem as appropriate now as they must have seemed then. "Your ordinary Englishman believes if they won't behave, we're better off without them," says one courtier. "Debts and scandals won't wash anymore," says another.
"Royalty's going to be respectable or it's done for."
Victoria and Albert might have developed a reputation for prudishness - that is, as prudish as a couple can be while producing nine children - but what they really did was solidify the position of the British crown just when it needed it most.
"Victoria & Albert" leaves off
with his death, with scenes from 40 years later acting as a framing device
at the beginning and end. Viewers who want to fill in the interim can try
renting the fine feature film "Mrs. Brown." But as it is, "Victoria &
Albert" stands on its own with a surprising dignity, much as this royal
couple did in real life.
The Record, Bergen County, NJ
Friday, October 19, 2001
INSIDE A ROYAL ENGLISH ROMANCE
VIRGINIA ROHAN, Staff Writer
"Victoria & Albert," 9 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday, A&E
American television often features way too much expository dialogue.
Viewers get hit with so much awkward background information that a movie or series can start to feel like TV for dummies.
European projects, on the other hand, can be maddeningly elliptical.
You're often left to just figure things out on your own. "Victoria & Albert," A&E's compelling two-part miniseries about Britain's Queen Victoria and her beloved German-born husband, kind of falls into this latter category, especially near the beginning. Although it was directed by an American, John Erman ("Roots"), it's a mostly British production and assumes a familiarity with Victoria's lineage and reign (probably the way we Yanks take it for granted that everyone knows the Abraham Lincoln log cabin story by heart).
The miniseries, which is nonetheless worth piecing together, opens in Victoria's old age, when she's wheeled in to do her daily inspection of items that belonged to her husband, who, at that point, had been dead about four decades.
With Old Queen Victoria staring wistfully into space, the story flashes back to a long-ago meeting with first cousins Albert (Jonathan Firth) and his brother Ernest (James Callis) her mother's nephews.
That visit, at her home, did not go well. Victoria (Victoria Hamilton) officially, Princess Alexandrina Victoria, and an heir to the throne of Great Britain and Albert quarrel over Lord Byron.
Victoria adores his work. Albert finds him an "indifferent poet," and is appalled by his lack of morals a sensitive point to Albert, for reasons that become clear later in the drama.
Their love story is halted for awhile as the tale of royal intrigue gets told.
Victoria's closest and most influential companion at that point is her governess, Baroness Lehzen (Diana Rigg). Both are often at odds with the future queen's highly controlling mother, the duchess of Kent (Penelope Wilton), who, in turn, is manipulated by her advisor, Sir John Conroy (Patrick Malahide).
Victoria's father is long dead, and his brother, King William IV (Peter Ustinov), detests Victoria's mother. But William is in poor health and determined to have his beloved niece, Victoria, succeed him.
The scheming duchess and Conroy try to foil his plan, but Victoria outwits them. Before long, the king is dead, and the sheltered Victoria becomes queen of England at the age of 18.
A family friend, German political strategist Baron Stockmar (David Suchet), provides her initial schooling in British politics and continues to press the case, along with her uncle, King Leopold of Belgium (Jonathan Pryce), that she should marry cousin Albert.
Remembering their last meeting, she is reluctant to see him again, but when Albert arrives this time, looking and acting quite different, Victoria is smitten.
For Albert, it takes many years to truly return the feelings, but the story is nonetheless a romantic tale. The two went on to have nine children, and the prince does come to love Victoria deeply and passionately.
At the start of their marriage, Victoria refuses to let Albert help her with affairs of state, because she has been advised that her subjects would resent the intrusion of a foreigner. When their young daughter becomes ill, and she tries to also prevent his even having a say in the child's treatment, things come to a head.
In this terrific scene, Albert locks himself in his quarters, and Victoria keeps knocking, demanding to be let in. "Who is it?" he asks.
She answers, "the queen," but Albert won't open the door until she finally says, "Your wife."
By the end of their days together, Albert had become her most trusted adviser "king in everything but name" and she is said to have never gotten over his death, at age 42. Victoria died 40 years later in 1901 after a 63-year reign.
In the lead roles, Hamilton and Firth perform admirably, although her habitual mouth-twitching can get distracting. The supporting players are also commendable, especially Penelope Wilton as Victoria's mom, who starts out as a sort of stock villainess but becomes more human and likable over time. (At the tireless urging of Albert, the duchess's favorite nephew, mother and daughter formed a warm relationship later in life.)
There's also a wonderful performance by Nigel Hawthorne as Lord Melbourne, Victoria's first prime minister, who is prone to tears.
"Victoria & Albert" is not a flawless production. The fade-outs between scenes can be disruptive, and beyond the love story, the miniseries falters somewhat. An American viewer may not be so certain of Victoria and Albert's legacy, beyond the fact that he helped her to restore dignity to the British throne.
The overall impression, too, is that Victoria was rather easily influenced by others, and in fact, Erman has been quoted as labeling her relationships as "codependency."
"Victoria really needed throughout her life to be protected by people," Erman has said.
"Victoria & Albert" works best on its most obvious level as a great romance.
|All photos on this page courtesy of A&E|