NEW YORK, NY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2001 --
Before she was a cultural icon, Britain's Queen Victoria was a vibrant
young woman filled with powerful emotions -- a fervor for her position,
and a burning passion for her German-born husband, Prince Albert.
The true story of their remarkable romance and reign is told, in the all-star
4-hour A&E Original Movie VICTORIA & ALBERT, premiering as follows:
Part One, Sunday October 21, at 9pm ET and PT / 8pm CT; Part Two, Tuesday,
October 23, at 9pm ET and PT / 8pm CT. This film is closed-captioned
for the hearing impaired and carries a rating of TV-PG.
The fiercely loyal Queen is portrayed
by Victoria Hamilton (Mansfield Park; King Lear), and her beloved Prince
Albert by Jonathan Firth (Middlemarch; An Ideal Husband). Diana Rigg
(Medea; Avengers) is Victoria's trusted governess Baroness Lehzen, David
Suchet (POIROT; Amadeus) plays Albert's wise German political advisor Baron
Stockmar, Nigel Hawthorne (Amistad; The Madness of King George) is Lord
Melbourne, Jonathan Pryce (Evita; Miss Saigon) portrays Belgium's King
Leopold, and Peter Ustinov (Alice in Wonderland; Lorenzo's Oil) is King
William IV, whose death brings Victoria to the throne.
In 1837, scarcely prepared to become
head of the world's most powerful state, Britain's Princess "Drina" became
Queen Victoria -- and the focal point of ruthless political maneuvering
from every corner. To the surprise of even her overbearing mother,
began to grasp her awesome responsibilities and take the reigns of leadership
with vigor, under the devoted tutelage of her first prime minister, Lord
Melbourne. Disinclined to take a spouse, she agreed nonetheless to
meet with her first cousin, the dashing Prince Albert of Germany.
The Queen fell hard and fast, and the two were married the following year.
Theirs would be a relationship with true and growing empathy, with Albert
evolving into Victoria's most trusted advisor -- "king in everything but
name." Together, they ruled with distinction, returning dignity to
a monarchy long held in contempt. Encore presentations of VICTORIA
& ALBERT will air as follows: Part One, Saturday, October 27 at 8PM
ET & PT/7pm CT followed by Part Two at 10PM ET and PT/9pm CT.
VICTORIA & ALBERT will be available from A&E Home Video (1-800-423-1212)
in October for a SRP of $39.95 for both the 4-pack VHS and the 2-pack DVD.
Behind the Scenes information on the film may be found on the A&E Website
located at AandE.com.
VICTORIA AND ALBERT was directed by
John Erman (Roots; An Early Frost; Breathing Lessons), produced by David
Cunliffe and the original story and screenplay is by John Goldsmith (David
Copperfield; Agnes Browne). The director of photography is Tony Imi
BSC, production designer is Keith Wilson, costume designer is Maria Price,
and the music is by Alan Parker. Casting is by Jeremy Zimmermann,
and the line producer is Thomas Mattinson. The executive producers
are Sue Deeks, Delia Fine, John Goldsmith and Doug Schwalbe.
A&E Television Networks in association with Splendid Television and
the BBC present VICTORIA AND ALBERT.
Winner of the 2000 Governors Award
from The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for The Biography Project
for Schools, A&E offers viewers a unique blend of original programming,
including the highly acclaimed BIOGRAPHY® series, original movies,
drama series, and engaging documentaries. A&E is available in more
than 81 million Nielsen homes in the United States. The A&E web site
is located at www.AandE.com, the BIOGRAPHY web site is located at www.Biography.com,
and the mysteries web is at www.mysteries.com
One Synopsis and Cast List
heir to the throne of Great Britain, Princess Alexandrina Victoria (Victoria
Hamilton) lives a very protected life. For all practical purposes,
young Victoria is raised by her stern but loving governess, Baroness Lehzen
(Diana Rigg), while her mother, the Duchess of Kent (Penelope Wilton),
busies herself with more strategic concerns -- including the impending
A wry, rather flirtatious young lady,
Victoria is early on promised to her German cousin Albert (Jonathan Firth)
-- a much more serious and studious individual. Neither is particularly
interested in the other, but while operatives such as the Duchess of Kent's
advisor Sir John Conroy (Patrick Malahide) and German political strategist
Baron Stockmar (David Suchet) ply their wares, the future of Western Europe
hangs in the balance.
The elderly King, William IV (Peter
Ustinov), is in poor condition. He and Victoria's mother are at odds,
but he remains extremely fond of Victoria. When the King offers
her a residence and salary upon her coming of age, the Duchess and Conroy
demand she sign a letter of refusal. But, with the help of Lezhen,
Victoria also sends the King a letter of her own, accepting his offer.
Before long, the King is dead ...
and 18 year-old Victoria becomes the Queen of England. Baron Stockmar,
who advises Prince Albert's German wing of the royal family, provides her
initial schooling in British politics, and Queen Victoria quickly establishes
a strong rapport with Lord Melbourne (Nigel Hawthorne), her first prime
minister. Aging, but still handsome, Melbourne is an exceedingly
elegant man, intelligent and gentle. With his support and guidance,
Queen Victoria's natural poise and dignity quickly win respect among the
leaders of Parliament.
While Baron Stockmar's nationality
keeps him from acquiring an official position, he continues to wield great
influence behind the scenes. With the assistance of Belgian's King
Leopold (Jonathan Pryce) -- Victoria's uncle -- he pushes the matter of
marriage between Prince Albert, and the Queen. A state dinner
is arranged, and Victoria and Albert are face to face for the first time
in years. Though she has declared that she will never marry, the
young Queen is immediately taken by the dashing adult that her cousin Albert
German prince, a long-time favorite of Victoria's mother, quickly takes
While he is not nearly as infatuated
with the Queen, Albert is persuaded by Stockmar to consider the strategic
benefits the marriage would bring. And so, when a love-stricken Victoria
proposes, he accepts.
The relationship is sensual and intense
from the beginning, but Albert becomes more and more concerned about having
so very little to do in the way of meaningful responsibilities.
As he had feared, Victoria explains to him that her countrymen simply would
not accept having a foreigner involved with matters of the state.
But, with Baron Stockmar's counsel, Albert gradually begins to gain her
At a loss for any official duties,
he begins by streamlining the arcane household operations -- an area that
had previously been under the oversight of Baroness Lehzen.
Albert's ideas are clearly superior, but the Queen is not pleased with
this departure from protocol, and once again, he feels useless.
CAST PART ONE
Victoria VICTORIA HAMILTON
Albert JONATHAN FIRTH
Ernest JAMES CALLIS
Stockmar DAVID SUCHET
Lehzen DIANA RIGG
Conroy PATRICK MALAHIDE
Duke of Coburg ROGER HAMMOND
Duchess of Kent PENELOPE WILTON
William IV PETER USTINOV
Queen Adelaide DELENA KIDD
Dr. Halford TIMOTHY CARLTON
Wellington JOHN WOOD
Conyngham MALCOLM SINCLAIR
Archbishop GARY RAYMOND
Melbourne NIGEL HAWTHORNE
Anson CRISPIN REDMAN
Hetty RACHEL PICKUP
Peel ALEC MCCOWEN
Leopold JONATHAN PRYCE
Pages DUDLEY SUTTON &
Older Victoria JOYCE REDMAN
Two Synopsis and Cast List
pressures of royalty become all-too-clear, when a teenager attempts to
assassinate Victoria on the way to visit her mother. Determined to
demonstrate her continued accessibility, Victoria rides back to the palace
in an open carriage, even against the wishes of her mother and concerns
of her husband.
In spite of her difficult nature,
Albert has formed a quiet alliance with the Duchess of Kent. Baroness
Lehzen, meanwhile, takes every opportunity to undercut the man who has
questioned her ability to efficiently run the household, and Victoria,
pregnant and increasingly overworked, continues to politely spurn Albert's
offers to help out.
The baby is a girl, to the delight
of Albert and the slight disappointment of Victoria, who feels a responsibility
to deliver a male heir. When it is discovered that a poor street
urchin, who has been regularly breaking into the palace for food, was in
the baby's nursery, Albert is furious with the lack of security precautions.
Wisely, Albert remains quiet, as Victoria comes to the conclusion that
managing the household should be Albert's responsibility instead of Lehzen's.
Outside the castle, Lord Melbourne's
hold on Parliament is increasingly tenuous, with Sir Robert Peel (Alec
McCowan) ready to take over at any time. Because he is not her beloved
Lord Melbourne, Victoria detests Peel, in spite of his competence and other
Baron Stockmar, who has decided Albert
is ready to stand on his own two feet, makes plans to depart, and advises
the Prince to prevent a "war" between the Queen and the new Prime Minister
at all costs. With the help of his Parliament-appointed assistant,
Albert begins to quietly employ behind-the-scenes political influence,
in anticipation of the change in government.
Victoria is heartbroken when Lord
Melbourne breaks the news that he has lost his position -- and impressed
when Melbourne praises her husband. "With him at your side, you'll
never go far wrong." Albert's growing importance to the Queen
becomes even more evident when she begins a much more amiable relationship
with her mother, and names their new son after his father.
It is a situation with their daughter
Victoria that finally determines the fate of Baroness Lehzen. When
Vicky, a tiny infant, falls ill, Lehzen determinedly stands by obviously
incorrect prescriptions from the royal doctor. Albert is infuriated,
and eventually the Queen agrees -- Lehzen must go. Just as
Albert has enhanced his reputation among those in political power, he has
now solidified his position as the Queen's most trusted advisor.
Ten years later, in 1850, the family
has grown to nine (with two more children still to come). It is Albert's
favorite time of the year, Christmas.
was, in fact, Albert who brought the concept of a "family Christmas" from
Germany to Great Britain and beyond. Dressed as a bear, he
toys with the children, before they all sing carols.
But holiday festivities are not the
only things on Albert's mind. He works tirelessly, day and
night on a massive celebratory project, the Grand Exhibition, conceived
to transport London into the modern age. The expensive endeavor is
highly controversial, but has the full and vocal support of Queen Victoria,
who praises Albert at the dedication ceremony. Following her public
endorsement, Albert confides to Victoria that he has grown to truly love
her, just as she has always loved him.
As Albert continues to work himself
to exhaustion, Victoria's mother grows ill with age, and her oldest son
Bertie (Simon Quarterman) displays a decided unwillingness to behave in
a manner befitting the next King of England. While studying at Cambridge,
the boy earns a public reputation for little more than partying and carousing.
Ailing and weak, Albert visits the university and explains to his son how
he and Victoria have dedicated their lives to rebuilding what had been
a dying reputation for British royalty.
It is, appropriately, Christmas-time
when Albert's illnesses take him from the Queen he loves. Heartbroken,
Victoria reigns alone for forty years, until her death in 1901.
CAST PART TWO
Victoria VICTORIA HAMLITON
Albert JONATHAN FIRTH
Oxford TOBY JONES
Duchess of Kent PENELOPE WILTON
Lehzen DIANA RIGG
Uxbridge MICHAEL SIBERRY
Hetty RACHEL PICKUP
Melbourne NIGEL HAWTHORNE
Anson CRISPIN REDMAN
Wellington JOHN WOOD
Peel ALEC MCCOWEN
Standish CRISPIN BONHAM-CARTER
Mr. Horner SUSAN KYD
The Rivals Cast ELIZABETH PRIGGS,
& EMILY RAYMOND
Stockmar DAVID SUCHET
Dr. Locock DONALD PICKERING
Paxton RICHARD BRIERS
Prince Bertie SIMON QUARTERMAN
Nellie Clifden JULIE MCKENNA
Princess Alice KATE MABERLY
Older Victoria JOYCE REDMAN
Victoria and Albert's children CHRISTOPHER
PULFORD, MAISIE PRESTON, WILLIAM HICKS, POPPY ROGERS, ZIZI V-STRALLEN,
P-LOVEDAY RAYMOND, BENDICT SMITH
Jonathan Firth (Albert)
How did you come to be in this movie?
How much did the character of Albert have to do with you joining the cast?
JF: Well, getting involved with the
project was very straightforward. I just got sent the script and
asked to pick a couple of scenes and read for it, which I did. Didn't have
to think about it too hard.
I kind of had a pretty good idea of
who Victoria was. I think most people have an idea, even, of what
Victoria looks like. But they don't really have a very clear idea
about Albert. I certainly didn't. And, he had an enormous influence.
They were very much equal halves of the same team, if you see what I mean.
Particularly, his influence on the
cultural life of Britain was enormous. Most of our big London museums
were all built by him, or they were started by him, or they were founded
by him. He had a huge, huge impact. I think he was very much
behind the scenes, you know. He was a quiet guy. He didn't
crave the spotlight at all. Obviously Victoria, being the Queen,
got most of the attention, and he was perfectly happy with that.
Very interesting part to play.
The central relationship of this
movie is between two people who's marriage was arranged, very much a geo-political
decision. And yet, it ultimately works. What really surprised
you about the marriage?
JF: It's very difficult, I think,
for contemporary people to get their heads around arranged marriages, which
is essentially what this was. Particularly that an arranged marriage
can actually be successful, because we grow up thinking that even love
marriages fall apart after a few years. Here, two people are more
or less being forced together. They weren't forced, but they didn't
have a lot of choice. There was a lot of pressure on them.
And it was a very, very successful marriage. It took quite a long
time from Albert's point of view, but it was a genuine love marriage after
ten or fifteen years. That's quite a difficult thing for contemporary
audiences to understand, and I think we explain it quite well. Hopefully,
that aspect of it comes through very clearly.
Not only did their relationship come
together, but they also created a loving family. How did Albert's
public persona differ from the person his family knew?
JF: Well, he hated being in public.
He hated the spotlight. He was very, very nervous of being in public.
So, people who didn't know him very well thought that he was very, very
stiff and formal. That was his sort of public image, if you like.
But when he wasn't in the public eye,
he was very relaxed. He was funny, he had a terrific sense of
humor, and he was very, very good
with his children. He loved his children. They had a lot of
children. He was probably the better parent of the two of them.
He was much better with the kids than Victoria was.
There is a scene where he dresses
up as a bear, that's actually factual. He did do that. He loved
Christmas, for example. He kind of invented Christmas, in a way.
He imported to the Anglo-Saxon world the idea of the Christmas tree and
all that kind of stuff. I think they had been doing that in Germany
for years, but it never happened in Britain before, certainly. The
idea of the family Christmas was very much his idea.
He was a very warm and loving family
man, in spite of the fact that his public persona was very quiet and reserved
There is a real evolution of Albert
over the course of the story, isn't there? In the beginning, he's
sort of on shaky ground, both professionally and personally. How
does he deal with the situation?
JF: Well, I think he hates the idea
of the marriage to begin with. He absolutely hates it, and he comes
to London under duress. He doesn't really want to be there.
When he meets Victoria, he really doesn't fall in love with her.
He discovers that he likes her. He discovers that she's a bit like
him. I think they're both lonely people.
You know, he's only got one brother.
He doesn't have too many friends. His brother is going to go become
the Duke of whatever, and so he's going to be on his own. He doesn't
really have a future. I think he sees, in some respects, a kindred
spirit in Victoria. Someone that needs to be looked after, and he
knows he can do that.
So, what is his attitude about the
situation? What does he make of it?
JF: When he gets married, he does
have a few positive reasons. I think he does go into it thinking,
this isn't going to be too bad. This isn't going to be as bad as
I thought it was going to be. He then discovers it's actually quite
a lot worse, at the beginning. The first few weeks of marriage, he
just realizes, "Oh my God, this has been a terrible mistake. What
have I done?" And because there's no divorce, because there's no
way out of it, I think the strength of his character is that he decides
to make the best of it. He decides, I've got to make the best job
of it that I possibly can. And that's why the marriage ultimately
works, because he gives it chance after chance after chance. He keeps
But, there was a certain attraction
between them from the beginning, don't you think?
JF: I think that the physical passion
side of their relationship was very, very strong, despite the fact that
from his side, the emotional aspect of it was missing. I mean, despite
the fact it took a good few years before they really became comfortable
in each other's company, they had produced a hell of a lot of children.
So, yeah, I think there was never really a problem with physical side of
it. You know, it's an arranged marriage. That's more than you
could really reasonably ask for, isn't it? (cont.)
How about Albert's relationships
with the other major characters in Victoria's life?
JF: What's quite strange is that Albert
doesn't have a lot of interaction with most of the other cast, because
he's the outsider. He doesn't have a lot to do with any of the prime
ministers. The only one of the supporting cast I really have much
to do with is Lehzen, the nanny, who becomes quite a powerful political
figure later on in the story. We clash for obvious reasons, because
from the minute I arrive, Lehzen's position is threatened, without me even
opening my mouth. She knows that I'm threatening her position, and
it's only a matter of time before I get her out. She fights.
She doesn't want to go.
In the beginning, Victoria takes Lehzen's
side. Every time that Lehzen and I have an argument, Victoria takes
her side. This is a huge, huge source of tension between us, and
it goes on for a long time. When I get Lehzen out of the house,
that is probably the biggest, most significant battle that I win.
Once I've done that, Victoria recognizes me as an equal, she respects me.
I can take my rightful position as the head of the household. And
once that's out of the way, then it's plain sailing from then on in.
One of the more interesting relationships
in the story is between Albert and the Duchess of Kent, Victoria's mother.
JF: Well, the Duchess of Kent
is his aunt, and she's German, too. She knows everything about where
he's from -- she knows the house that he's from, she knows the area.
So, in some ways, she's his only link with home. Despite the fact
that Victoria doesn't like her mother at all, Albert does like her, and
so Albert is constantly trying to reconcile the two together. Ultimately,
he does it.
When the first child is born, Victoria
kind of relents and allows her mother to play the role of grandmother and
all that. But up until then, it's a bit of an uphill struggle.
And, the Duchess of Kent is a difficult woman. She doesn't make it
easy for me. I'm constantly trying to persuade Victoria that her
mother is a wonderful woman. Then her mother does something terrible
and just ruins it all, and I'm back to square one. But the Duchess
of Kent is really the only ally I've got in the English court, so it's
kind of important for me to get her back in the fold as soon as possible.
As for the public perception of Albert
during his time, was his stewardship of The Great Exhibition the major
JF: Absolutely. The Great Exhibition
was kind of like what the millennium dome was supposed to be in Britain
this year. I think it was the biggest structure that had ever been
built, or certainly the biggest structure since the pyramids that had ever
been built. It was a hugely ambitious project, and it took a long
time to get it together. He was crucified in the press, because the
press were gunning for him. They thought it was going to be a massive
failure, that it was going to be an abject catastrophe. And, it was
an enormous success.
The proceeds went to build the Natural
History Museum, the Science Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, the V&A
Museum. He purchased all the lands with the proceeds of it.
It was a huge, huge success. And I think that was the turning point
for him. It could have gone the other way. It could have completely
ruined him. But he stuck to his guns.
He was an absolute visionary, and
he pulled it off. I think in terms of the way that the public saw
it that was the turning point.
And, they say in the end it may have
also been one of the things that killed him.
JF: Yes, I think it probably is.
He wasn't very old when he died. He aged incredibly quickly.
There's a note in Victoria's diaries where she says, she couldn't understand
why at the age of 40, he looked like he was 60.
If you look at the pictures of him
when he was a young guy, he was slender, he was good looking, he had cheek
bones... He was the epitome of classical beauty. When he gets
to about 40, he's unrecognizable. He'd put on a lot of weight, he'd
lost most of his hair, he was sickly. He was ill for the last ten
years of his life, plagued with illnesses.
A lot of them were self-inflicted.
I think he killed himself through overwork, really. Even now, they
don't really know why he died. On the death certificate, it was typhoid
fever, but typhoid fever doesn't last ten years. You know, there
were a lot of things going on there. He might have had some kind
of slow-burning stomach cancer. There was a bit of tuberculosis
going on as well.
He wouldn't rest. Even days
before his death, he was still writing papers, and trying to sign letters,
and trying to take an active role in government, and all that sort of stuff,
which he shouldn't have been doing. He just wouldn't stop.
In fact, they've got the last letter that he ever wrote, and you can only
read half of it, because his handwriting is so bad and so weak.
What kind of research did you do
for this part?
JF: There's a hell of a lot written
about Victoria, but there's not an awful lot written about Albert.
There's probably two or three pretty good books about Albert, and I read
those. But everything else, more or less, was reading books about
Victoria and reading what she said about him.
What's quite good about Victoria,
is that she kept very, very accurate diaries every single day. So
you know exactly what she was thinking at a given time. And a hell
of a lot of them are devoted to Albert. So you get quite a lot of
what she thought of him, which is obviously a subjective view, but that's
very, very helpful. Other than that, I spent quite a lot of time
wandering around the museum complex, going to the V&A, and the Albert
After spending so much time and effort
playing such an interesting character, how does it feel when the filming
JF: I think I'm going to miss it.
It's been a long one. It's been hard work, and I'm going to celebrate
pretty hard, I think, the day we finish. But, probably a couple of
days later, I'm going to wake up and feel like a spare part. I'm
not going to know what to do with myself.
Jonathan Firth has been featured in
a wide array of roles on stage, television and in film.
His television appearances have included
"Leprechauns," "Far From the Madding Crowd," "Midsomer Murders," "Henry
IV," "Romeo and Juliet," "Middlemarch," "Covington Cross," "Shoot the Revolution,"
and "All About Laura", as well as the series "Tales From the Crypt," POIROT
and "Inspector Morse."
Mr. Firth has appeared in several
motion pictures, including The Ideal Husband, Withering Heights and American
On stage, he was in the Royal Shakespeare
Company's production of Henry VI.
Interview: Victoria Hamilton (Queen Victoria)
Here you are, playing one of the most
studied and observed people in modern history. How did you go about
becoming Queen Victoria?
VH: It's the most amazing role.
As far as film scripts go, it's one of the most beautifully written I've
ever read. You get used to getting script after script after script
through your door, and every single one seems to be the same. Particularly
now, a lot of them are incredibly violent or it's all about sex or drugs,
and you just get thousands of them. Then, something like this comes
through the letterbox, and you just read it and think, "That's just the
most extraordinary piece of writing."
I like it because it's very dialogue-based,
you know. It is quite a simple story. It's just a love story,
but it's beautifully written. The minute I'd finished reading it
the first time, I started reading books about Victoria, because it just
makes you fascinated by her. And the more I read about her, the more
I realized how much the writer had actually researched it, and how true
he'd written her. It's just the most beautiful piece of work.
It's a joy to do.
During your career, you've been acclaimed
for your work in Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and so on. How is it different
playing a real figure from history?
VH: There are great things about
it, and there are things about it that are really frightening. I
mean, the wonderful thing about, it is that you feel that everything that
you are doing and saying, you know is true. You never have to deal
with, "Would someone really do this?" Because she did. I can sit
in my dressing room and read the scene, and I can then open her journal
on that date and read how she felt about that scene, which is just the
most extraordinary thing to be able to do.
On the other hand, there is so much
information about her. There is actually a lot more information about
her than there is about Albert. There are so many books and there
are so many different points of view on her character and her life, that
I reached the point where I suddenly thought, I've got to stop now.
I think I was on my ninth book. At some point, you've got to stop
reading all the books and actually concentrate on bringing the character
that the writer has written off the page. You can drive yourself
crazy; trying to be what everybody regarded as Victoria instead of actually
just bringing to life the character that he's written.
During your research, was there any
one thing in particular about her that really stood out as a unique aspect
that could help you bring her to life?
VH: Yes, her emotional extremes.
She is extraordinarily strong, and also at many moments in her
life, completely terrified and utterly
vulnerable. Her emotions swing dramatically in that way, to a point
where you almost think that people watching this are going to think she
was schizophrenic, because she really does burn hot and cold.
But that's the fascinating thing to
be able to play, and when you actually read up about her childhood.
It makes complete sense, because she went through hell. I mean, she
went through absolute hell in her upbringing, was treated amazingly badly,
was very much abused psychologically really, by her mother and a man called
Sir James Conroy.
In what ways?
Can you give me some examples from her difficult childhood?
VH: She wasn't allowed to see other
children of her own age. She had her back strapped to a wooden board
for five hours a day from the age of five to make her sit up straight.
They used to fasten a piece of holly under her chin so that she would never
drop her chin...
It's a thing called the Kensington
System, where she was just completely protected. And warped, really,
by this man who thought, "If I can control her, then when she becomes queen,
I will be amazingly powerful." So you can understand where all the
vulnerability and the slight dementia comes from. It's Albert that
actually tames that in her and takes her fear away, really.
At the same time, her independence
grows as she matures. Tell me more about her relationship with the
other main characters, and how they each affect her.
VH: She has very, very few close relationships
with people. While she's growing up, her relationship with her mother
is terrible, because her mother is under the thumb of this dreadful man,
Conroy. Her relationship with both of them is a non-relationship
really. The only person that she has that is a mother figure is Lehzen,
who is her governess. She is extraordinarily close to Lehzen,
and totally dependent on her for any affection and guidance, which
is something that she very much needs in her childhood.
As the years then pass, that relationship
becomes strained because Lehzen doesn't get on with Albert. Victoria
slowly starts to realize that, as much as Lehzen was a very good governess,
she's actually hopeless at running the household, which is what she ends
And so, they eventually part company.
It's something that happens a lot
in her life -- that she's very close to people for a certain section
of years, and then moves away from them. She's also desperately searching
for a father figure, because her father is dead. So when she first
succeeds to the throne, she attaches all her affections to Melbourne, who
is the Prime Minister.
There was a lot of talk about whether
he was actually in love with her, or she with him. I don't think
she was. I think she was desperate for a father figure, and he was
it. She absolutely adored him. It didn't actually help her
do her job, because the Queen is meant to be impartial, and he was the
Prime Minister of the Whig party, and so she just immediately said right,
I'm a Whig. Basically, "I like the Whigs ..." Yeah, go Whigs,
simply because she was so close to Melbourne.
But, in the end, the most intriguing
interaction is really with Albert. What was their relationship like?
VH: One of the terrific things that
I realized by reading all these books, is this myth that Victoria was simply
a very strong Queen. The fact is, that actually, she wouldn't have
been. Albert taught her to be a very good Queen. Certainly,
as a child and a young woman, there is part of her that is just completely
wild. She loved horse riding and she used to go on long gallops every
day, and she loved dancing and food... You know, in her heart she
was quite hedonistic until he came along.
When she came to the throne, suddenly
she could do anything she wanted to. Having not been allowed to for
years, she really did lose it a bit. I mean she went insane and just
partied, really. The girl just wanted to party, and it wasn't until
Albert turned up, that that side of her began to be tamed. I think
there's a beautifully written scene when he first comes back years after
they first met. She's just absolutely bowled over by how beautiful
That's why I think she asks him to
marry her. I mean, they get on and she starts to realize that he's
a great laugh. I think basically, it's a very young, innocent girl
having her first crush ever on this beautiful man. She doesn't actually
learn to love him for him for years. You know, he is actually leaps
ahead of her as far as understanding their relationship. I think
he accepts her proposal of marriage because he likes her, but mainly because
it will mean that he's in a position where he can do some work for the
good, which is very Albert.
Only five years after winning the
Great Britain's prestigious Critics Award for Best Newcomer, British stage
actress Victoria Hamilton has established herself as a rising star in television
and film as well.
On the London stage, Ms. Hamilton
has won high praise and critical notice for her performances in such plays
as As You Like It, King Lear, The Seagull, Three Sisters and Little Shop
of Horrors. She has appeared at many of England's most illustrious
venues, including The Old Vic and The National Theatre.
Ms. Hamilton is probably best-known
outside of England for her performances in major television productions.
She has appeared in Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, The Merchant of Venice
and King Lear, as well as the Miramax feature film Mansfield Park.
Interview: Diana Rigg (Baroness Lehzen)
The Governess, Lehzen, is a very
complicated person. What was it about her that you found compelling?
DR: Well, because she is a complicated
woman, and she had great influence over Victoria. Victoria loved
her a lot. She wrote, with hindsight, and she loved her more than
her mother. Although she was quite a strict old bag, you know?
I love playing these sort of parts, slightly repressed woman. I just
As young Victoria's governess, they
had a very close relationship during Victoria's childhood. How did
that change once Victoria married Albert, and what was her relationship
like with him?
DR: Well, it was inevitable of course,
that Albert would get more and more powerful within the marriage, and that
Lehzen would have to step back. I think she was unfortunate, in as
much as she was in charge of the nursery -- in other words, the babies
-- and she was also in charge of the household. And she was patently
incapable of doing all these things. So, sooner or later, she fell
short of doing the job properly. She felt that her position was being
undermined by Albert, and then she had to go. It must have been very
painful for her, because she had in fact dedicated a lot of her life to
Victoria and her family.
The central characters here are sort
of larger than life in historical terms. How did you think the script
captured the essence of their experiences?
DR: I thought the script was very
clever. I'd read a lot about Victoria before -- her letters
and a couple of the major books that have come out about her.
I think the script is based to a very large degree upon the letters and
upon contemporary reports. The writer, John Goldsmith, has not taken
vast liberties at all. But then I don't think you can with a slice
of history like this, which is not too far in the past.
And, he wouldn't have to, because
the events themselves were quite dramatic one way and another -- the assassination
attempt on Victoria, and of course these two people who embarked upon the
kind of marriage which is inconceivable in the twenty-first century, hardly
knowing anything about each other. And it turned out to be a glorious
That the marriage was so successful
under those circumstances seems nearly inconceivable today. How would
you describe their relationship?
DR: It was, I think, a very passionate
marriage. Not necessarily in the sexual sense, but Victoria was a
very passionate woman and I think she really adored Albert. Quite
often in marriages there's just a slight imbalance -- one partner
is loved rather more than the other. And I suspect that Albert loved
her, but he wasn't quite as madly
involved with her as she was with him. Ask the hypothetical
question, if she had died first,
would he have reacted in the manner that she did, which was more or less
go into isolation and seclusion for years afterwards, despite the fact
that she was the Queen of England? I don't think he would have
done that. I think he'd have just mourned her deeply, but got on
It seems that the situation for your
character really comes to a head over the treatment of Victoria and Albert's
sick baby daughter, Vicky.
DR: Well, Albert was ahead of his
time. He read on all sorts of subjects, and I suspect he also
knew a bit about medicine. In this instance, there was a sick baby
who'd been given a dosage of something which was quite wrong for it, and
Albert said so. Now, Lehzen was a governess, she was not a nurse.
I suspect she had had very little to do with babies before Victoria's babies
came along, because she looked after Victoria from the age of five onwards.
So, she didn't know what she was doing and Albert was horrified.
He was very advanced for his time,
Albert. There were all sorts of changes which he instituted in Buckingham
Palace. It's quite (cont.)
because I think in a way, our current Duke of Edinburgh hasn't suffered
much of the ignominy that Albert had to suffer all those years ago when
he married the queen. Walking two paces behind the Queen, always
having to defer to her. I think it's really hard, particularly for
a man who has any sense of his own self worth, to be so subjugated, as
it were, in front of a woman.
As time wore on, Albert became less
and less afraid to speak up. And as time wore on, Victoria grew to
value him, not as just the man that she loved, but to value his advice
and his knowledge. And he supported her wonderfully well through
You've worked with so many outstanding
people in your career. What is it like working with John Erman?
DR: Heavenly. He's an adorable
man. He knows his subject. I suspect he's the sort of director
that wouldn't dream of coming to a subject without knowing it really well.
He knows what he wants and, that is always an actor's ideal. You
know, it's the directors who don't know what they want, that you can't
stand. (Laughs) "Oh well, let's do it this way. Well then,
let's do it that way..." In the end you've done it 20 ways.
And frankly, the first way, generally speaking, is the best. One's
instincts tell one.
And, what about the cast?
DR: Well, it's great. Victoria
and Jonathan are absolutely wonderful. It's lovely to see young
actors making the most and the very best of an opportunity like this.
And then of course, all the other people. It's been great fun for
me, because if you've been around as long as I have, you've worked with
quite a lot of them, so they're chums. And, you might not have seen
them for quite a long time. So, the makeup van's been a very jolly
place. I've walked in there in the mornings, and there's been a face
that I worked with years ago.
For viewers, this will likely be
the first time they have had the opportunity to see these historical characters
in such intimate terms. How do you think that will be received?
DR: Well, Victoria wrote quite intimately
about her life. This is the first time, I suppose, that somebody's
put it up on a screen. But it was there for the reading, if you wanted
to learn about it. I don't think anybody can take exception to it.
For those people who like their history told in an entertaining way, which
doesn't take liberties with history, they are going to enjoy it hugely,
because it is a human story. I think people will be really interested
to see the empress behaving like a human being.
Since joining the prestigious Royal
Shakespeare Company at Stratford-on-Avon in 1959, Diana Rigg has enjoyed
a career that has featured award-winning performances on stage and screen,
and a devoted international following for her portrayal of the strong and
seductive Emma Peel on the television series "The Avengers."
On stage, Ms. Rigg has appeared in
numerous productions for the National Theatre, and won a Tony Award for
her Broadway performance in Medea in 1994. In addition to "The Avengers,"
Ms. Rigg has starred in many television productions, including A&E's
GENGHIS COHN, "Moll Flanders," "Witness For The Prosecution," "King Lear,"
"Samson and Delilah," "Mother Love" and the PBS series MYSTERY!.
In 1997, she was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in
a Miniseries, for her performance in "Rebecca."
Her films have included In The Beginning,
A Little Night Music, A Midsummer Night's Dream, A Good Man In Africa,
The Hospital and On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Ms. Rigg edited the books No Turn
Unstoned: The Worst Ever Theatrical Reviews and So to the Land. She
was decorated as a Commander of the British Empire in 1988 and, in 1994,
was named Dame Commander of the British Empire.
Interview: Nigel Hawthorne
this movie, you play Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria's first Prime Minister.
But you are also, of course well known for playing King George. Why
are we so fascinated by the lives of Royalty?
NH: I think there seems to be a great
interest in royalty everywhere, because the Royals are our movie stars,
you know. Okay, they may be not as glamorous as movie stars,
because they're not as pretty looking. But, there's some sort of
charisma, some sort of aura about them, which sets them apart from everybody
Along those lines, how were King
George and Queen Victoria alike, and also how were they different?
NH: When I was doing The Madness of
King George, which is about George the Third, who is a direct ancestor
of Queen Victoria, I learned how much George had altered the court etiquette
in order to set the monarch away from the people. He became much
more mysterious, and much more like a movie star, much more the person
that one should be in awe of. George the Third had gone mad,
so that his son was put in as Regent in order to maintain the country,
and his son was a very dissolute man, very much a wine, woman and song
man. I think the country very much resented the fact that he was
so extravagant, whereas his father had maintained this sort of rigid devotion
to his country and to his people, which, of course, prevented it from going
into revolution, like what was happening over in France, for example.
Somehow, although there was a mad
King on the throne, the monarchy remained, which is surely some indication
of how much respect the public had for him. And then through the
years, this young girl suddenly comes to the throne, and the expectations
are enormously high. She's from the same loins as the Georges, the
Hanoverian-Germanic loins. We didn't really know what to expect from
this young girl. Very much like Elizabeth the First, she had become
Queen at a very, very young age. And you saw how quickly Elizabeth
took command and how she became a law unto herself.
But, of course, Elizabeth never married,
and this is really the story of two young people who fall in love.
She just happens to be the Queen, and he happens to be a Prince.
The age difference was very slight between them -- I think there
was something like four months difference. But they were very different
people. The Queen certainly had a mind of her own. She was
much more rigid than Albert.
Albert was a scientist. Albert
had great visions. The Crystal Palace Exhibition, for example, was
his baby, and it sort of killed him really, because, although he died of
typhoid, a lot of his energy was dissipated.
He really died from over-working?
NH: That, and the fact that the Queen
was very, very sexy. And she loved sex, you know. You read
her letters, and they're full of how much she adored Albert. So,
I think she wore him out to a certain degree. It was as much that
as the Crystal Palace, which did it for him.
This is the story of the beginning
of their romance together. You see this young girl emerging
from the protective company of all the people like myself who are dressed
in uniforms, the aunts and the trappings of royalty that were surrounding
her. And somehow, she had to come along and say, okay, I know that's
what everybody else did, but I'm going to do it my way.
She was enormously individualistic
as a Queen. Of course, when Albert died at a tragically young age,
and they'd had a very happy marriage, she just went totally to pieces.
Those of you in America who've seen Mrs. Brown will know the later relationship
with John Brown who was a gilly, a man who worked on the estate.
After Albert had died, she went into mourning, she wore black, and didn't
really come out of mourning for the whole of her lifetime.
And, you know, she had sixty years on the throne. She was quite an
old biddy when she kicked the bucket.
Queen Victoria was quite fond of
your character, Lord Melbourne.
Was he a father figure to her? Why
were they so fond of each other, and what was their relationship like?
NH: I think Melbourne was a very difficult
man because he was so easy going. He had had a romance and a marriage
with Caroline Lamb, a very, very errant spirit. She was totally off
the wall. She eventually left, as he was then William Lamb before
he became Lord Melbourne, and went off with Lord Byron. She had a
big affair with Lord Byron, and Byron eventually got very irritated by
her, and ditched her. And Melbourne took her back again.
So this was the man that was prepared
to eat humble pie,
knowing he had been cuckolded by
Byron, who was very romantic and the man of the day, the big heroic paretic
of the day. All the women fell for him. But he took her back.
He saw in Victoria something of that
spirit, I believe. He was obviously much, much older than she.
I mean, she was 18 and he was nearly 50. And so, he saw in her the
daughter that he'd always wanted. He had just lost his own son, who
died. He saw in this young girl something that he really adored.
And it was funny, they became incredibly close.
Victoria sort of relied on him, not
just for advice, but for guidance and for humor. If they were at
a big dinner function, immediately after the meal was finished, she was
up out of the table, and she grabbed hold of Melbourne, and she engaged
him in conversation. She wanted to be with him all the time.
There was a lot of talk that she was in love with him, and he with her.
And in fact, when she used to go out into the streets, members of
the public would call out, you know, "Good morning, Mrs. Melbourne," and
things like that. And so it was public knowledge that they were very
In her diaries, Queen
Victoria seems to comment on everything Melbourne does. How he looks, what
he did, how she hated that he went to bed after the meal, and so on. How
did that affect the rest of the people who were around her at that time?
NH: Well, in a way, I suppose he had
an anarchic spirit. And, he was sensible enough to see that she was
an individualist, and that her individualism should be maintained.
That she shouldn't be governed by the protocol of the court if she didn't
want to. You know, she should make her own rules.
I think that Melbourne was a very
relaxed spirit, very easygoing. And consequently, although a very
famous prime minister in this country, probably not a very good one. Because
he was too nice, and you've got to be really tough to be a politician.
It's obvious you find the period
and the characters of great interest. In addition to that, what attracted
you to this project?
NH: Well, first of all, I had never
worked with John Erman, who's the director. This has been a
totally happy experience, because he is not only a very nice man, one of
those rare directors that likes actors, but he does know what he's doing.
He doesn't hang about, doesn't waste time. He knows exactly what
shots he wants, and goes for them, and gets them, and he moves on.
So, from the point of view of the producers, I should think he's pretty
golden, because he works quickly and he gets results.
He is also able to command the most
sensational cast that I've ever seen in my life. I mean, I've never
seen all those names shoved together in a television series ever.
It's just astonishing to me. I remember when I saw the cast list
for the first time, and I could see he had gotten Ustinov and Diana Rigg
and David Suchet and Jonathan Pryce ... all these names that were just
tumbling out. Even the footmen and the people playing servants
are very, very established figures in our theater world. And
it's not because they need the work. It's because they like the project.
I was very attracted to it.
You know, it's not often that you get a script which is a romance about
real life people that is so truthful and not cheap. It's fascinating,
and sexy and naughty and all the things you wanted, and that it should
be. But it isn't a vulgarization of what happened. It's true
... it's truthful.
By the time Sir Nigel Hawthorne was
garnering international acclaim for his work in the 1994 film The Madness
of King George, he was well into an illustrious acting career that has
now spanned half-a-century.
Born in England and raised in South
Africa, Hawthorne began acting at the University of Cape Town in the 1940s.
Following glowing notices for numerous stage performances in London's West
End and elsewhere, Hawthorne won a starring role in the popular British
television series Yes, Minister and the subsequent series Yes, Prime Minister.
His many other television credits include Mapp and Lucia, A Woman Named
Golda, and The Tempest.
Mr. Hawthorne received a Tony Award
for his 1991 performance in the Broadway production of Shadowlands and
an Olivier Award in 1992 for the Royal National Theatre's production of
The Madness of George the Third.
In addition to the screen adaptation
of that play, Mr. Hawthorne's feature films have included The Winslow Boy,
Madeline, The Object of My Affection, Stephen Spielberg's Amistad, The
Black Cauldron, Firefox and Ghandi.
He was made a Commander of the British
Empire (CBE) in 1987, and received his knighthood in 1999.
with Director: John Erman
career has included some very high-profile projects that focused on quintessentially
American topics mini-series like "Roots" and "Scarlett." So,
why take on this true story from British history?
JE: Well, I think it's exciting for
the very reason you brought up. It's unlike anything I've ever been
asked to do. At my point in life, having been doing this for a long
time, one looks for challenges. You don't want to repeat yourself.
You don't want to do the same sort of stories you've done, and quite often
that's what I'm asked to do.
So, when something came along that
had an English background and a historical background, I got very intrigued.
I love doing things that are based in fact. One of the most exciting
things I ever did was "Roots," and this, in a way, corresponds. Not
in the sense of what that did for our country, but in the sense that this
is such an enormous part of British history. These two people changed
Britain for the better, in my view. And I got very excited about
You have seemed to take on projects
that are particularly well-suited for the genre of television mini-series.
Why is that?
JE: I'm basically interested
in characters and behavior, and that is best expressed in the television
medium. There are the occasional films that are character-based,
but generally, they're more prevalent in television.
I have sort of a psychological background,
in that I started doing therapy when I was quite young. And, the
way that people connect, I find fascinating. One of the things that
I loved about this, was that it is, in a way, a story of co-dependency.
I've never been asked to do that before.
Victoria really needed throughout
her life to be protected by people. She went from her nanny to Lord
Melbourne to Albert and eventually to Gladstone. She was always looking
for somebody to protect her, in the old-fashioned way. Albert had
this background where he was sort of denied love, because he came from
this broken home where his mother had died when he was quite young, and
his father was quite dissolute and remote. He needed love, he needed
to be adored. So these two people who really weren't that suited
to each other, found a connection that was a strong emotional bond, and
I just went for that.
You described Victoria's relationship
with Albert as "co-dependent." How did Victoria relate to those people
who were closest to her?
JE: I found that journey between her
dependence on Lehzen, and then her dependence on Melbourne and then shifting
to Albert, utterly fascinating. She was a woman who constantly melded
with people. And, in a way, she used them as long as she could and
then she went on to the next.
When Albert died, everybody was always
so astounded by the fact that her mourning was so extreme. I think
her mourning was that extreme because she felt she couldn't live without
him, as co-dependent people do. You know, if you're involved in a
relationship and you think, "If my partner dies, I want to die, too"
-- that's Victoria.
You've assembled here quite an extraordinary
cast, with acclaimed British stage veterans mixing with rising British
stars. The story is about two towering figures from British history
-- and then, you throw in this well-known American television director...
How did that work out?
JE: Well, I love to rehearse, and
basically what I would do is just break down the scenes in terms of relationships
and what the needs were between the two people. That's what I talked
about; I didn't talk about how you do things in England, because
I knew that they knew better than I did. Because I had read so many
books and done so much research by the time they all started, I felt that
I understood the dynamics of the relationships. So, that is what
I concentrated on, and they all seemed to respond to that. You know,
it would have been idiotic of me to try to tell them the mores of the British
culture. I mean, it would have been ludicrous. So, I just talked
about emotional needs.
Tell me about the rehearsal period
prior to filming. How did that impact on the overall experience
of filming this movie?
JE: We had a really collaborative
time. I'm a great believer in letting the actor have the ideas.
I'll present them with ideas, and then sometimes they have much better
ones. So it's not like I say, "This is the way we're going to do
it." I'll say, "This is, this is a possible way of doing it.
What do you think?" And out of that comes a collaborative effort,
where you trust each other. That's what that two-week period resolves.
I've been doing these sort of pictures
since the '70s, and I
have always rehearsed. I don't
understand how you can make (cont.)
intelligent film without it. I don't understand how you can just
put two people on the set and say, "Okay, play the love scene."
Unless you're doing a feature where
if you don't get the first shot until six o'clock in the afternoon, fine.
Then, you're going to work all that out on the floor with everybody sitting
around. Television doesn't allow that. You have to come in
and you have to do it. And the only way I can do it intelligently,
is to have the actors know exactly where they're going, so that they have
a chart and I have a chart and we've agreed and that happens in the rehearsal
room. And the bond is made then. There are no surprises. I
think I learned that from Sidney Lumet.
How does the fact that this is based
on history figure into your creative decisions? When filming, are
you thinking about how historians will rate the dramatization?
JE: I think when you do any sort of
a piece that involves a well documented story, there are always going to
be people who say, "But why didn't they include Gladstone? Why didn't
they include the social revolution?"
There are many aspects of the Victoria
and Albert relationship that we didn't deal with. We basically decided
that we were going to tell a love story, that we were going to tell a story
about two people who really didn't particularly like each other at the
beginning, and chart the course of where they go as partners. So,
of course, there are going to be people who are going to say, but what
about such and such? Why didn't they deal with that particular aspect?
That doesn't concern me, because that's not what my goal was, that's not
what I aimed for.
So, the focus is on the relationship
between the two central characters. Do you find that, while most
people have some knowledge about Queen Victoria, that the level of Albert's
influence is rarely understood?
JE: You see, they talk about Victorian
values. From my research, these are not Victorian values, they're
Albertian values. She was a sort of fun-loving, somewhat vacuous
young woman. It was a rather "Pygmalion" relationship, where he had
very, very strong moral convictions and because she so adored him, she
changed her viewpoint on many, many things and on many, many people.
So I think really, Albert is the unsung hero -- not only of this story,
but of the London we know today.
If you go around South Kensington
and you see the Albert Memorial and the Albert Hall and the Victoria and
Albert Museum and Prince Consort Road -- everywhere, you're surrounded
by Albert. Well, that was news to me. I took all that for granted
until I started the research on this. I think it was an exciting
journey for Jonathan Firth, and for me. I think most people who knew
about Victoria are not going to know about Albert, and I think that will
be the really interesting thing for people.
One of television's most celebrated
and prolific directors, John Erman's work includes mini-series and movies
that have defined an era in the medium, including "Roots" and "Roots: The
His many productions have included
"Too Rich: The Doris Duke Story," "Scarlett," "The Sunshine Boys," "The
Two Mrs. Grenvilles," "An Early Frost," "The Atlanta Child Murders," "Queen,"
"A Streetcar Named Desire," "Who Will Love My Children," "Green Eyes,"
"The Letter" and "Eleanor, First Lady of the World."
The list of outstanding actors and
actresses who have been directed by Mr. Erman span generations. It
includes: Marlon Brando, Henry Fonda, Lauren Bacall, Richard Chamberlain,
Woody Allen, Nathan Lane, Sarah Jessica Parker, Peter Falk, Whoopi Goldberg,
Timothy Dalton, Joanne Woodward, James Garner, Halle Barry, Danny Glover,
Julie Andrews, Ann-Margaret, Hugh Grant, Louis Gossett, Bruce Dern, Mary
Tyler Moore, Bette Midler, John Goodman, Bernadette Peters, Claudette Colbert,
Aidan Quinn, Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazarra, Jason Robards, Rip Torn, James
Earl Jones, Martin Sheen, Jean Stapleton, Lee Remick, Tony Curtis, Lloyd
Bridges, Olivia De Havilland, Warren Oates, Eileen Brennan, Charles Grodin,
Paul Winfield, Rita Tushingham and LeVar Burton.
Mr. Erman received an Emmy for "Roots:
The Next Generation," "An Early Frost" and "Who Will Love My Children,"
a Director's Guild Award for "Roots" and "An Early Frost," and The Peabody
for "Green Eyes," "The Attic" and "The Boys Next Door."
JONATHAN PRYCE (King Leopold)
A 1972 graduate of the Royal Academy
of Dramatic Arts, Jonathan Pryce has been winning awards and critical acclaim
for his work on stage and in films for the more than 25 years.
On Broadway, Mr. Pryce has won several
Olivier Awards, and two Tonys, the first for The Comedians in 1977, and
the second for Miss Saigon in 1991. His many other stage appearances
have included The Taming of the Shrew, Anthony and Cleopatra and Measure
for Measure for the Royal Shakespeare Company. An accomplished singer,
Mr. Pryce has performed on the cast album recordings for Miss Saigon, Evita,
Nine and Cabaret.
His film work began in 1976, and has
included Ploughman's Lunch, Terry Gilliam's Brazil and The Adventures of
Baron Munchausen, Jumpin' Jack Flash, Consuming Passions, The Rachel Papers,
The Age of Innocence, David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, Tomorrow Never
Dies, Evita, Carrington, and Stigmata.
Mr. Pryce was honored for his performance
in the 1993 television production of Barbarians at the Gate with nominations
for an Emmy and a Golden Globe. In 1995, he received Cannes
Film Festival award for Best Actor for his work as the title character
in the film Carrington.
DAVID SUCHET (Stockmar)
An actor highly acclaimed for his
work on stage, television and in motion pictures, David Suchet has garnered
a legend of fans from around the globe. A native of London,
Mr. Suchet is best known to American audiences as the definitive Hercule
Poirot, Agatha Christie's beloved, eccentric Belgian detective.
IN MESOPOTAMIA and EVIL UNDER THE SUN, mark the 48th and 49th times Mr.
Suchet has donned the Poirot accouterments, leaving him only 23 more stories
to adapt from Christie's Poirot collection. In addition to England
and A&E's North American presentations, the series is seen in more
than 80 countries, including Estonia, Korea, Lithuania, Egypt, Brazil,
Angola, Iceland, Mauritius, Iran, Poland, Singapore, China and Japan, where
Poirot enjoys a particularly passionate following. "The Japanese
are a precise, polite, elegant people and they have adopted Poirot as one
of their own," says Mr. Suchet.
A member of the distinguished Royal
Shakespeare Company since 1973, where he currently serves as an Associate
Artist, Mr. Suchet has performed in a wide variety of plays, from King
Lear and Richard II to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? He recently
starred as Salieri in the Los Angeles and Broadway productions of Amadeus.
This fall, he also stars in the A&E Original Movie, Victoria &
His films include A Perfect Murder,
Song For Europe, The Falcon and the Snowman, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan,
Lord of the Apes, Iron Eagle, A World Apart, Executive Decision, and Sunday,
a Grand Prize honoree at the Sundance Film Festival.
PENELOPE WILTON (The Duchess of Kent)
Beginning her stage career at respected
London venues such as Nottingham Playhouse and Bristol Old Vic, Penelope
Wilton made her West End debut in West of Suez, which starred Sir Ralph
Her many other stage appearances have
included starring roles in The Philanderer, Betrayal, Sisterly Feelings,
Man and Superman, Much Ado About Nothing, Major Barbara, Secret Rapture,
The Deep Blue Sea, A Kind of Alaska, Heartbreak House, Moonlight, and for
the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Seagull.
On television, Ms. Wilton has performed
in a wide array of productions, including Othello, King Lear, The
Norman Conquests, The Borrowers and Wives and Daughters.
Ms. Wilton's films have included Cry
Freedom, Secret Rapture, Carrington, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Clockwise
and Joseph Andrews.
How did I get started? Well,
I guess the trigger was the 100th anniversary of her death. She died
in 1901. Originally, it was cradle to grave, the entire story of
Victoria. And then I thought, no, the story here is Victoria and Albert,
that extraordinary marriage.
Everybody has the same illusion about
the marriage, which was that it was this sort of blazing romance, flawless
happiness and so on. But if you actually look at the facts, it was
nothing of the sort. It was almost the opposite, to start with.
In fact, the real story's infinitely more interesting than the legend,
as real stories always are.
Albert was a most remarkable man.
The English aristocracy hated him, because he was no fun. He was
extremely well educated, highly intelligent, deeply civilized. He
knew about everything. He knew about music, he knew about architecture,
he knew about art, he knew about poetry, he knew about philosophy, he knew
about mathematics. He was a polymath.
The first couple of years of their
marriage was extremely difficult, absolutely frightful, really. He
was much cleverer than she was, much more intellectual, and had what I
think she never had really, and very few people in England had, which was
a real grasp of what a constitutional monarchy actually is. The monarch
really had very little power, and Albert understood that.
There are 28,000 more stories you
could tell about Victoria and Albert. I suppose 30 other writers
would have approached it in 30 different ways. What I tried to do
was keep the politics fairly low key and try and show a marriage.
DAVID BLACKMORE, Editor
The wonderful thing about working
with John Erman is that he gives me a lot of freedom. At the initial
assembly stage, I have very little feedback from John of what he actually
wants. It's up to me to gauge from his dailies exactly what's required
for the scene. When I watch his dailies and the different performances,
I can glean from those what his idea is, what he actually wants to achieve.
And every now and then, I do like to throw in a few surprises for him.
As an editor, you do have to think
as a viewer. You've got to put your head into the minds of the audience.
We're just like the old storytellers, sitting around the campfire.
An editor has to be able to
guide the audience through that story.
If you're guiding that audience very well, you shouldn't feel that there
are clips going through. You should just feel that it's the natural
progression of storytelling of a particular scene. You shouldn't
be aware of the fact that angles are being changed.
John Erman is a very classical style
director. He's very good with actors and performances. His
style doesn't require a fussy style of editing. The story is a very
simple story. There's no subplot really to speak of. He's just
telling the story as it is, and it requires quite a slow, gentle and elegant
attitude. There's a natural pace to everything. What I've got
to try and bring across, is that natural pace.
MARIA PRICE, Costume Designer
I'm actually copying the dresses
in the National Portrait Gallery. As a young woman, she didn't have
fussy dresses and she didn't seem to wear many bows and so forth.
But later on, she really liked bows and frills and flounces. Partly
it was the fashion of the time, because flounces came in during the 1850s.
She ordered that herself by collaborating on her dresses. (cont.)
she saw Albert the second time, he was like a romantic hero, and I decided
to get this shirt made with appliquéd lace. When you
see him, second time, he really looks like a beautiful ironic prince of
They were quite formal. In the
daytime, the women often would wear little morning caps. Although
I have to say, I didn't put Victoria in them all the time, because I think
it can be a bit too prissy. On the screen, sometimes you just see
these little hats coming forward. I think they look like little paper
doilies on their heads. So, I took a bit of license and decided that,
you know, it would not be such a good idea.
And the same with gloves. Sometimes
they wore gloves more often then we would, and I stopped that as well on
some occasions. So, there are certain liberties I've taken, I must
PAT HAY, Make-up Designer
We didn't go for absolute look-alikes
in this, but we do try and make them as much like the people as we can.
You know, if their sideburns are to a certain length, that's the way it
will be. I mean, Queen Victoria had a sweet little face. And
actress Victoria has a sweet face. But the real Queen Victoria had
a much sharper face.
We do shade and thin and try and get
as much as you can. But it's a complete cheat, because they would
never have worn as much make-up as they've got on their faces in Victorian
times. But, you know, it works.
KEITH WILSON, Production Designer
When it starts, the film is really
about the interiors, the settings were really quite sparse. The Regency
period wasn't so cluttered. And then as we come into the Victorian
era, it becomes extremely cluttered. So, the end of the film is a
totally different look. There's palms and there's picture frames
and there's masses of stuff. Every surface is covered in bits and
They were great collectors, particularly
Queen Victoria. She loved photography. When photography first
came in, she absolutely adored it, and photographed everything in sight,
so the house was full of photographs very, very early on.
The first thing the director said
to me, even before I read the script, "How are you going to do the Crystal
Palace?" Because the Crystal Palace was an extraordinary building
of its time. There hadn't been anything like it, all made of glass
and metal. I knew exactly how I was going to do it. All you
really needed was one shot to show that you were inside a huge, huge glass
building. I had the idea of making a model of the exterior, so I
didn't have to build the exterior.
In the set where Prince Albert is
discussing the Crystal Palace, we see the model of the Crystal Palace.
So already the audience knows how big it is, and that it's made of glass.
And I said, then we can dissolve straight through into the interior of
Crystal Palace and the opening ceremony where the Queen actually opens
This is the only CGI shot really in
the film. I just worked on a film where I did a lot of CGI work,
so I knew this was the way to go. I've used it quite a lot in the
last three or four years, it's become another tool. Initially, I
was somewhat skeptical about it, and probably nervous, because it was a
medium that I hadn't used. I used the old system of map paintings
on glass or whatever. But this was extraordinary because it opens
the whole world up for me. I can do anything I'm asked to do.
Building the Crystal Palace is a very good example.
In A Nutshell
Victoria's life with Albert was intimate and passionate. "Albert
is beautiful," wrote Victoria as she prepared to propose at the tender
age of 20. Once married, she confessed: "I have no taste -
I depend entirely on him (Albert)". And when he died age 42, Victoria
went wild with grief, her life companion snatched from her in his prime.
* Victoria wrote a private journal
from the age of 13 until a few days before she died at 81. Perhaps
the most significant personal record of the 19th century, large chunks
of this journal were destroyed by her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice,
to protect Victoria's private thoughts from the prying public. An
incurable and irreparable loss.
* Victoria was a woman of contradictions.
She loved a raucous joke. Yet she also enjoyed the services and sermons
of the Christian Church, while harboring a dislike for Bishops.
* Many people believe that Victoria
never smiled or laughed, but in fact she loved to be entertained and often
rocked with laughter. An old Admiral was once telling her about the
sinking of one of his ships. Victoria changed the subject and asked
after the health of the Admiral's sister. He was rather deaf, and
thought that the Queen was talking about the ship, so replied: "Well,
Ma'am, I'm going to have her turned over and take a good look at her bottom
and have it well scraped". At this point, Victoria heaved with laughter,
tears of mirth rolling down her cheeks. She was definitely amused!
* The Queen loved gold, and often
breakfasted in the garden under a fringed tent. Everything on the
table was solid gold, including the eggcup, with the exception of her cup
* Victoria's pet peeves were loud
voices, meeting people she knew when out for her afternoon drive, Prime
Minister Gladstone, smoking, hot rooms, coal fires and death duties.
* Ahead of her time, Victoria thought
smoking was a 'filthy (cont.)
and placed NO SMOKING signs all over her homes. She made smokers
go in the garden, or to a damp white-washed room near the servants' quarters!
Even the King of Saxony was denied the pleasure, and was widely frowned
upon when he defiantly walked up the grand staircase at Osborne House,
puffing away on a large cigar declaring that he was a king and could jolly
well do what he liked.
* Although Victoria enjoyed the privileges
of independence that women at the time were campaigning so hard for, she
did not support the feminists of her time. While the suffragettes
were chaining themselves to railings in their attempts to get women the
vote, Victoria declared that they deserved little more than "a good whipping".
* Victoria lived through a period
of great technological advancement, but she wasn't very enthusiastic about
the motor car: "I'm told that they smell exceedingly nasty and are
very shaky and disagreeable conveyances altogether". She didn't take
to the telephone either, but allowed two to be installed in Buckingham
Palace so her guests could order carriages.
* A mother of nine children, when
it came to sexual matters, Victoria wasn't shy. Neither were her
children. She had over thirty grandchildren and once remarked: ".... it
seems to me to go on like the rabbits in Windsor Park!"
* Victoria was not sentimental about
babies, saying: "An ugly baby is a very nasty object and the prettiest
is frightful". She never breastfed, so when she saw her daughter
Princess Alice suckling her own child, Victoria had one of the cows in
the royal dairies named Princess Alice.
* When Albert died, Victoria kept
his bedroom exactly as it had been for forty years, until her own death
in 1901. Hot water was brought in every morning, the chamber pot
cleaned, fresh towels and linen laid out and a clean nightshirt laid out
on his bed. For many years, Victoria slept with Albert's nightclothes
in her arms.
In A Nutshell
Albert was enchanted by the bluntness of Victoria's marriage proposal to
him, writing to his good friend Stockmar: "V. declared her love for
me and offered me her hand, which I seized in both mine and pressed tenderly
to my lips. She is so good and kind to me that I can scarcely believe
such affection should be mine."
* As a child, Albert was as attractive
as his brother Ernest was unattractive. They were so dissimilar that
there were rumors that Albert was illegitimate.
* Baron Stockmar, respected advisor
to the Coburg family, thought Albert the perfect suitor for Victoria:
"He has everything attractive to women, and possesses every quality they
find pleasing at all times, and in all countries."
* An inspirational 11 year old Albert
wrote, "I intend to train myself to be a good and useful man."
* From a young age, Albert had a tendency
to fall asleep as soon as he was tired. If he couldn't go to bed,
he would suddenly disappear and was generally found sleeping quietly in
the recess of the window.
l Albert and Ernest's father took
them on an illicit tour of Berlin as a surprise 'treat' to teach them the
ways of the world. Berlin was considered the most decadent city in
Europe - and Albert hated every minute of it. While his father and
brother toured the clubs in the less salubrious parts of town, Albert chose
to spend his time in the Hotel Angleterre reading!
* In 1840, Albert insisted on a good
old-fashioned German Christmas at Windsor. Fir trees, decorations,
the sending of cards to friends and relations, and the exchange of gifts
on December 25th. The Queen loved it, and the 'Victorian Christmas'
* Albert completely redesigned Osborne
House, their family
home, on the Isle of Wight. He was inspired by the Italian style,
the view of Solent reminding him of the sea in Italy, decorating the house
with marble pillars and, later, life-size statues of the children.
He introduced domestic luxury novelties to the home too - hot air central
heating and bathrooms.
* Albert's favorite child was the
first-born, Vicky. He was constantly dandling the baby on his knee
and later inspiring her talent for music - she loved to turn the pages
for her father while he played the organ. Victoria was deeply impressed
by Albert's modern approach to fatherhood: "He is so kind to them
... romps with them so delightfully, and manages them so beautifully and
* Cultured and intellectual, Albert
involved himself in many charities and political causes such as the Abolition
of Slavery. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the much criticized
but hugely successful Great Exhibition in 1851, which Victoria praised
as "one of the wonders of the world". The Exhibition made a profit
of £180,000 which to this day subsidizes scholarships for young students
in the arts and science.
* Often the butt of the jokes in the
Victorian music hall, Albert was finally praised for the success of the
He brought with him no riches,
He had scarce a rag upon his back,
And great holes in his breeches;
Oh, England on him pity took,
And changed his sad condition,
And soon he planned you understand,
The National Exhibition.
* Although he never saw them, the
existence of the British Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the
Imperial College of Science and Technology, and the Victoria and Albert
Museum owes a considerable debt to Albert and the Great Exhibition.
V&A ad from Biography
Schedule for Victoria & Albert on A&E (check your local listings)
Victoria & Albert, Pt. 1 :
Sunday , October 21 9:00 PM -
Victoria & Albert, Pt. 1 :
Monday , October 22 1:00 AM -
Victoria & Albert, Pt. 2 :
Tuesday , October 23 9:00 PM -
Victoria & Albert, Pt. 2 :
Wednesday, October 24 1:00 AM
- 3:00 AM
Victoria & Albert, Pt. 1 :
Saturday , October 27 8:00 PM
- 10:00 PM
Victoria & Albert, Pt. 2 :
Saturday , October 27 10:00 PM
- 12:00 AM
Victoria & Albert, Pt. 1 :
Sunday , October 28 12:00 AM -
Victoria & Albert, Pt. 2 :
Sunday , October 28 2:00 AM -
Encore presentations of VICTORIA
& ALBERT will air as follows: Part One, Saturday, October 27 at 8PM
ET & PT/7pm CT followed by Part Two at 10PM ET and PT/9pm CT.
VICTORIA & ALBERT will be available
from A&E Home Video (1-800-423-1212) in October for a SRP of
$39.95 for both the 4-pack VHS and the 2-pack DVD. Behind
the Scenes information on the film may be found on the A&E Website
located at AandE.com.