Victoria & Albert - An Overview

Media Alert Cast Interview: Nigel Hawthorne (Lord Melbourne)
Part One Synopsis and Cast List Interview with Director: John Ehrman 
Part Two Synopsis and Cast List Cast Biographies
Cast Interview: Jonathan Firth Production "Soundbites"
Cast Interview: Victoria Hamilton Victoria in a Nutshell
Cast Interview: Diana Rigg (Baroness Lehzen) Albert in a Nutshell

Broadcast schedule for V&A on A&E


The Hollywood Reporter
A&E Studios Presents 



as "William IV

The 4-Hour Original Movie Premieres  On:

Part One: Sunday, October 21 at 9pm ET and PT / 8pm CT

Part Two: Tuesday, October 23 at 9pm ET and PT / 8pm CT

VICTORIA & ALBERT explores the famous romance between the lonely young heiress to the British throne (Victoria Hamilton) and the German  prince, Albert (Jonathan Firth). Raised more by her governess, Baroness Lehzen (Diana Rigg) than by her politically scheming mother (Penelope Wilton), Victoria only learns to love her childhood chum after she becomes  monarch. Albert's affection is even slower to build though fond of the young queen, he marries her for strategic reasons. It is only after years of years of behind-the-scenes toil in service to his wife and ruler that Prince and Queen become true partners in a mutually rewarding valentine to married bliss.

Emerging star Victoria Hamilton portrays the queen who served for over sixty years.  The cream of Britain's acting community joins her, including PeterUstinov, David Suchet, Nigel Hawthorne, Alec McCowan and Jonathan Pryce. The miniseries was directed by American John Erman (Roots, The Two Mrs.Grenvilles, Scarlett), written by John Goldsmith and scored by Alan Parker.

Don't miss the lavish 19th-century costumes, the castles and gardens of Great Britain, and the timeless story of a strong woman and her loyal partnerVICTORIA & ALBERT.

Radio Times

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, Victoria 

quickly 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 

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, the BIOGRAPHY web site is located at, and the mysteries web is at


Part One Synopsis and Cast List

As 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 royal succession. 

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 has become. 

The German prince, a long-time favorite of Victoria's mother, quickly takes Victoria's heart.

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 confidence. 

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.


Duke of Coburg ROGER HAMMOND
Queen Adelaide DELENA KIDD
Wellington JOHN WOOD
Older Victoria JOYCE REDMAN

Part Two Synopsis and Cast List
The 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 admirable qualities. 

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.

 It 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.


Wellington JOHN WOOD
Mr. Horner SUSAN KYD
Nellie Clifden JULIE MCKENNA
Princess Alice KATE MABERLY
Older Victoria JOYCE REDMAN


Cast Interview:  Jonathan Firth (Albert)
Radio Times
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 and formal. 

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 on trying. 

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 force?

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 Hall.

After spending so much time and effort playing such an interesting character, how does it feel when the filming is complete? 

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. 

Short Biography

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 Friends. 

On stage, he was in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Henry VI.


Cast Interview: Victoria Hamilton (Queen Victoria)
Sunday Times

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... 

you know. 

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 up doing. 
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 he is. 

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. 

Short Biography

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. 


Cast 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 like them.

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 success.

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 with life.

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.)

interesting, 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 their marriage.

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.

Short Biography

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. 


Cast Interview: Nigel Hawthorne 
(Lord Melbourne)

In 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 else. 

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 (cont.)

symbol 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 close. 

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. 

Short Biography

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.


Interview with Director: John Erman
Your 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 that. 

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.)

an 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 Next Generation."

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." 


Cast Biographies

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. 

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. 
MURDER 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 & Albert.

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 Richardson. 

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.


Production "Soundbites"

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.

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.)

When 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 your dreams. 

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 say. 

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 pieces. 

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 the exhibition.

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. 


Victoria 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 and saucer. 

* 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.)

habit' 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.


Albert 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' was born.

* Albert completely redesigned Osborne House, their family 

holiday 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 firmly."

* 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 Great Exhibition:

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 Magazine

Broadcast Schedule for Victoria & Albert on A&E (check your local listings) :

Victoria & Albert, Pt. 1 :
Sunday , October 21 9:00 PM - 11:00 PM

Victoria & Albert, Pt. 1 :
Monday , October 22 1:00 AM - 3:00 AM

Victoria & Albert, Pt. 2 :
Tuesday , October 23 9:00 PM - 11:00 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 - 2:00 AM

Victoria & Albert, Pt. 2 :
Sunday , October 28 2:00 AM - 4:00 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 



Page Updated: 29 September 2001