|Aug 27 2001
Royal drama no letdown
Victoria And Albert might sound more like a museum than a Royal couple to many viewers, but BBC1's extravagant attempt to tell the story of the great romance should put that right.
This lavish new series has a warm and witty script and more stars than The Sky At Night. There's Nigel Hawthorne, Diana Rigg, David Suchet and, best of all, Victoria Hamilton and Jonathan Firth as the young lovers themselves.
The young queen wore a nightdress apparently made from a dozen parachutes but the drama was no letdown.
Queen Vic opens up
By Ian Gittins
Queen Victoria was a severe moralist, a prim and proper puritan who imposed her own austere standards of behaviour on the nation - or was she?
Actress Victoria Hamilton plays the Queen in Victoria And Albert, a new BBC drama showing Sunday and Monday, that paints the monarch in a rather more passionate light.
"She was genuinely extraordinarily strong," says Hamilton, "but also at many moments in her life completely terrified and utterly vulnerable."
Hamilton says she became fascinated with the monarch as filming of the drama progressed.
"I'd sit in my dressing room and read a scene, then open Queen Victoria's journal on that date and see how she felt about things," she explains.
"It's very easy to forget she came to the throne at 18. It's impossible for us to realise the enormity of being told at the age of 18, 'You are now Queen of England.'"
The actress says she was appalled to learn of the childhood hardships imposed on Queen Victoria.
"She was psychologically abused by her mother and others," she says. "She wasn't allowed to see other children of her own age.
"She had her back strapped to a board for five hours a day from the age of five to make her sit up straight. They tied a sprig of holly under her chin so she'd never drop her chin."
Hamilton believes Queen Victoria married her consort, Prince Albert, through duty, but came to love him passionately.
"Albert taught her to be a very good queen," she says. "She was actually in her heart quite hedonistic until he came along.
"She just wanted to party but that side was tamed by Albert. She was absolutely bowled over by just how beautiful he was. Victoria was quite different from how we think of her."
'A hell of a lot of children'
The drama explodes the long-standing myth that Queen Victoria was a puritanical, prudish figure, showing steamy scenes with Prince Albert.
"It's a passionate romance between two people," says Jonathan Firth, who plays Albert.
"Queen Victoria was a product of the debauched and louche Regency period. She was initially like that and only took her morality from Albert in her later life."
Firth says the royal couple were happy in each other's company.
"I think the physical side of their relationship was very strong, despite the fact that he doesn't love her at first," he says.
"It took a few years before they were comfortable with each other but they produced a hell of a lot of children. There was never a problem with the physical side of their relationship."
Producer David Cunliffe says the drama is a sensitive treatment of the royal love affair and does not bend facts.
"We have done extensive research and made use of Victoria's diaries," he says. "The programme gives an account of Victoria and Albert's private life but it isn't torrid.
"It's essentially a love story. You'd be quite
happy to let a very young child see this programme."
MONDAY AUGUST 27 2001
BY PAUL HOGGART
If the terrestrial schedules have a tendency to turn into dried up river-beds in the summer, Bank Holiday weekend has brought a flash-flood — not all top quality telly, perhaps, but more than enough to interest most viewers with at least two brain-cells to rub together.
The big-budget, big-name, big-location, big-costume event, of course, was the first part of Victoria and Albert (BBC1, Sunday). It is also a big curate’s egg. The success of Mrs Brown reminded us that the Great White Queen’s emotional life was complex and highly charged. She may have been tiny (and later images made her look like a prudish and bad-tempered chicken in mourning), but it has long been suspected that she was a pint-sized pocket of passion.
Victoria Hamilton caught at least some of this in her winsome performance, and Jonathan Firth’s Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was broodingly Byronic enough to set the royal hormones aflutter. There were effortlessly classy performances from Penelope Wilton as Victoria’s mother, a monstrously manipulative Duchess of Kent, Diana Rigg as her governess and Nigel Hawthorne as an avuncular Lord Melbourne. Peter Ustinov’s William IV furnished the banquet with a steaming helping of spiced ham, while David Suchet excelled as that character David Suchet plays.
So why, so far at least, has it been such heavy
going? Unlike royal feature films, Mrs Brown, say, or The Madness of King
George, it lacks any narrative drive beyond mere chronology. It plods,
slowly and grandly, from one event to another, so that the impact of some
finely acted confrontations is dissipated and squandered. It isn’t exactly
dull, but, given the strength of the cast, it feels like a missed golden
Scottish Daily Record Thursday, August 30, 2001
Features Gordon Wallace and Bill Sinclair
VICTORIA AND ALBERT BBC, Sunday & Monday
WE are most definitely amused. There are some things the BBC do really well and costume drama is one of them. Their latest offering, Victoria And Albert, had the lavish production you would expect, and as strong a cast with Victoria Hamilton as thequeen, left, and Jonathan Firth as Albert.
But this had something more - humour.
I did not expect to chuckle at the famously austere
Funny review from The Guardian
Monday August 27, 2001
Victoria and Albert (BBC 1) is as pleasantly undemanding as a pantomime. The fatherless girl, the cruel controller, the hysterical mother, the handsome prince and, of course, the demon king.
Peter Ustinov was disgracefully good fun as William IV. Historians may suck their teeth but they certainly sat up and took notice in the back row. His piece de resistance was one of those family functions familiar to us all. He began by saying he was not long for this world - always an excellent ploy - then the naval bombardment began. Victoria's mother, sitting beside him, got the full force of his displeasure. The three ostrich plumes on her headdress, which so resemble a hen bending down, flattened in the blast. A loyal chorus of "Happy birthday, dear William IV" froze on the lips of the assembled company.
The Duke of Wellington, who must surely have heard worse at Waterloo, took a surprisingly censorious view. "When the royal family start brawling in public, it's an invitation to every scallywag of a radical to demand reform. What's worse, your ordinary, loyal Englishman says to himself 'If they can't behave we'd be better off without them.'" This was one of several occasions when you seemed to feel an elbow in your ribs and hear "Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink. Say no more!"
Victoria, famously, did behave. Albert's dying words, touchingly I feel, were "Good little woman." She, however, said: "Oh my dear darling!" which suggests an imbalance of passion.
It is a series which could have been cast wholly
on noses: Wellington, known to the troops as Old Nosey, Prince Albert whose
superb classical nose was handed down unaltered for several generations,
greatly improving the look of our postage stamps, and Queen Victoria, who
fought a budgie for hers and won. Victoria Hamilton as the queen gave a
nicely intense performance finely supported by Penelope Wilton as her mother
and Nigel Hawthorne, reprising Sir Humphrey and frogged like a pond in
spring. Watch out tonight for Richard Briers as the gardener. Oh all right,
PLAYING a queen turned into the mother of all
roles for actress
In the major new drama, Victoria And Albert, she
plays the queen
During Queen Victoria's 20-year long marriage
to Albert - played
And for the young actress, who has no kids of
her own, that put an
She said: "Queen Victoria was a famously fertile
member of the
Victoria also had to be clued up for 'giving birth'
on screen, so
She joked: "I really went for the pain and sobbing
- I even hit an
"Just pretending you've been in labour for 18
The two-part drama - screened tonight and tomorrow
on BBC1 -
But today, 100 years after her death, Queen Victoria
Both Victoria and Jonathan spent endless hours
And the actress, best-known as the harassed mum
in the BBC sit-
"Queen Victoria is a fascinating role to play,
but when you
"She was treated amazingly badly by her mother
and her friend Sir
"She had her back strapped to a wooden board for
five hours a day
Tonight's episode focuses on how 17- year-old
But when she is crowned Queen, she is immediately overcome by his good looks and proposes within days.
The production has an all-star cast which includes
Also featured are Peter Ustinov as William IV
and Jonathan Pryce
Before she took on the role Victoria read everything
She said: "I would arrive in make-up at 6am and
turn to the
"It was the most surreal thing, to be sitting
in an exact replica
"I also discovered it's a myth that Victoria was
a very strong
"The fact is that she wouldn't have been. It was
Albert who taught
"She lost it a bit. The girl just wanted to party.
It was when
When her beloved Albert died at the age of just
42 in 1861, the
"She kept Albert's bedroom exactly as it had been
until her own
"Hot water was brought in every morning and fresh towels and linen laid out."
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