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." 

Thanks Gill




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 opportunity. 

Thanks Anne
Scottish Daily Record  Thursday, August 30, 2001 
Features  Gordon Wallace and Bill Sinclair

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 royal couple 
but, as the young Queen tried to get someone to explain her wifely duties on the wedding night, you just had to smile at her Royal 


Thanks Gill
Funny review from The Guardian,4273,4245955,00.html

Victorian value 

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, Paxton. 

Thanks Anne

Sunday Mail
Sunday, August 26, 2001
TV PREVIEW Call me Victoria ll Royal role is sitcom girl's crowning glory
Billy Sloan

PLAYING a queen turned into the mother of all roles for actress 
Victoria Hamilton.

In the major new drama, Victoria And Albert, she plays the queen 
whose romance with a German prince became one of the greatest love 
stories of the 19th Century.

During Queen Victoria's 20-year long marriage to Albert - played 
by Middle-march star Jonathan Firth she bore him nine children.

And for the young actress, who has no kids of her own, that put an 
extra pressure on her to be fully convincing.

She said: "Queen Victoria was a famously fertile member of the 
Royal Family. My saving grace was that my mother used to run a 
nursery from our house in Surrey so I'm used to being around children 
- and they were everywhere during the shooting of theplay."

Victoria also had to be clued up for 'giving birth' on screen, so 
a midwife was brought in to coach her through the labour scenes.

She joked: "I really went for the pain and sobbing - I even hit an 
actor playing my doctor at one point.

"Just pretending you've been in labour for 18 hours was 

The two-part drama - screened tonight and tomorrow on BBC1 - 
recreates the epic affair of the woman who was little known by the 
British public when she ascended to the throne aged 18 in 1838.

But today, 100 years after her death, Queen Victoria remains a 
source of endless fascination for historians and royal watchers.

Both Victoria and Jonathan spent endless hours researching their 
characters so that every historical detail of the royal couple would 
be completely accurate.

And the actress, best-known as the harassed mum in the BBC sit- 
com The Savages, is glad she didn't have to endure a similar 
childhood to the queen.

"Queen Victoria is a fascinating role to play, but when you 
actually read up about her childhood you realise she went through 
hell," she said.

"She was treated amazingly badly by her mother and her friend Sir 
John Conroy, who forbade Victoria to mix with 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 and they used to 
fasten a piece of holly under her chin so that she would never drop 

Tonight's episode focuses on how 17- year-old Victoria initially 
found Albert - a member of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family in Germany - to be too stuffy.

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 Penelope Wilton 
(Duchess of Kent), Nigel Hawthorne (Lord Melbourne), Diana Rigg (Baroness Lehzen) and David Suchet (Baron Stockmar).

Also featured are Peter Ustinov as William IV and Jonathan Pryce 
as King Leopold of Belgium.

Before she took on the role Victoria read everything she could 
about her royal namesake - including the queen's extensive diaries.

She said: "I would arrive in make-up at 6am and turn to the 
corresponding page in the diary.

"It was the most surreal thing, to be sitting in an exact replica 
of someone's dress and reading her own words about a scene you're about to play.

"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 
her. When she came to the throne suddenly she could do anything - 
having not been allowed to for many years.

"She lost it a bit. The girl just wanted to party. It was when 
Albert turned up at her side that she began to be tamed."

When her beloved Albert died at the age of just 42 in 1861, the 
queen stayed in mourning for 40 years.

"She kept Albert's bedroom exactly as it had been until her own 
death in 1901," revealed the actress.

"Hot water was brought in every morning and fresh towels and linen laid out."

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