Thanks Anne
Daily Mail   Copyright 2001 

Monday, August 27, 2001 

Red-blooded alliance Victoria And Albert (BBC1) 


A HALF-HEARTED attempt to turn the young Queen Victoria into something of a sex kitten was the most novel contribution to history of last night's Victoria And Albert. 

As sexual repression and Queen Victoria are synonymous in most people's minds, writer John Goldsmith deserves top marks for trying to inject some red-blooded drama into what was otherwise a fairly prim account of the learning curve of a young constitutional monarch and her mate. 

So we saw the giggly young Queen - played by thoroughly modern miss and namesake Victoria Hamilton - crossexamining her lady-in- waiting (Rachel Pickup) on 'relations between husband and wife' on the eve of her wedding to Prince Albert (Jonathan Firth). 

Lady Henrietta Anson replied that her own mother had told her to 'let my husband take charge' -'And was that satisfactory?' asked Victoria, soon to discover that it was perfectly so as she gave every sign of fulfilment on her honeymoon night, despite having at first protested in a suspiciously modern phrase: 'My head is splitting.' 
Goldsmith also cleverly devised a villain whom we could hiss and boo.  This was not the Sir Jasper of Victorian stage melodramas, but Sir John Conroy, comptroller of the household of the Duchess of Kent - Victoria's nagging, moaning, jealous mother. 

Every time Patrick Malahide's Conroy was in view, constitutional history took a back seat to backstabbing, domestic strife, greed and opportunism. 

Along with Penelope Wilton as the Duchess, the pair gave a fair impression of characters created by another great Victorian, Charles Dickens - an upmarket version of Wackford Squeers and his wife in Nicholas Nickleby, perhaps. 

According to this account, Conroy and the Duchess tried their best to exercise power over Victoria and control her money after she came of age at 18, and even following her accession to the throne on the death of William IV. The gouty old King, played by Peter Ustinov, was seen publicly rebuking the Duchess for keeping the young Victoria away from the royal court. 

When he made her an allowance of 10,000 a year to set up her own establishment, the Duchess and Conroy forced her to write a letter refusing the King's generous offer on account of her youth and inexperience. 

'You can be loyal to the King, or loyal to me,' said her mother, threatening to cut herself off from her daughter for ever. Victoria copied out the letter of refusal drafted by Conroy, but promptly wrote a memorandum saying that she had done so under duress. 

WHEN she became Queen, she banished her mother to a distant corner of the Palace and enlisted her first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, to deal with 'the unprincipled adventurer' Conroy, who was demanding a peerage and 3,000 a year for his past services. 

Much of the spark of Victoria and Albert disappeared with the despatch of Conroy and the Duchess. Otherwise, we were left to spot the stars in the firmament of this production, and enjoy the odd spot of comedy. I particularly liked the German Albert's bemused first encounter with the bloodymindedness of British workers: a footman refused to get coal for the fire on the grounds that he was employed by the Lord Chamberlain and was therefore able to light the fire, but fuel was the responsibility of the High Steward's servants. 

The stars were big and bright: besides Ustinov, we could enjoy Nigel Hawthorne as Melbourne, squeezed into a pageboy's uniform as Prime Minister - how about reviving that for Tony  (continued)

Blair? - John Wood as the Duke of Wellington, Diana Rigg as the Queen's confidante, Baroness Lehzen, and Jonathan Pryce as King Leopold of Belgium, Victoria's uncle. 

But it was a structural fault to turn the dreary Baron Stockmar, adviser to the Saxe-Coburg family (Victoria's German cousins) and tutor to Prince Albert, into the linking commentator on the various stages of Victoria and Albert's courtship and the latter's frustration at not having a formal role in state affairs. 

David Suchet, dressed up like the March Hare in Alice In 
Wonderland, did his best with this unrewarding role, having to spout pieces of advice like a hand-medown Polonius. 

Here, he is urging of patience on Albert: 'There is only one 
ability a man needs to make himself a master - to wait.' Perhaps Victoria And Albert will liven up in tonight's concluding episode. But that's the problem with dramatised history - unless you've been very badly educated, you already know the plot. 

I'd have spent the money on a remake of The Prisoner Of Zenda - same period whiskers and costumes, better story line. 

Western Daily Press 

Tuesday, August 28, 2001 
Love rules for young Victoria 


VICTORIA AND ALBERT (BBC 1) was lavish to look at and had a dream cast list. 

But essentially, over three hours and two nights, it was a love story, one sided at first with the young queen (Victoria Hamilton) smitten on sight with cousin Albert. But reluctant bridegroom Albert (Jonathan Firth, more handsome than Albert) was not master in his own house. 

Any suggestions he had for improvements were regarded as matters outside his province as he was a foreign consort. 

On his honeymoon he was reduced to walking the dog. But by part two, his wife had realised there was more to marriage than dictating the terms and eventually, Albert came to love her. 

Whole chunks of history had to be dealt with quickly, so as not to get in the way of the love story. 

The theatrical giants were all splendid - David Suchet as the Baron, Diana Rigg as the Queen's governess, Jonathan Pryce as Uncle Leopold, Nigel Hawthorne as Lord Melbourne, John Wood as Wellington, Peter Ustinov as William the IV. 

Daily Express, Aug. 27, 2001

IT WAS clear no expense had been spared in the making of VICTORIA AND ALBERT (BBC1) the sumptuous costume drama offering for the bank holiday was full of familiar faces and rising stars. Peter Ustinov shone as King William, as did Nigel Hawthorne as Lord Melbourne. The performances, along with a superbly written script, made this a viewing feast. 

But what made this story so refreshing was that it cast aside the austere image of an elderly Queen and showed her as the fresh-faced teenager she was when she ascended the throne. This was a love story with a history lesson thrown in as the young Queen fell passionately in love with her German cousin, Albert. Jonathan Firth, in this role, gave his big brother Colin a run for his money in the heart-throb stakes. 

There was nothing syrupy about a plot in which Victoria's domineering mother attempted to control the headstrong young Queen and Victoria was not turned into a prissy heroine - as Albert tried to establish his authority she callously overrode him on every front. 

This is exactly the sort of absorbing escapism that makes for ideal bank holiday viewing. I have already booked my place in front of the television for the second and final part tonight.

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