The Young Victoria (2009)

 

 

 

 

Director:     Jeanl-Marc Valle. 

Starring:     Emily Blunt (Queen Victoria),  Rupert Friend (Prince Albert),  Paul Bettany (Lord Melbourne),  Miranda Richardson (Duchess of Kent),  Jim Broadbent (King William),  Thomas Kretschmann (King Leopold of Belgium),  Mark Strong (Sir John Conroy),  Jesper Christensen (Baron Stockmar),  Harriet Walter (Queen Adelaide),  Jeanette Hain (Baroness Lehzen),  Julian Glover (Duke of Wellington),  Michael Maloney (Sir Robert Peel),  Michiel Huisman (Ernest),  Genevieve O'Reilly (Lady Flora Hastings),  Rachael Stirling (Duchess of Sutherland).

charming love story of Queen Victoria and her future husband Prince Albert

 

Spoiler Warning:    below is a summary of the entire film. 

"1819.  A child is born in a London palace.  Caught between two Royal uncles -- the King of England and the King of the Belgians --  she is destined to be a Queen and to rule a great empire.  Unless she is forced to relinquish her powers and sign a 'regency order'.  A Regent is appointed to govern in place of a monarch who is absent, disabled or too young."

Queen Victoria talks about her youth, saying:  "Even a palace can be a prison."  Her mother never told her why she could not have a more normal childhood like that of other children.  She didn't understand why her food had to be tested, why she couldn't attend school with other children or even read the popular books of the day.  Her father, the fourth son of King George III, died in 1820 and her mother, German-born Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and her mother's advisor Sir John Conroy created a system of very strict rules (the Kensington System) by which Victoria had to live.  She had to sleep in her mother's room and could not walk down the stairs without holding the hand of an adult. 

Her life changed when she was eleven.  She read a book about the royal family.  Her Uncle William was William IV, King of England.  Her Uncle Leopold (on her mother's side of the family) was the King of Belgium.  The King of England had three brothers, but Victoria was the only child produced among the four brothers.  And yet, her becoming queen was in doubt.  Conroy wanted to have her mother made her regent.  Behind the scenes Conroy would rule both her mother and Victoria.   

June 28, 1838.  Victoria goes through the ceremony of coronation and becomes Queen, the sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. 

Flashback.  Conroy demands that Victoria sign an order of regency but Victoria refuses.  The man raises his hand to hit Victoria when Victoria's beloved governess Baroness Lehzen from Hanover enters the room and stops it.  Lehzen stands there until Conroy and Victoria's mother leave the room. 

Kensington Palace, London.  A guard closes the outer gates.

King Leopold's Palace, Belgium.  The king tells his nephew's tutor that Victoria won't sign the order of regency.  The tutor says that's natural because, by doing so, Victoria would sign away her right to be Queen.  The king says that Victoria is an "ignorant baby" and she needs a regency to prepare her for rule.  The tutor says a regency would mean rule by Sir John Conroy and advises the king to drop his support of his sister and Conroy and support Victoria. 

Rosenau Castle, Coburg, Germany.  Nephew Albert is practicing his archery.  His brother brings the tutor over to Albert.

Victoria plays with her King Charles spaniel, Dash.  She is painting his portrait, but the dog won't sit still.  Victoria is told that her mother is waiting for her.  The young Victoria and Dash walk to the drawing room.  Mama and Conroy are planning for a visit from a possible suitor for Victoria, her first cousin on her mother's side, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. 

The tutor speaks with Albert about politics.  King Leopold has only been the King of Belgium for six years and he got there via a civil war and through the support of England.  If Leopold is to continue to reign, it is imperative that he have the support of the English.  Therefore, they want Albert to woo Victoria with the goal of marrying her.  So, the tutor teaches Albert all about Victoria.  He has to remember things like her favorite book and her favorite opera.  He also learns that her mother and Conroy control her every move and that they keep her away from the court of William IV.  And, most important of all, Albert must get in there and woo her before anyone else does, because she will be quite the catch. 

Victoria gets into a little dispute with her mother as to whether they are going to the king's birthday or not.  The daughter says that mother has already taken extra rooms in the palace, which is owned by William IV, and they can't miss his birthday now.  Mother tells Victoria that she has invited the Coburg brothers to stay with them for awhile.  Victoria is not thrilled to hear that this was Uncle Leopold's idea. 

King Leopold reiterates to Albert the importance of the mission before him for he is the next move in this political game.  When they arrive Victoria doesn't even wait for a formal introduction.  She just says:  "Hello."  Brother Ernest introduces himself and Albert.  Albert is a bit nervous and he tries to impress Victirua by saying that on the way over he was reading The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott.  This makes Victoria suspicious that he has been well coached by King Leopold because that is her favorite book.  And she doesn't like that.  She just tells the brothers to come and meet mama. 

Out on a stroll in the gardens Albert starts dropping names of other favorites of Victoria into the conversation.  This is very off-putting to her and Albert, at least, is able to sense that.  Dash comes over and Albert pets the dog and then asks if he has insulted Victoria in some way.  She simply says no.  So, this time Albert mentions one of his true favorite composers, Schubert.  This pleases Victoria and she says she doesn't mind Schubert. 

Later Victoria and Albert play a game of chess under everyone's watchful eyes.  She suddenly asks Albert:  "Do you ever feel like a chess pieces yourself in a game being played against your will?"  Albert just asks her if she feels that way?  Yes.  She is being moved around by Conroy, her mother, Uncle Leopold and King William.  They laugh.  Albert says something very wise:  "Then you had better master the rules of the game until you play it better than they can."  Victoria asks him if he would recommend that she should get a husband and have him play the game for her?  Albert says just the right thing:  "I should find one to play it with you, not for you."   Victoria warms to him so much that she wants him to dance the waltz with her.  Albert can't dance, which disappoints Victoria.  She says:  "You know the King wants me to marry my cousin George."  Albert makes her laugh when he responds:  "What's he like at chess?"

Victoria is going up to bed, but Albert comes after her to tell her that he also had a bad childhood.  He lost his mother when he was just a boy.  She was sent away after some dispute and the family never talks about it now.  He assures Victoria that he knows what it is "to live alone, inside your head, while never giving a clue as to your real feelings."   Still suspicious, Victoria demands to know if King Leopold told him to tell her this?   Albert replies that King Leopold actually told him specifically not to mention the subject.  He asks if he might write to her and she smiles.  He bows and lets her go to her room.  Baroness Lehzen watches the whole thing and does not like it.   

In her room Victoria is humming and smiling.  Baroness Lehzen says that those boys are pestering Victoria.  Victoria tells her not to worry  because she is not going to leave one jail just to get into another.  And yet, she is still so happy that she dances around the room a bit with the baroness. 

Meanwhile in Germany, Albert is being taught how to dance the waltz. 

Victoria and her mother are going to King William's birthday party.  The gates to the castle open up. 

Albert learns the big politicians of great Britain.  One of the men Albert will have to worry about is Prime Minister Melbourne.  He is very ambitious.  The leader of the Conservative Opposition is the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.  The next prime minister will be Sir Robert Peel.  Victoria is a liberal and she favors Lord Melbourne, who certainly will take full advantage of her. 

Victoria is announced along with her mother the Duchess of Kent. 

Albert's tutor says that Melbourne's method will be to make Victoria fall in love with him. 

The king brings his niece and nephew George together.  He then starts picking on the Duchess of Kent.  He complains that he doesn't see much of Victoria and that is due to her mother.  And he is mad about Victoria's mother having "stolen" over 17 extra rooms in the palace.  She defends her actions and the King really starts shouting at her.  The Duchess of Kent leaves the room, while the king fumes over the duchess having just insulted him for being rude to her. 

Victoria is seated next to Lord Melbourne, while her mother is seated several people away from Victoria.  Melbourne turns on the charm saying if she ever needs an ally, she will have one in him.  He even says that he knew her father, the late Duke of Kent.  Victoria wants him to tell her how was her father for she never knew him.  Melbourne says that the man was "a great gentleman".  He was also very kind.  The Duke of Wellington pays note to Melbourne working on Victoria.  He tells his dinner companion that he would find it hard to praise Victoria's father:  "The most brutal officer I ever encountered." 

The king gets up to say a few words.  He says he wants to live just a little bit more:  "Just enough to dispense with any thought of a Regency.  So that I may pass the royal authority directly to that young lady (Victoria)."  And now he goes after the Duchess of Kent again saying she is surrounded by evil advisors and doesn't know her proper place.  Again he says he has been insulted, grossly and continually.  (The king is a bit drunk.)  The Duchess of Kent stomps out of the dining room.  Victoria is a bit shaken by the experience.

Ernest asks Albert if there is any news from Victoria?  But Albert is lost in a melancholy mood thinking of Victoria. 

The king sends a letter to Victoria saying that as she reaches the age of eighteen, he will increase her allowance and wants her to appear more at court.  Conroy and mother immediately start working on Victoria telling her what she will do.  Victoria tries to leave the room, but Conroy grabs her and forces her over to the couch and sits her down.  Victoria is shocked.  Conroy tells her that Victoria will refuse the allowance increase and say it must go to her mother.  Then Victoria will have Conroy himself appointed her private secretary.  Furthermore, she will agree to be co-Regent with her mother until Victoria's 25th birthday.  Victoria is furious and starts to leave.  Conroy tries to detain her, but she vigorously pulls her arm out of his grasp.  She again starts for the door, but stops to tell her mother that she will never forget that mother just stayed silent when she was being manhandled by Conroy.  She leaves.  Conroy kicks her dog out of the room after her. 

The king despairs over trying to save Victoria from a regency led by the mother and Conroy.  Lord Melbourne suggests that perhaps he should pay a visit to Victoria in order to assist her.  The king reluctantly agrees to this. 

Victoria tells Lord Melbourne that she will never have Conroy in any post near her.  She can't stand the man and when she is queen she shall never look upon his face again. 

Albert has trouble writing a letter to Victoria. 

Melbourne says he will be her private secretary.  Victoria likes the idea.  Melbourne doesn't stop there.  He worms his way into choosing all her female staff.

Ernest helps his brother by telling him to write to Victoria of his feelings for her.  He does so.  He writes a nice letter expressing his condolences for the death of the king.  He says he misses her and sends her some music by Schubert saying that he plays the piece while thinking of her.  Albert's tutor tells King Leopold that Albert is ready for Victoria, but Victoria is not ready for Albert.  Victoria will be too busy now with her new freedoms and responsibilities and all they can do is wait for disillusionment to set in and then the consequent loneliness that always accompanies disillusionment.

Windsor Castle.  June 18, 1837.  3:30 a.m.  Two men come to the castle to greet Victoria as the new queen.  As queen her first orders are that she will not have anyone escort her up and down the stairs and she wants her bed moved to a private room.  Her mother is shocked. 

Victoria speaks before the Privy Council.  Among other things, she says that she is young, but she is willing to learn, and is committed to helping her country and her people.  She is so happy when it's over that she skips down a hallway. 

Albert gets a letter from Victoria.  She says that she recently inspected Buckingham Palace and that she will be the very first sovereign to live in the palace.  Victoria also says that when she arrived at the palace she had for the first time in her life a real feeling of freedom. 

Victoria's aunt, the Queen Dowager, gives her a warning about people who will want to use her for their own political purposes and that the worse of these will be Lord Melbourne.  She warns Victoria not to let Melbourne choose all her household staff.  Victoria must be noticeably non-partisan in her choices of her staff.  Victoria does tells Melbourne that she doesn't want to be too partisan in her choice of household staff, but Melbourne reminds her that they must do all they can to keep Conroy and her mother from gaining any power or influence in the palace. 

Victoria now says she wants to help the poor people who are suffering and need her help.  Melbourne doesn't like the idea and tells Victoria that this will just lead to terrible scrapes for her.  He sees a letter on the floor and picks it up.  He looks at the signature on the letter.  It is the letter from Albert.  Victoria tells Melbourne that she has made no promise to him, "But sometimes I fell quite alone in the world."

Victoria writes a letter to Albert just full of glowing descriptions of all the good qualities of Melbourne.  Albert reads the letter and tells his tutor in disgust:  "Plenty of praise for Lord Melbourne and not much of anything else."  Albert decides to return to England.  He wants to spend some time with Victoriar.  Albert tells Ernest that he can't propose to Victoria, since that is forbidden.  It has to come from Victoria.  

In England, Victoria paints Albert's portrait.  He moves around and Victoria tells him he is worse than Dash about sitting for a portrait.  Albert shows her his design for building two adjacent comfortable homes for the price of one for the workers.  He catches himself and apologizes for being so forward with his ideas, but she asks him if she can keep his drawing. 

While Albert teaches archery to Victoria, they both see John Conroy pass by them.  He stops, tips his hat to them and moves on.  Albert is surprised that Conroy is even around, but Victoria says that her mother insisted that Conroy be allowed to stay with her.  A little later, Melbourne very frankly tells mother and Conroy that they have lost the political game and now must move into the palace with Victoria.  They will have their own private rooms. 

The tutor tells King Leopold that Victoria remains under the control of Melbourne.  The king tells the tutor that means that Albert will just have to stay in England until Victoria thinks more of him than she does of Melbourne. 

Westminster Abbey.  One week before the Coronation.  Lord Melbourne is telling Victoria that Queen Elizabeth never married.  A group of workmen preparing the abbey for the coronation habr asked to see the Queen and now Melbourne asks her if it is okay.  Victoria will be happy to see them.  One of the worker says for the others:  "God bless, Your Majesty."   Then Victoria tells Melbourne:  "I do want to help them, whatever you say."  Melbourne objects that it will just make things worse.  But this time Victoria stands up to him saying:  "Well, Prince Albert doesn't agree."

At night, Victoria lays down in her bed and thinks about Albert. 

Mother brings the bad news to Conroy.  He may not go to the Proclamation Ceremony or the Coronation.

Back to the present.  The coronation takes place.  Albert is there to see it. 

After the coronation Lord Melbourne finds the queen washing and drying her dog Dash.  He advises Victoria to get some rest before the big ball.  Victoria says she will because she plans to dance all night long. 

At the ball, Queen Victoria comes in and is announced.  She looks over at Albert and he comes out to dance with her.  She is not sure that he can do the waltz and is pleasantly surprised to see that he dances the waltz very well.  Other couples join in the dance now.  Her next dance is with a Prince of Prussia.  King Leopold wants to extend Albert's visit, but Melbourne says it's better that Albert leaves so she can attend to her many duties. 

It is Albert's going away time.  All Victoria says to him is:  "I wish you a good journey."  He stops her by telling her that he would really like to be of some use to her.  She says:  "I know you would.  But not yet."

King Leopold is furious when Victoria in her letter writes that she doesn't want to talk any more politics with Albert.  The tutor says that this is the doing of Melbourne.  The king screams for the tutor to get Albert past Melbourne.  He then yells:  "Get him into her bed!" 

Albert anxiously awaits the mail.  He runs downstairs at the sound of the mail's arrival.  He receives a letter from Victoria saying that she doesn't know when she will be able to see him again because the next months are so filled up with her various duties and obligations.  The only hope for Albert in the letter is her statement that she does love hearing from him.

The Duke of Wellington at a royal dinner party mentions that the queen will probably miss Melbourne.  Victoria doesn't know what he's talking about.  Wellington assumed that she knew that there will be an election soon and Melbourne is expected to lose.  Victoria is stunned.  In private Victoria cries over the news. 

Sir Robert Peel asks Victoria if she could at least have some of her household staff that are favorable to his party and not just to Melbourne.  He says that if she doesn't, it will seem as if Palace and Parliament have had a falling out.  The queen is absolutely intransigent, and one could say rude, on the subject.  Peel leaves as Victoria seems to be very pleased with herself.  She now sends a note to Lord Melbourne.

At an opera the Duchess of Montrose yells out to the queen:  "Mrs. Melbourne!" 

In Parliament Peel announces that he has informed Her Majesty the he will not be able to form a government because he does not enjoy her confidence.  The newspaper criticize the queen, saying that she has created a constitutional crisis by flouting the Tory prime minister and thereby bringing down the Tory Government. 

Victoria's aunt gives her an earful.  She reminds Victoria that she reigns by right of Parliament and she cannot just reject the voters' choice.  Victoria starts to quote Melbourne, but her Aunt cuts her off by saying that Lord Melbourne says whatever suits his interests.  In Hyde Park the orators says that the queen is in the clutches of "Melbourne the Great Seducer".  Victoria hears this comment and dismisses it out of hand.  Her aunt tells her:  "You are confusing stubbornness with strength, my dear."

Angry crowds form outside of Buckingham Palace and denounce the queen. Conroy comes to the queen with a message.  She is attending a poetry recital.  Her mistress of robes takes the message which is that an armed man has been found in the gardens shouting that he wishes to harm the queen. Just then a rock busts out the glass of one of the large windows of the room. 

And now the queen is very upset.  She wonders if they weren't all right when they said that she was too young and inexperienced.  She seeks comfort in Albert's letters which always encourages her to withstand the storm.  Victoria writes to Albert giving an apology for her telling him "Not just yet."  She admits she was prideful and arrogant about her abilities, but now everything has changed.

The queen takes a ride through the park.  From the public's reaction to her, she observes:  "I am not forgiven yet."   She is now angry with Lord Melbourne and she tells him coldly and firmly:  "Lord Melbourne, I want a report on living conditions.  On parish benefits, housing, all of it.  And by the end of the month."  She adds that she has invited Prince Albert for another visit. 

Albert makes his entrance holding onto the leash of an attached greyhound in each hand.  Neither Albert or Victoria speak, but Victoria gets a big grin on her face.

Albert returns from a session of riding and comes to Victoria's room as per her request.  She asks him to sit next to her on the couch.  Albert comments that the park where he was riding is just marvelous.  This pleases Victoria and she tells Albert:  "I do want you to feel quite at home."  That remark buoys Albert's spirits.  She goes on to say that she is sure that Albert knows why she asked for him to come to her.  She says:  "Because it would make me happier than anything.  Too happy, really, if you would agree to what I wish."  Albert says:  "And stay with you?"  A big smile comes to her face and she replies:  "And stay with me."  Albert adds:  "And marry you?"  And now Victoria laughs as she says:  "And marry me."  The couple embrace each other.  Then they kiss. 

The couple weds.  This if followed by a number of scenes of happiness between the couple.  Albert wants to take a two week vacation in Scotland, but Victoria says she can't be away for more than three days at a time.  They go on a three-day vacation in the rain.  They both get soaking wet.   Back home Victoria asks Albert:  "We will take care of each other, won't we?"   Albert says:  "Always!"

Conroy is very bitter.  He doesn't think he has done anything with his life.  The Duchess of Kent tells him he has served her well.  Conroy only asks:  "What is that?" 

Albert doesn't have anything to do and he is very restless.  He feels that he is just a guest in the palace. 

Victoria's aunt tells her that she should share some of her duties with her husband.  She says a husband with a rich wife has to work twice as hard to prove himself. 

Albert investigates the household budget and now asks Conroy where all the money had gone? 

Albert learns from his wife that she is pregnant.  He kneels down and grabs her around the waist.  The couple is congratulated by family and close friends.  Lord Melbourne starts to give Albert some advice, but Albert will have none of it.  He says he will make his own decisions and he will not ask Melbourne for advice. 

King Leopold receives a letter from Albert who writes that he will no longer talk about politics, but only family matters.  Leopold is furious. 

Conroy has to leave the palace now.

Albert speaks with the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel.  Peel talks about the next opportunity he might have to form a government.  In front of Victoria, Albert assures Peel that there will be no repeat of what happened last time.  Some of the ladies of the staff have already agreed to resign and Sir Robert will ask for nothing beyond that.  When the couple are alone Victoria yells at her husband for embarrassing her in front of her staff and the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel.  Albert protests that he did no such thing.  She says he thought she was just a mere woman to be petted and passed over and ignored.  Albert says that Victoria and Lord Melbourne brought the monarchy to the edge of an abyss.  She says she will not have her role usurped by him. 

Albert says he is leaving before she excites herself so much that their child will be harmed.  She tells him that she is his queen and he will not leave this room.  Albert leaves while she repeats:  "You may not go!  You may not go!"  Albert ignores her.

The next day Victoria is still peeved at Albert. She gets in her carriage.  Albert comes and hops into the carriage.  He says:  "I said I'll come with you, so I'll come with you."  Now the public seems to be more receptive to Victoria.  Albert tells her to smile or the public will thing that have had a row.  Victoria tells Albert:  "Don't talk to me."  Just then an assassin tries to kill the queen.  Albert sees the man advancing toward them with a gun in his hand and he shelters the queen.  He takes the bullet meant for Victoria.  And now, of course, Victoria feels guilty for the way she acted to her husband. 

When the doctor has gone she cries and tells Albert that she is sorry.  She asks him why did he do such a stupid thing?  He says he did it because he is replaceable and she is not.  Victoria says:  "You are not replaceable to me."  And he did it because:  "You are the only wife I've got or ever will have. You are my whole existence and I will love you until my last breath." 

Lord Melbourne tells Victoria that the Prince is a good man.  And he is able and clever.  So, Victoria should let him share her work. 

The Baroness Lehzen now is sent away.  Albert and Victoria watch as she leaves in a coach.  Albert finds his desk put next to that of Victoria's.  Victoria had it moved in.  He is very happy with the new arrangement.

Victoria has her first child.

"Victoria and Albert had nine children.  Among their descendants are the Royal families of Britain, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Yugoslavia, Russia, Greece, Romania and Germany.  Victoria and Albert reigned together for 20 years.  Prince Albert died from typhoid at the age of 42.  In memory of her husband, Victoria had his clothes laid out every day until her death, at the age of 81.  Among their accomplishments, Victoria and Albert championed reforms in education, welfare and industry.  Their unflagging support of the arts and sciences was most famously celebrated in Prince Albert's Great Exhibition of 1851.  Victoria remains the longest reigning British Sovereign.  To date." 

 

A simply wonderful love story.  My wife and I both enjoyed it.  And we both agreed it was nice to see a good love story with a happy ending.  It was a real spirit booster for both of us.  I thought the acting was great.  Especially enjoyable are Emily Blunt (Queen Victoria),  Rupert Friend (as Prince Albert) and Paul Bettany (as Lord Melbourne).  And I learned some new things.  I had no idea her childhood was such a miserable one for Victoria.  And her mother and John Conroy tried to cheat her out of being the queen until she was at least 25 years old.  Spunky Victoria stood up to both of them and was made queen after she turned eighteen years of age.  And poor Albert had to wait and wait and wait some more for Victoria finally to decide that Albert would make her happy "more than anything".  It was a long wait, but true love won out in the end.  The writing of the script is also very good.  There are a number of really tender scenes with great dialogue which might bring a tear of happiness to your eyes.  And let's thank everyone associated with this fine film.  Aren't movies wonderful?!

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

 

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