Before the Suffragette’s were fighting for the vote, and long before Germaine Greer, there was a royal proponent of the feminist cause and her name was Victoria Hanover. Even in her late teens, HRH was feistier than Lily Allen after three cans of Strongbow and “The Young Victoria” pays a gallant tribute to this historical heroine. Though essentially a love story, the film is an informative homage to both Victoria and Albert who, unbeknownst to many, was responsible for several of the early welfare reforms than radically altered the shape of 19th century Britain, and continues to resonate in the political sphere to this day.
Despite growing up as a Princess, Victoria’s childhood was far from being a fairytale. In portraying the monarch, Emily Blunt states, “Even a palace can be a prison”. Victoria is forced to mature quickly as all around her seek to influence her decisions. At home, Victoria’s own mother (Miranda Richardson) is keen to usurp her position by means of a regency order and the help of slimy Sir John Conroy; and across the ocean, her uncle, King Leopold seeks to play Cilla Black and set Victoria up with his nephew Albert Koberg, in order to have a spy within the royal court of England.
Sharper and “stronger than she looks”, Victoria is quick to work out Leopold’s plans. After swotting up on Victoria like an overzealous Mastermind contestant, Albert realises that she wants a partner, not a yes man – someone who will challenge her – as he puts it, a husband to play the game of life “with you, not for you”. Haunted by her confined childhood, Victoria is determined that when she marries it will not become “another jail”. Add into the mix the masterful Lord Millburn (Paul Bettany), a man equally eager to gain royal hubby status and we have the makings of an intriguing love triangle.
An instant classic, this period piece lacked the depressing drama of “The Duchess” and was therefore a substantially more uplifting and entertaining film. Committed to her country and her people, Queen Victoria was a regal revolutionary and Albert a champion of the working classes. Although I feel the script carries Emily Blunt (rather than vice versa), Rupert Friend makes an enchanting Albert, every inch the handsome prince. Perhaps it’s because Friend looks like a Titanic-era Leonardo Di Caprio, but I instantly feel like a lovelorn teenager, caught up in the magic of their romantic tryst.
By Sally McIlhone