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The Young Victoria (PG)
Of all the love stories that have defined the British monarchy, none tugs the heartstrings quite like Victoria and Prince Albert.
Brought together in the eye of a political storm in 19th century Britain, the queen and her first cousin weathered public disapproval to affect lasting change including the abolition of slavery and educational reform. When Albert succumbed to typhoid at the age of 42, the queen was plunged into mourning, wearing black for the rest of her life, movingly recreated in the Oscar nominated 1997 film Mrs Brown starring Dame Judi Dench.
The Young Victoria traces the romance from the initial sparks of attraction to marriage, revealing the private frustrations of the young queen as she attempts to walk a minefield of political intrigue and stringent social etiquette.
“Some palaces are not at all what you think. Some palaces can be prisons,” rues Victoria (Emily Blunt) in voiceover as she steps into the glare of the 1838 coronation, which brings to an end months of plotting by so-called friends within the walls of Buckingham Palace.
Jean-Marc Vallee’s film then rewinds one year with the princess at the mercy of her mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), and scheming advisor Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), who won’t allow her to descend a flight of stairs unaccompanied for fear she might tumble.
Ambitious Whig Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany), cleverly persuades naive Victoria to install him as private secretary in order to control affairs at Buckingham Palace.
He exploits the position to fill the royal quarters with allies such as the Duchess of Sutherland (Rachael Stirling), and keep her at arm’s length from rival, Sir Robert Peel (Michael Maloney).
Everyone, it seems, wants to manipulate Victoria for their own ends, all apart from Albert (Rupert Friend), who defies protocol to assist the princess in outwitting the schemers, telling her that she must stop being a pawn in other people’s games and take control.
The Young Victoria has a similar look and feel to The Duchess, boasting gorgeous sets and costumes and a haunting orchestral score courtesy of Ilan Eshkeri. Produced by Sarah Ferguson, look out for a fleeting appearance by Princess Beatrice in the opening minutes, the film adheres closely to fact, albeit with an attractive cast being somewhat easier on the eye than some of their historical counterparts. There is also the fanciful addition of Albert using himself as a human shield to take a bullet for his beloved as they ride through London in an open-top carriage.
The pomp and pageantry tend to obscure the emotion in Julian Fellowes’ script, despite the best efforts of Blunt and Friend to stoke the flames of their characters’ mutual admiration and attraction.