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Local History

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Queen Victoria on DVD

I think of Victorian Britain as foggy London streets, the Dickensian nightmare of the working classes, the gothic horror of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, pretend medieval architecture (they built spiky gothic revival Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament), circuses and naughty photographs - all under the guise of buttoned up propriety. But while they lamented the griminess of their cities, it was also an age of great optimism. The Empire was rocking – it is the largest to have ever existed at 23.84% of the world’s land mass – and trade and manufacturing, mostly powered by new-fangled steam, was making the country rich. They saw technology as the key to a brighter future, and held The Great Exhibition in a glittering Crystal Palace to show off the innovations of the age. At the center of it all was the Queen.

Queen Victoria reigned for sixty-three years, from 1837 until her death in 1901. The PBS TV series “Victoria begins as she inherits the throne from her uncle at just eighteen. Jemma Coleman is Victoria, fresh-faced in puffy lace, with Rupert Sewell as her Prime Minister Lord Melbourne - a dashing advisor and crush. The servants pilfer, the uncle plots, and frankly, her mother’s “advisor” should have been put in the tower. We watch as the young queen grows into her role, balancing the personalities without shouting “Off with their heads!”  -  which is a missed opportunity in my opinion. The series moves along smoothly, and is just right after a hard day. Series Two has just arrived at the library.

I usually think of Queen Victoria as boot-faced and portly, mourning the loss of her beloved Albert, but the wonderful Judi Dench plays her twice in later life – in the 1997 film “Mrs. Brown” and 2017 “Victoria and Abdul.”  Both are about the queen’s “inappropriate” friends, both are played with a twinkle in the eye, and both are well worth watching. In Mrs. Brown, comedian Billy Connelly plays John Brown, a Scottish servant who devotedly, but gruffly forces the mourning queen out into the fresh air, to the horror of her courtiers. Victoria and Abdul almost plays like a sequel, but this time the queen befriends Abdul Karim from India, making him her Munshi and trying to knight him. Again, horror all round – watch out for comedian Eddie Izzard as Bertie, the Prince of Wales, who plays pompous outrage to perfection.

These DVDs are available free from your library.

By Jules Belanger, Reference Librarian