The Young Victoria
I never quite realized how predictable and cliché-ridden films about royalty are until I saw “The Young Victoria.” Most movies about monarchs follow the same pattern of war, strife, and intrigue. Ho-hum.
One thing is certain. The monarch is never happy. Either he is overwhelmed by the responsibility of the job or he’s an arrogant tyrant with an unquenchable lust for power. According to Hollywood, contentment and tranquility are impossible goals for the person in charge.
“The Young Victoria” ignores the formula and tells the unusual story of a smart, reasonable sovereign who was willing to accept the challenge of wearing the crown and whose life became noticeably happier when she became queen.
I have no idea whether the story bears any resemblance to the actual experiences of Queen Victoria. But that doesn’t really matter to me. I was just grateful to see a fresh, positive new take on an old subject.
The story begins in the 1830s with young Victoria living a life of isolation and powerlessness. She is essentially the prisoner of her miserable mother and her mom’s husband John Conroy. Conroy is a selfish nobleman who tries to force Victoria into allowing him to become her regent when she ascends to the throne.
Victoria never gives in and refuses to sign her future power away. Conveniently, Victoria has safely turned 18 when King William IV dies and she is ready to rule by herself.
It turns out that her unpleasant upbringing actually makes Victoria well suited for the job.
First, growing up with relatives who only wanted to use and exploit her has made Victoria savvy and unsentimental.
Second, the constant pressure from her mom and Conroy has given Victoria the confidence and experience of saying “no” to powerful people who are urging her to give in. That’s a very valuable virtue for a leader to have.
Finally, the years of idleness and boredom have made Victoria hungry for excitement, adventure, and even responsibility. Victoria rightly sees her coronation as the ticket out of the stultifying clutches of her family.
Rather than a heavy burden, Victoria views the crown as pure freedom and liberation.
Our heroine does a decent job of ruling right from the start. She fosters a friendly, if unproductive, relationship with the Prime Minister. The newspapers are tough on the new queen, but of course the British media is bound to attack EVERY famous person from time to time for no good reason. There’s nothing new about that.
Events take another turn for the better when Victoria wisely marries her beloved Prince Albert, a smart and ingenuous German nobleman who truly loves her. Albert provides the queen both emotional support and ideas for progressive political reforms.
Basically, Prince Albert makes Victoria’s already charmed life even better. Just like a good marriage is supposed to.
“The Young Victoria” is an unambiguously positive movie about a happy, successful queen. That was a pleasant surprise.