Skip to content

Costume Drama Thursday: Victoria & Albert and The Young Victoria

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Victoria & Albert
I posted several months ago about the new historical series proposal I’d just completed, which is set in England and features the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a central event that ties the three books together. The reason I know anything about the Great Exhibition is from one of the last costume-drama miniseries produced by and aired on A&E, Victoria and Albert. Even though I was far more interested in the works and time period of Jane Austen when V&A aired in 2001, it aired during the semester I was taking the second half of my British Literature course, so I watched it due to my general interest in the era (and a love for history, romance, and costume dramas).

Before watching V&A, I was most familiar with the lead actress, Victoria Hamilton from her role as Henrietta Musgrove in the 1995 (best, definitive) version of Persuasion (it was only after seeing P that I recognized Victoria Hamilton in her bit role as Mrs. Forster in P&P). Because I only knew her as Henrietta, a silly young girl, I was concerned at her ability to pull off the range of emotion and maturity surely needed for Queen Victoria. And about the fact that she has a somewhat high, girlish, squeaky voice. And it took me a long time to figure out that Jonathan Firth, who’d played Lord Arthur Goring in An Ideal Husband, was Colin’s (much) younger brother.

I have to admit—I didn’t know much about the life and marriage and reign of England’s longest-reigning monarch. I knew more about the era named after her than about her. And I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed the miniseries when it aired, and the several times I watched the recording I made of it until a few years later when I bought the DVD. Like many of the A&E/BBC miniseries costume dramas, it takes things slowly, showing the development of the characters over a period of time. It does focus more on their courtship and early marriage—then the timeline speeds up in the second half. It also does something that no other movie I’ve seen about Queen Victoria does: It explores their home life and their relationship with their children, especially eldest, Bertie, who became King Edward VII in 1901, upon Victoria’s death (also lending his name to an era, the Edwardian era, though he died in 1910, just when it was really getting in full swing).

I highly recommend this film for anyone interested in learning more about Queen Victoria and the Victorian age. And I highly recommend you watch it before you watch . . .

The Young Victoria
This is one of those British-made movies that released in the UK ages before it made it across the Pond to the US. It released at the beginning of 2009 in the UK, spent time generating buzz and screening at film festivals for the next eleven or so months, and finally entered wide release in the US at the end of December 2009. It opened New Year’s weekend in Nashville—we went to see it on New Year’s Eve. We’d already been prepared for lavish sets and cinematography as well as fabulous costumes. And we were not disappointed—though the sets and costumes in V&A were lovely, the cinematography and display on the big screen made YV much more of a visual feast. We were also not disappointed in the movie itself.

As the title suggests, this movie does not try to tell the entire story of Victoria’s reign, but only covers the year before Victoria’s ascension to the throne and the first three years of her reign. Unlike V&A, in which Victoria falls in love with Albert quickly—whereas it takes Albert a little longer—in YV, we’re given a more traditional romance story, in which Victoria and Albert fall in love with each other somewhat easily and quickly during their courtship. Because this was a cinematic film instead of a more staid A&E/BBC costume drama, it shows a more sensual side of these two people (though it’s very sweet—nothing embarrassing or overt). Both movies dig into the politics of those years, though YV does a much better job of drawing us into these political intrigues because of the casting of Paul Bettany as the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, on whom Victoria depended greatly during the early stage of her reign.

There’s another P&P connection in this movie as well . . . Rupert Friend, who plays Prince Albert in YV played Mr. Wickham in the 2005 version of P&P. I liked him much better as Albert!

Several events are portrayed in both films, which makes an interesting comparison (especially the loud arguments they apparently occasionally had). And if you’ve seen YV but not V&A yet, let me warn you—you’ll probably be disappointed with V&A. It’s not as much of a “romance” as it is a “history with a romance thread.” V&A’s scope is broader, trying to cover as much about Victoria’s reign, marriage, and family as possible, whereas YV is focused solely on the romance between these two people.

Have you seen either or both of these movies? Which do you like better?


  1. Leslie permalink
    Thursday, December 2, 2010 8:53 am

    I know I saw parts of V&A years ago when it was on, but I barely recall it (the one thing I really remember is how surprised I was at how many kids they had!)

    I really loved YV – its on my list of movies to get.


  2. Amee permalink
    Thursday, December 2, 2010 9:30 am

    I’ve only ever seen YV, but I loved it so much. I also put V&A on my wish list after you first wrote about it a while back. I think I’ll enjoy it too. Victoria and Albert have such a great story after all. 🙂


  3. Thursday, December 2, 2010 5:22 pm

    I watched V&A when it aired the first time. LOVE it!!!! I rank it in my top five of mini-series and costume dramas. For some reason we don’t have it on DVD yet.

    Haven’t seen YV yet. Elizabeth never remembers to buy it when she’s in Target.


  4. Thursday, December 2, 2010 9:30 pm

    I don’t know that I can pick a favorite of the two, I love each for different reasons. 🙂 The scene towards the end of the V&A miniseries, when Albert has just died – oh, just thinking about Victoria Hamilton’s acting in that scene gives me chills. I think it’s one of the most powerful portraits of heart-rending grief that I’ve ever seen on-screen. It’s been ages since I’ve watched the miniseries, I really need to make time for that sometime soon.


  5. Friday, December 3, 2010 6:58 pm

    Hi Kaye!
    Ho – ho -hoping you are healing well and staying off that ankle! Love your decorating here!

    I’ve seen both of these movies twice. I liked them both for the reasons you gave. V&A gives more background to the early reign and the young family, whereas YV focuses on the relationship. V&A inspired an upcoming blog post for me, on the origins of Victorian and now OUR Christmas traditions.

    My WIP is set in 1837, so I was thrilled to have YV come out and know I could see some great period correct costuming, for that year is neither Regency nor Victorian for the die hards.

    Like you, I found the Great Exhibition very intriguing (so happy when Margaret and John –North and South made an appearance there also). Can’t wait to read your series!
    I was a bit disappointed to know that the assassination attempt scene in YV was enhanced for dramatic affect. Albert was not involved that day. Oh well.

    As it happens, Santa bought The Young Victoria, Bright Star and the Ciaran Hinds Persuasion on Cyber Monday, and Christmas comes to my house next week!


  6. Friday, December 3, 2010 7:00 pm

    PS – have you blogged about Lark RIse to Candleford yet? I see two great character actors at your header.


  7. Sylvia M. permalink
    Saturday, January 1, 2011 9:48 pm

    I just finished watching the A&E V &A miniseries and it was fantastic! Several months ago I saw TYV and I think I like this one better. This one was longer and I thought the romance was done beautifully, but not too much. I got tears in my eyes when he finally told her that he loved her. 🙂 Both Alberts did good jobs on their parts, but I think I like Jonathan Firth’s Albert a little better. He actually looks more like the real Albert from the pictures/portraits I’ve seen. Both Victorias were good, but I still think I like Victoria Hamilton’s portrayal better. One thing I thought was done well was the respect issue. Albert started to love her and have more confidence in himself when she started respecting/obeying him and his decisions. That’s the way a marriage is supposed to be. It works because it was designed like that.


  8. Tuesday, January 11, 2011 1:32 am

    I have seen both.
    Victoria & Albert is longer so it contains more of the details and events of the couples lives (it’s also more historically accurate if you care about that)
    But Young Victoria is more dramatic and mainly about them as a couple.


  9. Lillian permalink
    Thursday, March 3, 2011 6:51 pm

    I prefer YV, it draws you in like no movie can. Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend are amazing. The whole cast was brilliant.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: