Victoria the Great – for fans of anything Victorian

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I commented on the new television series, Victoria, and how horrified I was by the deliberate changes to history (such as making a teenage girl’s ageing mentor her love interest!).

Recently a different version of Queen Victoria’s life was on television: Victoria the Great, released in 1937 on the centenary of the real queen’s ascension to the throne.

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Victoria being woken early to be informed she is now queen.

The movie version and a 19th century depiction of the moment.

Now, I don’t usually expect much of films from the 1930s (though Gone with the Wind has some spectacular crowd scenes that hold up today).

So how surprised I was to realise this old movie was the best interpretation of Queen Victoria’s life I’ve seen!

Actual, recorded historical moments are recreated beautifully, and accurately. I even learnt a few things – yes, I checked that they were true.

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The queen’s (played by Anna Neagle), and Prince Albert’s (played by Anton Walbrook, all the way down to his dorky hair) costumes and hairstyles are spot-on. In an era where historical licence was practically expected, the people working on this film have all but recreated the costumes from official portraits.

The sets and filming locations are spectacular, even in black and white. Unlike so many “historical” movies today, the dances are accurate for the period (Anna Karenina, I’m looking at you!), and the women have their hair pinned up! The forms of transport they use (such as the early train they depart London on) look accurate to me.

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I usually sit and nit-pick when watching historical dramas, but I couldn’t find much to complain about here.

I never liked The Young Victoria. For all the praise heaped on it, neither Emily Blunt or Rupert Friend suited their roles, and the less said about the horrific rewriting of history in the more recent Victoria, the better.

So far, this eighty-year-old film is my favourite version of the life of Britain’s most famous queen. I’m not sure how easy it is to track down these days, but it’s worth a watch.

In its time, Victoria the Great was so successful a second film was immediately made.

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3 thoughts on “Victoria the Great – for fans of anything Victorian

  1. ActonBooks says:

    Darn, It’s Saturday morning, I should be doing other stuff and I am 18 minutes into watching the movie. Thanks though and so far I agree with you, though I would need to check the jaunty soldier’s outfit she wore reviewing the troops. It looked too 1850s Crimean style, but maybe I’m wrong.

    • Sonya Heaney says:

      I’m sure not everything is perfect (and I missed a few minutes of it when I went to have a shower!), but it’s a whole lot better than most of what we get today.

      What I liked best was that it wasn’t just some great big ol’ romance between Victoria and Albert, and that they were more interested in the truth of their relationship than making it Romeo and Juliet.

      • ActonBooks says:

        Agreed. On the authenticity thing I guess that anyone of the first run audience over 36-ish will have been around when the old Queen died so it was easier to get stuff right as there was present a folk memory. That was before Julian Fellowes and the like — whose intention that history was merely a jumping off point for fiction — got mistaken for historians.

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