Queen Victoria’s Letters, part II – BBC 2


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Ah, this was more cheerful! Whilst A N Wilson really does seem to have it in for Prince Albert, this second programme was far more positive about Queen Victoria herself … even if the presenter did make his pet point that Victoria had been repressed by her marriage to Albert and only found her true self after his death rather too forcefully and repeatedly.

There was an unfortunate lack of royal family gossip. Where were the extracts from Victoria’s letters and diaries about the Kaiser’s treatment of his mother, about Louis of Hesse’s second marriage, about the Romanovs and about Princess Beatrice’s marriage? Then again, the programme was meant to be about Queen Victoria herself, and we got a thoughtful and pleasantly nudge-nudge-wink-wink-free portrayal of her relationship with John Brown, which Wilson described as a “loving friendship”, and of her relationship with the Munshi and fascination with India … although it does have to be said that the Munshi does seem to have been a bit on the dodgy side. As Wilson rightly pointed out, Queen Victoria’s lack of both snobbery and racism, at a time when both were rife amongst certain elemebts at court, is one of her most praiseworthy qualities.

Napoleon III, someone else with whom Victoria had a close friendship wasn’t mentioned, but Disraeli was. I’m rather fond of Gladstone and the contrast between the way in which Victoria treated him and the way in which she treated Disraeli is really a bit shameful, but all credit to Disraeli for managing to work so well with the Queen … and all credit to Victoria, too, for successfully portraying herself as the symbol of the era and the Empire.

Her involvement in the politics of German unification was mentioned too, but quite honestly I think it was overplayed and that A N Wilson was partly trying to play up her German side and partly trying to prove his point about her being “liberated” by the death of Prince Albert.

I do think that he was too hard on Prince Albert, but this second programme was still a pleasantly positive portrayal of a great Queen who is all too often portrayed as being uptight and stuffy when in fact she was nothing of the sort. Much more enjoyable than the first episode.

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