It’s very nice that Channel 4 are showing so many programmes on Royal history, and it’s brilliant that thousands of documents from the Royal Collection are being digitised and made available on-line, but I didn’t feel that this programme really said very much. That wasn’t really its fault, more a reflection of the fact that there’ve just been so many programmes about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert recently. Interesting as they are, it’s time to focus on someone else instead. Maybe Queen Anne, following the success of The Favourite? Or George III and George IV, to tie in with Sanditon? I see that Lucy Worsley’s been prancing about in a Regency-era bathing costume. One for ladies, I mean! Or the first three Edwards? There’s plenty of choice!
Obviously there’s a lot of interest in Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at the moment, partly because of the popular ITV drama series and partly because of this year marking the bicentenary of their births, but we really are being inundated with programmes about them! Er, yes, OK, I know, I don’t have to watch them all! And I did quite enjoy this, even though some of it was rather patronising – I’m sure viewers were well aware that most people in the 1840s didn’t have the vote, and that conditions for the urban working poor were pretty dire, and didn’t need either fact pointing out as if it were some sort of startling revelation! It was especially interesting to see the personal photos and other items in the archive – particularly poignant was the copy of Peveril of the Peak (which I have still never read, despite there being a pub in town named after it and despite the fact that I’ve been to Peveril Castle) with a bookmark still at the place where Victoria, who’d been reading it aloud to Albert, had got up to when he died.
It was basically a quick run-through of his life and times – a bit about his childhood, then (with Vltava playing in the background, for no apparent reason) his marriage to Queen Victoria, his early unpopularity, his keenness to promote the image of them and their children as the perfect family, his involvement with the design of Osborne House, the effect on him of the big Chartist demos in 1848, his interest in improving housing and education, and the Great Exhibition. And it was all very interesting – his concern for social issues was very admirable, and his work ethic very impressive. He was an incredible man, and he had a huge impact on this country and beyond.
It’s just that there’d been so many programmes about him and Queen Victoria this year already. At one time, every historical documentary on TV seemed to be about either Henry VIII or Elizabeth I. Now they’re all about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. A bit more variety, please!! Come on, George IV and Mrs Fitzherbert and Queen Caroline would make for a brilliant documentary …