Victoria the Great – for fans of anything Victorian


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.



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.


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.


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.

Victoria – great costumes, terrible history?


Now, I haven’t seen the new miniseries about Queen Victoria yet, but the accuracy of the costumes was promising, after so many embarrassing recent “historical” dramas, from The Tudors to Reign.

Anybody seen it?

However, now I have no plans to watch the show, having learnt the fanfiction version of history the show has presented.

Firstly – and most disturbingly – they have turned the relationship between Victoria the TEENAGER and the Prime Minister, almost-SIXTY Lord Melbourne into a romantic one.

Dronning_victoriaPortrait miniature of Hayter's 1838 state portrait of Queen Victoria. Part of the 'Bone Set of Enamels of the English Sovereigns and Queens from Edwd. III to Queen Victoria.'NPG 941; William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne by John Partridge

Ooh, the romance!

Sorry… but no. That would be a bad thing with fictional characters, but we’re talking about real people here.

And the public seems to be eating it up. They think it’s hot, and romance book blogs have gone nuts over it.

They have also played around with known historical fact to create drama. Did the show’s creators not think the reality of a kid taking over the world’s biggest empire while having a crazy-obsessive relationship with her husband (NOT Melbourne!) wasn’t enough real drama?

Victoria – the real one – documented her life in detailed diaries (she even wrote about her wedding night!). She is recent enough in history that we know SO much about her.

What upsets me about this miniseries is the effort that went into making it LOOK historically accurate. Unlike The Tudors or Reign, people are going to believe they’re seeing real history here.