Judi Dench returns to the role of Queen Victoria, which she played previously twenty years ago in 1997’s Mrs Brown. This film, which is based on Shrabani Basu’s book of the same name, takes place in the late 1880s. We see Victoria here in her late 60s, about 50 years after the beginning of her reign. The trailer shows her in a variety of jewels, some replicas of genuine pieces, others simply era-appropriate accessories.
We see a combination of more casual, daytime jewels, like the earrings and necklace presented here, with grander pieces. The brooch pinned to her neckline appears to be the production’s version of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond in its brooch setting.
Here’s a pair of daytime earrings. The production appears to have been careful to use jewelry that would fit with Victoria’s self-imposed mourning guidelines.
We also see the (very sleepy) monarch in some of her most important diamond jewels. The production presents replicas of Queen Victoria’s small diamond crown (shown here without its arches), the Coronation Necklace, the Coronation Earrings, and the Koh-i-Noor Brooch.
Here’s a better look at their versions of the Coronation Necklace and Earrings. As always, replica jewels aren’t quite perfect when it comes to scale or glitter, but the production appears to have been carefully following jewels worn in portraits by Victoria.
Victoria’s ravenous appetite for both power and food gives us a glimpse of her rings and bracelets, too. I spy a bracelet on her left wrist with a portrait (Prince Albert?) framed by the traditional Garter border.
And here’s our glimpse of their version of the Imperial State Crown. As per usual, it’s not quite right — it seems to be nearly impossible to create a convincing replica of a massive, jewel-encrusted crown like this one. The diamond settings are especially off-putting here, but I appreciate that the production did their research: the crown features the Stuart Sapphire situated at the front of the crown, below the Black Prince’s Ruby, just as it was during Victoria’s reign. (Today, the sapphire is at the back of the crown, replaced at the front by the Cullinan II Diamond.)
The film is about Victoria’s fascinating relationship with Abdul Hamid, the Indian attendant who became one of her closest companions during the last years of her reign. Victoria bestowed the title of “Munshi” on Karim, which roughly translates to “teacher,” and made him her Indian Secretary.
In the film, Karim is played by Ali Fazal, an actor whose work thus far has primarily been in Bollywood films. The costumes produced for Fazal to wear in the role are elaborate and gorgeous.
Here’s Karim’s attire at Balmoral…
….and here he is in an ensemble that is both monochromatic and richly patterned.
We even get to see Karim in a tableau costume.
In both real life and the film, Karim tutored Victoria in the Urdu language, and his presence at court offered her a close and personal perspective on one of her largest imperial realms. His proximity to the monarch made others at court, including the Prince of Wales, uneasy, to say the least.
Bertie is played by Eddie Izzard, who is almost unrecognizable at first in his Victorian attire. Also pictured here: Olivia Williams as Baroness Churchill, who was Victoria’s Lady of the Bedchamber for half a century; and Fenella Woolgar, who plays the role of Miss Phipps.
Here’s another view of Lady Churchill in costume. At first, I thought Williams had been cast as the Princess of Wales; her resemblance to Alexandra in style and attire is notable, I think.
Here’s another view of Izzard as Bertie, sternly staring down his unyielding mother.
The cast is packed with actors who will be familiar to those who watch British films. Michael Gambon (aka Dumbledore!) plays the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury.
And the late Tim Pigott-Smith, who recently starred in King Charles III, appears in one of his final on-screen roles. He plays, I believe, Sir Henry Ponsonby, Victoria’s private secretary.
The film is directed by Stephen Frears, who also directed The Queen. The cinematography looks gorgeous; here, we see the Taj Mahal situated as a backdrop to a statue of Victoria…
…and here, we see it as a part of the landscape and life of India itself, including one man’s solitary moment of prayer.
The trappings of majesty are both presented and undercut in shots set in England, too. Here, we see the magnificence of a royal banquet, with ladies dressed in era-appropriate jewels and ostrich feathers — and then Victoria herself, at the end of the table, fast asleep. Parts of the film were shot at Osborne House, Victoria’s beloved home on the Isle of Wight.
The film sumptuously depicts a Victorian tableau, with Abdul Karim supported by Lady Churchill and Miss Phipps.
And a view of Victoria thoroughly enjoying the performance.
I’m excited to see the film, which promises to underscore the unlikely friendship that developed between Victoria and Abdul. (I love the way that the title plays on the usual “Victoria and Albert” construction, too.) The movie premieres in the UK on September 15, and then in limited release in the United States on September 22. Here’s a look at the official trailer itself:
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