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Screening Victoria
Steven Fielding

Queen Victoria has been depicted on the screen on over a hundred occasions, by some of our leading actors. Her film depictions, while ostensibly about history, may also help to 'reorganise the present', in Pierre Sorlin's description. This chapter will assess the changing - and not so changing - ways in which Victoria has been represented on the screen. Victoria the Great (1937) and (the second version of) Sixty Glorious Years (1938) show the Queen as embodying the imperial consensus of the time. Yet those made after the outbreak of the People's War - such as The Prime Minister (1941) and The Mudlark (1950)- present the monarch as more concerned with her people's economic welfare, as the social democratic consensus emerges. Recent examples have pushed politics into the background and focused on Victoria's emotional life - as in Mrs. Brown (1997) and The Young Victoria (2009). Such works present the Queen as a victim of birth, tradition, politicians and popular expectations - and explore the personal tensions inherent in being the national figurehead. Yet, while increasingly portraying the personal dilemmas of a monarch caught within an unforgivinginstitution, these films also stress the central importance of the monarchy to the nation. Such dramatic licence might annoy historians, but it suggests a vigorous faith in a monarchy that allegedly transcends petty party politics and enjoys direct communion with the people. As such, film representations of Victoria bolster the continuing popularity of an inherently undemocratic institution.

in The British monarchy on screen