“The Young Victoria” is the story of a teenager who became a queen. Before she reigned for a record 63 years and gave her name to an age, she was a girl who was sheltered to the point of claustrophobia. Famously, her first order as queen was that her mother no longer sleep in her bedroom. Like all in power, she was beset with those who tried to pressure and manipulate her, but she proved herself to be wiser and more adept than many far more experienced when it came to staying true to her ideals and her commitment to her subjects. And perhaps even more rare among royals, she married a man with whom she was deeply in love, and was so true to him that after his death she wore mourning for the rest of her life.
Sarah Ferguson, who knows a great deal about being a young royal because she married and divorced the son of the current queen and is the mother of two of her grandchildren, has produced this sumptuous biography, making it respectful without being at all stuffy. Emily Blunt (“The Devil Wore Prada,” “Charlie Wilson’s War”) plays the young queen as naive but with a lively, curious mind, surrounded by corruption but able to recognize honesty and with the courage, even in an era when women were far from equal, to insist on her full authority as monarch. When she plays chess with her handsome distant cousin Albert (Rupert Friend), he tells her she should find a husband who will play the game of political intrigue with her, not for her. And she knows that he is someone she can trust.
It is very satisfying to see the young queen triumph over her enemies, especially the cruel bully who has dominated Victoria’s mother and hopes to rule as regent (Mark Strong). But it is even more satisfying to see her learn from her mistakes and especially to see her allowing herself to be vulnerable with Albert. She is not just a monarch but a young bride very much in love with her husband. Blunt is simply radiant and the film is stirring, touching, and inspiring.