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Sixty Glorious Years (1938)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

1840. At a time of political and social unrest, Queen Victoria informs the House of Lords of her proposed marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg. Both are aged 21. Some Lords have their doubts, and Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel opposes giving Albert a royal allowance. Albert arrives in England, soon followed by his private secretary Prince Ernst, and senses that he is unwelcome. He voices his doubts about the union to Victoria, but their fate is sealed following a declaration declare of mutual love. They are married in the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace, London, followed by a grand ball, where the royal couple dance to a Strauss waltz.

Victoria is reprimanded by Albert for insulting Peel and the Duke of Wellington after they disagree with her, but she eventually gets her way over the two elder statesman and reviews her troops on horseback.

Victoria and Albert soon have their first child, Victoria.

A cultured man and musician, Albert plays organ and piano and reads Charles Dickens, whose description of poverty in England prompts his social conscience. When he suggests that the Corn Laws be repealed, he is attacked in Parliament. He proposes a 'Great Exhibition of Industry' to Wellington, and this is eventually opened at Crystal Palace London by Victoria in 1851. Newspapers describe the building for Albert's pet project as 'a monstrous greenhouse'.

Albert and Victoria stay at Balmoral Castle and attend the Highland Games, where he meets the Victoria's forthright Scottish servant John Brown. Albert tells Victoria that she has to be more diplomatic in awarding prizes at the games by not always giving the 1st Prize to royals.

In 1853, events in the Crimea lead to Albert being accused by the press of being 'a tool of the Tsar' and a traitor. The British people are 'wild with rage and fear' and there is an angry mob outside the Palace. War is inevitable, and newspaper headlines soon report appalling conditions in Crimea. Two soldiers discuss their plight. Victoria visits the same soldiers in a London hospital. One has gangrene which cannot be cured, and she hears that the troops never received any food, guns or pain killers. Two women in the crowd criticise Victoria - until they see her tears. After Sevastopol Victoria names and presents the Victoria Cross 'For Valour'. One recipient is nursing sister Florence Nightingale.

Lord John Russell resigns and in 1855, following a political crisis, Victoria recalls Lord Palmerston to form a new government

At Balmoral, 16 year-old Victoria, the Princess Royal, is being wooed by Prince Frederick William of Prussia. Victoria grants permission for them to marry. A grand ball follows the royal wedding in 1858.

In 1861, after a short illness Albert dies, aged 42. At Balmoral Victoria is in mourning and suffering from deep depression. John Brown speaks to her bluntly and helps to cast her grief aside, and from 1875, we are told, 'the greatest period of her reign begins'.

Benjamin Disraeli is now Prime Minister. In his relations with Victoria, his approach is simple - "I treat the queen as a woman". Disraeli buys Suez Canal Company shares for England without the proper backing of Parliament. Victoria views the canal as 'an artery of the empire' and praises his initiative.

1885. General Gordon is under siege in Khartoum, but is killed by the mob before help arrives.

1897 Victoria celebrates her Diamond Jubilee with 'Sixty Glorious Years' as Queen. Blacked-up minstrels sing, and a shoeshine boy and flower seller join in the festivities outside St Paul's Cathedral. Victoria recalls the events of the day to her old faithful servant, Maggie, who is "too overcome with excitement" to attend and is confined to bed

On 22nd January 1901, Victoria is close to death at Osborne House, Isle of Wight. Lord Salisbury delivers a red dispatch box to the Queen and waits. In Parliament, speakers summarise the achievements of her reign. Victoria recalls images of her Coronation all those years ago, and church bells toll announcing her death. The citizenry, represented by the flower seller and the shoeshine boy, weep. Victoria's coffin lies in state with the crown on top.