The Young Victoria: Cherries Jubilee

Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Miranda Richardson, Mark Strong, Paul Bettany
(PG-13, 104 min.)

"Here at my feet what wonders pass." Matthew Arnold

The swish of taffeta, light shimmering through cut crystal, courtly beaus, and stately horse drawn carriages – a cage, no matter how gilded, is still a cage. Young Victoria struggles for her breath of freedom and love with the will and passion that later make her a legendary queen.

Every historic figure seems frozen at one period in his or her life. We remember King Henry VIII of the royally gargantuan girth and forget his trim and handsome youth. Shirley Temple is evermore the dimpled lass with the mop of curls in spite of her adult years as a United States ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia.

So it is with Queen Victoria. We remember her as the prim and rather dour queen of her latter years, an early widow who never recovered her zest for life after the premature death of her beloved Prince Albert.

Emily Blunt as the radiant and rebellious young Victoria gives us a counter view. She is surrounded by hangers on who would control or cajole her. Her mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson) and Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), the duchess’s comptroller and possibly her lover, conspire to keep Victoria weak and isolated, hoping that when her uncle, King William dies, they will be able to control the minor Victoria through a regency. 

When she is very ill, they try to get her to sign papers yielding to them, but she holds steadfast. And the infirm King William, played with a childlike twinkle by Jim Broadbent, has no liking for the manipulative duchess and her cohort. It is almost an act of will that he succeeds in living until Victoria’s 18th birthday.

Others try softer methods to wield their power behind the throne. Prime Minister, Lord Milbourne, played by Paul Bettany, whom we saw recently as a malevolent monk in The Da Vinci Code, wipes off his scowl and turns up the charm to befriend the young monarch. He stacks her ladies in waiting with his confidantes and holds on to his position even when his party is turned out of power, Victoria’s loyalty to him almost causing a parliamentary crisis.

More ties that bind come from across the continent, where her Uncle Leopold, King of Belgium, sends his nephew Albert (Rupert Friend) to woo her. Albert is coached on her favorite novels and composers so he will be in step with her, even as he disciplines his two left feet into a perfect waltz that will sweep Victoria off hers. 

Through the finesse of the script and acting this staged courtship slowly morphs into the real thing. It all begins over a game of chess, when Victoria asks him, “Do you ever feel like a chess piece in a game being played against your will?”

“Then you had better master the rules of the game until you can play it better than they can,” Albert replies. And ever so gently from that spot forward, the two conspire to do just that.

That this is a love story within the conventions of the time -- innocent, well chaperoned, and more or less approved of by the two families – does not diminish its depth or its sweetness. Enjoy its color and warmth as you would a glass of fine brandy in front of the fire.

—Kathy Borich

Film-Loving Foodie

During her 64 year reign, Queen Victoria had many dishes created in her honor. I have chosen a simple, yet spectacular dessert, Cherries Jubilee, created for her Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1897.

The flaming finish is sure to impress your favorite Valentine.

Click on the red "Recipes" in the upper left portion of the website for more delightful dessert recipes.

Cherries Jubilee 

Many special dishes were created in Queen Victoria’s honor during her 64-year reign. Among them was Cherries Jubilee, which was prepared for her Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1897.

Serves 4

  • A 1-pound can pitted sweet Bing cherries, drained. Reserve liquid and set aside.
  • 1 tablespoon cornstach mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1/4 cup Kirsch liqueur
  • 1/4 cup Maraschino liqueur
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream

Method

  1. Pour the cherry liquid in a small saucepan and let it simmer over moderate heat.
  2. Stirring constantly, add the cornstarch and water mixture and cook until the sauce comes to a boil. Cook until it is smooth, and lightly thickened.
  3. Remove pan from the heat. Let the sauce cool to room temperature. Cover tightly and set aside.
  4. Prepare and assemble the cherries jubilee at the dinner table. When you are ready to serve, light an alcohol burner or a table-top stove and set a 12-inch copper flambe or crepe suzette pan over the flame.
  5. Arrange the cherries, kirsch and maraschino liqueurs beside the pan.
  6. Place a scoop of ice cream in each of the chilled dessert bowls and set aside.
  7. Put the cherries in the flambe pan. Do not add the sauce. Stir cherries until heated.
  8. Carefully pour the kirsch and maraschino liqueurs in the pan. Step back from the table and let the liqueurs warm for a few seconds. They may spontaneously burst into flame. If it does not, ignite them with a match, or an appropriate lighting device.
  9. Gently slide the pan back and forth over the heat until the flame dies, making sure the cherries are covered or basted with the liqueurs. Add the cherry sauce. Stir and cook briefly to heat the mixture.
  10. Ladle the cherries and sauce over the ice cream and serve at once.

Recipe Source: Suite 101.com