Peter Wildeblood's adaptation of Laurence Housman's Victoria Reginawas broadcast in 1964 as four individual plays and starred Patricia Routledge who portrayed four ages of the monarch.
Unlike other TV portrayals of Britain's kings and queens up to that time Victoria Regina was not a stuffy and glorious tribute but the story of a self-willed, obstinate and imperious woman. Housman's 1934 play, a collection of more than 30 short plays, was banned from public performance in the UK as being too disrespectful. And when, eventually, the Lord Chamberlain granted a licence it was at the request of Edward VIII. By that time it had played 517 performances in New York with Helen Hayes as the Queen.
In London the first public stage production was at the Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue on 21 June 1937 - the 100th anniversary of Victoria's ascension.
Speaking to TV Times in 1964 Peter Wildeblood drew attention to the differences between that stage production and this television presentation: "When the television production was first mooted I discovered that the stage version leaves out all the part that is the most fascinating-Housman's somewhat satirical view of Victoria. Now that we are using twice the material seen in the theatre, I think what we have is fresh, sometimes funny and, at the same time, occasionally very moving."
35-year old Patricia Routledge had already made a name for herself with West End stage work in revues and musicals. Cast alongside her as Prince Albert was English speaking German actor Joachim Hansen who was flown in from Munich for the role.
Also seen were Max Adrian as Disraeli and Geoffrey Dunn as the Archbishop of Canterbury. The episodes chosen by Wildeblood marked the milestones in Victoria's career, starting when she came to the throne at the age of 18 in 1837, covering her choice of Prince Albert as consort, his death of typhoid in 1861, and ending at her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Wildeblood's selection from Houseman's material showed this extraordinarily complex, emotional and forceful woman, with all her prejudices and her unconstitutional behaviour.
Published on April 4th, 2020. Adapted from original TV Times (1964) article by Sarah Snow..