Queen Victoria Crazy-faced pop-diva, Paula Abdul, once sung "I take-2 steps forward. I take-2 steps back. We come together. Cuz opposites attract". Plus she also actually considered being mounted by a ginger-haired cartoon-cat. Sigh! Some people I ask you. Or better yet, 19th century Monarch, Queen Victoria, in this 60-minute documentary made in 2012

Victoria & Abdul

This one off Channel Four special charters the evolving relationship between Queen Victoria and her man-servant, Abdul Karim. Noted seventies television star, Geoffrey Palmer, narrates this program, which is complemented by stock-photography, re-enactment, and interviews with Lucy Worsley, Javed Mahmood, Martin Wainwright, Farrukh Dhondy, David Dabydeen, Humayun Ansari, Laura Ponsonby, Alistair and Andrew Bruce, plus many, many, more.  (I hope that I spelt 'Lucy' correctly).

What now follows is a basic overlay of this feature.

  • When did Queen Victoria first meet Abdul? He was given to her sometime in the late 1880's, and employed as a humble table-hand.
  • Who was Abdul Karim? He was an Indian gentleman, aged 24, who came from a rather remote village in British India
  • What was Queen Victoria like at this time? Regrettably, she was a widow who was still reeling from the death of her husband, Albert, and in the more mature years of her life.
  • What did Abdul give to Victoria? Apart from his exotic presence, he told her stories about his Indian heritage, he cooked for her Indian cuisine, and he taught her how to read and write in his language as well. She called him 'Munshi'. An Urdu word meaning 'teacher'.
  • What did Victoria give to Abdul in turn? Over the course of their friendship together, she gave him three houses, a plot of land in India, and a lofty status that he could never achieve by any other means.    
  • How was Abduls presence received by the Royal household? Not very well I am afraid to say. His bond with Queen Victoria was perceived as being 'distasteful' by Victorian standards; and his incremental advancement up the ranks was not taken too lightly either. Especially when the Queen appointed him as her 'Indian Secretary'.
  • How did Abduls fellow Indian perceive him? To some, he was thought of as an honourable man, because he helped establish the first Mosque in Woking. To others though, he was seen as a manipulative and domineering person, drunk on his own power.
  • What did the 'anti-Abdul' camp try to do, to weaken his bond to Victoria? On numerous occasions, they tried to discredit his name, and single him out as a charlatan who was only out to further his own needs.
  • And did any of this effect Queen Victoria? No. She defended him to the hilt, and was even seen by his bedside when he was taken ill. Like a Mother would her son.
  • What about Victoria's own son, The Prince of Wales, how did he feel about Abdul? He only intervened with their relationship, when his mother considered giving Abdul a Knighthood, threatening to deem her insane if she attempted to award him this title.

Queen Victoria died in 1901, and with her gone, Abdul was forced to go back to India, only to die eight years later. All written correspondence he had with this British Monarch, were also destroyed with his association.

Just like the Prince of Wales threatened to do to his Mother in this program, my Dad also wanted to have his Mum committed too. However, this did not have anything to do with my Dad's Mum having a strong connection with an Indian servant. Oh no. Instead, the crazy old bitch is a f*cking nut. Still, what can you do, huh? People of a certain age are made in a certain way, and there isn't anything that you can do about it what so ever.

Though, in someway, after watching 'Queen Victoria's Last Love', I could not help but feel sorry for this erstwhile Monarch. Heck, she is the only person in this story who seems to be the most appealing figure in it. Her husband had died. Her nation was on the wane. Her outlook must have been jaded. And all she wanted for herself in these Golden years of her life; was someone by her side to make her feel human again. In the streets nigh on every day, I see these poor old girls pushing their trolleys and going about their daily rituals, just 'getting on with it' in that very British way of theirs. I find that Queen Victoria comes across in exactly the same way, trying to do her best in the only way she knew how.

Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim

As for Abdul on the other hand? Well, I am not too sure about him really. I can understand that he wanted to 'get on' in his life also, and that he used his position in the Royal Household to do just that, with very spectacular results indeed. Moreover, a very British saying comes to mind when I think of him too - 'Every job has a perk' - which is most probably why he capitalized on the Queen generosity, huh? However, to juxtapose my view on Abdul, I do surmise that as time passed, his greed took him over, and that he gave those 'Victorian racists' all the ammunition they needed, to be able to curb his rise. 

Now this does brings me to another point I would like to raise - 'those Victorian racists' - am I being a tad too hash with this presumption? I just find it difficult to gauge their sort of mentality in this more cosmopolitan day and age. OK, I know that many Victorian aristocrats had a rather 'distasteful' view on 'the lower classes'. Plus in addition to this, that they also thought themselves more than worthy of 'colonising' the globe. Though, in the same vein, much medical, mechanical, and environmental, advancement came from this breed of aristocrat too. So who am I to say if they were a bunch of 'chinless tossers', huh? 

Abdul Karim

Anyway, all of this is how 'Queen Victoria's Last Love' affected me. It was a great program all in all, and had a very nice way of evolving itself as a story. It started off with the introduction of the tale, and then progressed with some well-balanced, factual, and hypothetical, evidence, about the matter at hand. Most of the specialist interviewed had a very clear and concise way of putting their put across, without it seeming too overtly biased or slanted - particularly Lucy Worsley - who I want to kiss on the lips. Plus I have always loved Geoffrey Palmers narration as well - he has an even keeled tone to his diction, which is one-half sardonic, and one half-sarcastic.

Overall, this royal documentary was a really nice and intelligent program to watch. It told a tale of how a shrewd Indian gentleman managed to capitalize on his status with a member of royalty, as well as how things worked back in those halcyon Victorian days. Should be made into a movie, huh?

God bless them.


QUEEN VICTORIA'S LAST LOVE QUEEN VICTORIA'S LAST LOVE Reviewed by David Andrews on June 04, 2012 Rating: 5
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