Victoria and Abdul

John Thomas

“I would like a mango,” announces Queen Victoria (Judy Dench). They only grow in India, is the reply. “Well, I’m Empress of India, so have one sent,” she commands. And so continues the sometimes aggressive banter between her majesty, her son Bertie (Eddie Izzard), the prime minister and even members of her household staff. She had first heard of this “queen of fruit” from Abdul (Ali Fazal), who had recently arrived from India.

To celebrate the Queens jubilee, the British authorities in India decided to present her majesty with a special gold coin – Abdul was chosen to travel to England to do so. During the presentation he was told to not, under any circumstances, look at the Queen when offering her the coin. Well that  idea didn’t prevail because he couldn’t help but look at her, nor could she at him. He was fascinated, she was intrigued.

She was curious to know about her colony of India, their customs, the languages spoken and their art and philosophy. To this end, she appointed Abdul her personal servant and teacher. As their friendship grew and his influence over her increased, some members of the royal household became increasingly alarmed. They feared this new relationship would  overpower their own influence over her and upset the balance of things at court.

At one of their private discussions, she confessed to Abdul her feelings of the futility of her job, the strain of being queen and the worth of her life in general, “What is the point?” she said. His eyes brightened when he replied, “Service your majesty, to serve the greater good.” As their friendship grew, her health began to fail. Because of her declining strength, she suggested he return home. He replied that he would remain by her side to her very last day.

He did eventually return to Agra, and visited her every day for the remainder his life. “Good morning your majesty, how are you today?” began his daily ritual as he sat at the foot of her bronze image in the gardens surrounding the Taj Mahal, the tomb created by Emperor Shah Jahan as a monument to his beloved wife. Taj Mahal translates to “Crown of the Palace.”

Directed by Stephan Frears and running 110 minutes, Victoria and Abdul is a “must see” movie.


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