Passion, tragedy, fierce devotion. Queen Victoria’s diaries revealed a life so fascinating that her daughter Beatrice tried to rewrite history.
Choreographed by Cathy Marston to music by Philip Feeney.
Victoria was created by Cathy Marston for The Northern Ballet and The National Ballet of Canada.
The story begins with a dying Queen Victoria entrusting her many diaries to her youngest daughter Princess Beatrice. As Beatrice begins to edit the diaries after her mother’s death, she remembers her lonely childhood with a mother who withdrew from the world after the death of her beloved husband.
Victoria is slowly drawn out of her seclusion by her Highland servant John Brown but the relationship between the two prompts an older Beatrice to tear pages out of her mother’s diary. Beatrice then recalls how her desire to marry Henry of Battenberg caused a rift with her mother but they eventually reconciled and Beatrice was allowed to wear her mother’s wedding veil. However, Victoria also demands the couple remain with her and her endless demands soon have Henry rushing away to do military service. Beatrice is devastated when Henry die and she becomes a widow just like her mother.
The second act concentrates on the diary entries of a young Princess Victoria which recount her life at Kensington Palace with her mother and Sir John Conroy. However, Victoria soon shuns the pair when she becomes queen and relies on Lord Melbourne to help her with her new duties as sovereign.
Victoria evades the thought of marriage until she meets her cousin Albert again and is struck by the changes in him. The couple fall in love and soon marry. Albert feels out of place as Victoria returns to her duties but as the children begin to arrive, she becomes increasingly dependent on him. However, as the years go by, Albert’s workload takes a heavy toll on his health and Victoria is devastated when he dies at Windsor Castle.
As Beatrice finishes editing the diaries, she finally makes peace with her mother’s memory.
The production premiered on 9 March 2019 at the Grand Theatre Leeds before going on a UK tour. Apparently Marston was intrigued by the relationship between Queen Victoria and her youngest child, Princess Beatrice, who bore the brunt of her mother’s grief and this inspired her to create the ballet.
Beatrice becomes the instrument through which Victoria’s story is told as she edits her mother’s diaries and ruthlessly tears out the pages when she comes across material she feels should not be made public. This is beautifully represented in the ballet when the relationship between Victoria and John Brown is abruptly brought to a close when censored by Beatrice.
The set is very minimalistic and appears like a library full of volumes of Queen Victoria’s original diaries in red and Beatrice’s edited versions in blue. There are also dancers representing the diaries in red and cream costumes who are stopped in their motions whenever Beatrice tears out a page.
The ballet won the Sky Arts South Bank Award for Dance at the 24th annual South Bank Sky Arts Awards in 2020.