"Service Above Self"
In 1838, at the age of 19, Victoria was crowned Queen of England, beginning a reign of 63 years, the longest of any British monarch. Less than two years later, she would marry her cousin Prince Albert, a union that would prove to be far more harmonious than the typical royal marriage. Because most of their nine children married into other royal houses of Europe, nearly all crowned heads of Europe in the 20th century were their descendants.
Alas, in 1861, Albert died of typhoid fever, and the Queen was devastated. Her inconsolable grief drove her to spend years of seclusion on the Isle of Wight, and on Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Those in her service were literally held hostage to her grief. A contemporary adage said: “If the Queen ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Meanwhile, in London, Parliament began to debate whether the monarchy should be dissolved.
Enter John Brown, a plain-spoken, Scot servant, who had been a favorite of Albert’s, who is now summoned in a desperate effort by the Queen’s family to penetrate her depression. Brown sizes up the situation quickly, and to the horror of Victoria’s entourage of sycophants, bluntly insists that she get some fresh air. Both Queen and Brown prove to be equally hard-headed, and, after repeatedly crossing verbal swords, Brown persuades her to ride horseback, with him serving as guard and guide.
This fascinating clash of personalities and the deep friendship which subsequently develops is the substance of MRS. BROWN, a first-rate production from the makers of MASTERPIECE THEATRE. This is indeed a masterpiece. The title, MRS. BROWN, is a reference to the contemporary slur which began to circulate among those who began to resent the growing influence of the Scotsman on his Queen. For Brown was as willing to confront other members of the Queen’s family and her servants when he thought they were not acting in her best interest, as he was to confront the Queen herself. His was not a genteel manner, and his almost fanatical insistence on tighter security for his monarch (which he personally oversaw) won him few friends among the royal household. However, neither their objections, nor rumors that the relationship between sovereign and servant was becoming physically intimate would quench the Queen’s favor.
With Oscar-caliber performances by Judi Dench as Victoria and Billy Connolly as Brown MRS. BROWN scrupulously avoids adding a sleaze to this story. In fact, while Brown’s weakness for alcohol is honestly portrayed, this film highlights a virtue which is rarely seen in contemporary movies: a devotion to duty and service which transcends personal interest and rank. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (expertly played by Antony Sher) queries Brown carefully at one point and cannot believe that he does not bring personal ambition to his role as the Queen’s confidant. Even a marked reversal of status cannot diminish Brown’s faithfulness. At one point, he is allowed to take charge of the Queen’s servants, and he does so with such abandon that people thought his new responsibilities were going to his head. Years later after Victoria makes a resounding re-entry into public life, he is reduced to serving primarily as a royal guard dog. Yet his fidelity, even in this far less exalted role, is shown to be unflinching.
Unfortunately, in the thick of a summer of cinema bursting with the customary lineup of action adventure thrillers with space aliens, muscular super-heroes, crashes, and gunfire, MRS. BROWN is likely to be lost in the shuffle, relegated to specialty theaters in major cities. Those who cannot find this outstanding drama at their local multiplex should look for the video later this year. With uncommon intelligence, and value, MRS. BROWN richly requites the cost of a movie admission ticket. This is a fascinating history lesson for mature teenagers and adults, and a moving portrait of a man who truly honored service above self .
(B, L,V, A) Biblical worldview of a royal servant who valued service above self; 3 obscenities & 2 profanities; man pummeled by assailants; and, alcohol use
In MRS. BROWN, John Brown, faithful retainer to Queen Victoria, helps pull the Queen out of a long depression which started when her beloved husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861. Her inconsolable grief drove her to spend years of seclusion on the Isle of Wight and on Balmoral Castle in Scotland. In a desperate effort to penetrate her depression, the Queen’s family summoned John Brown, a plain-spoken, Scot servant, who had been a favorite of Prince Albert’s. Brown sizes up the situation quickly, and after crossing verbal swords with the Queen, he persuades her to get some air, with him as guide.
This fascinating clash of personalities and the deep friendship which subsequently develops is the substance of MRS. BROWN, a first-rate production from the makers of MASTERPIECE THEATRE. This is indeed a masterpiece. With Oscar-caliber performances, MRS. BROWN scrupulously avoids adding sleaze to this story. In fact, while Brown’s weakness for alcohol is honestly portrayed, this film highlights a virtue rarely seen in contemporary movies: a devotion to duty and service which transcends personal interest. With uncommon intelligence, and value, MRS. BROWN richly requites the cost of a movie admission ticket. This is a fascinating history lesson, and a moving portrait of a man who truly honored service above self