Some thoughts about Queen Victoria

Almost finished watching Victoria on Masterpiece. Despite the historical inaccuracies, I’m really enjoying it. However, I have one major criticism, which has led to extensive reflection (INFP talking here).

So this critical thought rose when my dad walked in while I was watching the drama.

“They’re all bad people,” he said, after a moment of staring at the TV.

My first reaction was to protest, to defend these inaccurate portrayals of historical characters I’d grown to love. But the more I thought about it, I realized my dad had a point, albeit on the extreme side.

From some distant, severely lacking knowledge I absorbed through osmosis in history class, I know that some serious stuff went down during Victoria’s reign. Victoria and Albert did lots of great things. Prince Albert was very vocal about the abolition of slavery, a fact that I felt was rather overemphasized in the drama, perhaps to compensate for some of the other not so great things they did.

Two events immediately come to mind: the Women’s Rights Movement, and also, just a minor disagreement (insert sarcasm here) called The Opium Wars.

Curiosity drove me to find out Victoria’s views on both.

On feminism: “Feminists ought to get a good whipping. Were woman to ‘unsex’ themselves by claiming equality with men, they would become the most hateful, heathen and disgusting of beings and would surely perish without male protection.”

And the Opium Wars: “Albert is so amused at my having got the Island of Hong Kong.”

In fact, when the Emperor of China wrote to Queen Victoria on the evils of opium addiction, she didn’t even bother to reply.

The miniseries makes no mention of either one. And that concerns me, as I am a woman of Chinese descent, whose father grew up in Hong Kong during British rule.

Hence, my self-reflection. I’ve always wondered what life would be like had history played out differently. If the Opium Wars hadn’t happened, if China hadn’t been sliced up like pie, if Hong Kong had stayed under China, would I even be here in America? Would my family have remained in China, in Hong Kong, had the Chinese not been so weakened by imperialism?

And how is it that even knowing the history behind British imperialism and its effect on my ancestors, I still can love watching BBC dramas and reading about their culture? Does that make me somehow a traitor as ridiculous as I know that sounds?

I don’t have the answers, but seeing as there is no way to alter history, I hope the miniseries doesn’t choose to revise its history too much either. Granted, there has only been one season so far, but I hope they don’t gloss over these issues, pretend certain historical events never happened, or portray Victoria’s character as perfectly faultless. She may be the heroine of the drama, but even heroines have flaws and faults.

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