There may seem little left to discover about Queen Victoria and her life with and after Prince Albert. But there’s one story that has been mostly hidden from the public gaze, that of her extraordinary friendship with a 24-year-old Indian emissary called Abdul Karim.  

This story is being brought back to life thanks to the major motion picture Victoria & Abdul. Filmed on location using the Durbar Room and extensive grounds at Osborne, the film is set to put both the story and the Isle of Wight on the map. 

The Isle of Wight connection  

The Island is central to the story of Queen Victoria, her life and her reign. After she and Prince Albert decided to create the perfect holiday home here for their growing family.  

While Norris Castle (which you can see from the top deck of the Fishbourne to Lymington ferry) proved too expensive even for a Queen, the grounds of the original house on the Osborne Estate were ideal. Between 1845 and 1851, the present palace at Osborne was built to Prince Albert’s specifications. And, of course, where the Queen went, her court went. 

Osborne

“The prettiest spot” 

After Albert’s death in 1861, the Queen turned more and more to Osborne, spending many holidays within its beautiful grounds. After she became Empress of India in 1876, the ‘main wing’ was added to the building. Containing the famous and fabulously intricate Durbar Room, it was here that Queen Victoria first met Abdul.  

It’s the first film that has had the privilege of shooting inside, with lots of scenes also filmed in the extensive grounds. Many Isle of Wight people acted as extras, rubbing shoulders with Dame Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, Eddie Izzard as her son, Prince Bertie and Ali Fazal as Abdul Karim. 

Costumes at Osborne

The Queen’s closest confidant 

The screenplay of Victoria & Abdul is by Academy Award nominee Lee Hall (for Billy Elliott), based on journalist Shrabani Basu’s book Victoria &Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant.  

Victoria & Abdul tells the extraordinary true story of the amazing and unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and a young clerk, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), who becomes her teacher, her spiritual advisor and her devoted friend.  

In 1887, Abdul travels from India to present a ceremonial medal as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee but surprisingly finds favour with the elderly Queen. The unprecedented and unlikely relationship causes a battle royale within the royal household, pitting the Queen against court and family. Victoria & Abdul humorously explores questions of race, religion, power and the farce of the Empire through the prism of a highly unusual and deeply moving friendship.  

And don’t forget to see Victoria & Abdul in cinemas September 15. Victoria & Abdul tells the extraordinary story of the amazing and unlikely friendship between Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and a young clerk, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), who becomes her teacher, her spiritual advisor and her devoted friend. 

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