Queen Victoria's Empire : About the Series : Malik
Due to the number of locations (both in the United Kingdom and overseas) and the speed with which everything had to be filmed, the production employed several art directors. One of them was Charlotte Malik, who was brought in to look after all the palace sequences, the parliamentary scenes and Gordon's last stand in Khartoum.
Charlotte totally immersed herself in the period for several weeks prior to the start of production. She spent hours and hours searching for nuggets of information from sources as varied as the Victoria and Albert Museum (for information concerning the exact colour of Victoria's bedroom wall) to the Pollock Toy Museum to find out what sort of toys would have been found in the Queen's nursery. The attention to detail and historical accuracy was paramount to Charlotte. One of her biggest challenges was to turn the disused St. Pancras Railway station into a credible palace for General Gordon stranded in Khartoum. With the aide of Caitlin Jones, Charlotte's assistant, and several pots of paint, the vacant railway station's walls suggested the appearance of a Sudanese Palace. Gordon was filmed looking wishfully towards the Nile waiting for relief -- in fact, the actor is looking out onto a busy London streets rather than the Nile. A bit of clever trellis hides this fact well.
One of the difficulties Charlotte had with re-creating the nursery scenes (which is seen at the start of programme one), was sourcing the various toys that would have been found in the Queen's nursery. She found a clockwork toy that would have been powered by steam. Unfortunately, the only way to power the toy today was by Charlotte crouching down out of sight, making the clockwork toy move with the aid of a power tool. The viewer would never know! This is something that Charlotte saw as vital to create the illusion of being back in the nineteenth century. Everything on screen is either sourced from the period or re-created to look exactly as it would have done then.
When asked what sequence she is proudest of, it is undoubtedly the incredibly moving deathbed scene -- where the Queen lies in a magnificent bed with daisies gently being dropped onto her resting body. To achieve this look, Charlotte had to hire a grand bed that took four men to carry into place, and then decorate it with regal touches such as vast swags of red velvet drape, and then find artificial daisies that would look real under scrutiny of the film cameras. They were then dropped into place with the aid of a hairdryer on slow speed!
As Charlotte says of the production, "I am absolutely confident that everything that appears on screen is accurate to the period, but what the viewer can't see…well that's another matter!"
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