Video release poster for the film
|Directed by||John Madden|
|Produced by||Sarah Curtis|
|Written by||Jeremy Brock|
|Music by||Stephen Warbeck|
|Editing by||Robin Sales|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista
|Release date(s)||July 18, 1997 (USA)|
|Running time||103 minutes|
Mrs. Brown (also released and advertised under the title Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown) is a 1997 British drama film starring Dame Judi Dench, Billy Connolly, Geoffrey Palmer, Antony Sher and Gerard Butler. It was written by Jeremy Brock and directed by John Madden.
The film was produced by the BBC and Ecosse Films with the intention of being shown on BBC One and on WGBH's Masterpiece Theatre. However, it was acquired by Miramax and released to unexpected success, going on to earn more than $13,000,000 worldwide.
After several screens of text giving some background we see a bust flying over a palace wall and shattering into countless pieces.
This is the story of Queen Victoria (played by Judi Dench) and her relationship with a Scottish servant, John Brown (played by comedian Billy Connolly), and the subsequent uproar it provoked. Brown had been a trusted servant of Victoria's then deceased consort, Prince Albert; Victoria's chief servants thought Brown might help to ease an inconsolable Queen since the prince consort's death in 1861. Hoping to subtly coax the Queen toward resuming public life after years of seclusion, Mr. Brown is summoned to court.
The plan succeeds a little too well for the servants' liking, especially Victoria's chief secretary Sir Henry Ponsonby (played by Geoffrey Palmer) and The Prince of Wales (played by David Westhead) as well as other members of the Royal family; the public, press and politicians soon come to resent Brown's perceived influence over the queen. Brown takes considerable liberties with court protocol, especially by addressing Her Majesty as "woman". He also quickly takes control over the Queen's daily activities, further aggravating the tensions between himself and the royal family and servants.
The moniker "Mrs. Brown", used both at the time and in the film, implied an improper, and perhaps sexual, relationship. The film does not directly address the contemporary suspicions that the Queen and Brown had had a sexual relationship and perhaps had even secretly married (see the article on Brown), though cartoons from the satirical magazine Punch are shown as being passed around in Parliament (only one of the cartoons is revealed to the camera, showing an empty throne, with the sceptre lying unhanded across it).
As a result of Victoria's virtual imurement, especially at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, something initially encouraged by Brown, her popularity is failing and there is a growing rise in republican sentiment. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (Antony Sher) has a weakening hold over the House of Commons and a fear of rising anti-monarchical sentiment in the country. He persuades Brown to use his influence with the Queen and persuade her to return to the performance of her public duties, most especially the speech from the throne at the impending opening of Parliament.
Brown is reluctant to do so, rightly fearing that Victoria will take this as a personal betrayal. When Brown urges Victoria to return to London and fulfill her public duties, an argument ensues. Feeling betrayed by Brown, the Queen becomes enraged. She can't believe what she is hearing. When Brown once again refers to her as"woman," she sharply rebukes him. Leaving the room, she turns to Ponsonby and Jenner requesting that they serve her needs, clearly reducing Mr. Brown's contact and influence over her. Their relationship was never to be the same again.
The Queen's eventual acquiescence and her decision to return to public life eventually leads to a revitalization of her popularity and a resurgence in public support of the monarchy.
Brown continues to serve Queen Victoria, until his death in 1883. In his final years, his duties become reduced to head of security. The palace staff has become weary of Brown's dogmatic ways and they mock and rebuke his security efforts as paranoid delusions. Finally, during a public event, a gun wielding assassin appears out of the crowd leaping toward the royal family. An ever vigilant Mr. Brown successfully thwarts the assassination attempt. At dinner the next evening, the Prince of Wales retells the story, bragging to their dinner companions that he had been the one to warn Brown of the assassin. Seeing through her son's bragging, the Queen announces instead that a special medal for bravery, the "Devoted Servants Medal," will be minted and awarded to Mr. Brown.
Some years later, Mr. Brown becomes gravely ill with pneumonia after chasing through the woods late at night searching for a possible intruder. Hearing of Brown's illness, the Queen visits Mr. Brown's room and is visibly shaken to see her old friend so ill. Placing a cool damp cloth against Brown's fevered brow, she confesses that she has not been as good a friend as she might have been in recent years. It is clear that her apology is accepted by Brown. The pneumonia proves fatal for Brown and he passes away.
During his years of service, Mr. Brown has kept a diary and upon his passing, Ponsonby and Dr. Jenner discuss its contents stating that it must never be seen by anyone. Holding the diary at his side, Ponsonby walks away and it's implied that the diary will be destroyed or will disappear.
Dr. Jenner also reveals that the Prince of Wales has hurled the Queen's favorite bust of Mr. Brown up and over the "palace wall", referring us back to the film's opening sequence.
The film's closing crawl informs us that: "John Brown's diary was never found."