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Victoria Day: A look at the queen on screen

Judi Dench, left, is one of many stars who have portrayed Queen Victoria.
Judi Dench, left, is one of many stars who have portrayed Queen Victoria. Ben A. Pruchnie / Getty Images (Dench); Alexander Bassano (Queen Victoria)

TORONTO — Victoria Day, a federal holiday in Canada recognized by all but four provinces, is celebrated as the annual kick-off to summer in Canada.

But, often lost in the long weekend of fireworks and two-fours is the woman behind the holiday.

Victoria Day (which is celebrated by no other country) marks the birthday of Queen Victoria, who was born 196 years ago on May 24.

The great- great- grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II reigned from 1837 to 1901.

On screen, more than 125 people have portrayed Queen Victoria, starting with silent film star Rose Tapley in 1912’s The Victoria Cross.

The monarch has been played by Judi Dench, Emily Blunt — and even several men, including Peter Sellers in the 1974 comedy The Great McGonagall.

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Several Canadians have portrayed Queen Victoria, of course. Among them are Kate Reid (1963’s Mr. Distraeli and 1973’s Witness to Yesterday), Charlotte Boisjoli (1984’s Laurier) and Elizabeth Leslie (Murdoch Mysteries in 2011).

In 1989’s TV mini-series Around the World in 80 Days, Victoria was played by Anna Massey, the UK-born daughter of Canadian actor Raymond Massey (and niece of Governor General Vincent Massey).

Here are three projects that provide entertaining glimpses into the life of the woman whose birthday is marked by Canadians with fireworks and cold beer.

Victoria & Albert (2001)

This BBC mini-series, which is available on home video, starts in 1837 — the year of King William IV’s death and the ascension of a teenaged Victoria to the throne — and covers her reign and relationship with Prince Albert (Jonathan Firth). Victoria Hamilton plays Queen Victoria.

The Young Victoria (2009)

Emily Blunt stars as the titular royal in this drama from Canadian director Jean-Marc VallĂ©e that was co-produced by Sarah Ferguson. It focuses on Victoria’s rise to power and her romance with Prince Albert (Rupert Friend). The film won an Oscar for Best Costume Design.

Mrs. Brown (1997)

Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is mourning the death of Prince Albert in this British film, which follows the monarch’s relationship with a Scottish servant (Billy Connolly). Dench’s portrayal of Victoria earned her an Academy Award nomination.

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