by Roger Childs

It is 1708 and the ageing, childless, gout-ridden Queen Ann is on the English throne. The Duke of Marlborough is winning battles against the French in Europe, but needs more troops.

His wife Sarah is the Queen’s favourite and is practically running the government. The two main political factions –- the Tories and Whigs -– have different views over what should be done about the Duke’s demands, and they are there in all their finery, at the Queen’s summer palace pressing their cases.

Then Abigail, from a once aristocratic family, turns up at the royal residence covered in mud after being booted out of a carriage. After initially fitting in as a kitchen maid, she becomes a friend of Sarah and ultimately the queen. Then the contest starts as to who will be the leading royal favourite.

The film has great settings, costumes, music and acting. The language and behaviour is rather extreme at times and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. However, this is a fascinating study in a setting befitting the English upper crust of drama and manners, intrigue and rivalry, friendship and betrayal.

To help those whose knowledge of the early 18th century is somewhat hazy, a little historical background would have been helpful at the start of The Favourite. However, it doesn’t take long to work out what is going on.

There is a very authentic feel about the movie and it’s great to see the three leading roles taken by women. Their performances are superb. The Favourite is a highly enjoyable, fast moving and, at times, ribald romp about a time in English history that has been rarely featured on film.