It’s 1887, and Queen Victoria (a typically superb Judi Dench) is lonely and bored.

Then handsome 24-year-old Abdul Karim (Bollywood star Ali Fazal) catches her eye at a stuffy banquet.

His sparkling presence inspires her to bestow upon him greater and greater favour, which naturally does not go down well with her snobbish household or her son, Bertie (the future Edward VII), played with prickly peevishness by Eddie Izzard.

When Abdul goes on to become the Queen’s secretary and teach her Urdu, his enemies conspire to bring him down.

This is a fascinating story. Unfortunately, director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Lee Hall, adapting Shrabani Basu’s revelatory book, tackle it in a broadly comic, largely unsubtle manner that fails to give the subject its due.