Missing your regular fix of period drama now that Downton Abbey has ended? Never fear, PBS Masterpiece has got you covered with the debut of British drama Victoria. In 1837, the eighteen-year old Princess Alexandrina Victoria ascends to the throne of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, taking the regnal name of Queen Victoria. Despite knowing from an early age that she would be monarch, Victoria is initially unprepared for the great responsibilities thrust upon her. Guided and aided by the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and her husband, Prince Albert, Victoria grows into her role and becomes one of the nation’s greatest rulers.
Starring Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria, Rufus Sewell as Lord Melbourne, and Tom Hughes as Prince Albert, Victoria begins airing on PBS Masterpiece on January 15.
Jenna Coleman Plays Victoria
Fresh from saving the universe alongside two incarnations of the Doctor, Jenna Coleman takes on the role of Queen Victoria. Coleman brings a degree of gravitas and dignity to the role. Victoria was known as a stubborn, straight-talking woman, and Coleman has already displayed her ability to play characters with strong attitudes and personal morals. But she also brings a degree of tenderness and naivety to the role.
As Victoria opens, the Queen is a mere eighteen years old, dogged by worries that she is not ready for the role of monarch. She is aware that many in the government and aristocracy believe she is too young and inexperienced. Coleman believably portrays the young Queen’s vulnerabilities, creating a sympathetic character than will endear her to viewers. Her chemistry with co-star Rufus Sewell adds an air of believability to the relationship between the young Queen and the elder Prime Minister.
Its A Coming-Of-Age Story
At the tender age of eighteen, Victoria ascends to the throne as Queen of England after the death of her uncle, King William IV. Although burdened by affairs of state and matters of decorum and tradition, Victoria is, at heart, a young woman at the start of her life. She has to deal with the same issues that we all do as young adults, while also juggling her role as ruler of the British Empire.
Victoria has to navigate her relationship with her controlling mother and seeks to end the influence that John Conroy (her mother’s private secretary) tries to exert over her. At the same time, she has to deal with her burgeoning attraction to the much older Lord Melbourne, and her eventual marriage to Prince Albert. Victoria has to assert herself as a strong, independent leader and woman. She just has to do it in the limelight.
The Golden Age of Britain
Victoria is not just about the life of the Queen. Set at a time when Great Britain was arguably the world’s superpower, Victoria will chart the fortunes of the British Empire under one of its most influential and (until recently) longest-serving monarchs. Such was Victoria’s influence over the time that it became known as the Victorian Era, and was considered to be a golden age.
During the time of show’s setting, Great Britain is at the height of its power and influence throughout the world. It was an era of great progress. Great advances were made in industry, agriculture, medical, and scientific fields. Victoria looks set to shine a light on an era of great pride for Great Britain, and how it was shaped through the eyes of the Queen herself.
Intrigue and Politics
British politics will be explored in Victoria through the character of Lord Melbourne, Prime Minister of Great Britain. British politics at the time of Victoria’s rule was solely the domain of the aristocracy and gentry. They believed that the young Victoria was too inexperienced to take on the monarchy. It was a view held by many others, including members of her own family.
Victoria also deals with the young Queen’s attempts to establish herself as an independent ruler in the face of great pressure and expectations. A sub-plot in the first episode is a direct result of Victoria’s attempt to limit the influence of her mother’s private secretary, John Conroy. It leads to a public scandal which damages her burgeoning reputation. Victoria must learn to navigate the political world if she is to be successful as Queen.