Victoria is another exquisite production for the Masterpiece series (which presented Downton Abbey) on PBS. It is the story of Queen Victoria who was 18 when she was crowned in 1837. The diminutive teenager navigated the scandal, corruption, and political intrigues of her Royal Court and became the most powerful woman in the world and the symbol of the mighty British Empire.
The historic drama airs Sundays (from January 15 through March 5) on PBS. It follows Victoria’s personal story from the time she becomes Queen, through her passionate courtship and marriage to Prince Albert. The lavish premiere season of Victoria dramatizes the romance and early reign of the famous empress.
Jenna Coleman (Clara in Doctor Who and Death Comes to Pemberley) stars as Queen Victoria, and she makes the most out of portraying the spirited young monarch who seemed to have it all. In addition to Coleman, the stellar ensemble includes Rufus Sewell (The Man in the High Castle, Zen, The Pillars of the Earth) as Lord Melbourne, her first prime minister and intimate friend, and Tom Hughes (The Lady Vanishes, Page Eight, Dancing on the Edge) as her husband Prince Albert. Rebecca Eaton is the Masterpiece series executive producer, and Daisy Goodwin created and wrote Victoria, the television series. Goodwin also wrote a novel about Victoria which has become a bestseller. Goodwin is a respected producer, journalist, novelist, and an authority on Queen Victoria.
When Victoria was 18 she was awakened in her bed and told she was the Queen of England. At 19 she married Prince Albert after having known him for about a week. They had nine children during their married life devoted to each other.
Daisy Goodwin’s writing had a tremendous amount of historical detail in the script that served as research for the actors. That helped inspire Jenna Coleman’s splendid performance.
Appearing on the Masterpiece interview panel during the PBS sessions for the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, Coleman said, “Daisy used Victoria’s own journals as a source. Victoria was one of the most prolific journal writers of history. I think there’s something like over 62 million words that she wrote in her diaries, which have been censored, but the resource material you have are her diaries, which are all in her voice. Her vivacious nature just comes out on the page. She writes in capitals when she’s excited. She underlines and you can kind of see her passionate nature on the page.”
Coleman explained, “What I found most interesting was her sketch work. I had no idea that she could even draw, but she was quite a prolific water colorist. So I loved seeing the world through her eyes that way, uncensored, untouched. It’s really interesting that (her sketches) are not grandeur, but more portraits and portraits of people, self-portraits, landscapes. Also, when she was a lot younger, she used to love the theatre, the romantic scenes and the death scenes and anything that was kind of full of emotion.”
The very petite Coleman said she was thrilled to find out Victoria was only 4-foot 11-inches in height. And for her royal role she trained for a variety of things including voice training, horse riding, and waltz training, which she called “a fun process.”
It’s interesting to note that Queen Victoria ascended the throne at a point in British history when women don’t have the vote, and married women are the legal property of their husbands. That’s why it’s so extraordinary that this girl at 18 becomes the most powerful person in the country. Victoria was on the throne for 63 years and this premiere season covers her first three years. So hopefully there’ll be many seasons. Tune in Victoria, Sunday nights (from January 15 to March 5) on PBS.
Also for Anglophiles on PBS, Secrets of the Six Wives airs Sundays starting January 22 through February 5. The show follows historian Lucy Worsley as she goes back in time to the Tudor Court to witness some of the most dramatic moments in the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives. It is high drama based on eye witness accounts, historical sources, and Lucy’s own fascinating commentary about Henry VIII and his queens.