So I’ve been preoccupied with watching Korean dramas and variety shows (and trying to procrastinate too long in writing reviews for them – sigh) that I haven’t really been keeping up with American or British shows like I used to. However, if you’ve been feeling Downton Abbey withdrawal, there are a number of shows this Fall to look forward to. One of them won’t air until November but ITV’s Victoria has made its bow on the first season.
I haven’t yet finished watching the last episode which aired yesterday because I was up late watching the debate so I guess I’ll just talk about the episodes preceding. The drama stars Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman, who is wearing light-colored contacts which I’m having trouble getting used to. Since the drama is about Queen Victoria, I suppose the choice to have her wear contacts is for accuracy.
However, what I’ve been loving about the drama is how strong the female characters are in the show. I think what I find so fascinating about Queen Victoria is how she came to the throne at the young age of 18 and she often had to prove herself to a sexist society that she was fit to rule.
Sure, she was naïve and made mistakes but she tried to do best with what she believe was the right thing. Even if that meant pushing her mother away, as her mother was influenced by Sir John Conroy.
Instead she found a confidant in Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) who taught the young monarch in the art of politics. Victoria grew so fond of Melbourne that she not only viewed him as an advisor and a father figure but grew to have romantic feelings for her. As much as Melbourne felt conflicted about his own feelings, he knew the right thing to do was to allow Victoria to find someone else.
And yet, the drama depicts a lovely scene after her wedding in which Victoria closes the chapter of her crush on him. As scandalous as their relationship would have been, it is understandable to see why Victoria felt close with him. After being told all her life what to do, he was the first person that was willing to listen to her.
As for Victoria’s marriage, she was initially against marrying Prince Albert (Tom Hughes). Not only did she not like the fact that her uncle was trying to make this match but he is one of the first people who is not willing to appease Victoria just because she is queen. Because of that, I believe Victoria is drawn to his honesty and begins to see his other desirable traits. And so, there story is quite romantic.
However, I have to admit that I couldn’t help but laugh at the scene when Albert makes his intentions known to Victoria during a ball. It was so over-the-top as Albert takes a flower given to him by her and cuts his shirt so he could place the flower close to his heart. On the other hand, perhaps the drama was trying to make the point that it was just the thing that got Victoria to notice Albert and set him apart from the other suitors.
Even after Victoria accepts Albert, it was not always easy for Prince Albert as many of the British people were not excited that a German prince would be taking their throne, especially since their tax dollars would be providing his income.
And yet, it was quite admirable to see that Prince Albert was trying to make attempts to familiarize himself with British Parliament. It is completely understandable to see that he just wanted to serve a purpose and not just be a trophy husband. And he began to accomplish that by getting closer to Prime Minister Robert Peel.
On the other hand, I was quite surprised to learn that Queen Victoria was not as motherly as I originally thought she was. She and Albert had nine children so I expected that she wanted to be a mother and while she wanted to honor her husband and create a family, she is also a working woman. It’s difficult to balance work and home obligation even today so I can imagine that it was equally hard back them, especially for someone who had to prove her strength, intelligence and worth to her constituents. She also feared her own death during childbirth because her own cousin, Princess Charlotte, died shortly after giving birth.
As if those fears weren’t traumatic enough, the Royal Family had to keep an eye out for individuals who wanted to assassinate the Queen. It’s suspected that the attempts were orchestrated by her uncle, King of Hanover, as he was next in line but I expect that it was never proven. After all, to openly call her own uncle and another monarch a murderer is quite a serious charge and could mean war.
The drama also have subplots featuring the downstairs cast. At first, the rivalry between Baroness Lehzen and Penge reminded me of Thomas Barrow and Sarah O’Brien’s characters but I do believe that they both have good intentions when it comes to the queen. On the other hand, I am intrigued by the relationship between Miss Skerrett and Chef Francatelli. Their relationship seems to have developed so fast and because they don’t get equal screen time as Victoria and Albert, that I find it hard to completely invest in their developing feelings just yet. I don’t know. Maybe that changes in the final episode.
So I expect that I’ll finish the rest of the final episode tonight but I am loving the tone of this series so far. I’m also looking forward to The Crown starring Jenna Coleman’s old co-star, Matt Smith, who plays Prince Philip, which will premiere on Netflix in early November. That story is about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, another strong, British female monarch. Which one will you be tuning into?