Review: Victoria (Episodes 1 & 2)

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80%
80
Awesome

While not entirely historically accurate, I can see this series doing a lot of good for how the infamously (and unfairly) grumpy queen is seen.

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Queen Victoria is one of our country’s best known monarchs, her claim to fame being her colossal rule of 63 years – the longest of a king or queen until Elizabeth II very recently overtook her. Not only that, she governed Britain and its colonies through one of the most revolutionary periods of history.

What she isn’t as well known for, however, is troubled early years of ruling, struggling to maintain control of a court with little respect for her. Nor for scandals, or an infatuation with the Whig Prime Minister, the ageing and balding Lord Melbourne. ITV’s new drama Victoria aims to change the public opinion of the queen, often seen as old and grumpy, to the image of a strong and powerful woman. Even with her youth, and the position unexpectedly thrust on her, she refuses to give into the manipulations of those around her, who include her mother. She exclaims: “I am not a piece of clay to be moulded by any hand”. Interestingly, this is based heavily on her own words, from her diaries.

In the first of its eight episodes, 18 year old Alexandrina Victoria is declared Queen after her uncle dies. Against the advice of her advisors, she takes the name Queen Victoria, chooses Prime Minister Lord Melbourne to be a confidante, and is shown to be painfully besotted with him. What the show makes very clear is that she is a teenage girl, and even in her position she is restrained by her gender and small stature. She is strong willed and knows what she wants, true to form, but as shown in her first address as Queen, she is a young girl amongst middle aged men, who fail to take her seriously.

Admittedly it isn’t entirely accurate, to the admission of writer Daisy Goodwin, who confesses she has ’embroidered’ the truth in her script. Period dramas can get away with altering the truth though – Mrs Brown worked as a film because it showed a widowed Victoria’s realisation that her duty as Queen meant being visible to the people. The true nature of Victoria’s relationship with Melbourne is subject to much questioning – though you can be sure the real Lord Melbourne wasn’t as handsome as Rufus Sewell! Whose almost as adorable as her cute dog Dash, who plays the same role as in the 2009 film The Young Victoria. The dog’s name is Tori and she’s maybe the best dog ever.
Obviously any period drama is now going to be compared to Downton Abbey, and so far this has much less fiction. She did accuse her mother’s handmaiden of having an illegitimate baby and tried to prove it, with disastrous results. Jenna Coleman, despite being 30, is a convincing 18 year old queen, and seems to have understood clearly who Victoria was. And, despite the criticisms of the show not being structured around any particular theme of her reign, I enjoy the chronological mostly-truth of her ascension being shown. The show is overall an entertaining watch. I’m excited to see how the next six episodes will pan out, from the teenage girl who wasn’t allowed to sleep alone or walk down the stairs without holding someone’s hand, to the second longest reigning British monarch.

Victoria is broadcast on ITV1 on Sundays on 9pm. Episodes 1 & 2 are available to watch via the ITV Hub.

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Third year PAIR student and live editor. Also the Wessex Scene's Head of Events. Fan of cats, gigs and a tea lover - find me rambling about politics and cats @_Carly_May on Twitter.

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