2010's, Adrian Schiller, Alex Jennings, Catherine Flemming, Daniela Holtz, David Oakes, Eve Myles, Ferdinand Kingsley, Jenna Coleman, Margaret Clunie, Nell Hudson, Nigel Lindsay, Paul Rhys, Peter Bowles, Rufus Sewell, Tom Hughes, Tommy Knight, Victoria, Victoria Season 1
The fabulous Maddy is doing a blogathon about the gems of the small screen and I just knew I had to take part. As I’m a sucker for historical dramas, I just knew I had to cover the first series of the elegant Victoria.
A lavish historical drama, depicting the ascension to the throne of Queen Victoria and the turbulence of her early reign, the first season of Victoria is a marvellous one that draws you in with its writing and acting.
England, 1837 and upon the death of William IV, his niece Victoria( Jenna Coleman) becomes Queen at the age of 18. She’s lead an extreme sheltered life up until this point, having grown up in Kensington Palace. Her time there has been almost that of a prisoner as her mother’s adviser Sir John Conroy(Paul Rhys) has attempted to dominate the young girl. He is an opportunistic man who has wrapped the Duchess( Catherine Flemming) around his little finger. With little in the way of guidance, Victoria is thrust into her role of Queen. While there are those who covet her position and think of her as a naive girl, with assistance and growing sense of strength, she succeeds at fulfilling her duties as monarch. There are difficulties along the way as she navigates power struggles, backbiting and doubts from courtiers and government. From this point on, she grows as a woman and ruler, destined to be remembered and revered. Still the path in front of her is a far from simple one as she takes residence in Buckingham Palace. There’s her dedication to Prime Minister Lord Melbourne(Rufus Sewell) that calls into question whether there is something improper going on. While there is some love that Victoria at one point thinks age feels( mainly one that resembles father and daughter approval), it’s a very platonic relationship between them. Her stubbornness to rearrange her ladies in waiting to make it seem she isn’t favouring one government over the other causes a scandal as well as other ways that she acts impulsively. Still trying to get a foothold into power is John Conroy, who employs dirty tactics to enable what he wants. Thankfully, Victoria manages to assert herself and banish him from her life as age gets more comfortable in her destiny. One of the biggest things is Victoria’s meeting and eventual marriage to Prince Albert(Tom Hughes). She chafes at first at the idea of wedding him as it is from the idea of her slippery uncle King Leopold of Belgium(Alex Jennings), but comes around and realises he is the man she loves. And downstairs contains just as much drama as upstairs in a highly entertaining historical series that will have you hooked.
Like most historical dramas, Victoria is a stunning feast for the eyes. The buildings and set design dazzle with colour and life, capturing the richness of palaces and country homes. Special mention must go to the costume department, who dress everyone in such finely designed clothes that you can’t take your eyes off. This is especially the case in what we see Victoria dressed in, which is nothing short of gorgeous. Just like in The Young Victoria, we are presented with a different perspective of the iconic Victoria. Here she is still very much a young woman who is alternately learning on the job and asserting her authority in the face of opposition. The writing, which covers the early years of her reign that aren’t quite as documented as the later ones, highlights the steps Victoria had to take to be seen as a strong and regal monarch. She was no ones puppet and slowly found her toughness to steel herself in a time that would bear her name. Many will say that Victoria is soapy and to an extent it is very eventful and dramatic, but that’s what makes it so compelling. There’s always something going on to keep the attention, both upstairs and downstairs. From humour and insight into palace life to the romance between Victoria and Albert, there’s no shortage of talking points here. In many aspects, Victoria resembles a mixture of Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs and is just as entertaining. It takes what made those shows great and runs with it, creating a series of fine drama and history. Not all of it may be historically accurate, but mind you what movies or television based on real events stick extremely loyally to what happened? A gloriously grand musical score backs up the pomp and ceremony of being a Queen and the romantic dramas experienced by the whole host of characters.
Jenna Coleman is an inspired choice to play the young monarch, taking her first steps as queen and learning quickly the responsibility of it. She has a playfulness and alternating will that showcases the often portrayed Victoria as full of life and passion, steel and vulnerability. Strength, girlishness and intelligence all come across in her work, twinned with sympathy for her as she adjusts to the sudden shift in her life. It’s safe to say Coleman makes for an ideal Victoria by making the role her own. There are plenty more stars in the big ensemble cast. Tom Hughes makes for a handsome and excellent Prince Albert. Our main knowledge of Albert is that his death completely devastated Victoria, so it’s nice to see a portrayal of the young man as one of many things. He’s smart yet awkward, reserved but very passionate and immensely forward-thinking. It is very good to witness more of an insight into Albert rather than just him as simply the Queen’s husband. He and Jenna Coleman share a very nice and gradually romantic chemistry that highlights the deep love that grows between Victoria and Albert. On hand for great charisma and understanding is Rufus Sewell as the skilled and supportive Lord Melbourne. Sewell plays him as a man who has been around for a long time and knows the score when it comes to the relationship between Crown and Parliament. His immense likability ensures we buy into the way he interacts with Victoria and steers her on her way to greatness.
A highly entertaining performance comes courtesy of Alex Jennings, who portrays Victoria’s uncle King Leopold of Belgium. He may be someone whose always finding ways to lurk about and influence matters to his own benefit, but damn if he doesn’t look like he’s having fun doing it. Catherine Flemming is easily influenced and distant from her daughter, hoping that it will be changed sometime in the future. David Oakes is on dashing ground as Albert’s womanizing brother Ernest, who enters into a flirtation with Harriett, Duchess of Sutherland (as played by the luscious Margaret Clunie )and close friend to the Queen. This beginning sows the seeds of more to come from these two. In roles of government, there is a disapproving Duke of Wellington and at the opposite end a slowly more respecting future Prime Minister Robert Peel. Both are played in style by Peter Bowles and Nigel Lindsay. In his short tenure in the show, Paul Rhys is appropriately slimy and scheming as John Conroy. So it is very satisfying when Victoria finally cuts him down to size and makes it possible for herself to be heard as a woman of power and influence. A lot of that is down to how well Paul Rhys plays the role that we dislike Conroy so intensely.
And the downstairs is well represented too. Daniela Holtz is endlessly severe but mainly well meaning playing the loyal Baroness. She’s often picky and constantly on the lookout for something to smooth over, but it’s often out of a desire to do well by Victoria. is a character who is both caring and staid, a balance that is well observed by Holtz. Nell Hudson is the pretty new dresser to the Queen named Skerrett, one hiding a secret and attempting to keep it fully under wraps. Eve Myles is effectively dowdy and reliable as the main ladies maid of the household who isn’t above a bit of grousing about conditions. With a flair and sense of amusement, Ferdinand Kingsley is the palace chef with an eye for Skerrett. One of my favourites characters is Penge, the Steward who is lazy and overly cynical. Portrayed by the watchable and fun Adrian Schiller displays of eye-rolling indignant and sarcastic comments add humour to the mix of things going on in Victoria. Tommy Knight plays his underling, who always has a smile on his face and impish charm to spare.
Sumptuous costume drama that effortlessly fills the Downton Abbey void in your life, Season 1 of Victoria delivers great historical drama goods with style that has me yearning for the second series.