A couple of weeks ago, ITV’s lavish period drama, Victoria finished and this has left many people with an empty void in their late Sunday evenings. These people are, of course, missing the crucial point that Poldark is still showing on BBC One, nevertheless, the fact remains that in losing our weekly dose of Victoria, we have lost a very entertaining, very visually appealing, very engaging piece of drama. The good news is that it is already set to return for another series in 2017, thus continuing the story of Queen Victoria’s life.
I was not sure what I would make of Victoria before it was shown. Regular readers might remember that I mentioned it before in another post, along with my concerns that there already exists a very good drama about Queen Victoria’s life starring Victoria Hamilton and Jonathan Firth. However, this drama, starring Jenna Coleman had a very different feel to it, and I could appreciate it in its own right.
The first episode dealt mainly with Victoria’s life before she became queen, with Catherine Flemming doing a wonderful job of representing the loving but ambitious Duchess of Kent and Paul Rhys playing the notoriously unpleasant Sir John Conroy. And there was Rufus Sewell. He featured heavily in the first few episodes, which was highly pleasing, and then pretty much seemed to completely disappear. At first, I wondered if I had missed something. Had Melbourne mentioned that he was going away? Had he become ill, or had he died and had I simply zoned out at the relevant moment? However, at the same time, I was reading A. N. Wilson’s Victoria: A Life, and this seems to actually be what happened. After Victoria married Albert, Melbourne (with whom, contrary to what I had previously thought, she had shared a strange sort of unsuitable, undeclared romance) was frozen out and forgotten by Victoria so that it soon became painful for him even to ride in his carriage past Buckingham Palace (according to A.N. Wilson). When he did eventually die, Victoria, who was by then the mother of six children seemed to regard the event so little, she gave it one short, sentence-long mention in her diary. So, the loss of Sewell’s character was great indeed, however, this is also when I felt the story line seemed to pick up the pace a little. Tom Hughes, whose looks seem to match Queen Victoria’s own description of Prince Albert played a very convincing role and represented the prince as slightly more introverted and undemonstrative than in other dramas. However, this too, chimes with the way in which history seems to view Victoria’s grounding and intelligent husband. Coleman herself played a very youthful and emotional Victoria who, despite her impulsiveness and at times, her carelessness of other people’s feelings, was easy to warm to. It was the scenes which involved the royal couple that were my favourite to watch. It was refreshing and comforting to watch a drama which, at this stage of the series at least, shows two young people falling in love and making their start in life, and seems to celebrate this. The parts which showed the servants and their story lines were less appealing to me, simply because I was watching this drama to find out about the life of Victoria. To me, their scenes felt like an interruption to the main story line; it felt almost as if the servants should have had their own series, something akin to ITV’s Downton Abbey or the BBC’s Servants.
All in all, I really enjoyed this series. Yes, some events were exaggerated or changed slightly for dramatic effect, but if we’re not too bothered about the historical accuracy and desire instead something that is easy to follow and weaves a strong narrative to the early life of this much-analysed queen, then this drama certainly provides that. I am already looking forward to the next series.