A Royal Affair: The Fascinating Tale of Queen Victoria

Featured image courtesy of Digital Spy

Victoria, ITV’s new, eight part, period drama was released on August 28th (directed by Tom Vaughan) and depicts the fascinating tale of England’s Queen Victoria coming to power in 1837, at just 18 years of age.

Daisy Goodwin, the TV-show’s creator and writer, discovered the first volume of Victoria’s journals – of which there are many – in 1981, when studying the 19th century monarchy at Cambridge.  Instantly she became captivated by the “discovery of a monarch who is engaging, funny and frank; a girl, in fact”. For the first time, Goodwin experienced the Queen in a more personal light; a stark contrast to the cold-hearted character so commonly associated with her name. Her subsequent decision to revive Victoria’s sprightly, resolute personality in television form, offered the rest of the country the same luxury.

Queen Victoria’s reputation is cemented in the history books: humourless, prude and stony –manifested within her hilariously cynical catchphrase, “We are not amused.” Not only has recent evidence suggested that she never did utter those words but, according to A.N. Wilson, the show’s historical adviser, the reputation itself is undeserved and was apparently a façade. It was devised by the Royal Family – to “supress the truth about her passionate nature”.

Goodwin’s aim was to overturn the common perception of England’s longest-reigning monarch. One line in particular, refuting the misconceptions of Victoria’s personality, captured Goodwin’s attention: “My dear Albert came in today from the rain; he looked so handsome in his white cashmere britches, with nothing on underneath,” This remark was one that Goodwin claimed to have mortified her (but only for a second)! She wanted to portray the ‘real’ Victoria, the passionate girl in the thrall of young love, whose surprisingly relatable thoughts she had uncovered within the diaries.Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman, the actress portraying young Queen Victoria in the series, said she hoped that the drama would reveal the lesser-known side of this supposedly implacable monarch – and that is exactly what it has accomplished. The programme shows the Queen – though reliant on her intimate friend, Lord Melbourne – to be a headstrong, decisive woman in the midst of a patriarchal society.

Radio Times

Radio Times

Despite its admirable execution, every historical drama is subject to criticism concerning its accuracy; and Victoria is no exception. Historians are quick to scrutinize the relevance of the staff sub-plots and precision of the Royal Family’s portrayal, with some sharp enough to assess Coleman’s height (a mere 3 inches above that of Queen Victoria’s 4ft11inch figure). Upon being questioned about the series’ historical accuracy, Daisy Goodwin admitted that she had made up the characters and stories of life downstairs, but insisted that “everything that happens from upstairs is true and from Victoria’s diaries.” Even so, whilst Victoria is representation of 19th century Britain, it is still a TV programme, and so one can expect additional plots and a slightly exaggerated reality; so is the nature of a televised drama. What truly matters is the fact that the series allows the opportunity to explore a whole new aspect to Queen Victoria’s character and does well to challenge the unwarranted reputation of the monarch in a way which is not only gripping, but enjoyable. After all, this was the initial aim of its creator.

Through the work of Daisy Goodman and her crew, Victoria captures the journey of a miscalculated Queen, faced with the unfathomable responsibility of leading a country at such a vulnerable age. Instead of the stout, old lady that has been branded onto public consciousness, Queen Victoria is presented to us in a way that is respectable, relatable and redoubtable. In many ways, she is a fantastic role model.  A part truly fit for a queen.

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