Prepare to be taken back to the Victorian Era, a time in British history which brought forth some of the best literary works and when many historical events occurred, such as the Crimean War and the creation of the British title of Emperor of India. “Victoria” presents this era from the perspective of the eponymous ruler, Queen Victoria, as she begins her reign.
The story starts when 18-year-old Alexandrina Victoria (Jenna Coleman) receives the news that her uncle, King William IV has died and that she is to be the next queen of Great Britain. Immediately after this news is released, her mother and advisors try to choose her royal name for her. To spite her mother and anyone else that would try to control her, she defies them and chooses her own name. This action sets the tone for the rest of the show, as Victoria goes against what they say and goes with her own choices. This sets how Victoria will deal with any other conflicts such as her real life refusal to change any of the ladies in her court so that there can be a balance of Whigs and Conservatives (two of the political parties in the U.K.)
“Victoria” originally aired on the U.K.’s ITV Network in August 2016, but PBS began broadcasting it for its Masterpiece series in January where PBS airs British dramas for American audiences, such as “Downton Abbey” or “Sherlock.” PBS aired the first two episodes continuously and the next week it went back to only airing a single one hour episode.
“Victoria” could be compared to Netflix’s “The Crown” since they both tell the stories of two of Great Britain’s most well-known queens’ early reigns. The focus on queens is where the comparisons stop. This can be attributed to the age of the monarchs when they inherit the crown. Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) was 25 years old when she became queen and so is more mature in handling her assumption to the throne, giving “The Crown” a more serious tone. Queen Victoria was only 18 years old when she ascended to the throne, so she has to learn how to be an adult and how to rule. This innocence that she possesses at the beginning of her reign is evident when she drinks a little too much during a party and starts speaking without a filter. This results in “Victoria” having a lighter tone.
Queen Victoria’s age and experience plays into many of her experiences as she prepares to be coronated. She would rather trust her own instincts than trust people who tell her how she should act and behave, and it is these conflicts that drive the plot of the show.
With stiff competition in the queenly bio-series field, “Victoria” manages to stand equal to her competitors. By giving the drama a lighter tone, the show is a unique telling of the young queen’s life and early reign. Hopefully future seasons that go forward in Victoria’s life carry this trait.