In the British series Victoria, Jenna Coleman plays a Alexandrina Victoria, Drina to those closest to her, daughter of Prince Edward and Princess Victoria, Duchess of Kent. She inherits the throne at 18 years old after the last of her uncles die and, boy, this doesn’t make her happy. She’s all for being Queen and upholding her duties, of course, but she’s thrust into a world that’s so alien and old, surrounded by people who don’t understand that she is a teenager beneath all that fabric and bravado. Here’s what makes her so interesting:
- She’s not afraid to speak her mind. She tells her mother, “She’s always been your friend, not mine,” referring to Sir John Conroy, her mother’s companion/implied lover, who always underestimated her capacity to reign, as well as poked fun at her height (she was 4’10”).
2. She’s infatuated (or in love, depends on who you ask) with an older man. In the beginning of her reign, she considers her Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) her only friend and trusted advisor. She becomes attached to him and refuses to marry any one. She calls him Lord M.
3. The idea of growing old alone does not scare her. While attached to Lord Melbourne, who has also grown fond her, she toys with the idea of being alone — reigning alone — like Queen Elizabeth, but with companions.
- 4. She has a love-hate relationship with her mother. The series makes her so relatable in as many levels as an 18-year-old can be relatable — we were all once 18, after all. And at that age, we are pretty much all the same. Here, she has a complicated relationship with her mother, who appears weak but truly wants what’s good for her daughter. In the event that Lord Melbourne leaves the palace “to do what’s right,” Victoria cries on her mother’s lap and says, “I fear I might never be happy.”
- 5. She falls into hysterics once in a while. Victoria is deathly afraid of rats. When she finds some wandering around her birthday cake, she becomes hysterical and prompts her detractors in the palace to think she is unfit to be Queen on grounds of insanity.
- 6. She’s flighty and flirty. Her mother and King Leopold, her uncle, arranged for Victoria and Prince Albert (King Leopold’s son and Victoria’s cousin, played by Tom Hughes) to meet, in an effort to lure him away from Lord Melbourne. She meets Albert and immediately despises his manner but admits he has changed since she last saw him. On a whim, she decides to go to the Windsor forest, after finding out that Albert likes trees. “Windsor on a Wednesday??” the royal household exclaims. The entire kingdom is her wingman.
- 7. She asks her main dude about her side dude. We’ve all done it. Technically, Lord Melbourne isn’t her “dude” at all (in real life, Victoria looked up to him “like a father”), but they have a special understanding and Victoria toys with that, perhaps unintentionally, when she asks him what he thinks of Prince Albert.
- 8. She asks both her main dude and side dude to be in the same party. It was a dance and she invited Lord Melbourne when she knew that it was a dinner party set up because Prince Albert was at the palace. She talks to one while looking at the other the entire time.
- 9. She had to be the one to propose. It was customary for the Queen to do the proposing (it was her role as a monarch) — and while she struggled with it at first, she eventually did. To Prince Albert. Imagine having to do that in such a conservative time, as a Queen who had so much to lose. If only women proposing were mandated by law in this day and age, it would be a whole lot easier.
10. She hated being pregnant. Watching Victoria’s pregnancy in season one was particularly interesting. She dreaded it because one of her cousins died in childbirth. She tried to avoid it by jumping up and down after sex. Eventually, she got pregnant and she hated every minute of it. She didn’t like being coddled, having to rest all the time, and being treated like a fragile vessel. She couldn’t wait until it was over, at the same time, she feared its culmination. It’s rare that a pregnant woman is portrayed this way, and it was a refreshing change of perspective.
* * *
Season 2 of Victoria airs this fall. It will be followed by a Christmas special.