The creator and cast of ITV’s landmark autumn drama tell all about bringing the iconic monarch’s early reign to vivid life in a vibrant new portrait of the young queen. 

Watch the trailer for ​Victoria

 

Writer/producer Daisy Goodwin was not amused when, as a 19-year-old student, she was prompted to delve into Queen Victoria’s diaries to prepare for an essay on political history.

“For me the Queen/Empress was a boot-faced old bag in a bonnet whose stern features gazed out from marble statues in town halls across the country,” she recalls. “But the words on the page in front of me did not correspond at all with the image in my head. On 11 November 1839, Victoria wrote in her diary, ‘How handsome dearest Albert looks in his white cashmere breeches. With nothing on underneath.’ These were not the words of a sour-faced monarch but the passionate outpourings of a love-struck girl.”

It’s an impression that has stayed with Goodwin ever since.

Decades later, during a routine row with her teenage daughter, she began pondering how it must have felt for a petulant young woman to be suddenly landed with the duties and responsibilities of becoming the most powerful ruler on the planet. As her daughter yelled that she wished she had never been born, she was transported to the moment when, by her own accident of genealogy, Victoria became queen, and the opening scenes began to play out in her head.

Although she’s worked in TV for many years as a producer, and has written two bestselling novels, Goodwin had never before tackled a screenplay, but writing the young queen came naturally. “I had lived with Victoria’s voice for so long,” she says, “that she seemed almost to write herself.”

Mammoth Screen, the production company behind BBC One’s Poldark, and the drama team at ITV were quick to embrace her vision of the teenage queen growing up in public, and a series was born.

As the scripts took shape, the search for the right person to play Victoria began in earnest, and in no time at all Jenna Coleman, who shares the queen’s diminutive stature, stepped into view.

Read more: One is not amused: The outspoken Queen Victoria

 

Coleman as Victoria and Rufus Sewell as Lord Melbourne
Jenna Coleman and Rufus Sewell as Victoria and Lord Melbourne

“It was impossible to turn down,” says Coleman. “It was a gift to be able to bring her to life. She is someone who is so effervescent and vital to our history. She lived an extraordinary life and she had this wonderful spirit and humour… You can just see it spilling out over the page, this passionate young woman who led an astonishing life and never lost her strength.”

Victoria came to the throne in 1837 only weeks after her 18th birthday on the death of her uncle William IV, and she had to grow up fast even as she battled with an “extreme stubbornness almost at war with her good nature,” as Coleman explains. “She acted on impulse all of the time which is what I really like about her. She is incredibly flawed but that, in turn, makes her incredibly human and endearing and mostly, it is what makes her unapologetically her.

 

“She had never had a man
who talked to her like an adult,
who treated her with respect
and listened to her.” 

 

“Something we spoke about a lot was this idea of playing between state and private, between Victoria’s public face, her private face, and going between those two worlds. When she is in her quarters she is undone and private. It’s about finding the human within the role of Queen and discovering the girl taking on this incredible responsibility.

“Victoria and Albert’s story was one of absolute true love,” she continues. “It must have been extremely rare and fortunate that the person who was heralded as the one you will marry is someone you find such a kinship in. They were good and bad for each other at the same time. Their rows were extremely fraught but everlastingly they were a team and in each other they found soulmates.”

Albert only came on the scene as Victoria’s suitor two years into her reign. Up to then, the prime minister of the day Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) was her closest confidant and affectionate friend.

 

“He was very gentle and attentive
in the 
way he managed her,
he certainly didn’t manipulate her and
had nothing but her best interests at heart.”

 

Tom Hughes as Prince Albert
Tom Hughes as a young Prince Albert 

“Victoria was living in a household where she was manipulated and controlled and it wasn’t a very happy existence,” says Sewell. “She had never had a man who talked to her like an adult, who treated her with respect and listened to her. Melbourne gave her a lot of advice and at the same time the freedom to discover her opinions and who she was. She flowered under his guidance.”

But that’s not to say that he didn’t shape her according to his own will. “Through charm and seeming not to be intransigent, Melbourne managed to get his own way all of the time,” Sewell adds. “He’s a very slippery, charming person who appeared not to take any strong stances on anything. He was very gentle and attentive in the way he managed her, he certainly didn’t manipulate her and had nothing but her best interests at heart.”

Read more: Victoria and Elizabeth II: A tale of two Queens

 

At court and among the general public
he was mocked as a ‘penniless German princeling’
come over to benefit from a generous marriage.

 

Victoria may have instantly found her first cousin Albert (Tom Hughes) handsome and debonair, but at court and among the general public he was mocked as a ‘penniless German princeling’ come over to benefit from a generous marriage. The key to unlocking their relationship was to tell a simple story about two young people genuinely falling for each other.

“For me, the real excitement comes from looking behind the famous characters at the real people,” says Hughes. “To look at it from an angle of human nature, I think that’s the hook and that’s what people will really enjoy about it.

"We are presenting this historic and fierce passion between two young people madly in love, and you have to see the intensity of their passion to see the intensity of the times in which this is set. There’s definitely a feeling of the new, the future, and the anticipation of the unknown and what that future could be.”

And as for the fieriness of that passion, Goodwin adds, “All I can say is that Victoria and Albert had nine children in seventeen years, and one of the things that Albert did when he built Osborne House was to install a special bolt in their bedroom, so that if they wanted to get it on, all they had to do was to push a button by the bed and the door would be locked, so that no servants or children could interrupt them.”

Though the royal romps may not match the raunch of Poldark, against which it will be competing for Sunday night ratings after the first, feature-length episode, all is set for a lively and turbulent tale of Victoria’s first years on the throne.

Victoria begins its 8-part run on ITV on Sunday 28 August at 9pm.

For more entertainment news click here

Visit our shop for more great TV dramas

For stories, tips and lots of laughs like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter

Related Posts