Following the success of Masterpiece Theater‘s Downton Abbey, smash hit Victoria returns tonight with new perils for the iconic royal duo. Written by Daisy Goodwin, the story follows a young Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) and her husband, Prince Albert (Tom Hughes), as they attempt to navigate politics and the industrial changing world around them.
This season drops us into 1848. King Louis Phillipe of France has been deposed and is now on the run, taking sanctuary with the royal couple. Victoria and Albert have there own problems. They are fearful for their own family’s safety, as people moving away from the constitutional monarchy in favor of a more representative republic. These “Chartists” are commonly mistaken for revolutionaries. Revolts throughout Europe are leaving the fate of many countries in the balance, and are creating an uncertainty on the home front. With the tragic fates of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette still fresh in her mind, Victoria is taking preemptive measures to ensure the survival of her family and that of the monarchy itself.
That does not come without it’s obstacles from within the palace itself, as Victoria’s elder sister, Feodora (Kate Fleetwood, Beirut) has returned to palace from the continent, fleeing revolutionaries herself. On top of that, the ambitious foreign secretary Lord Palmerston, played to devilish delight by Laurence Fox (Inspector Lewis), who is stirring up anti-monarchical sentiments amongst the working class.
The time jump in this season brings changes to palace, notably the absence of many characters from previous seasons, such as Dame Diana Rigg’s Duchess of Buccleuch, as the members of the royal court change depending on the governmental party in power. Downstairs in the servants quarters the air of change has swept through, allowing many of them to think about new opportunities available to them, and their lives outside the royal walls.
Unlike Netflix’s story about the current British monarch Elizabeth II, The Crown, Victoria allows itself a little more leeway in the dramatization of these character’s lives, for example the ongoing story line with Ernst, the Duke of Coburg and Harriet, the Duchess of Sutherland as star crossed lovers. And whilst The Crown‘s greatest asset is it’s ability to recreate history, it can also be it’s greatest flaw in that it loses that flexibility in the storytelling. Which begs the question, to intensify the drama of the show, will we see a civil war break out, despite the best efforts of Victoria and Albert to quell the high tempers in the country? And even with a sixth child on the way, could they end up destroying their own family by remaining blind to those most in need of their care?
Victoria airs Sundays at 8pm PBS.