Soap actress and Doctor Who sidekick Jenna Coleman made her bow as Queen Victoria in ITV’s new eight-part series about the monarch’s reign. The first two episodes were screened together as a feature-length debut at the end of August.
It’s more Downton Abbey than Game of Thrones, but I was struck by how Jenna’s portrayal owes a lot to Emilia Clarke’s performance as Daenerys “WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?!!!” Targaryen.
Meanwhile the music is like a candied version of Thrones’ epic theme. They keep playing it, so I’m going to have to learn to spell it: it’s Alleluia by Martin Phipps, with vocals by the Mediaeval Baebes, who sound straight out of Westeros by way of Frozen.
Naturally, Victoria already has historians shaking their fists at the screen, as Gossip Girl Vicky has a massive crush on her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell). However – writer Daisy Goodwin could be onto something! Diarists and cartoonists at the time noted their intense relationship, even dubbing the queen ‘Lady Melbourne’.
Of course Lord M looked nothing like Sewell, and it’s also not been lost on Twitter that Jenna Coleman is far more beautiful than poor Victoria ever was – Alfie Allen in a wig would have been a closer fit (although the crown for craziest royal casting would still go to Ray Winstone as Henry VIII).
Would a modern-day Victoria be pretty enough to be queen in our image-saturated time? Considering the grief her direct descendants Beatrice and Eugenie get for their figures and dress sense, no. Nothing would end the monarchy faster than an unattractive princess waiting in the wings.
Crushing fans swooning at the actors’ chemistry, Lord M does the morally right and historically accurate thing, and doesn’t elope with the queen. Instead, a certain German princeling has arrived at court to sweep Victoria off her feet. We know from her writings that she was instantly smitten, but Coleman doesn’t dig hipster Prince Albert.
Accompanied by his bad boy brother Ernst, poor Albert isn’t too thrilled either – he has a social conscience, while Victoria isn’t interested in the plight of her poorest subjects.
The show keeps Lord M around, suffering stoically in the corner. He knows the unpopular German brothers should keep a low profile during a visit to the Houses of Parliament, so greets them loudly when he bumps into them in the corridors of power. Nice one, M.
But Albert is a man of the future, Melbourne is a man of the past. The spell between Victoria and her prime minister is broken. Fans can join historians in shaking their fists at the screen.
Victoria continues with episode six on Sunday September 25 at 9pm on ITV.