Queen Victoria is surrounded by luxury, strife and children


Over two seasons, "Victoria" (via PBS' "Masterpiece") has taken us a decade into the reign of a young queen. As the third season starts, she's in a time of tumult and overthrow. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

The kingdom is
wobbling, the masses are fuming and ... well, the monarch is having
another baby.

It's a tangled time
in England, in the third season of “Victoria.” That starts in
1848, when “the whole of Europe is falling apart,”
writer-producer Daisy Goodwin told the Television Critics
Association.”There are French kings being thrown off the throne.
The Austrian emperor's been deposed.”

Lest we worry, we
can peek into the history books. In 1848, Queen Victoria was only 29;
she would live and reign until 81, with the Victorian Age nudging
into the 20th century. Her 63-year reign would top the
first Queen Elizabeth (44 years), but be surpassed by the second (67
years, as of next month).

And the baby
arriving amid tumult? It's only her sixth; there will be three more.

At this point,
however, revolution seems to be overtaking Europe. “Victoria and
Albert are terrified that it's going to come to England,” Goodwin
said.

The queen is
perplexed, she said. “Victoria just wants the love of her people.”

Eventually, she
would have it. “When Victoria comes to the throne, the monarchy has
power, but it isn't loved. And by the end of her reign, it doesn't
really have so much power, but it is certainly loved.

“The idea of ... a
fabulous royal soap opera to entertain the nation is something that
Victoria – wittingly or unwittingly – created. Because she had
all these children (and) this famously happy marriage.”

It definitely seemed
to be a loving (and lustful) marriage, even if it did become
complicated when her husband, Prince Albert, tried to find a role in
government. “The clash of wills is really interesting and
shifting,” Jenna Coleman, who plays Victoria, told the TCA.

The perpetual
pregnancy was also a complication, Coleman said. “She didn't enjoy
being pregnant, that's for sure. I read something where she said,
'It's the only thing I dread' .... But I do think she's very, very
much in love with her children.”

They would have a
long-range impact, Goodwin said. “She married her children to every
single royal family in Europe,” creating the tangles that led to
World War I.

Joining the
complicated story at the start of the season are:

-- Feodora. Her
widowed mother remarried, Goodwin said, and had Victoria – then
(when the girls were 16 and 9) sent Feodora to marry a penniless
prince. “There she is, living in a sort of crumbling, drafty castle
in the middle of Germany with a kind of drunken husband and lots of
(sick) children.” That's when Feodora returned to England to live
with her half-sister the queen.

-- Lord Palmerston,
a potent force. He would change parties twice, becoming prime
minister (twice) and a foreign minister known for intervention. He
“invented gunboat diplomacy,” Goodwin said, and built popularity.
“He worked incredibly hard, but he had terrific swagger.”

Both were imposing
distractions for a young monarch who was surrounded by protests and
children.

-- “Masterpiece:
Victoria,” 9 p.m. Sundays, PBS, starting Jan. 13