The story repeats: A young queen, a complicated crown

In history -- and in TV shows -- this makes strong drama: A young woman
suddenly, surprisingly finds that she's the queen. Her reigh seems
tenuous ... and lasts for generations. Now "Victoria" debuts Jan. 15 on
PBS; another epic story, "The Crown" -- which has just won the Golden Globe for best drama series -- is already on Netflix. Here's the
story I sent to papers.

By Mike Hughes

Separated by more
than a century, these true stories ripple with history and humanity.

A young woman
suddenly becomes queen of England. That's the start of two lush

-- “Victoria”
debuts Sunday (Jan. 15) on PBS' “Masterpiece Theatre.” It tells
of the 18-year-old who suddenly became Queen Victoria, with no
preparation. She had lived “a sheltered life ... having not spent a
night alone without her mother,” said Jenna Coleman, who plays her.

-- “The Crown,”
already available on Netflix and now the Golden Globe winner for best
dramaseries. It tells of Elizabeth II becoming queen at 25, decades
before she expected to. “Her instinct is very much (leaning toward)
her love and her husband and her childen,” said Claire Foy, who won
a Globe for playing her. But she was “realizing that's not
necessarily what her job is.”

Victoria's 63-year
reign would be the longest in British history ... until it was topped
by Elizabeth, who reaches the 65-year mark on Feb. 6.

For Elizabeth, this
came decades before it was expected. “The Windsors have a tradition
of living a long time,” said Peter Morgan, the “Crown” writer.
“I think she could reasonably have expected 20, maybe 30 years”
of crown-free life. Instead, her dad died at 56 and her life

At least, she had
preparation; consider Victoria:

“She was very
ill-prepared,” said Daisy Goodwin, the “Victoria” writer.
“She'd basically been held hostage by her mother and John Conroy”
her mother's comptroller. “They were hoping that the previous king
would die before she was 18, so they could rule the country through

They just missed;
she was 27 days past her 18th birthday when her uncle,
King William IV, died.

From the first
moments, Goodwin said, she took control – starting with her name.

“Everybody called
her Drina, because her first name was Alexandrina. And she said, 'No,
I ... want to be called Victoria,' which was not a name that anybody
was called at the time. It was a completely made-up name,” seeming
to say she'd be victorious.

Back then, Goodwin
said, women couldn't vote and married women didn't have property.
“That makes it all the more extraordinary that this 18-year-old
girl is the most powerful person in the country.”

Adds Coleman: “And
she's 4-foot-11.”

This tiny teen-ager
had slept every night in her mother's bedroom. She had never been in
a room alone with a man, Goodwin said; now she would be in rooms with
the leaders of government.

At 19, Victoria
married Albert, a German prince. They differed vertically (he was
about a foot taller, Goodwin said), but had other things in common.

“They had both
come from rather dysfunctional families,” Coleman said. “Victoria
grew up without a father; Albert grew up without a mother. (That)
united them in wanting to create a pure ... family.”

That wasn't the
norm, Goodwin said. It “was the first time (England had) a king and
queen who ... actually liked each other. Albert was certainly the
first royal male who didn't have a mistress.”

The “like”
became lust: For their cottage, Albert even designed a device to lock
the door from bedside; they would have nine children.

He died after only
21 years of marriage and the widowed queen rules for almost 40 more
years. A half-century later, Elizabeth would become the next young
queen. She “was a shy, retiring sort,” who looked forward to some
quiet country years, Foy said.

Then she became
queen. “Both their lives changed irrevocably,” said Matt Smith,
who plays Phillip. “He then had to walk two steps behind her for
the rest of his life.”

Yes, that's the Matt
Smith who starred in “Doctor Who” ... and the Jenna Coleman who
was, for a time, his “Who” co-star. Now she's Victoria and he's
Elizabeth's husband, stepping into British history.

-- “Victoria,” 9
p.m. Sundays in the “Masterpiece” January-February slot that was
filled by “Downton Abbey” for six years; it's an eight-episode
season, with a two-hour opener Jan. 15

-- “The Crown”
10-part season, already on Netflix