Victoria is young again, dealing with babies, horses and Aghanistan


Amd all the new, fancy touches on TV, there are stil the dependable standbys. At the top of the list is PBS' lush "Masterpiece," with the second "Victoria" season startoing Sunday, Jan. 14; here's the story I sent to papers.

By Mike Hughes

Queen Victoria keeps
returning to entertain us.

The old Victoria is
in theaters (in Judi Dench's “Victoria & Abdul”), with more
movies coming; and the young one is back on PBS.

“One of the most
interesting parts of her reign is the early years,” said Daisy
Goodwin, producer-writer of the “Victoria” series on
“Masterpiece.”

The first sesson saw
her as an ill-prepared teen-ager, thrust onto the throne, This second
season catches her at 21. She's “the most powerful woman in the
world,” Goodwin said. “She's got this really tempestuous
marriage. They're like the Taylor and Burton of the 19th
century.”

And yes, Goodwin
said, they had sex often. “She was a woman desperately in need of
contraception.”

Well, Victoria did
try one contraceptive method from that era: “You jump up and down
10 times,” said Jenna Coleman, who plays her.

That didn't help. As
this season begins, she has a baby and is about to learn a second is
on the way. There will be nine in all.

During and after
each pregnancy, advisors tried to take over many of her duties. So
did her husband, Prince Albert. “There's a very strident,
inquisitive nature to him that (suits) the early onset of the
Industrial Revolution,” said Tom Hughes, who plays him.

Usually, she
retained the power, Coleman said. “As Albert begins to try to take
any form of Victoria's role initially, she completely flips .... The
clash of wills is really interesting and shifting.”

People tried to
shield her from tough issues, Goodwin said. “You will see her
dealing with some pretty seismic political events.”

One of them – in
the season's first minutes – would later be repeated by Russians
and then Americans: Tangled warfare in Afghanistan.

“They thought,
'Yeah, we'll just go knock out those Afghan rebels. We'll take
control of Afghanistan and then we won't be in any danger of being
invaded by Russia,'” Goodwin said.

The result? “They
make this terrifying and disastrous retreat through the Khyber Pass
and basically, they all get slaughtered.”

And that crisis is
plunked onto the lap of a new mom, 21, with no political education.
Still, there's also lots of room for fun here ... including
horse-riding.

Coleman had four
weeks to learn to ride. She had to do it sidesaddle, on a show pony
who does tricks, including bowing. “He's an absolute diva (who
sometimes) decides to take me off for a walk and actually
Spanish-walks, which makes me look rather skilled. But I'm afraid I'm
ot the leader.”

Hughes also was a
novice. “I couldn't ride at all,” he said. “And I had a bit of
a rude awakening to horses. But it's good now. I think we're finding
our groove. I've bonded.”

He was more enamored
with Albert's creative nature. The prince composed music and had
ideas about military hats and more. He even created a device to lock
the bedroom door from their bed.

There was more,
Goodwin said. “He installed indoor plumbing in the palace .... But
he didn't just do it upstairs. He was the first person to put a
toilet in for the servants in Buckingham Palace.”

And Coleman points
to another invention: “He had an armored parasol.”

Yes, the guy created
a sort of bullet-proof umbrella ... but didn't create contraceptives.
It would be a complicated reign for Queen Victoria.

“Masterpiece:
Victoria,” 9 p.m. Sundays, PBS, beginning Jan. 14.