Arts & Culture

'Victoria' follows dramatic royal love story

Tom Hughes, left, and Jenna Coleman play Albert and Victoria in the PBS series, “Victoria,” about England’s monarch, returning for Season 3 Sunday. (Handout/TNS)
Tom Hughes, left, and Jenna Coleman play Albert and Victoria in the PBS series, “Victoria,” about England’s monarch, returning for Season 3 Sunday. (Handout/TNS)
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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — It sounds like a soap opera: First cousins meet and fall madly in love. They’re from different cultures and their romance is unsettled by politics. She’s the breadwinner, but manages to bear him nine children. He refuses to be subservient and forges ahead through his own invention.

No, we’re not talking about the royals of afternoon TV, but of a real queen and her consort: Queen Victoria and her lifetime love, Albert. The pair of storybook lovers returns for Season 3 of “Victoria” on PBS Sunday.

The show’s author admits Queen Victoria’s life could easily compete with those of today’s daytime dramas.

“The idea of the royal family as a sort of a fabulous royal soap opera to entertain the nation is something that Victoria wittingly or unwittingly created,” says Daisy Goodwin, author of both the book and the TV series about England’s monarch.

“Because she had all these children, the nine children. She had this famously happy marriage. She was the first monarch to really become a media monarch,” she says.

Victoria was the first queen to be photographed, says Goodwin. And she took advantage of the publicity it afforded. “She wasn’t photographed in her crown. She was photographed in a bonnet. And she very carefully crafted her image,” Goodwin says.

“She realized that the way to bed in the monarchy in Britain — and you’ve got to remember that this is a time of revolution where kings are being thrown off their thrones all over Europe — was to make an identification with the public, that they can see her children, her dogs, her clothes, that they can see that she is a woman like them. She’s not a godlike figure. And that, I think, was a really clever thing to do,” she says.

“I think the reason we still have a monarchy in Britain is because of Victoria and Albert. And I’m sure that’s what the royal family thinks too. I think Albert in particular is revered in the royal family now because he was so perceptive about what the royal family needed to do.”

While Victoria longed to be beloved by her people, Albert harbored a different cause, Goodwin says. “I feel she’s almost like a child star who has grown up with this kind of affirmation and love and all of this. And then, when it’s withdrawn, she feels empty and she doesn’t know what she’s for. But Albert thinks ... the point of the monarchy is not to just be popular. It’s to give people not what they want, but what they actually might need.”

While arranged marriages between royals in Europe rarely worked, the union between Victoria and Albert proved unassailable.

“The reason I think they got along so well is they both had a missing parent,” Goodwin says.

“He didn’t have a mother because his mother had run away. And she didn’t have a father. And so I think they found that in each other. They found a parent in each other as well as a lover and a spouse. I think, also, Victoria just fancied the pants off him, as we say in England. She was in lust with him as well as in love with him.”

Goodwin, who’s written two novels that made the best-seller list, “The American Heiress” and “The Fortune Hunter,” says she was writing the book about Victoria when she realized that it would make a corking good TV series.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to write a drama.’ I did that with the confidence of somebody who has never written a drama before,” she smiles, “and then I finished it and finished the novel afterwards.”

Because she is a novelist, Goodwin thinks she brings a certain unique sensibility to the script. “That means that I really enjoyed the process, sort of fleshing it out. When I’m writing a novel, I love the fact that I’m sitting alone in a room and I can have as many people as I want on the page. I can have the whole of the British army kind of massing in Trafalgar Square.

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“Whereas when you write that in a script, people read it, and they’ll go, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ And then they’ll suddenly go, ‘You know when you said you wanted three regiments? What about three people? What about three soldiers? Will that work for you?’

“So that’s the problem ... with writing scripts. But on the other hand, if you’re a novelist, you’re sitting alone in a room, and you get sort of bored, miserable. When you’re a script writer, you’re never alone. There are always people asking you questions and saying, ‘Could this be red instead of blue?’ and, ‘Could the actor say this?’ And they drive you mad. But the grass is always greener as far as I can see. I’m dying to write another novel.”

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