Queen Victoria and Prince Albert return this season as parents and rulers over a rapidly expanding empire.
Victoria was PBS’ most-watched show last season. Millions of fans followed Queen Victoria through her growth into personal and political maturity. The series, produced by Mammoth Screen for ITV, fared very well in the fall airing in the UK. In a year where streaming services and cable offerings dominated the period drama genre, Victoria proved PBS will always have a stake in bringing the best of UK television to American audiences. The show also proved the relevance of this part of British royal history in modern times. Her reign is credited with modernizing the monarchy and her direct descendants are making international headlines. The first season was a powerful combination of politics, history, and romance. Last season established a precedent for recounting history with an eye for capturing the interpersonal drama, leaving fans wanting more.
Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) and Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) at the end of Season 1 welcomed their first child, the future Princess Victoria. History often portrays Victoria as a stern woman who held back affection from her children. As showrunner Daisy Goodwin illustrated last season, a lot of what we know about Queen Victoria is based on her later years and edited accounts. What ways will Season 2 combine facts with creative interpretation to give viewers a different perspective on Her Majesty?
The 1840’s is a complicated time in British history
The biography Victoria: A Life by A.N. Wilson is a useful reading companion for understanding the history of Season 2. It’s impossible for every major event from the decade to appear on screen but there are a few highlights. Population shifts lead to renewed calls for more voting rights. The sentiment which led to the assassination attempt last season is still an undercurrent in society. International trade and the beginnings of modern capitalism will create new economic challenges. British troops are fighting South East and Central Asia for control over territory. Innovations in science, technology and the medical field as a result of the Industrial Revolution will change people’s lives in small and profound ways. The Irish Potato Famine showed how natural disasters were handled in the days before the social safety net and modern disaster response. Several European countries will experience uprisings and wars for governmental patrol. There’s definitely way more history in this and other biographies than the season can cover, but there are a lot of factual situations that can fuel interpersonal drama.
Victoria & Albert adjusting to parenthood
At the end of last season, it’s clear Victoria and Albert’s romance survived the trials of pregnancy. Princess Victoria’s arrival strengthens the Queen’s power but also presents a new opportunity for conflict. Prince Albert will likely see Victoria’s stints in the nursery as a chance to assert his position as second-in-command. Last season, she struggled to understand his desires for more responsibilities, and chances are very high similar arguments will occur this season. Victoria will most likely resent any attempts by Albert or others to put her family duties first. It will be interesting to see how Victoria claps back at these critics. The traditions and superstitions of mothers in the 19th Century are even more excuses for critics and mansplainers among her advisors. New mothers were confined to the home over fears of disease or ill luck. In history, the Queen was known for her less than warm personality towards her children. Will this season stick to the established narrative or soften Victoria’s personality?
New characters will add color to life in the castle
One of the core strengths of this series so far is giving minor characters both in politics and among the downstairs staff three-dimensional personalities. Often these figures are only seen as pawns in the story of others. The nursery along with political shifts will bring the audiences new characters to root for and possibly new villains to sneer at as well. Diana Rigg’s guest star stint as the Duchess of Buccleuch is generating tons of buzz. The Queen’s new lady in waiting appears to be a “battle ax” type of character. She’s ready to roast incompetent servants and interject unsolicited advice in the middle of a conversation. If she doesn’t have any one-liners to make into memes, the fandom will not be amused. British television fans love seeing the legends in the industry in supporting roles, and chances are very high Rigg will be a scene stealer. Another newcomer to pay attention to is Drummond (Leo Suter), Sir Robert Peel’s private secretary. He is the type of man looking to rise above his station, so that will likely be a source of tension. Chances are very high he will pick fights with Peel and even Victoria. One of the trailers suggests he is holding onto some kind of secret, so it will be interesting to see what it is.
The Return of Lord M
We left off last season with Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) with his retirement from public life. Sewell’s standout performance last season will be something many people want to see more of. Many fans couldn’t help but get attached to him in a similar fashion to Victoria. The Vicbourne shippers were quite sad that the mutual affection had to end. We know the Queen still can’t completely trust her new Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel (Nigel Lindsay). This season may present a new political crisis and an opportunity for Lord M to be sought out for advice. Since he is out of power, he could provide for her a more objective opinion on the situation. Victoria’s new interactions with Lord Melbourne will hopefully show her growth as a ruler and as a woman. This is one of the areas where the history sticklers have criticized the series, but it is for many people the most endearing part of Victoria. Fans will be on the lookout for possible moments of tenderness between the two characters.
Jealousy over the Royal wardrobe
Historical costuming is a particular passion for many fans. The late 1830’s in fashion is often mocked for the preponderance of giant fluffy sleeves. However, the costume designers last season worked extremely hard to replicate the gowns found in art at the time as well as the gowns in UK museum archives. Judging solely by fashion history, Season 2 will feature a lot more off-the-shoulder dresses with wide bell-shaped skirts. Men’s fashion in the 1840’s was modeled off of Prince Albert’s penchant for tight trousers and flared frock coats. Tracking how the fashion changes this season will be tons of fun for the costume porn crowd.
There’s a lot more unfinished business above and below stairs.
Season 1’s finale created a few vacancies downstairs. Francatelli (Ferdinand Kingsley) and Jenkins (Eve Myles) left service, which means promotions are likely. Poor Skerrett (Nell Hudson) most likely lost her chance at love. Will a new love interest come into her life? Meanwhile upstairs, Uncle Leopold (Alex Jennings) and Ernest (David Oakes) are sure to return to see their newest relative. Uncle Leo will definitely earn a punch in the face from the audience for ridiculous comments about Victoria’s future pregnancies. Will Victoria’s mother be a doting grandma or continue to resent her daughter for asserting her independence? Tensions will definitely rise once the established characters interact with the newbies.
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This upcoming season of Victoria definitely promises more character development, new perspectives on history, and the story of a successful marriage. We welcome Her Majesty back to our television screens!