Jenna Coleman is bringing the Victorian era to life on PBS.
The former “Doctor Who” companion plays the famed British monarch from the moment she becomes queen at the tender age of 18 in Masterpiece’s upcoming eight-part miniseries “Victoria.” Although Queen Victoria lived in the 19th century, more is known about her than many other historical figures, because she was an avid diarist and left a colorful paper trail of her thoughts and dreams.
“Her vivacious nature comes out in the page,” Coleman told reporters at the Television Critics Association on Thursday. The diaries included many all-caps and underlined portions. “What I found most interesting was her sketch work,” Coleman added. “She was quite a prolific watercolorist,” Portraits figured regularly in Queen Victoria’s work along with landscapes. She as also a fan of the theater.
Novelist Daisy Goodwin, who wrote and created the series, read between the lines to create the personal details of Victoria’s life. Although the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (played in the series by Rufus Sewell) was the queen’s adviser and friend, Goodwin said Victoria’s crush on Melbourne was apparent if you “count how many times she mentioned Lord Melbourne” in her diary, and therefore wrote these romantic feelings into the script.
Victoria set a precedent for flouting tradition from the beginning of her reign. “Not only did she take control, but she literally invented her own name,” said Goodwin. “She chose Victoria because it’s a victorious name.” Before her coronation, she was called Alexandrina Victoria, or Drina by her family, but when she obtained the crown, she chose to be called Queen Victoria, which broke tradition since English queens were often Annes, Janes or Elizabeths.
What Queen Victoria was able to accomplish was extraordinary, considering her youth and the sexism during that time. Goodwin noted that during that time, “Women don’t have the vote. Married women are the property of husbands,”
“And she’s 4-foot-11,” Coleman added.
Victoria’s short stature is made much of in the series, as it lead to some treating her as a child. Nevertheless, she went on to marry her cousin Prince Albert (Tom Hughes), who was reportedly tall, possibly 6 feet. The royal couple were famously quite smitten with each other, having nine children together. They were so amorous that Goodwin says Albert had a special device put in their bedroom that allowed him to lock their bedroom door without getting out of bed.
We’ll have to wait until 2017 to see if that particular tidbit is included in the miniseries. “Victoria” will air on PBS’s Masterpiece, in the recently vacated “Downton Abbey” timeslot, in January.