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The trials and tribulations of Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) play out in Victoria (2016-current) as the 18-year-old ascends to the throne after her paternal uncle King William IV passes away. The show has shot to the front of the production pile thanks to its two seasons filled with the grandeur and splendour reserved for royalty. Season 1, which is currently available on Showmax, follows Queen Victoria’s rise as a monarch, complete with her over-the-top coronation ceremony, her engagement, her wedding to her cousin Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) and her close bond with Prime Minister Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell).
Based on over 600 archived historical manuscripts, the real-life story of Queen Victoria is given new life in the show, complete with romance, drama, conflict, a little more conflict … and yes, a nightcap of conflict. But it’s not your typical drama either – it’s based on historical fact; the production crew spent agonising months getting the finest detail added to outfits; and the cast were put through their paces so that they looked and acted the part of Victorian gentlemen and ladies of the Queen’s court.
Here are four elements that set Victoria apart:
It’s no secret that Queen Victoria loved beautiful clothes. Head costume designer Rosalind Ebbutt was given only limited access to “a handful” of items from the real Queen Victoria’s early wardrobe and told “here, go make magic!”. Besides the queen’s everyday clothes with always-handy lace shawl and hats, viewers also get a peek at the royal wedding dress “that was an absolute nightmare to construct. We had basic information and not a whole lot of description to work with,” explains Rosalind. And it’s not just the queen who’s outfitted – her ladies in waiting are also parading around in pretty robes and ballgowns, while the men look prim, proper and posh in their royal uniforms, top hats and tails. Watch now »
Season 1 was mainly filmed in Yorkshire, and the interiors of Castle Howard double as Kensington Palace. The production used these and other sites because they fit the architecture and “the viewers can tell that they’re real, not lazy CGI,” laughs an insider. Eagle-eyed castle fans will also spot Harewood House doubling as Buckingham Palace, Carlton Towers standing in for Windsor Castle and Beverley Minster an apt replacement for Westminster Abbey. As it turns out, the show used nearly 10 other venues to make up scenes set in Buckingham Palace alone. “It’s just that big – we needed special permission and everything was supervised. If we broke something, the budget probably wouldn’t cover the fine!” laughs one of the set designers. Watch now »
It takes a lot to be queen, and the show searched high and low “for the perfect fit”. If rumour is to be believed, they passed on Lily James (Lady Rose in Downton Abbey, 2012-2015; all six seasons can be found on Showmax) and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, 2011-current; all seven season can be streamed on Showmax). They cast actress Jenna Coleman in the role despite her being 30 at the time – a couple of tricks here and there helped her pull off an 18-year-old Victoria with ease. Something you wouldn’t know is that her eyes are brown and she had to wear blue contact lenses. Plus, she had to learn to waltz and ride sidesaddle to pull off the Queen Victoria look. But like Lord Melbourne tells her with a grin, “Every inch a queen.” Watch now »
It’s not just the visual feast that’s been noticed – the score won 2 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards this year, for Outstanding Composition for a series (by composer Martin Phipps), as well as Outstanding Main Title Theme Music, also accepted by Martin. And if you want to know who performs the theme song (and a number of other songs throughout the series), that’s ensemble group Mediaeval Baebes. Watch now »
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