Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes have returned as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the second season of the acclaimed TV show, Victoria, on ITV Choice, DStv channel 123.
We spoke to the series writer and creator, Daisy Goodwin, to find out what’s in store for viewers in the new season.
Victoria was such a huge success with viewers – how did that feel and did you expect it to be such a hit?
I was thrilled and relieved. I have always been fascinated by Queen Victoria and was glad to be able to share that with the viewers. I was surprised by its success, of course – no sex, no shirtless men, no violence – but I knew that it was exactly the show that I dreamed of watching on a Sunday night, so, luckily, I seem to be in tune with the great British public.
Why do you think people love to watch drama about the royal family?
It’s the ultimate soap opera, but it’s true! The strange thing about writing it is that all the things that defy belief when you are plotting them are all factual.
There is a scene in the Christmas special, which feels like something that you would put in a soap whose ratings were slipping, but it’s actually true.
Where did you ﬁnd inspiration for the second series?
My primary sources were Victoria’s diaries, Albert’s letters, contemporary newspapers and so on.
Because this series is set in the 1840s, I have been re-reading the novels written at the time – Dickens, Mrs Gaskell and Thackeray – and then there are all the brilliant new biographies of Queen Victoria. Whenever I get really stuck, I go to the London Library in St James Square. It was founded in 1842 by Thomas Carlyle and smells like the 19th Century.
Where do we pick up with Victoria and Albert in the new series?
They have just had their first baby and they are adjusting to shock of parenthood. Victoria finds it hard to juggle marriage, motherhood and her job – being Queen. Their relationship is extremely volatile. I think of them as the Taylor and Burton of the 19th Century – tears, tantrums, and fabulous jewels!
What moments from history will be covered during the second season? Are you always looking for new areas of historical research or does this all come from your knowledge and imagination?
Two huge historical moments we cover are the Irish Famine and the Repeal of the Corn Laws.
I studied 19th Century history at university, so I know the parameters, but making these enormous shifts work dramatically has been a great challenge.
In the Irish story, I have used a character, Dr Robert Traill, who is actually my great-great-great grandfather. I had written about him before and I thought his story would be a good way to illustrate the terrible way in which the Irish were treated by the British government.
Writing about the repeal of the Corn Laws feels all the more relevant, just as we go into the Brexit negotiations. In 1846, free trade seemed the progressive way forward, now not so much.
Victoria and Albert are played by Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes in the series Victoria. Picture: Supplied
How does it feel creating this world for television and then watching it come to life?
It is the best feeling ever. To have best actors, designers and directors give your vision life is pretty breathtaking. I still cry at the sad scenes and laugh at my own jokes.
Do you have a favourite new character from this series?
I first met Dame Diana Rigg when I was a teenager and she was appearing in one of my dad’s films (Richard B Goodwin, who co-produced Evil Under The Sun).
I knew how funny she could be and was thrilled when I heard she wanted to play the Duchess of Buccleuch, who is one of my favourite characters in the series. I’m also excited to have Martin Compston playing Dr Traill, the silver-fox French actor Bruno Wolkowitch taking on the role of King Louis Philippe and Denis Lawson as the Duke of Atholl. It’s such a bonus for the series to attract guest stars of this calibre.
How was it to film in Scotland?
In Scotland we go to Blair Atholl, which Victoria and Albert did visit in the 1840s. It is rather wonderful to be filming in the place where they actually stayed. When I went up there, I could quite understand why Victoria fell in love with Scotland.
* Victoria airs on Mondays at 8pm on ITV Choice.