The image of Queen Victoria seared into popular culture is one of an older, dour woman, swathed in black, looking as if she never cracked a smile.
So when Jenna Coleman (“Dr. Who”), a beautiful slip of a woman, portrays her as joyful, it’s jolting. At 18 — still known as Alexandrina, and playing with dolls — she’s awakened one morning and informed she is now queen of England.
MASTERPIECE’s “Victoria” seduces us into a world where the petite queen taps inner resolve. The seven episodes, premiering Jan. 15, offer grand sets, lush countryside, castle intrigue and a study of lives that shaped history.
Despite being surrounded by relatives with the worst intentions, Victoria musters the calm dignity of a true leader.
“I know I am young and some would say my sex puts me at a disadvantage,” Victoria says facing her critics. “But I assure you I am ready for the great responsibility that lies before me.”
Victoria relies on Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) as her tutor and confidante at the start of her 63-year reign.
Coleman came to know Victoria’s passion through the queen’s diaries — 62 million words of them. That passion is most evident when she and her first cousin, Prince Albert (Tom Hughes), fall in love at first dance.
When her Uncle Leopold orders her to marry, so her husband can advise her, Victoria tells him: “I think you forget I am of a royal line that stretches back a thousand years, whereas you are the king of Belgium, which did not exist a decade ago.”
Victoria marries his son — not because Leopold mandates, but because she loves Albert. Though Albert initially balks at being the queen’s consort, he finds his way.
When they decide to marry, Albert says, “For me this is not a marriage of convenience.” To which Victoria replies, “No, I think it will be a marriage of inconvenience.”